Platforms: PS3 / Xbox 360
Reviewed On: PS3
Ok, it's pretty much confirmed in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance that Raiden has now become a full-blown bad ass. From his humble skinny-ass beginnings under the watchful eye of Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty to his cyborg-samurai reprisal in Metal Gear Solid 4, it's safe to say that Raiden has come a long way in terms of artistic character development.
For those who are already aware of the Metal Gear series, you will know that a usual game contains three aspects: 1: Solid Snake as the protagonist (unless you play Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater in which you play “Naked Snake”), 2: Stealth gameplay and 3: Cutscenes that usually last more than 20 minutes each.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, developed by Platinum Games, pretty much said, “Screw that, remember our last game Vanquish or Bayonetta? Yep, let’s freakin’ do that!” …And lo’ and behold, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was born.
The story takes place sometime after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4 (so yes, even if this game is crazy bat shit insane in comparison to the other Metal Gear games, it is indeed still canon). Raiden is contracted as a bodyguard for the President of an African nation that seeks to enforce peace across the region. However, an army of cyborgs from Desperado Enterprises attacks the President’s convoy whilst Raiden is on protection duty. The next sequence of events lead Raiden to search for the reason behind the attack whilst uncovering a plot to enlist child soldiers into the future army of cyborgs – an echo of Raiden’s past as a child soldier.
The narrative and characterization of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is glorious in its stupidity. So glorious that the game’s self-aware semi-self deprecating humour makes it one of the most entertaining gaming experiences I've had in a long time. The game is too incredibly slapstick to take seriously, whilst being initially jarring due to how the game balances comic violence with neo-political philosophy and cheesy Japanese anime character tropes.
To say the least, the game is completely shameless and revels in what it is – and this really isn’t a bad thing at all as it executes everything it does flawlessly. However, to swallow this game’s massive change in stylistic direction is pretty simple; Accept that the game is a Super Hero story, with Raiden as the star. It makes a lot more sense that way.
I couldn’t help but cackle with laughter at some of the character’s names, however. The award for best name definitely goes to one of the main antagonists who’s affectionately titled, “Jetstream Sam” – a Spanish cyborg with Japanese samurai-like qualities.
Another massive departure from previous Metal Gear games is the gameplay. It features fast paced button mashing combo action, a bit like like Bayonetta-meets-Vanquish – which cosidering the developer, is no surprise.
The button structure of the game is very simple. Most of the time you'll be holding down the right shoulder button to make Raiden “Ninja Run”. This is a parkour-style running technique, with speeds comparable to Vanquish’s leg boosters system.
Raiden’s main weapon is his sword. With this you can perform light and heavy attacks on enemies. However the main feature of this sword comes into play when you damage an enemy enough for their limbs to glow blue. When this happens, the player can perform a “Zan-Datsu” – which is basically a slowed down precise cutting motion with the blade. In this Zan-Datsu mode, you can slice your opponent or any object in any degree or angle you want. You can literally slice an opponent up into little pieces and the game will even keep count of how many parts are left behind afterwards.
In terms of general combat, the flow is really simple when you realize it's all about getting into this “Zan-Datsu” mode, as it basically means you're going to auto-kill the enemy you're fighting. For example, as you progress through the game, you will learn that when you enter Zan-Datsu mode you will see a small red square target on the enemies body – if you correctly slash this square the enemy will drop their repair unit (which looks like a glowing spine). This automatically kills the enemy and heals you completely. It is absolutely essential that you collect enemies repair units this way as the game becomes a little punishing when it comes to learning the most important aspect of combat in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and that is the parry function.
To parry an enemy blow, you have to wait to see the enemy flash red and watch the motion of their attack come close to you. Once they are close enough, you have to push the movement stick in their general direction and then hit the light attack button. However there are two massive problems with this system; 1: The parry system sometimes doesn’t work at all, especially when you need to parry multiple times 2: Sometimes you attack instead of block.
The camera can also become very unhelpful during combat. If you're locked onto an enemy and the camera decides to swing in a horrible direction, you can easily mess up you parries, lose health and become wiped out very easily – I’m all up for a game of skill and I will admit that this game is beautiful when the combat system works (it really flows gorgeously) but I must say it was a massive issue throughout the entire campaign and felt overall less solid than it should have.
Raiden can also wield secondary weapons and boss weapons. I was so happy to see the return of the legendary cardboard box from the previous Metal Gear games. Another nod is that engagements with the enemy can be avoided completely in many places using stealth, however where enemies are placed makes almost impossible to use as a long-term strategy as you’ll often find it easier just slashing your way through enemy encounters.
