Genre: Action, Hack-n’-Slash
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Developer: PlatinumGames (produced by Kojima Productions)
The latest from Kojima and Platinum isn’t the first action title to have come under fire from concerned fans in recent history. While Metal Gear at its core is known for its tactical espionage gameplay, Metal Gear Rising:Revengeance has taken a much larger focus on fast-paced action and thus has raised quite a few eyebrows. Because of this, fans of the series have been quite anxious about the preservation of what made the games legendary to begin with.
I think it’s appropriate to address that I understand the concern. The Solid games are widely seen as the definitive Metal Gear experience and suddenly, a new installment not only strays away from the refined stealth elements, but also stars Raiden who hasn’t been everyone’s favorite protagonist of the series. However, it’s important to note that Rising is not part of the Solid series; it’s a spin-off with its own style that’s also set in the canon of the previous games. Hideo Kojima is simply expanding the franchise’s horizons to introduce the Metal Gear world to players who enjoy action titles or games of various genres. The only real reasons to complain about the series changing its tone is if it was adapted to future Solid games or if they were discontinued entirely in favor of Rising. Both have been deconfirmed with the announcement of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. In the end, Rising is to be judged by its respect to its franchise as well as if it’s any fun.
So is Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance just that? Is it a different spin on the base of the series that doesn’t damage it? Does it hold up in the lore of Metal Gear?
Read on and find out.
The story in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance goes something like this: three years after the events of Guns of the Patriots, Raiden has joined a PMC called Maverick in order to raise money to support his family. He comes across and pursues a cybernetic trio, the “Winds of Destruction”, while fighting a massive army of cyborgs, Gekkos, and other huge killing machines along the way. He soon discovers they’re behind a massive operation of kidnapping orphaned children to extract their brains to make an even bigger cyborg army and that they work for a terrorist PMC called Desperado who intends to revert the world’s economic status to how it was before the Patriots fell. With the help of Maverick and the converted AI Bladewolf at his side, Raiden sets out to end Desperado’s inhuman practices.
Overall, while the story has some great moments complete with the cinematic exposition Kojima Productions is known for, it seems more like a side-story for the Metal Gear canon, which is surprisingly fitting considering Rising is a spin-off game. Those looking for a major chapter in the series might not get one, but what’s present is certainly one hell of a spectacle nonetheless. Raiden is a refreshing take on the anti-hero trope with his story revolving around his struggles with the morality behind his killing while resisting the urge to let in to his bloodthirsty Jack the Ripper persona. There’s thought-provoking political commentary to be had in the narrative along with a huge slew of codecs that are activated depending on the point in the story like any game in the series. Some even include nice references to previous games and characters. All cutscenes and codecs disguised as dynamic loading screens can also be skipped which to some is a very valuable feature in an action game. Just like the rest of Kojima’s previous masterpieces, the game carries over the tongue-in-cheek humor to break away the seriousness of the story every once in a while. The only real issues I have with the narrative of Rising would be that the voice acting could can get awkward at times and there are some plot points that seem like they could have been stronger or further explained. Despite that, it’s nothing that dampens the overall experience; all characters and bosses alike will definitely be remembered for their personalities and the causes they fight for.
