[Dual Review] Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – Metal Gear Gaiden: Raiden
With a franchise as beloved as Metal Gear, change can be a scary thing. By not only shifting development teams but also genres, Metal Gear Rising has given more than its fair share of panic attacks to Kojima fans around the globe. Because of this, we’ve decided to showcase two different viewpoints — one lover of Platinum Games’ Bayonetta and one avid lover of Metal Gear Solid. Now, come. Join Andres and I as we take you on a mission. A mission for… Revengeance.
From hearing the name of the game, with a word like Revengeance in the title, you pretty much have an idea of the kind of foray you are about to dive into the moment you pop this game into your PS3 or Xbox 360. This game makes a valiant effort to show you that this is not like the previous Metal Gear games, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In Rising, you play as cyborg ninja Raiden, who has a very special talent: chop the living hell out of practically everything. Instead of crouching in bushes or behind corners, Raiden will leap into battle and obliterate anything in his way, letting his blade do most of the talking. Luckily, this feels very natural. Seeing as Platinum Games had a large part in the production of this game, it would make sense that the combat would feel similar to the likes of action games like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, in terms of how solid every action feels when you’re in control of such a wild combatant like Raiden.
The control scheme is pretty basic with your light attack, heavy attack, jump, and right and left triggers to perform Ninja Run and Blade Mode, respectively. Ninja Run essentially allows you to sprint on the ground, over, and under obstacles, which also proves useful for certain combat combinations. All of these features have been seen before, but the most original feature Metal Gear Rising has to offer is “Blade Mode” mechanic. When your fuel cell gauge is filled, usually pretty quickly by hacking away at enemies, the left trigger allows you to enter Blade Mode, where you can either slice horizontally or vertically with the push of a button, or slice in any location in any direction you want with the analog sticks. It would make sense that Konami would make their advertisements and slogans for this game be about pretty much cutting everything. Pretty much every set piece within the environments is able to be minced to your delight. It fits in well with the theme of the game and helps differentiate it from other popular hack-and-slash games in the genre.
In general, the story mode itself isn’t terribly long, but about as long as you would expect any quick action game to be. If you are familiar with games like Bayonetta, you won’t have a very hard time being able to pick up the game, get a hang of the controls, and then proceed to Food Network your way through enemies and levels. In that sense, Rising is not terribly difficult. In fact, it’s pretty inconsistent with its difficulty. You might encounter a couple of spikes and dips in the difficulty as you progress through the story. This primarily applies to boss battles as they progressively get more difficult, but then suddenly get kind of easy. This can be disappointing as the most challenging boss battles are, by far, the most fun parts of this game. While there is the possibility of the game being pretty easy for more advanced players, it doesn’t take away from the fun of the action. There is also the option to start the game on Hard difficulty, which is probably how the game was meant to be played.
Amid all the lunacy, I did find my share of technical hiccups throughout Raiden’s journey. None were game breaking, but one did have me glitch direct past some enemies when I accidentally fell off a small structure and somehow into the next segment of the game. I ended up getting graded a D as I barely engaged in any altercation, but nothing like this ever happened again in my playthrough. There are also a few problems every now and then with the AI as, on top of being deaf, there might be a couple of flubs where Raiden can get too close for comfort without getting detecting. It should be noted that this is not a stealth game and this issue never takes precedence in the general gameplay.
The biggest technical issue is just in its graphical design. The majority of the game was graphically unimpressive. Even some levels that had a lot of potential for looking very nice were squandered to appear average at best for a 2013 title on current-generation consoles. Some better lighting effects could have gone a long way. Now, there is some compensation for this as, after proceeding through most of the levels consecutively, it wasn’t until about ¾ of the way through the game that I even realized there were no loading screens. I suppose smooth pacing and animations is one perk of not looking gorgeous. Regardless, one does not play a game from Platinum to gawk at the scenery, one plays these games to engage in brutal combat mayhem, which Rising delivers.
