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Metal Gear Rising Revengeance: The pre-release Konami/Platinum postmortem

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, due out Feb. 19 in the U.S,. is officially in "pre-release hype" mode worldwide. Even as the demo (which finally hit North America last week) allowed gamers to slice up hapless cyborgs and fruit with gleeful abandon, Kojima Productions and Platinum Games have been busy pounding the games media with tidbits from the full game.

It's definitely a trip, one that starts with Raiden getting beaten up by villain Samuel Rodriguez in Africa and then takes our hero through Abkhazia, Mexico, and Denver, Colorado. "There are two reasons why we introduce a lot of different settings in this game," said Koji-Pro scenario writer Etsu Tamari. "One, we wanted to make an effort to depict what happened to the world after the end of Metal Gear Solid 4. Second, there was a drive by [Platinum Games director] Kenji Saito to try and create as many different situations as possible to portray the action around."

"The more really heated-up situations you have, the more motivation players will have to keep going," Saito added. "I put in a number of requests along the lines of 'Can we get this character into that kind of scene?' There are some gameplay aspects that a Metal Gear can't do without, but sometimes there are these set precepts that you have to break down. We paid close attention to that balance as we went along."

Although Revengeance is all Metal Gear, producer Atsushi Inaba took pains to point out that it was all Platinum, too. "I think Rising itself has Platinum Games at its soul," he said. "When we work on a game, we keep the accelerator down, all the way. We stuff in everything we're possibly capable of, and even if we went too far, we figured that Tamari would figure out what to do with it."

"Some of it was pretty ridiculous," Tamari replied. "At one point they told me 'We want to have it so that if you hide under a cardboard box, even cyborgs can't find you, so go make up some pretense for that.' I mean, that's cardboard!"

Undoubtedly the coolest part of the Revengeance demo is Blade Mode, which allows Raiden to slash through and dissect targets in a boundless variety of entertaining ways. According to Saito, getting Blade Mode to work was simple enough it was making it seem cool that took forever to perfect.

"If the target followed the laws of physics," he explained, "then if you sliced an object diagonally, the top part would slide downward. But with a horizontal cut, it's flat, so the two sides would stick together. Especially with a cyborg, it wouldn't feel like you sliced through him at all; it wouldn't be fun. So when you're hitting cyborgs, the game does away with physics calculations and goes for set reactions instead. Even then, though, it was a matter of what reaction would be the coolest when the cyborg was hit in a certain way, in a certain place... There were a ton of issues to work out before it was complete."

"Being able to slice through things freely is something that's immediately attractive when you start doing it," added Inaba, "but now we definitely know why no other game tried to do this before ours."

The final game has had its difficulty rejiggered a fair bit since the original Tokyo Game Show demo last fall. "We got pretty decent praise," Saito recalled, "but we saw a lot of people having trouble with the controls. So we immediately got to work adjusting the difficulty level. We had started work thinking the game was meant for people good at action titles, but after TGS, we started thinking more along the lines of an experience that people who just like the Metal Gear world setting can enjoy as well."

Even more feedback was implemented from the demo, which was released in Japan last month. Since then, Blade Mode has been made easier to set off, and in Easy mode, Raiden will now parry attacks in semi-automatic fashion. "Just making the game easy would've removed some of the game's attractive points," Inaba explained. "But at the same time, we didn't want people getting stuck at the LQ-84i battle and say 'Ah, forget it' just because they couldn't master the parry move. So I told Saito that we needed some kind of rescue for that...even though it was about two weeks before the end of the dev cycle by that point."

The stage is set for a pretty decent launch in three weeks' time, although Koji-Pro and Platinum aren't talking much about story details yet. "Up to now, Raiden has always had this patron in the form of the larger-than-life character of Snake," Tamari said. "But the shackles are off now, and he'll have a chance to take full action this time around."

"I think we've been able to pick up where MGS2 and MGS4 left off portraying Raiden's growth," added Saito. "The parts of his 'Jack the Ripper' child-soldier past that weren't fleshed out in MGS2 are getting retold in fuller fashion in this game, so I hope people are looking forward to it."

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