Review: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

12 03 2013

The instant that Metal Gear Rising was announced I was immediately worried. While the prospect of a new Metal Gear game was welcome news, when they revealed that the protagonist was going to be the angsty pretty-boy Raiden a lot of people almost wrote it off. Raiden, who has been the butt of the jokes in the Metal Gear series even within the series itself since his debut in MGS2, has managed to be a consistently unappealing character for nearly a decade at this point, and he was just “that naked whiny guy I had to play as instead of Snake in Sons of Liberty.” Even after he was converted to the ultra-slick cyborg assassin incarnation of MGS4 he was still difficult to take seriously, and some fans even resented the fact that the cyborg ninja role which is a series staple was “wasted” on Raiden.

Despite all this opposition and against all odds, they finally made Raiden cool.

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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is neither a reboot or a sequel of the standard Metal Gear series continuity. Developed by Platinum Games, it departs from the signature stealth and tactics gameplay of the franchise and brings Platinum’s ferocious action that the studio is known for to the setting, which seems to take place somewhere after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4. Taking control of Raiden, players tear a bloody swath through hundreds of enemy soldiers, cyborgs, and tank-sized “UG” attack drones for a high-octane 8-10 hours of gameplay in the story mode.

The standard gameplay is action-y slice-em-up antics through and through, and the centerpiece is Raiden’s “Blade Mode” that when activated utilizes his signature HF Blade to mutilate most anything into innumerable chunks, whether that’s a pillar of reinforced concrete, a steel-plated assault mech, or most often than not some poor chump that should’ve called in sick that day. The technology of the game engine is very impressive for the Blade Mode enabling the player to aim their stroke from literally any angle to dice their opposition in a variety of creative ways and is always an awesome spectacle. Once players grow accustomed to controlling Raiden they’ll be ripping the cybernetic organs from the hapless opposition before their diced corpses can even touch the ground, assassinating mech tanks, and somersaulting through missile barrages to carve attack helicopters like holiday hams. In its purest form the game looks like a brutal blood-storm of glorious carnage and dismemberment.

The core gameplay is incredibly smooth and satisfying, but the game does a poor job in educating the player on various aspects of the combat system. There’s so much cool shit you are able to do but the game does a bad job teaching you how to do them. I went through over half of the game without knowing how to properly block/defend myself from attacks and only when I was road-blocked by a particularly aggressive boss did I realize that I lacked understanding of a key element of core gameplay. There are various other aspects of gameplay that the player is seemingly expected to know but fortunately none of them are especially crippling to the overall experience (you WILL have to learn to block eventually though, I guarantee you that) Getting around this learning curve you’ll find that the combat has a great elegance to it despite the chaotic fast-pace. Once you master the basics and grasp a few advanced facets of the combat, you’ll feel like a continual badass as you shred through miles and miles of flesh, steel, synthetic tissue, and everything else that happens to be in your way.

The subweapon system enables Raiden to carry a variety of other expendable items in addition to the HF blade, such as an assortment of grenades, homing missiles, and even the iconic cardboard box, true to the tradition of the series. The inclusion of these subweapons was integrated kind of clumsily, however, and feels more like an afterthought or obligation because it has very little bearing or application to the general flow of the gameplay. Why bother with having to pull out and aim a clunky rocket launcher at the enemy when you can just run up with your sword and portion them out like a pot roast? Very rarely did I think to turn to my cache of subweapons and I think there was never a moment when I really had to.

Ironically, the element of stealth which is essentially synonymous with the Metal Gear series is notably incomplete in Revengeance. It’s a bare-minimum stealth system where all it takes is staying out of enemies direct line of sight. The enemies are seemingly oblivious to their other senses than vision and will notice nothing amiss if you pick a few of their comrades off from afar with a rocket launcher, nor will they turn their head after you vivisect their teammate a few yards away (as long as it’s behind them). Thankfully, the stealth element of game is entirely at the player’s discretion and you will not be penalized if you can’t be bothered to sneak around; at its core it respects that it is a dedicated action game.

The story of the game seems to be a continuation of the events of Guns of the Patriots, but also a divergence or side story. The plot does not try to thrust upon the player that Raiden is Solid Snake’s replacement in the series, but rather that this may be the beginning of his own derivative series. Many of the key concepts and themes of the Metal Gear series carry through in Revengeance, including the rapid expansion of technology, meditations on the purpose of war and warriors, and larger-than-the-universe conspiracies which are all hallmarks of the franchise. Many of the new characters introduced are memorable, particularly the villains, but most of the others simply fill their needed role as Raiden’s supporters. There are a few characters whose inclusion is baffling and will induce cringes whenever their voices are heard. Raiden himself seems to have adopted a much “throatier” voice and his dialogue is comprised of growling and growly whining. Overall Revengeance manages to maintain a plot engaging enough to chain the chapters together but it’s playing the game that will keep you enthralled, ending in a last chapter/final boss that needs to be played to be believed. I completed the full game in one sitting from start to finish, so that’s worth something.

Despite a few stumbling points, Revengeance delivers what I think it intended and really hits the spot for solid action gameplay. Hurtling over it’s own flaws with a ninja flip, the game is an excellent hybrid of the trademark stylishness of Platinum Games’ over-the-top blazing action and Kojima Productions’  stunning visuals, bizarre and memorable character designs, grandeur, and intrigue. I would highly recommend this game to veterans of wicked action games and fans of the Metal Gear universe.


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