Indeed, but chapter five is merely chapter three in reverse. Chapter six is a boss fight. Chapter seven is three arenas and two bosses, and then the credits roll. While the game clock doesn’t track cutscenes or retries, it does measure the countless Gears Of War-style slow-walk codec conversations, and by the end of our Normal playthrough it totalled just five and a half hours. After a Hard run in which we skipped all the codec sections, it read nine and a half. When the credits rolled on our Very Hard playthrough, we’d been playing for less than 15 hours. While we certainly didn’t expect a 50-hour game, we were hoping for a little more meat under the exoskeleton than this.
Yes, you can add to your moveset, improve weapons and extend your life and FC bars by spending Battle Points accrued in-game, but we’d completed the Skills section of the Customise menu an hour into our second playthrough. There are only a handful of moves for the weapons you take from fallen bosses, and equipping them binds them to the Triangle button, taking the place of your regular heavy attack and stripping you of a good chunk of your normal moveset. You’re thrown the occasional bone – a new costume, or a stat-boosting wig – but you have no idea when they’re coming. There’s nothing to work towards, nothing like the Bayonetta bracelet that you’d spend an entire playthrough saving up for.
And while Rising’s core combat system is a delight, it’s frequently undermined by the worst thirdperson camera we’ve seen in years. It’s serviceable in more open areas, but it struggles to cope in the cramped confines of a sewer system, a nuclear facility or an office block. It’s even worse on the higher difficulties, when you’re frequently surrounded by three or more of the larger enemies at once, where that beautiful parry system is compromised by a camera that keeps whirling around in a fruitless search for a clear shot of an out-of-sight Raiden. How do you tilt the joystick towards an opponent when you can’t tell where towards is?
It means you’re either going to mistime or misplace your attempted parries, and as such, you’re going to take damage. Perhaps that’s why Zandatsu refills your health, and why healing items are plentiful. They’re used automatically, too – handy in the thick of battle, perhaps, but rather less so against multi-form bosses with checkpoints. You’ll arrive at the boss with a full stock of healing items, fudge your way to its final form, die and have to take it down with a single health bar.
There are even balance issues. On the higher difficulties, the first chapter is comfortably the hardest, where the game bafflingly plays slave to the narrative and strips you of your extended health bar, extra moves and weapons, and doesn’t give you a sniff of Zandatsu until it’s formally introduced in the next chapter.
Platinum is a victim of its own success: its games will forever be compared to Bayonetta, and that’s a standard few can match, although it’s one to which the studio should always aspire. But while Rising’s combat is hugely satisfying to experiment with, and a sight to behold when played well, it’s undermined by technical issues and a singleplayer campaign that peters out just as you think it’s getting going. There’s replay value here, and for Platinum’s most devoted fans it won’t matter if the game is five or 50 hours long, but others will, rightly, feel a little short-changed.
PS3 version tested.