Front and center in this game is the focus on high-speed, sword-wielding action. The combat system more or less is simple, but also deep. The amount of moves at your disposal is extensive and gives you plenty to experiment with to string together custom combos. You also gain unique weapons as you progress, which you can use to assess the situation you’re in; the pole-arm is great for crowd control, tactical Sais for pulling yourself towards the enemy, and pincer blades for big damage. The abilities of this weapon set might seem familiar to some, but rest assured, they’re implemented into this combat system with much more thought put into it. Parrying is also your main means of defense, which requires near-precise timing to block most attacks. Parry at the last possible second of an attack and you’ll counter, severely damaging and possibly stunning your enemy. Blade Mode is the most eye-catching feature in the combat, allowing you to cut up objects and enemies from virtually any angle. Its essential use comes into play when you encounter stronger enemies and gradually cut them down to size before destroying them or you need to cut open lesser enemies to refill your health and energy with their spinal cords. By and large, this is a game that demands that you have your skills sharpened and a good supply of repair nanopaste on hand if you intend to survive every fight, especially if you’re going to tackle harder difficulties. Thankfully, you can choose Hard mode from the very beginning which some will find indispensable concerning most action games have you access the mode only when you beat the game on Normal.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is definitely a game for masochists and completionists alike. It encourages exploration, finding every secret item, slicing and collecting data-imbedded left arms off of enemies, gaining the highest rank in each mission, maxing out your weapons, completing every VR Mission, and unlocking every cosmetic item. There’s even titles you gain from completing specific challenges that include feats from fast play duration to enemy limbs severed. Add the fact that despite the focus of this game being action, there are sections where you can play purely by stealth. I played a few levels trotting along in a cardboard box watching the enemies’ every move and safely reaching the next section without being detected was nothing short of satisfying. It’s not entirely like the stealth seen in other Metal Gear games, but to say it doesn’t exist in Rising wouldn’t be a truthful statement. An important thing to note is that at the end of your playthrough, the game may tell you that you’ve played for a total of 4-5 hours. However, this doesn’t include cutscenes, manually activated codecs, or time lost due to dying and continuing at checkpoints. My initial playthrough took just about 9 hours to beat on Hard and that was without the stealthy approach.
First off, there are quick-time events. This is nothing new to people who have played titles from Platinum Games in the past, but they are less significant this time around. Unlike Bayonetta where they were strung in with the combo chaining and granted you extra in-game currency, the ones in Rising simply appear to finish off weakened, stunned enemies as well as trigger hard damage-dealing attacks when prompted. Although, they may still appeal to those who don’t mind them. Given the punishing nature of the game to begin with, the quick-time events may even feel like you’re actually earning them when playing harder modes. Enemies are extremely aggressive and their health is bumped up 200-300% from Normal mode, demanding you learn how to defend yourself and attack at opportune moments. Because of this, not even damage-dealing QTEs will save your hide unless you step up your general game. Still, those who prefer traditional action games without their presence may not find any appeal in them.
Next, some combat designs are odd. You have a soft lock-on system, which is activated by tapping the assigned button. There’s no option for hard lock-on, which means the inputs for some moves can be awkward (like forward, forward, heavy attack is a Stinger-like move). The parry system can also be thrown off by the game’s camera at times. This can lead to moments where you’re hit by a cheap shot from an enemy and not because you parried at a bad time. It’s hard to figure out exactly why the camera is uneven considering Platinum’s track record with their games having perfectly normal cameras. Then there’s Blade Mode; while generally satisfying, it soon becomes apparent that its use rarely breaks boundaries beyond getting cyborg spines and a few situations where precision and timing was the key to progress. There’s also barely any weight to your deaths compared to other Metal Gear games. Your death animation, concerned cries from Maverick when you don’t respond, and continue screen all happen within 4 seconds of your health reaching 0. There’s no time for your death to really sink in before you’re able to retry the mission. It’s not a huge problem, but it would have made the player ambition to get better much more stronger. Another nitpick is that some cinematics are pre-rendered which will always show Raiden’s original cyborg body regardless of whatever costume you have equipped. It may bother those who have paid for the promotional Gray Fox or MGS4 skins and they don’t even show up in every cutscene.
At the end of the day, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is not without its issues, but yet still manages to come out as a well-polished action title with a fantastic narrative that only a collaboration between Platinum Games and Kojima Productions could deliver. When the camera works and the weird combat moves function as you intend them to, you’ve got one fun game on your hands that will keep you busy for quite some time. Not only is it one hell of a crazy fun experience, but it also doesn’t even come close to doing the franchise injustice. As a matter of fact, it adds to it in many positive ways. If the style is still not your thing, simply keep an eye out for Ground Zeroes in the future. Action fans ought to already have a copy of this game in their library as well as anyone willing to have a hack-and-slashing good time with everyone’s now-favorite ninja cyborg, Raiden.
Played on PS3. Also available for Xbox 360.