On paper, it really shouldn’t work. The Metal Gear series has always focused on the shadows, on staying hidden, whereas Platinum Games do their best work in garish neon glare. But had chance to go hands-on with the chimerical creation that is the sublimely named Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and, somehow, the disparate parts all manage to fit together into a gory, entertaining and painfully difficult whole.

The game stars Raiden, whipping boy of Metal Gear Solid 2 and now a cybernetically altered super-ninja armed with a glowing energy blade and a jaw that looks like it could bite its way out of an oil tanker. From what little story we could discern from the slice on view you appear to start out on some sort of rescue mission – presumably to do with the African state Prime Minister as seen in the recently released trailer.

Most of the gameplay will feel instantly familiar to anyone who’s played a hack-and-slasher before. You have heavy attacks and light attacks, and you can combo them together to create devastating chains of blood spouting carnage. On top of that comes the game’s unique selling point – the ability to pull a trigger button, slow time, and pick out the position of your slice by tilting the analogue stick.

It takes a while to get used to, but once things click you’ll be cutting through weaker enemies with ease and lining up your slices to catch the glittering orbs that grant you ever more impressive points bonuses. As you’d expect from a Platinum game you’re graded after almost every encounter, with smart, stylish play naturally yielding the best ranks.

If you manage to sneak up on a guard, you’re treated to a brief cut scene involving your sword, gouts of blood and some squelchy noises as you run him through. It’s a satisfying coda to a well-orchestrated sneak, and probably shows off the dualism at the core of Revengeance best: there are glimpses of Metal Gear here yes, but they’re only punctuation marks in Platinum’s blood-daubed manuscript.

Alongside the gore and the exposition-heavy cut scenes, one thing stood out – just how difficult the game is to play. A parry system that requires you to time swipes and directional inputs to clash with your opponent’s attack is fiendishly difficult, demanding split second timing and more practice than was afforded us during our all too brief time with the title.

Fans of Platinum’s output will relish the challenge, but it may well come as a shock to anyone coming to the game from the side of the pure Metal Gear series. The fast, fluid gameplay sits at odds with the staccato rhythm of its progenitor, and could well alienate fans of Kojima’s stealthy progression (or else leaving fans demanding significantly more from future Metal Gear games if the formula proves to be a success).

Worth the wait? Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is shaping up to be an interesting mash of styles, themes, and universes. It has Platinum’s violence and swagger, overlaid with Kojima’s focus on cinematic storytelling and attention to polemic. As ever we reserve judgement given the brevity of our preview, but Revengeance certainly kept us enthralled for every second of our play through and just could be one of 2013’s first post-Xmas musts.

By Harry Slater

Format: PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Konami
When? 28 February 2013