Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: February 19, 2013
After a brief tease and long period of silence, Kojima Productions’ Metal Gear Solid: Rising was dead in the water without any convenient nanomachines to resurrect it. Platinum Games, the collective oddballs behind the sexy and stripper-ific Bayonetta, received a lofty proposition from Kojima to bring this title back from the digital graveyard. And they did. Adding a stupid hybrid word to the title, dropping the Solid, and (mostly) purging the stealth framework that encompassed the failed game, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance supplements the Metal Gear franchise with an impressive hack and slash title, even through the minor mishaps.
In a post-Metal Gear Solid 4 world, the war economy doesn’t have the enslaving sway it once possessed. Raiden, part of a new PMC, doesn’t get to enjoy this peace long enough since a terrorist group swiftly launches an attack on an African Prime Minister Raiden just so happens to be assisting. Severely injured and grasping for another chance at life, Raiden is rescued and rebuilt as a cyborg bent on (re)vengeance along with discovering the motives behind the attacks that crippled him.
Metal Gear stories have always been long winded affairs detailing far more than most pessimists care to listen to. Cutscenes and monologues can be lengthy, but the action takes much more a precedence without foiling the overarching narrative.
Brevity can serve a crowd with a more limited attention span, but the plot can feel a little rushed because of it. Revengeance is a fairly short game and while length isn’t much of the problem, not much time is spent on any aspect of the story. Hence, most problems are introduced and solved in such a short span of time, usually failing to give each point the proper amount of time. The last hour embodies this since it has some of the better, more surprising story beats but ones that are rushed to fruition a little too quickly. However, the raw insanity covered in that last act is redemption enough. In a series of immortal vampires, breakdancing ninjas, and men made of hornets, the final scenes honor those astronomical levels of ridiculousness, shamelessly reveling in such stupidity. Action still moves the plot forward at a quick pace and while it may be a high point for Platinum Games’ in this department, it doesn’t compare too favorably to Kojima Productions’ prior work even if the story is stupidly entertaining on the whole.
However, Revengeance restores some faith through some of its other aspects. Raiden’s conflicted attitude towards himself might seem like it is dangerously close to wandering into a territory that many games have laughably failed in, but the heavy theme takes a left turn and is a point in the story worth championing. I feel hazy revealing exactly what I’m referring to, but the bait-and-switch Platinum pulls is one that made me better appreciate the narrative at large.
This turn reflects Raiden’s character well, since he basically is a psychopath, if only slightly more controlled than your average asylum inmate. His instability and relentless will for justice gives him some conflicting depth, turning him into a far more compelling person than the whiny badass we saw in MGS2. His support crew isn’t as memorable, since you rarely see them, but their limited screen time is mildly entertaining at best.
Other standouts are the set of villains and robot dog, but each for different reasons. Wolf is an oddly hilarious companion with his deadpan, sarcastic quips that balance out a more serious narrative. And, of course, any robotic canine with a chainsaw tail gets some initial awesome points. Like classic Metal Gear, the evildoers form a nefarious group, clearly laying out who has to be chopped up in order to achieve peace. Each cyborg antagonist gracefully fits the traditional mold established by the franchise, but each individual has their own array of characteristics to set them apart from one another. Although their methods are questionable, their determination to achieve their goal through their twisted sense of justification is a trait the most memorable of villains possess. They bring up points that, while evil, make you think a little more philosophically about some very real world problems.
Fighting these villains is part of what makes each so compelling. By the time you actually clash swords with these baddies, the game has appropriately built up hype for some time and allows for these duels to become climactic fights to the death. The thumping, oddly amazing rock rifts perfectly punctuate each battle, accordingly amping you up for an already bombastic fight. Actual execution far outshines the build up, since these multi-staged, larger-than-life fights throw multiple different forms of attacks at you, forcing strategy and memorization upon the player. Dodging, parrying, and Zandatsu (the slow motion slicing) all become vital to Raiden’s survival and the way at which you must exercise these mechanics builds upon an already strong foundation.
Boss fights are the highlight of the combat, but the “regular” swordplay can hold its own in most circumstances. Combos are handled through the heavy and light attack buttons, buttons that can dialed in specific orders to output differing moves. Like Ninja Gaiden, fighting is less about chaining together endless, stringy combos and more about just surviving and looking like a complete badass.
Zandatsu, the slicing mechanic, is the key way of obtaining that status. Turning a nearby tree into a massive collection of toothpicks is initially some stupid fun, but practicing this on an army cyborgs is a gimmicky way to keep the swordplay exciting. “Gimmicky” isn’t a pejorative, since this method of attack is endlessly satisfying and vital for keeping Raiden’s health at the maximum.
