Raiden — the main character of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance — sure has come a long way.
Once criticized as whiny and feminine — somewhat of a joke among Metal Gear Solid fans — Raiden hit a turning point in 2008's Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
Gamers watched in awe when he sported cybernetic upgrades. With blinding speed and graceful acrobatics, Raiden rescued protagonist Solid Snake by slicing up about a dozen giant robot tanks with a sword.
However, in Metal Gear Solid 4, he was not playable. It felt like a kick to the gut — suddenly Raiden was cool, but all we could do was watch as he opened a can of concentrated ninjitsu on foes 10 times his size.
I thought, "Man, I would love to play a game starring cyborg-ninja Raiden." The whole Internet agreed.
Ask, and ye shall receive.
Revengeance is a spinoff tale that follows the events of Metal Gear Solid 4. It puts you in Raiden's cyborg shoes and lets you carve up enemies in spectacular fashion.
Epic attacks, fluid animation and stunning graphics make every enemy encounter a sight to behold. The game introduces "Blade Mode," the first of its kind, which allows for precise, powerful sword strikes that can carve through enemies and scenery.
Standard gameplay sees Raiden dispatching bad guys with blade attacks, which he can string together into powerful combinations. Pressing the left trigger during combat puts Raiden in Blade Mode, freezing him in place while you change the angle and placement of critical strikes.
Entering Blade Mode after weakening enemies causes time to slow down, giving Raiden a chance to hack off limbs or steal an enemy's power source.
See, because all the enemies are cyborgs or robots, they are powered by battery packs similar to the one that energizes Raiden's body. By cutting enemies open and stealing their power sources, Raiden absorbs their energy to regain health and attack power.
Stealing power cores is critical; enemies come at Raiden in groups capable of dealing tons of damage if you drop your guard.
The swordplay is truly the star of Revengeance. Almost everything Raiden cuts falls apart realistically. That subtle mechanic offers tons of gameplay possibilities.
Multiple bad guys attacking you? Cut the leg off of one in Blade Mode to slow it down while you deal with the others, or weaken them all and finish them off with a single strike.
Enemy patrolling on the other side of a tractor-trailer? Cut the trailer in half and charge through the wreckage, or sneak behind it for a powerful, one-hit kill.
Fighting is hectic, so it takes practice to get the hang of everything. Namely, I struggled with the strict timing needed to parry enemy blows.
Once I figured that out, I fell in love with almost everything about the game. Even small details, like Raiden's confident strut, scream coolness.
Revengeance takes place four years after Metal Gear Solid 4, but it's not accurate to call it a sequel. The story is fairly interesting but by no means critical to the greater lore of the series. Also, Revengeance mostly abandons the famous Metal Gear Solid stealth.
Revengeance is first and foremost an action game, similar to God of War or Devil May Cry. Like those hectic games, the camera sometimes gets in the way of combat, rotating to a weird angle or pointing away from the bad guys.
The camera, plus a couple of incredibly cheap bosses and a repetitive rock soundtrack, keeps Revengeance from being perfect.
However, as you zip around the battlefield, you'll feel so awesome you won't care. If you still think Raiden's a dork, Revengeance will change your mind.
VIDEO GAME REVIEW
'Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance'
About: Take control of a new and improved Raiden, a cyborg-ninja working with a private military company to stop a conspiracy to plunge the world into endless war.
Pros: Revengeance features lightning-fast combat and the best swordplay of any game ever conceived. Smooth animations, brilliant graphics and the ability to level up weapons round out the package.
Cons: The camera sometimes goes wonky during fast-paced battles, and fans of Metal Gear Solid might balk at how far Revengeance strays from the series' stealth formula. Lastly, the game's incredibly difficult final boss will make you want to break your controller.
Availability and price: $59.99 for Xbox 360 and PS3.
ESRB rating: M
Manifesto's rating: 9/10 (PS3)
Metacritic rating: 8/10 (PS3)
Josh Kegley: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety