Given Platinum’s heritage, it’s shocking to discover that Raiden starts Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance without access to a dodge. Our protagonist has no Bayonetta cartwheel, no Viewtiful Joe evade poses, none of God Hand’s lightspeed bobs and weaves. You’ll get one eventually, admittedly, but this is a bold opening statement: Platinum wants you to understand right from the word go that this is not a game of escaping danger, but of facing it head on.
There’s no dedicated block button either, but tilt the left stick towards an opponent preparing to attack and tap Square to make Raiden raise his sword in a defensive stance, fending off the enemy’s strike and staggering you back briefly in block stun. The later you press the button, the shorter the stun; time the press to a handful of frames before the incoming attack connects and you don’t stagger at all, instead countering with a swipe of your own sword, stunning not just your attacker but anyone foolish enough to be nearby – the perfect parry.
Parrying is the beating heart of Rising, more so even than Free Cutting (FC), the directional slice-and-dice mechanic shown off when the game was unveiled in 2009, before Kojima Productions realised action games weren’t its forte and drafted in Platinum. Hold L1 at any time to enter Blade mode, where Square and Triangle perform quick horizontal and vertical swipes, and the right stick enables you to angle a plane to make more precise cuts.
You can use this power on the environment, scything through stanchions to bring down bridges and the enemies atop them, or just for fun, splitting a fairground ride into a thousand pieces, the framerate tanking into single figures under the strain. You’ll cut paths through doors and fences, too, but Blade mode’s principal use is ‘Zandatsu’, Japanese for ‘cut and take’, a fancy name for yanking out an enemy’s spinal column and squashing it in your palm.
You’ll need to whittle down their health first, either through the balletic light-light-heavy combos at your disposal, or if it’s an S rank you’re after, with a perfect parry. Time slows to a crawl and the screen turns blue – your cue to enter Blade mode and line up your strike with the red square that marks your target. A button prompt appears; tap Circle and Raiden yanks out the neon blue vertebrae, the camera pulling round to face him as he crushes the cyborg matter in his palm, his health and FC gauges replenished in an instant.
Rising’s core loop of parry, cut and take is delightful, especially once you start experimenting with it. Apart from a few heavy combo finishers, all your attacks can be cancelled with a parry; you can whale away on a foe with abandon until the very moment an incoming attack connects. Once your opponent is stunned and you’re in Blade mode, you needn’t go straight for the spine. You can slice up the head and lop off the arms before reaching for that sweet regenerative nectar.