Right up front in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Raiden's gruff Russian employer Boris reminds him that, 'this is not an infiltration mission.' As in, this is not, under any circumstances, a regular Metal Gear Solid game. Yes, you can go full-on stealth if you're so inclined - but, in truth, this third-person fighter is created for one thing: the art of confrontation.
The first couple of hours unfold like the start of the biggest-budgeted Bond movie you could ever imagine, with Raiden assigned to protect a peace-loving African politician, who's then kidnapped by a band of mercenaries (dubbed Desperado Enforcement). After losing an eye (and a limb) to enigmatic baddie Samuel Rodriguez, things go full-on lunatic: a ludicrous but entertaining tale of revenge is bolted to a barely comprehensible excuse for slicing up bad guys - and the cherry on top? You have to save the brains of poor, innocent street kids at the same time. Yep. Their brains.
Up until the game's first boss battle you'll want to get to grips with the basic attacking controls. These mirror the Dynasty Warriors series for simplicity and mashability, while overtaking it in terms of visual splendour. That said, tapping Square or Triangle (we played it on PS3) for light and heavy attacks won't help much when the foes get XL-sized, like the memorably named LQ-84i - the game's opening boss - who's a fast moving robo-pooch with a chainsaw tail attachment. (More on him later.) It's here that the potentially divisive Parry system becomes important.
Initially, the lack of a dedicated block button feels counter-intuitive - and you'll rage at its omission
There's no dedicated button to block in Revengance. Instead you have to tap the light attack button (Square) while aiming the left stick towards an incoming attack. At first this is incredibly counter intuitive and you'll rage. It just seems massively at odds with Raiden's otherwise fast-moving and flowing combat. But, as you perfect your timing, this system ends up inciting the feel of the back and forth parrying we're used to in old school Japanese samurai movies. Deeper into the game there are boss fights where you'll be countering multiple attacks from different angles - and, in doing so, you'll feel like a genuine ninja with each perfectly-timed chink of metal.
This sense of back and forth swordplay is only really prevalent during boss fights, though. Standard enemies are easily-beatable through an old fashioned combination of running about and pad-mashing, and the reality is, it's a combo that many, many players will end up relying on as the game does a woefully blunt job of explaining its chief mechanics. A dodge move (performed by pressing Square and X together) becomes invaluable when battling slower, hammer-wielding enemies, but is never explicitly explained. You could conceivably play the whole game and not even know it was there.
Yet, what the combat system lacks in depth it more than makes up for in sheer spectacle. Once he's been rebuilt after his run in with Rodriguez, Raiden is forced to rip the spines from his enemies in order to restore his health. In a cunning twist of slow motion glory-gore, these spinal juices are best sucked up before the bodies of their owners can hit the floor. It makes for some eye-watering encounters.
Using L1, Raiden can enter Zan-Datsu (Blade) mode, slowing down time as his weakened enemies flail through the air. Timing a well-aimed slice through an enemy's vitals, and then hammering the Circle button, will 'inspire' Raiden to reach in and yank their neon blue gooey bits out... before crushing them in a clenched fist. These combat-intensive sections are fantastic: they're slick, never get old, and look amazing, with no frame-rate issues to speak of, even when things go nuclear.