It feels like Metal Gear Rising has been coming for a long time, but it is finally a reality. Ever since the infamous watermelon-slicing video at E3, gamers have wondered how a game starring Raiden would pan out in the Metal Gear universe. It is no secret that the title has undergone some development hurdles, including swapping studios, and at one point being completely scrapped. All of these things throw up red flags about quality, and honestly most games that go through this don’t turn out so well. You can rest assured though, Platinum Games and KojiPro have managed to salvage Raiden’s adventure and turn it into one heck of an experience.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is not your typical Metal Gear title. There isn’t a focus on stealth or long-winded cut scenes, although the ones here are definitely lengthy. As you might imagine from a game developed by Platinum, Revengeance is pure action. You assume the role of Raiden, who Metal Gear fans know all too well. When he replaced Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2, the outcry was felt across the nation. Then when he re-appeared in Metal Gear Solid 4 as a badass cyborg, opinions changed, and the idea of him starring in his own game, slicing enemies in half, sounded immensely exciting.
Those hoping for a Metal Gear-style narrative are somewhat in luck. The story starts off a little nuts, and only snowballs out of control from there. The Metal Gear universe has always been once drenched in political discussion and cybernetic augmentations, but Rising takes it to whole new levels. Some of the events that unfold towards the end of the game make about as much sense as an arms dealer who has a monkey in a diaper… oh, wait. The game is actual canon though, and is permanently part of the universe.
The game takes place four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, as Raiden is now forced into working with PMCs (Private Military Corps) to support his family. The story begins when a new enemy emerges to attack someone Raiden is protecting, crippling him in the process. Raiden then gets an upgraded cyborg body, and vows vengeance (or is it RE-vengeance) on his enemies. What ensues is a roller-coaster ride of over-the-top cut scenes, questionable voice acting and a whole lot of slow motion sword fighting. So, it’s basically just another day at KojiPro.
Revengeance is an action game; nothing more, nothing less. There are no vehicle segments, stealth is a joke and avoiding enemies simply feels wrong. This is a game about you, your blade and the torsos you will be splitting apart. Platinum Games is all about action, and with their track record, I got the satisfying combat I was expecting. Raiden has his trusty blade from the outset, but he also acquires weapons from fallen bosses, Mega Man style. On the surface, the combat may feel shallow and button-mashy, but continue on that path and you will be greeted with a game over screen more often than not.
The combat system here is more contextualized than games like DmC. Your moves change depending on situations, and timed button presses. You can delay one move into the next, and your only defense is the parry button. It took me a solid two levels to adjust to the action without a dedicated escape maneuver. Sure you can use Raiden’s ninja run to distance yourself, but it cannot be dialed into the combat effectively all the time. The parry quickly becomes your friend, and thankfully the timing is somewhat forgiving. In order to perform a parry you simply have to push towards an enemy and tap the light attack button, this opens them up to your attacks, as well as letting you slice them up in blade mode.
Blade mode is one of the most distinguishing features about the game. By holding down the left trigger you can enter a of slow-motion action that allows you to aim your blade strikes with the analog sticks. Worn down enemies can lose limbs (distinguishable by glowing-blue markers) and if performed when your fuel cell count is high, you can aim for a target on the enemy for a blow that removes their inner fuel cell, and refills your health and fuel cell meter. This is very helpful when surrounded by multiple enemies.
As I mentioned earlier, Raiden can take weapons from fallen bosses much like Mega Man. These weapons, as well as your default blade, can also be upgraded along with Raiden’s health and fuel cells through the upgrade system. Everything you do in the game earns you battle points. These can then be spent on adding more health, new skills or even making your weapons stronger in between levels. You can even switch and upgrade during levels and restart at checkpoints. There are also outfits you can unlock throughout the game. Some look awesome, but others are ridiculous. There are also collectibles to find and VR missions to unlock, so going back to older levels does have limited appeal.
Not everything is enjoyable though, as MGR stumbles often enough to notice along the way. For starters, the dialogue and voice acting reach levels of pure ridiculousness. The voice acting is especially bad in several areas. Sundowner is one of the most non-threatening villains I have ever heard, while Raiden’s voice when he becomes angry is comical. I also want to send a note out to developers of action and fighting games. The left-stick waggle mechanic needs to die. Slamming back and forth on my controller to clear a dazed character is not only annoying, it rarely works as intended. Instead you seemingly make me break my controller, and rarely do I ever escape the impending attack. Just stop it, for the good of the gamers.
The game looks great most of the time. The levels offer up some decent variety, and being able to slice almost any object in the world is a cool novelty that rarely got old. I did notice a few hang-ups though. For starters while the frame rate remained steady most of the time, it did chug when I decided to slice up some objects to ridiculous levels. I imagine this was a processing issue. Also the rendered cut scenes were really low resolution, of course this is likely a limitation of the media, so it was to be expected. The voice work, as I have mentioned before, is downright terrible at times. The soundtrack, which tosses in some truly screaming metal tracks, is heart-pumping.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance may bear the acclaimed name, but it is far from what that series has become known for. It is an action game in the vein of Ninja Gaiden or DmC, with plenty of gore to spare. Sure, the story still focuses on military and political propaganda in a ridiculous fashion, but it lacks that certain charm (and the lengthy cut scenes) we are accustomed to in the series. Platinum has done a great job at salvaging what was potentially a lost game, and fans of Metal Gear will undoubtedly enjoy the references within. While not as polished as others in the genre, what it lacks in functionality, it makes up for with personality and blade mode.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.