Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Review by horror_spooky
"Jack is back!"
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has had a trouble history. At Kojima Productions, the game was originally meant to be an interquel bridging the gaps between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4. However, the game was nearly cancelled before Platinum Games came to the rescue and offered to finish it. The story was shifted to take place after Metal Gear Solid 4, but the core gameplay mechanics remained the same. Serving as a spinoff of the main series and looking to launch Raiden as the star character, there was a lot riding on Metal Gear Rising for Hideo Kojima, but the game suffers from pretty glaring flaws that will keep it from reaching the same status as the other Metal Gear games.
Most obviously due to the influence of series creator Hideo Kojima, the story in Metal Gear Rising is excellent. After the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, Raiden has decided to live peacefully, running a private security company, but not getting into any combat himself. That is, until the president of a troubled African nation is targeted by a group of highly enhanced cyborgs, forcing Raiden back into the game. What follows is truly intriguing character development as Raiden goes from a lawful good fellow to a violent killing machine by the time the credits roll. I won't spoil the events that lead Raiden through this transition, but players are in for a rollercoaster ride of atrocities and shocking moments.
Bosses in the Metal Gear franchise get a lot of attention, as they are usually more developed than the bosses in other video games. This is true for Metal Gear Rising as well, but the bosses aren't as complex as in other games. They are still all cool and each have their own little gimmicks to make them stand out from the pack. Every boss fight feels very different from the one before, and every boss fight demands new strategies, though there are ways to exploit nearly every boss battle in the game. The final boss fight feels incredibly cheap and is equally frustrating, which wouldn't be so bad but it's part of a staggering difficulty spike that comes out of nowhere.
Battling the bosses is a lot of fun at times thanks to the combat system, but the combat system is also the source of even more frustration. To dodge or block attacks in the game, Raiden has to use the parry system. This is where he blocks an attack by raising his sword. Blocking the attacks closer to their impact will give Raiden an opening to attack. The game does a decent job of announcing when an enemy attack is going to happen by having their eyes flash red, but the parrying system is imperfect and doesn't seem to work right all the time. Since the parrying system is accomplished with the same button as light attacks, there are many times when Raiden winds up running forward and attacking when he's meant to parry, which can lead to cheap deaths.
A wonky camera is also the cause of cheap deaths, along with an awful lock-on system that tends to bounce around between enemies automatically, even though there is a button dedicated to doing just that. The camera is truly awful, oftentimes spinning around to obscure an incoming attack or getting stuck in a wall. The lock-on system only adds to the issues with the camera, as it will bounce from one enemy to one off screen, causing the camera to spin around violently to that enemy, disregarding the direction that Raiden happens to be running at that time.
But at its core, the combat is still enjoyable, and if you look past the basic issues, the parrying system is rewarding once mastered. Fighting the enemies in the game is a blast, and they actually offer a challenge, unlike most grunts in action games. Stringing together combos is fun. Since Raiden gains new weapons after defeating bosses, ala Mega Man, figuring out which weapon combination works best together and fits your play style is also a lot of fun, and the action looks great thanks to the fluid animation.
The main hook of the combat system is Blade Mode. Raiden is able to fill a meter and then enter Blade Mode, which allows players to directly control the direction of Raiden's blade, and also slice things up. Red squares on enemies indicate a special area that can be cut, typically to perform Zandatsu, which is where Raiden rips out their cybernetic spine and crushes it in his hands to refill his health and Blade Mode meters completely. Later in the game, Raiden is able to enter a super-powered state like Dante's Devil Trigger, but the meter drains far too fast for it to be of much use.
Customization and upgrading Raiden is also a big part of the game. Players earn XP points by chopping up the environment, defeating enemies, finding hidden collectibles, and more. The XP can be used to upgrade all the different weapons, improve Raiden's performance, teach Raiden new moves, or to buy new costumes, including a mariachi outfit. I spent a lot of time debating on how to spend my XP points because each upgrade feels significant. A lot of games with similar RPG-like progression systems are unable to make all the upgrades feel worth it, but Metal Gear Rising hits the nail right on the head.
Generic level design and boring environments hold back the visual presentation, but the game is otherwise gorgeous. Character models look great, and as I stated earlier, the animation is incredibly fluid. The destructibility in the environments is very impressive, as virtually anything can be chopped up by Raiden into a ton of tiny pieces. The slicing mechanic feels borrowed, strangely enough, from Wii Sports Resort, but I'm glad someone incorporated it into a full-fledged game. There is a bit of slowdown when the screen becomes too crowded from enemies and when there's a bunch of segmented pieces lying about, but otherwise it runs as smooth as butter.
QTEs and more scripted moments only help heighten the sense of awesome in the game, making the bombastic and epic cut-scenes interactive to increase immersion effectively. Call of Duty likes to boast about its set-pieces, but Metal Gear Rising blows Call of Duty out of the water in that department and manages to provide one of the craziest action game experiences all generation long. The cut-scenes are full of these moments, and are populated by great characters, such as the robot dog named Wolf, an interesting, funny, and sympathetic new character that was probably my favorite part of Metal Gear Rising. Unlike series tradition, the cut-scenes aren't obnoxiously long either, which is great, as having cut-scenes that run on too long would severely break the pacing of a game like this.
Dialogue is a bit hand-holding, but it's deliciously over the top at the same time in typical Metal Gear fashion. Political satire becomes really heavy near the end of the game, almost to the point that it becomes preachy, but it manages to balance that fine line between satire and outright political campaigning. The game is sharp and unforgiving here with its commentary on the United States and our foreign policies, but it's also quick to tear down other countries around the world at the same time.
Dialogue delivery is a mixed bag. The voice acting is technically good, but I hate how Raiden sounds. I've always been annoyed by Raiden's voice, and Metal Gear Rising is no different. In this game, he can't seem to decide whether he wants to sound normal, sound like Batman, or sound like a whiny little kid. Thankfully, the awesome soundtrack, utilizing more modern rock music to great effect, redeems the audio presentation of Metal Gear Rising.
I don't mind short games, but the ending to Metal Gear Rising comes a little too abruptly. The first four (five if you count the prologue) missions of the game are lengthy, but then missions five, six, and seven are all very short. I feel like great care was taken to craft the early levels of the game, but then they rushed the rest of it to wrap up the story and make sure the game could release on time. The healthy amount of unlockable content and achievements help extend the play time, but the VR Missions feel tacked on and are not fun at all.
Other issues in regards to Metal Gear Rising come to mind. The inability to switch difficulty levels after starting the game is a glaring oversight and should just be a standard feature in action games these days. Raiden becoming dizzy after being attacked requires a violent shaking of the left analog stick, which doesn't feel healthy for the controller. These little flaws all stack up to create one big flaw that will hold a lot of people back from truly enjoying the game.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance will likely appeal to the Metal Gear Solid fans out there, thanks to the recycled sound effects from that series, visual aesthetics, and other similarities, but as a jumping off point for Raiden to strike out on his own, the people at Kojima Productions and Platinum Games could've done much better. The story and graphics are fine, but a bit more polish was needed to improve the overall gameplay experience. Play it for the story, but don't expect the same level of quality the series is known for.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 02/25/13
Game Release: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (US, 02/19/13)
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