Reviews

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – Review

Box

Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Platinum Games
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: No
PEGI: 18+

Ignoring the fact that it’s arguably one of the dumbest titles in gaming history, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance holds an important clue within its moniker for long time fans of the franchise, specifically that this isn’t a Metal Gear Solid game. Yup, read the name again. See that it’s missing the “Solid” part? It’s a not so subtle message to the fans that while this is a Metal Gear game,  it’s not playing by the same rules.Developed by Platinum Games, this is a radical departure from the signature stealthy antics of the past, focusing instead on fast hack ‘n’ slash gameplay.

Revengeance has certainly had an interesting development. It was announced back in 2009 and was originally intended to take place sometime between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4,  and be developed by Kojima Productions, but with Kojima himself taking a back seat so that he could work on other projects. During development, though, Kojima Productions struggled to make the sword-based gameplay they envisioned work to their satisfaction, and so in late 2010 the project was quietly canned. Skip forward a little to 2011 and Kojima decided, after much consideration, to hand the project over to Platinum Games, made famous by Bayonetta, who requested that the setting for the game be changed to allow them more freedom. At first Platinum chose to ditch stealth entirely as they felt it wasnt fast enough for the style of game they were going with, but then it was incorporated once more into the project. And so here we are in 2013 with the Platinum Games developed Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a major step away from the franchise norms.

Raiden

While this may be a very different game to previous entries in the franchise, one thing that Revengeance has retained is the series penchant for lengthy exposition, though thankfully not to the same degree as past games, insane melodrama, bonkers character, philosophical rants and pure cheese. Set four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Revengeance picks up the story of badass cyborg Raiden – the universally hated lead character of Metal Gear Solid 2 that nobody wanted to play as but had to, and the mysterious, awesome side-character of Metal Gear Solid 4 that everybody wanted to play as but couldn’t – as he finds himself caught up in a massive battle with a private military corporation by the name of Desperado that’s trying to kickstart another war. Along the way he’ll confront his own demons, rescue some brains, get a robot dog sidekick and do all sorts of crazy shit. And it’s drivel, really. The writing in the Metal Gear Solid series has never been able to claim that it’s great, or even good, and Revengeance is no different. There’s twists and turns along the way and plenty of incredibly cheesy writing that leads to overly dramatic philosophical speeches from villains that are mere seconds away from twirling their moustaches. Like the previous Metal Gear games, Revengeance’s storyline has that classic Kojima thing going on, where the writers comes across like what they’re penning, these deep speeches and  social commentaries on our world,  are somehow conveying new information to us, that they’re imparting some incredible knowledge about our world that is completely unknown to us. It’s not: we already know this stuff. It’s like one of your friends leaning over and whispering to you that politicians are corrupt, like he’s telling you some great wisdom, and you’re like, “Dude, I know.”  It’s utterly naff. And yet strangely that’s why Revengeance’s storyline is so much fun. It’s just so cheesy, so mad, so melodramatic and so downright stupid at points that you can’t help but enjoy every moment of it, and it even, it its own clumsy way, does manage to deliver a few well placed points about our world. The characters are all completely nuts as well, but they’ve got genuine personality and charisma, and there’s even a couple of emotional moments along the way.

There’s also a couple of moments that might make you question whether the storyline is this over-dramatic because it is being written just like previous Metal Gear games, or because the writers are actually poking some fun at the series. There’s a few moments like that, such as when a character says, “I’m not talking money, Jack, I’m talking ideals.” Raiden replies, “What?” and the character answers, “Forget it, we’ve both heard enough speeches about higher causes by now.” For anybody that’s never played a Metal Gear game before this simple exchange will mean little, but to somebody like me, who has played them all, it brings a smile to your lips. Or there’s another moment where Raiden ponders out loud why he’s having philosophical debates with terrorists. It all raises the question of whether this is just cheesy because it’s Metal Gear, or whether it’s cheesy because the writers are parodying their own work. Regardless, the writers aren’t afraid to offer up a couple of moments of light humor as well, such as Raiden donning a poncho and hat, claiming that nobody will be able to see through the disguise.

