Issue 117 of games™ featured a game on its cover that technically no longer exists. But then we really should have known. Hideo Kojima has a habit of pulling the rug from under his audience, making them expect one thing and then delivering something totally unexpected. It was the case with Metal Gear Solid 4, which seemed to be completely set in the Middle East according to pre-release materials, and it was certainly the case for MGS2, which put you in control of an entirely new character rather than the expected Solid Snake. The overhaul of Metal Gear Solid: Rising may be Kojima’s most shocking substitution yet, however. Not just a change of setting or character, it’s a total replacement of development team, with Bayonetta creator Platinum Games masterminding the reinvention now known as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
Announced two years ago, Metal Gear Rising has struggled to find an identity as Kojima Productions grappled with the consequences of allowing players to cut anything, anywhere. “The game design itself wasn’t clear or well decided,” says Hideo Kojima, in an unusually frank making-of video released to the game’s official site, explaining that the freedom to make precise sword swipes was difficult to balance with Raiden’s high-speed ninja action. “The team was lost in an endless cycle of creating and recreating these elements over and over, trying to achieve the right balance,” Kojima continues.
A high-speed action game was clearly a difficult thing to pull off for a studio more experienced in the slow, patient gameplay of Solid Snake, and with Kojima himself not directly working on MGS: Rising, the team struggled on until late 2010, when the plug was very nearly pulled on the project. Instead, Kojima decided to farm out development to a studio more capable of capturing Raiden’s spirit within gameplay. A Japanese studio, he rationalises, was the obvious choice for a ninja game, and with that he approached his first choice Platinum Games, which agreed to collaborate… though only after Kojima had convinced Platinum CEO Tatsuya Minami that he wasn’t joking.
A quick look at Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance in action and it’s easy to see how much impact Platinum Games has made. Gone is the ponderous way in which you’d slice up an enemy in slow motion. In its place stands a dynamic and fluid combat system not unlike that of Bayonetta, yet still retaining the option to slice people, vehicles and giant robots up into tiny bits. The way in which each slash leaves a blue or red streak of lightning behind it adds a visual flourish that emphasises each split-second decision in typical Platinum style. This is a bolder, brasher and more visually exciting Metal Gear than we’ve ever seen, and the moment you see Raiden toss Metal Gear Ray into the air, before dashing along his exterior and slicing him in two, is all the proof needed that Platinum is the right choice of developer.
Interestingly, the change to the game design has also seen Platinum’s influence seep through into the story. Though Kojima Productions was initially happy to hold onto Metal Gear Solid: Rising’s plot – which would have detailed the events between MGS2 and 4 –the more Platinum introduced new characters of their own, the more Kojima realised that the studio needed the freedom to express its vision apart from the pre-determined plot. Now taking place after the events of MGS4, Revengeance can indulge in all of the over-the-top madness that only a collaboration between Kojima and Platinum could produce… with the added bonus that we now have no idea what to expect from the story.
Neither Kojima nor Platinum is a stranger to collaboration, of course, but this is the first time these two studios have worked together, and the results could be incredible. In the documentary accompanying Revengeance’s announcement, Platinum’s Tatsuya Minami recalled the way Japanese games used to be the most exciting and highest quality in the world, and that, together with Kojima, he hopes to revive the positive feelings associated with the phrase ‘made in Japan’. Will Revengeance do that? Actually… We’re just happy it’s being made at all.