Once you’ve hacked away on an enemy enough or executed a perfectly timed counter, Raiden does a few graceful, bloody flips, allowing you to slow down time and hack into the enemy as many times as your sick mind allows. Dicing the mini-target in the just right spot lets Raiden grab the “spine,” crushing it in his palms and refilling his fuel and health supply along the way. Such a simple, nearly routine act somehow fails to become old despite the hundreds of times you do it during the campaign. Zandatsu is a unique mechanic, one that should be exploited or pushed further in future installments.
Parrying and dodging, both of which are fairly standard, are carried out in a method that might take some players by surprise. Instead of holding a button to actively block, parrying is achieved by pressing the stick in the direction of the attack and hitting the light attack button. This unique system is poorly tutorialized to the player, so it might turn potential swordsmen into rage-quitting, cardboard tube wielding wimps. Parrying works most times and can fall into a hypnotic rhythm, but the left-field approach to this system causes problems in the long run.
Aside from getting dazed from a botched parry, the bigger issue with this system is actually the camera. Since parrying requires the stick go in the correct direction, it can be hard to determine exactly where you need to point the stick. Off-screen attacks and the sudden, jerky camera movements can make some battles feel a little unfair since it can be impossible to react accordingly. The point of view also rarely goes right behind Raiden, requiring most counters to be pushed in weird angular directions. It’s just an uncomfortable position to push the stick in, doubly so given the reaction time needed in most occasions.
Swordplay puts its best foot forward when it consists solely of sword-wielding cyborgs, hence why the boss fights work excellently. Extracting a bad habit from Ninja Gaiden, Revengeance likes to throw in a few too many RPG-wielding chumps in an otherwise melee fight. Getting peppered with off-screen rockets while juggling a collection of goons is never fun, making it puzzling why they are even put in the game. Along with getting constantly stunned, it throws off the groove that the sword-on-sword action sets up so admirably.
Action might stay strictly sword-on-sword seeing as how the secondary weapons function. Rocket launchers and grenades are readily available at Raiden’s disposal, but for no practical reason. In such a fast game, pulling a rocket launcher out, aiming it, firing, and reloading takes roughly an ice age and will easily get you chopped up in most battles. Rocket launchers are never the ideal problem solver.
The secondary equipment button should have been regulated to the unique weapon set. Raiden steals melee weapons from bosses at a steady clip, giving him an alternate attack on the heavy attack button (Y or triangle). While the gesture is a solid idea, each of the three are so limited in their moveset that they limit what the sword can do rather than augment the standard combos.
Bayonetta, God of War, and Devil May Cry (both new and old) all had instant weapon switching systems that extended the possibilities and gave a controlled sense of randomness to the fighting. Ninja Gaiden made the player choose a specific weapon for each skirmish, but each armament could hold their own thanks to a lengthy list of combos. Revengeance‘s approach combines the worst of both worlds, feeling severely limiting in each respect with its amputated weapon swapping and short movelist. Samurai-like duels and Zandatsu carry the swordplay far and make for an engrossing melee experience, so even if Revengeance stumbles in a few areas, the overarching hack and slash gameplay is satisfying enough to slightly overlook the deficiencies.
Replay value has steadily been harder to accomplish within the genre and Revengeance does a so-so job in this respect. New Game+ is a readily available option upon completion of the six or seven hour campaign, but all other aspects aren’t as beefy. Multiple collectibles are hollow attempts at staying power and are more trophy/achievement bait than compelling reasons to revisit. VR missions are desperate attempts at replay value since each stretches the gameplay mechanics in less rewarding ways. Stealth missions, odd target practice, and annoying enemy configurations all are the wrong direction to take a game with swordplay this strong. Other titles have flipped replay value on its head in creative ways and seeing how Revengeance barely maintains the status quo is underwhelming.
The term “revengeance” is actually an apt metaphor for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Both are stupid in the best of ways, even cheesy, but admittedly stylish enough to carry itself along. Revengeance displays its brass through its boss fights, sword combat, and Zandatsu, all of which are refreshing additions to the genre. Strangely its accomplishments make its shortcomings that much more disappointing since it was this close to cleanly cutting through all of its Zandatsu targets. Snake is still the shining pupil of the Metal Gear franchise, but Raiden’s rising success in this slice and dice action game finally forces the stealth hero to share the spotlight this time. That didn’t work out too well last time they were forced into that situation.
+Cutting through cyborgs is satisfying
+Bosses are intense with multi-staged fights and energetic soundtracks
+Swordfights are mostly smooth experiences
-The camera can be unwieldy
-Parrying and dodging don’t always work as intended
-Secondary weapons are oddly handled and some quirks within the combat
Final Score: 8/10
The PS3 is set to get some exclusive VR missions as DLC.