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The real drive of the story, though, to me, is Raiden himself, his own personal story arc throughout everything else that goes on as he attempts to deal with his own past, with his own thirst for violence, with his dark side. The actor providing Raiden’s voice, the same guy who played Raiden before, delivers a pretty lackluster performance at times, but epic cutscenes ensure that Raiden comes across as nothing less than a badass that you wouldn’t want to mess with, while his own inner demons create a solid foundation for us to relate to the guy. He’s still not got that same charisma as Solid Snake, but Raiden comes across as a character with actual depth to him.The cast of supporting characters are a bit more of a mixed bunch. Quite a few of the villains are superb, but Raiden’s comrades are mostly just downright dull. There’s  a couple of great performances from the voice actors throughout the game, but there’s also some terrible ones as well.

As enjoyable as I found the storyline to be, I do have to say that it sometimes felt like it was getting in the way of the fast-paced nature of the gameplay. There’s a couple of lengthy cutscenes that drag on a bit too long, and then there’s some codec conversations that really bring the games pacing to a grinding halt as you slice through a few enemies only to have to sit listen to several minutes of conversations.

Before we move on to the actual focus of the game, though, I want to touch briefly upon another element that Revengeance has retained from past games: stealth. To be more precise, Revengeance’s stealth mechanics are little more than a token nod to the fact that it has Metal Gear in its name, because, and I’ll say this simply, they’re sort of crap. In quite a lot of levels you begin with enemies unaware of your presence, and so you can, if you so choose, eliminate a couple of them using the good old one-hit kills. For laughs you can even hide in a cardboard box or in a barrel in a nice nod to the past games while we all quietly accept that such tactics can fool the cyborg enemies you’re up against, because, you know, cyborgs are stupid. The problem is that its hard to predict whether or not enemies will spot you sneaking around, because the mechanics governing their vision seems to be entirely random. There were times when I was almost literally standing 5-ft in front of a guard and would get no reaction, and then other times when I’d be spotted in a guards periphery vision while he was standing across an entire courtyard. There’s also no way to crouch down or get into cover,  making sneaking about feel a bit clumsy as you just stride around in your glorious high-heels. In other words stealth is present within the game, and sometimes it even seems to remember that and sort of vaguely encourages you to try it out, but really you’re just supposed to charge in and kill everything with a sword and the stealth was included for no other reason than because the game has Metal Gear in the name.

Zandatsu

Ah, yes, swords. What else would a lethal killing machine use as his weapon of choice? A gun? That’d be boring. Raiden wields a high-frequency blade, which to you and me essentially means a bloody nasty piece of kit that can slice through metal and concrete like it’s a fermented milk product (butter), raising the immediate question of how anything is actually a challenge to Raiden since he can simply slice right through it like it wasn’t even there. The answer to that question is….because you’ve got to whale on enemies a bit before you can chop them up, despite that cutscene five seconds which literally showed you chopping people up without having to batter them senseless first. It’s nice to see videogame logic at work, here. Anyway, the ultimate form of slicing and dicing in Revengeance is Blade Mode. Activated by holding down the left trigger (if you’re on Xbox 360), Blade Mode  sends the world into slow motion and gives you direct control of Raiden’s weapon, with the left stick controlling the camera and the right stick controlling the exact angle of your attack – simply  swipe the stick in whatever direction you want and Raiden will follow the motion on-screen, neatly slicing through the enemy. Go nuts with this and you can cut foes into hundreds of little pieces, but the real goal is to go for the stylish Zandatsu kill, achieved by slicing through the little red box that the game paints on enemies if you’ve beaten them to a sufficient pulp before activated your Blade Mode. Cut through the box and you’ll be reward by being able to tap B to grab your opponents “spine” and crush it in your hand, recharging both your health and your suits energy levels, which dictates the amount of time to you can remain in Slicey-Slicey mode, in one glorious, brutal move.  Extra emphasis is placed on precision over sheer brutality by the fact that lopping off limbs nets you bonus points that goes toward your end of the level ranking, as well as credits to spend on upgrading Raiden and purchasing some new moves. In particular left arms are highly coveted as some enemy cyborgs, who can be identified by using AR (Augmented Reality) mode, are storing important data on memory chips within their arm.