As a Metal Gear title, it is expected to have a good story. While Revengeance’s story-telling is not as enthralling or complicated, it has several great moments, including one with emotional poignancy that came as an unexpected surprise in this hack-and-slash game. While Hideo Kojima had previously stated a while back that this game was not canon to the Metal Gear Solid series, there really isn’t any reason as to why it shouldn’t be as both series hardly ever crossover. This is Raiden’s story; only one other character from previous games makes an appearance. Otherwise, there is merely mention of large events and entities like Solidus Snake and the Patriots, however there is plenty of room for Kojima Productions if the rumors are true and Metal Gear Solid V is in the works. Raiden’s game seemingly has no effect on the continuation of the previous series. In fact, there are enough new characters and terminology to be set up for future sequels if they’re ever made. New additions like Jetstream Sam, Courtney, Wolf, and the Winds of Destruction are actually all very interesting in their own ways, none of which feeling entirely out of place in the Metal Gear universe. Even Mistral and her overabundance of detachable arms.
Although the story mode won’t take you very long to complete, there are still a sufficient number of secrets and unlockables hidden throughout the levels. Rising rewards you handsomely for style and efficiency, not just simply getting through the level. There are plenty of upgrades to be unlocked and each new weapon is interesting in its own right, playing very differently depending on how you prefer to play. I personally saw more use in some over others, but it really can boil down to preference. The best unlockables however, that provide more value to the overall game are the VR Missions. Scattered through the levels, you may find a console which you can activate to unlock challenge missions which can be accessible from the title screen or any point in the game. While you could probably clear the game in under 8 hours on your playthrough, this is only counting your fastest times, excludes all the cutscenes, codec conversations, and VR Missions. By the time I went through the game once, watched every cutscene, heard most of the codec conversations, and dabbled in the challenges, I had clocked in around 13 hours. I could easily get some more playtime out of there by going back and replaying the entire game on Hard difficulty, finding all the secrets, and listening to all the codec conversations I missed the first time around. Plus, I just have to hear Courtney try her hood accent again.
In all, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is far from the Metal Gear Solid franchise, but what it does it does right. What it lacks in graphical prowess, it more than makes up for in fast, exciting combat, making for a very solid action game. Blade Mode brings something very new and satisfying to the genre, marking a great selling point for the game. As in most action games, the story is not exactly stellar, but it has its moments. The actual gameplay in the story mode may be pretty quick to cut through, but cutscenes, great codec conversations (a staple of the Metal Gear franchise), and challenging unlockable VR Missions make this a pretty fair package. Some fans of the MGS series might be turned off by the action elements, but those who are more open to the vastly different genre will find a lot more to like than they would have initially expected. This was certainly a very different experience from hunting tree frogs or hiding in boxes, but I had a much better time than I had anticipated.
Taking place in a post-Metal Gear Solid 4 universe, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance showcases MGS2‘s oft-hated protagonist Raiden’s continuing adventures. Considering that MGS2 may well be my favorite video game, this prospect excites me tremendously and, thankfully, is ultimately a positive experience. If you’ve played MGS4, you’ve seen Raiden’s current situation — cybernetic ninja badass. That game went out of its way to make players beg to play as Raiden, to regret dismissing him so quickly. Revengeance seeks to quench this thirst, giving players the Gekko-throwing, slicing/dicing mania of MGS4 in playable fashion.
I honestly can’t believe how successful Platinum Games was in this endeavor. By just watching Raiden’s moves in Revengeance, it’s obvious that a lot of thought and care went into emulating his distinct combat style. Small touches like combos moving his blade from his hands to his feet makes Raiden feel familiar, even though he’s never been playable in this fashion before. Keeping in this tradition is Revengeance‘s main differentiator: its cutting mechanic. Holding down the left trigger allows you to aim your sword, flicking the right stick to swing the sword in that direction, procedurally cutting apart your enemies or environment. It’s implemented in a different way, but it harkens back to the poignant “I HAVE A SWORD” moment in MGS2 in a way that just feels… right.
