A lot has been made of Raiden's 'zandatsu' ability. And rightly so. Roughly translated as 'cut (zan) and take (datsu)', it allows him to slow down time and select a cutting angle in order to expose enemy spines. Sever a soldier/bipedal cow mech down the middle and Raiden reaches in and pulls out the spinal cord with the ease of a champion Operation player. He crushes the spinal column, time resumes and the foe falls apart at the seams.
Platinum's done some zandatsu-ing of its own. Stepping in after Kojima's false development starts, the studio has yanked out Rising's backbone and grafted it into a limber cyborg frame of its own design. If the icons and tone are all Kojima's, it does feel like a Platinum joint. Raiden's two-button combat easily weaves into launchers, dodges and eye-watering combos, and the directional parrying - performing a weak strike towards an incoming blow - really captures the blend of speed, power and grace unique to swordplay.
So solid crew
If anything, the generous timings and obvious visual tells involved in parrying sees Platinum at its most-user friendly - a concession to the Metal Gear Solid crowd, perhaps. Perfect deflections trigger an instant-kill counter, but even ham-fisted neophytes can muddle through looking reasonably awesome in the process. We get the sense that Revengeance is meant to be more playful than technical. It's a cyborg samurai power fantasy. A big part of that is being able to backflip over mechs while tearing their guts out, or calmly lopping off a man's elbow.
As with Bayonetta, the real appeal lies not in mere survival, but brutal mastery. Learning when and where to use precision cuts takes getting used to. This is the rare game where our end-of-level ranks improved as we worked into later, harder levels, all thanks to Platinum's smooth learning curve. By the time we got to Level Four, we were halving three soldiers with one cut and plucking out their spines as if we were strawberry picking. On Normal mode, Raiden feels almost too efficient - a Platinum boss shouldn't go down the first time you meet - so playing on Hard mode is recommended.
Platinum's anarchic glee can sit uneasily alongside the stodgy trappings of the Kojimaverse. Some mechanics feel like leftovers from an earlier draft, codec chatter eats into valuable cuttin' time and support weapons - grenades, rockets - are rendered pointless by the three feet of death in your hand. Stealth is particularly weak. Guard AI is too spotty, the mechanics too shallow. You can hide in a box or, er, hide in a different box. It manages to be an insult to both Kojima's sneaking past and Platinum's action-packed present.
All this can be ignored, but it's symptomatic of bigger problems. Platinum and Konami are different beasts. One takes a single combat system and mines it deep, the other throws everything at a game and sees what sticks. Here, the latter throws the former off. We get flamboyant combat, but it plays out in Metal Gear's drab world of offices and factories. We get great boss encounters, but they're bookended by minutes of droning on about war economies. A tale of child cyborgs and stolen brains is right up Platinum's street, so why not let it handle the telling?
It's brief, too, with the final zandatsu delivered after just six hours. Yes, there are VR missions to unlock, novelty items to buy and battle rankings to ace, but it still feels lean. And the last hour makes you tackle a previous level in reverse, fight an inexplicably easy boss, and sneak through a warehouse before enduring a final boss fight sapped of pacing by waffly cutscenes. But then you grumble through the credits, hop back into the game, chop a man's shins off, and all is right again.
There's a great game in Revengeance, buried under the rubble of a previous franchise collapse. With a little less zatsu and a little more dan, Platinum Games could be on to something.
Great combat wrapped in an uneven package
- Wickedly empowering combat
- Hilariously nasty blade takedowns
- Great eye for boss designs
- MGS DNA muddies the action
- Easily bested in a day