Surprisingly, given its nature, Blade Mode never feels gimmicky, no matter how many enemies you chop to bits using it, and that’s because it does actually feel like an integral part of the game.  Nailing those Zandatsu kills is key to surviving and it feels incredibly good to neatly slice through an enemy. It’s also used well in a couple of the game’s boss battles, including one where you’ve got to carefully slice through explosive barriers. My only complaints with Blade Mode is that the blue line which represents your swing can be a bit of a pain in the butt to see when the action is in full-swing and your desperately trying to slice everything up, and it doesn’t always feel like it flows well into the core combat mechanics. Not badly, you understand, but now always well, either.

Use 4

That’s mostly because the core combat is so damn slick, though, so that pausing it to enter a slow-motion mode feels a little odd. Revengeance goes in for the tried and tested method of combining light and heavy strikes to form various different combos. Not that you’d ever know there was light and heavy attacks because Raiden flows from move to move with such speed and grace that it’s hard to tell which attack is which – it’s just a blur of whirling, dancing death that makes the combat a visual treat. Striking foes also recharges your suits energy levels, encouraging you to always be on the offensive, to always move forward and press the advantage.  Surprisingly, then, there’s no dodge button in Revengeance, a thing that you’d usually would be sure would be part of a fast-paced action game such as this. Sure, there’s an unlockable evasion move that makes Raiden step to the side, a move that arguably should have been unlocked from the beginning, but instead your primary defense, and the cornerstone of the combat system, is blocking and parrying.  Blocking simply negates any damage  you might have taken and has incredibly generous timing .The parry, on the other hand, is when your timing is perfectly, deflecting the blow at the last  possible second and allowing you to deliver a powerful counterattack.

The system isn’t flawless, however. My main gripe stems from the control scheme, which is far from intuitive. You see, to parry an incoming attack you must push the directional stick toward the enemy and press the light attack button at the same time. This means you can’t simply press the light attack button to parry  if you’re already pushing the stick toward the enemy, instead you’d have to let the stick return to its neutral position and then execute the block or parry, which feels a little awkward at first. After a while you’ll grow used to it, but  the whole system could have been done far more intuitively, in my view. This control scheme also led to a few moments where I found myself accidentally blocking an incoming attack when I didn’t mean to, locking me into Raiden’s defensive stance animation for several seconds before the strike even hit because the execution window is so large. Still, these problems don’t take away from the immense satisfaction that comes from perfectly timing your parry’s, especially when facing multiple enemies.

AR

Revengeance also has enemies with stun and grab attacks, though, that force you to wiggle the stick to break free, two things that I absolutely hate in games such as this. They’re even more annoying in Revengeance because they take far too long to break out of, breaking the flow of gameplay, and sometimes it even felt impossible to break free at all, despite almost wrecking my analog stick. Maybe that’s just me, though. It gets even more annoying if you find yourself getting knocked from stun attack to grab attack to stun attack by several enemies, with no way of breaking the cycle. Thankfully this only occurred a couple of times.