Apart from that, Revengeance mostly plays like your typical character-action game. You have light attacks and heavy attacks (which eventually give way to secondary weapons) and you run around like a madman cutting apart every foolish cyborg that looks at you funny. As far as differences are concerned, there is no roll button and also no block button. If you’re running, Raiden can slide out of the way of oncoming attacks, but you’ll mostly use the game’s parry system to avoid taking damage — or at least try to. Parrying attacks is simple, just perform a light attack towards the enemy that’s attacking. There’s a telltale flash of red before any attack, which makes scanning the environment and quickly parsing out danger fairly simple, but the timing window on the parry isn’t always obvious. Sometimes the timing window seems huge and other times it seems narrower than one of Raiden’s oh-so-flowy hairs. It’s mostly inconsequential as the game is slightly on the easy side, but it can be a bit frustrating when you’re hit by a huge combo and could’ve sworn you parried that.
There are several quick-time events littered throughout the gameplay, but they’re simple and help facilitate some of the game’s crazier moments. Flipping on top of a stunned Gekko and slicing it to teeny-tiny bits is immensely satisfying.
I was surprised by how much depth Revengeance actually has; the game I was shown at PAX came across as a bit too simple. It’s not overly complicated, but the combat system has its own intricacies and there are plenty of weapons to mess around with and combos to use that they never get stale. When significantly damaged, vulnerable areas are exposed on your foes, allowing you to cut them off with surgical precision. As a cyborg, Raiden is able to absorb energy and heal his wounds by absorbing electrolytes from his opposition. Using a move called Zendatsu, a specific target is shown that, when hit by a properly aimed slice, will allow him to extract his enemies’ precious electronics, healing him and filling his energy. It’s a fun, clever way of giving you something specific to aim at in slicing mode instead of just swinging your sword around all willy-nilly.
By exploring the environments, you’ll be able to grab things like abandoned rocket launchers and add them to your inventory, providing single-shot items to help in combat. Grenades are also scattered about along with a few Metal Gear staples.
Perhaps referencing more than embracing the series’s stealth roots, Revengeance offers occasional stealth options, but they’re mostly clunky and best ignored. The patrolling AI is hilariously stupid, but that’s rarely a problem — it’s much more fun to slice them to bits. Tiny inclusions like the alert timer and the exclamation point chime when you’re spotted provide some links to the past, but others are much more substantial. Completely unexpectedly (from me at least), there are full Codec conversations! Choosing from a list of allies, you’ll be able to bother any of them at any time during gameplay and learn all about them. They’re well-written, funny, and provide some of Metal Gear‘s expected long-winded exposition that’s mostly absent from the campaign.
If you’re a fan who’s craving more Metal Gear, this game is not to be missed. However, if you’re expecting this to be a major story necessity, you will probably be disappointed. Despite its story being thought-provoking and entertaining in its own right, it has very little impact on the universe. Perhaps for the best, as this leaves the slate wide open for whatever comes next. It’s simply a side story, nothing more. It’s nice to see some more character development on Raiden’s side, though, and some of the new characters, especially K-9000, are welcome additions to the franchise.
As a Metal Gear game, it’s a bit strange to see pre-rendered cutscenes (especially on the 360, where artifacting is present), but that’s a small price to pay to get a game that runs at a fluid 60 frames per second during gameplay. But that’s what Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is: a series of trade-offs in order to carve a new path for itself. Platinum wasn’t afraid to change some Metal Gear tenets and they’ve largely paid off. Revengeance is a blast to play and a welcome addition to the Metal Gear fiction. Because of all these things, I was not surprised at all to find out that Andres and I agreed in our final score despite never talking over the course of our review.
Dual Final Breakdown:
[+Satisfying Combat] [+Slicy and Dicy] [+Ridiculous in a Good Way] [+Fun New Characters] [+Runs at Sixty Frames] [+Deeper Than It Seems] [-Pre-rendered Scenes] [-Unwieldy Parrying] [-Story Has Little Effect on Future Entries]