The man was on his knees, pleading for me not to kill him. Unfortunately, he had a key card I needed. So, I aimed my sword at his head. I wanted to give him an honorable, peaceful death. I swiped the analog stick... and missed. I cut clean through the top half of his head. It was a genuinely uncomfortable sight--and only the beginning of the hyper-violence featured in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
It's odd for a game with no motion controls whatsoever to make me feel so involved in what my character does on screen. It's a testament to how great cutting feels in Revengeance. The game opens in a tutorial arena that lets you chop up anything you want. There are watermelons, of course. But, you can chop up the tree standing behind the watermelon. You can chop the table the watermelon is resting on. Why not cut through a car? There's even a cat running around the level (but, you wouldn't dare, would you?!).
Raiden can perform a quick slash, but you can also slow down time and aim your slices. A blue line radius appears on the screen, letting you know exactly how you'll cut through something. By carefully aiming, you'll be able to cut a watermelon into tiny, refreshing pieces. You'll also be able to disarm enemies by chopping off their hands--and in my case, accidentally lop off the top half of a soldier begging to surrender. Whoops.
Cutting is incredibly empowering because you have so much control over the cutting process. You can take your time to draw your sword's path. You could, for example, cut someone in half horizontally--and then choose to cut him in half vertically afterwards. Because you can cut through almost anything, the result is always… horrifyingly gruesome.
I wanted to honor the spirit of the original Metal Gear Solid games by playing Revengeance as non-lethally as I could. I chopped their hands and legs whenever I could, and onlookers thought of me as sadistic. Cutting off just one of a man's legs has him tumbling to the ground. Horrible. Cutting off both his legs has him falling down flat on his face. Terrible. And cutting off his arm results in such a pained animation. Miserable. There's no way to not be an unforgivable killing machine in Revengeance. And given the impeccable controls, it felt like I was murdering these people. (Maybe Jack Thompson has a point!)
Unfortunately, there is no benefit to playing that way. Everyone has to die. While Kojima's Metal Gear games would espouse about the horrors of war, this is no Kojima Production. Instead of spending half an hour on a diatribe about PMCs, Raiden simply does awesome stuff. When he encounters a Gekko, he simply cuts off its legs. Helicopter getting in the way? Jump up and slice off its blades, of course.
While I'm not sure if the cutting mechanic will be able to sustain an entire game, what I've played so far is incredible fun--even if it is a bit too gruesome and over-the-top. In fact, those traits are precisely what makes the experience so memorable. What other game lets you run into someone, launch them into the air, and chop them into cubes while riding a missile?
Watch the Shacknews E3 2012 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. This preview is based on a hands-on demo shown at a pre-E3 event.