Ultimately combat in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a lot of fun, but not especially deep. There’s a decent amount of combos to launch into, but it never feels like you actually need to explore most of them, instead just button mashing your way through the levels is a perfectly viable choice. Different enemies don’t require you to switch up your tactics very much or utilise the entirely of Raiden’s moveset – you simply batter the crap out of them and then slice them up. The block and parry system adds a degree of skill to the proceedings, and there are some selectable secondary weapons thrown into the mix, but really this is a pretty simple hack and slash game. There’s also some sub weapons to choose from like rocket launchers and grenades, but using them is a challenge in itself, because to access them you’ve got to go into a menu using the D-pad that the game insists you have to be standing still to access, select your weapon, ready it – which Raiden takes forever to do – and then actually use it, by which time you’re probably already dead. I think I used RPGs maybe twice in the entire game, because they’re simply so useless and awkward in comparison to slicing stuff up. Still, it’s worth repeating, though, that while this is not a game which technical aficionados will be returning to for multiple play throughs to hone and perfect their skills, it is damn good fun nonetheless, and it’s accessible for those that aren’t very familiar with the genre, such as fans of the previous Metal Gear Solid games who want to try Revengeance out but have never really gone near hack and slash games before.

Use 5

That fun factor is especially true when it comes to the game’s boss fights, which deserve special mention for being utterly awesome. While the rest of the game lounges lazily in the realm of being a bit too easy, the boss battles challenge your skills. Button mashing is still perfectly viable, but using your parrying skills and quick reactions is paramount. Those pesky quick time events finish off these boss battles, which is a bit of a shame, but that aside they’re almost always fantastic. The only dud was the final fight, which was actually pretty generic and had a few frustrating moments when an attack would send me flying into a wall of fire or something, further depleting my health and causing me to restart. Deaths like that are cheap and annoying. The one dud, though, is perfectly counterbalanced by the one absolutely stunning battle that takes place about three-quarters of the way through the game against a foe who also uses a sword. It’s an epic, satisfying, fun, challenging fight that easily ranks as one of the best boss battles in recent years, although not quite managing to get up there with some of the Metal Gear Solid franchises most iconic fights. Mind you, they are very different in style.

Graphically Revengeance boasts some outstanding cutscenes that are filled with brilliant action. Raiden’s character model is a thing of beauty, to be sure. It’s so incredibly detailed, and his combat animations are nothing short of brilliant, graceful, flowing movements enforcing the idea that he’s a complete badass capable of ripping your spine out of your throat and using it as a whip to beat the snot out of the next unlucky bad guy in the vicinity. But while great care and attention has obviously been lavished upon Raiden and the cutscenes, the same cannot be said for the environments which are bland and utterly devoid anything interesting to look at. They’re flat and lifeless, like someone spread a thin veneer of paint over some wood and concrete and declared it ready to go into the game. It’s sad that  the visually stunning combat, the epic battles in which you engage,  doesn’t get the grand stages it deserves. There’s the occasional moment when the game displays a an interesting environment, but then rips it away in favor of some sewer tunnels or inside an office building or  running through a warehouse. They’re simply technically and artistically boring as hell to look at. My only guess is that is that the lack of detail and simplicity of the stages is the price we have  for the silky smooth framerate that never stutters even when the action gets  intense, and for allowing us to use Blade Mode to slice objects and enemies into tiny little bits.

ss04

Unfortunately there’s some pesky camera issues plaguing Revengeance. In the game’s more open areas the camera does it’s job adequately, though it’s still a little clumsy, but when ever you find yourself in a confined space, which the game has a nasty habit of sticking you in quite often, the camera becomes a major problem, especially when there’s a couple of the larger enemies. Half the time I’d be looking at the floor, and the other half I’d be looking at the ceiling, leaving me to simply hammer away at the controls in the hopes that I was hitting the enemy, when in reality I was probably being really menacing toward a bewildered cat that was no seriously reconsidering its life choices. On the standard difficulty you can muddle through, but on the harder settings it becomes seriously frustrating as you desperately try to parry attacks you can’t see. Thankfully the game is pretty generous when it comes to  health packs that activate as soon as your health bar reaches zero, and so you typically you get through those sections by hammering the attack button and trusting that there’s enough health packs stored in…….whereever Raiden stores that crap. Even the lock-on system doesn’t manage to combat the terrible camera. And speaking of which, the game never actually tells you that there’s a lock-on system. Or that you can activate health packs whenever you want by tapping up on the D-pad. In fact, the game just sucks at telling you anything period. For example, if you purchase a brand new move in the customisation section, the game refuses to tell you how to actually use it. If you want to learn that information you’ll need to pause the game and wander through the combo list.