During the game, enemies will drop BP (Battle Points). After completing chapters, you can customize Raiden’s body and weapons with these battle points to enhance his abilities, buy new skills to perform in combat or buy whole new weapons altogether.
Game flow wise, overall, can be described as very linear. Combat engagements are set-by-set. Think Devil May Cry or Bayonetta – you enter an area and encounter four bad guys, you defeat them and then you're graded immediately with a rank of how well you did. You move on and continue this process until you meet the boss.
Bosses and set pieces in this game are the strongest point overall. I felt the bosses in this game were pretty creative overall, although I really was craving for more bosses in the end as I felt there weren’t enough (yes, they designed the boss encounters that well).
Boss battles have two trademarks, one really awesome element and one incredibly hilarious feature. The first is that throughout the battle you will control Raiden running up the side of buildings or jumping on missiles or mashing QTE buttons and performing the Zan-Datsu technique to navigate the environment to hit the bosses’s weak spot. However, the second element to boss battles, although ingenious in its own weird little way, is the implementation of music. The game has a somewhat quasi-marriage of Dub-Step and Heavy Metal music as a soundtrack (think Avenged Sevenfold or Killswitch Engage, but with Skrillex). As you begin to defeat the boss, the vocals of the song start to kick in – it’s so cheesily embarrassing, yet you can’t take your eyes off the screen.
When you eventually defeat the boss, the music segues perfectly into an ending that fits in time to Raiden sheathing his sword. Despite the cheese factor of the actual track and the game trying its best to be a Japanese anime, it really does work hard for what it’s trying to do. It's hilarious, yet really enjoyable at the same time.
Fun is the key aspect of this game – arcade-style fun. It doesn’t have the grandiose complex storytelling of previous Metal Gear games, nor does it have the subtlety of stealth and combat. However, what it does have is fast paced, in your face, shameless action akin to a Steven Seagal movie.
Graphically the game is absolutely gorgeous to watch. The set pieces during boss encounters are at times jaw dropping to witness. It boggles the mind to think of the amount of development that went into making this game look so detailed in amongst all the frantic chaos that ensues around the player’s swathe of destruction. There is however a weird graphical design quirk from Platinum that I first noticed in Vanquish: the design of character’s teeth is really detailed in a unnaturally freaky sort of way. This only bolsters the game’s comedy factor when you see menacingly large cyborg bosses turn to you and shoot a cheesy grin with perfect gigantic glistening white veneers.
There is copious amounts of gore in this game too, probably the most I’ve seen in any game in a long time. You have to realize that with the Zan-Datsu technique you can cut NY part of the human body. You can cut them into tiny pieces too. So, as you can imagine, there are liberal amounts of blood, intestines and body matter flying around at any given time during combat.
As mentioned before, the music is an unholy commune of Dub-Step and Heavy Metal with angsty teenage-Neo Metal style vocals. Although I cringe to hear this music and feverishly look around the room to see if anyone can see the shame on my face as I play the game with such train-wreck pieces of music filling my ears, I have to say that the production was fantastically well down for what it was. It may not be my cup of tea, but it was the perfect choice of music to capture the cheesy anime action super hero vibe the developers were going for.
So, here’s the conclusion if you want your review in a few words: It’s a stupidly amazing game. Yes it may not be terribly complex in story or gameplay, and at times a little frustrating and completely hilariously dumb, however what it's serving is an action experience for those who just want an entertaining action game and some laughs. It does it so well that it's very hard to fault it.
Is the fact that this game is canon to the Metal Gear series a good thing? I think the answer is a resounding yes, and here's why:
While I absolutely love Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear games, I can say that if every single Metal Gear game were the same, even with different protagonists, the entire series would become pretty damn stale. Instead, what Platinum Games have done here is basically laid a foundation for a different and solid spin-off series that can be explored further at any time by both developers and gamers. If gamers want a true stealth experience with verbose story telling, go for one of the games with Snake. If gamers want to shut their brains off and want a straight to the point action fiesta, go for the new spin-off that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance offers.
Yes the camera and parry system could have been perfected a lot more, however for the most part, when you understand the control flow completely, it works 80~85% of the time. Which isn't so bad.
With a fairly decent length of campaign, plenty of unlockable VR missions and a shiny New Game+ with every playthrough, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is pure insane, adrenaline pumping, no holds barred action that is what it is. Just don’t make me sit through the game’s soundtrack ever again, please!