Another gameplay mechanic we need to talk about is that of the Ninja Run, activated by holding down the right trigger. In Ninja Run Raiden can sprint faster, deflect bullets and auto-navigate the environment by leaping up stacked containers and the like, but it feels like a feature not fully implemented. During combat it works pretty well as it lets you close the gap on enemies with guns so you can get your sword out, and it lets you avoid the more powerful, unblockable attacks, although sometimes it can feel a little unresponsive. No, where it feels like it wasn’t fully implemented is traversing terrain. In theory it acts like the free-running mechanic in Assassin’s Creed, but in execution it’s pretty clumsy. If you’re not going up those crates in a certain manner then the system starts to get messy. There’s also very few sections where you actually get to use it and the animations feel rough in comparison to the combat animations. In short it needed a little more polishing.

MGR_120920_cut_04

I also feel like Raiden’s AR vision mode is underused. Using this allows Raiden to see through walls, identify chests containing handy items and pinpoint officers with data stored in their left arms. Obviously it was included primarily for use with the stealth gameplay, but it would have been nice for it to be implemented more into the game as a whole. I barely even touched it throughout the campaign, usually only briefly turning it on in each new combat area to see if anybody needed a left arm amputated.

As for the length of the game I completed the campaign in a paltry 6-hours. Keep in mind that this is me actually measuring the amount of time I spent on the game using a standard clock and not the game’s inbuilt tracker which doesn’t count retries, cutscenes and code conversations. I’m usually the first to advocate quality over quantity when it comes to games, and in particular campaigns, but even I have to admit that even though Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s is certainly quality, 6-hours is a pretty damn short offering, especially given that at least an hour of that time was spent in cutscenes or codec conversations. It may have even be longer than that, but I didn’t keep an exact record. Replay value comes in the form of going back to attain the illusive “S” ranking on every mission, or to challenge yourself on the highest difficulty where the indicator for an attacking enemy disappears, leaving you to trust your instincts. Outside of the main campaign there’s also VR missions to tackle, which are just short missions with basic goals for you to test your skills out on. To unlock these you have to find them in the campaign, so that’s a further reason to go back and play through it. However, because the combat isn’t especially deep it’s hard to get the motivation flowing to go back through it all again, or at least for me. What I’m getting at here is that if you’re on a tight budget and really want a game that’s packing in the content, Revengeance isn’t for you.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a good game. Whether or not I could recommend it to a Metal Gear Solid fan really comes down to whether you can accept that this is not a stealth game, it’s a hack and slasher that boasts fast, fun gameplay married with the usual Metal Gear style nonsense storyline and insane characters. If you can accept that, then I can recommend it to you. If you can’t accept that, then the answer is obviously that I can’t, because it’s not worth picking up simply for the storyline. If you’re not a Metal Gear Solid fan, and are simply a fan of this genre, I can still recommend it, even though you may find yourself struggling with the story in a few places – the gameplay will more than make up for that. It’s not Platinum Games at their best, and it’s not a top-tier example of the genre, but Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a lot of fun, and for that reason it’s worth picking up.

The Good:
+ It’s fun, plain and simple.
+ The story is cheesy, and that’s why it’s good.
+ Slicing cyborgs up never gets old.
+ Great boss fights.

The Bad:
– Combat isn’t especially deep.
– Boring environments.
– Camera issues.

The Verdict: 3.5/5 – Good
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a Platinum game with a Kojima Productions coating, and it shows in the fast-paced gameplay. It’s not a deep game, but it’s a fun game, filled with spectacle, satisfying combat, great boss fights and topped off an enjoyable, cheesy  storyline.

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NOTE:Spell-checker seriously hates the word Revengeance. It made spell-checking this review a right pain in the arse. Just sayin’, Platinum, just sayin’.

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