Over the years, the name of Metal Gear Solid has become synonymous with some of the best stealth games on the market, pitting players against highly intelligent AI in an effort to sneak the past or subdue foes. Metal Gear Rising departs from this established pattern in a big way, leaving the espionage behind in favor of hacking and slashing foes to bits with a high-tech katana. This has irked many fans of the franchise, but I feel this is because they fail to appreciate the game for what it is. Metal Gear Rising was never intended to be like the other entries in the Metal Gear series. As such, it stands on its own as another triumphant entry in Platinum Games' lineup, which already reads like a top-ten list.
It's important to note that Revengeance is best played with a gamepad. The controls include an unalterable acceleration feature that makes it far easier to play using console controls than a mouse and keyboard. That's not to say it's impossible to use PC controls, just much more frustrating. Some combos can be difficult to execute without a joystick.If you're interested in it, you can pick it up on Steam for $29.99. The PC version comes with all the DLC as part of the package, saving the need to make any extra microtransactions; another bonus for those who dislike such things.
Metal Gear Rising puts you in the cyborg body of Raiden, a.k.a. 'Jack', a character who first appeared in Metal Gear Solid 2 and was the recipient of a large quantity of negative feedback from players at the time, who viewed him as whiny, irritating and just plain unlikable. Metal Gear Solid 4 saw his return, this time as a mechanically-augmented ninja capable of fighting hordes of two-legged robotic Gecko tanks with nothing but a sword. This radical effort to try and make the character cool again was met with mixed reactions, but on the whole was a success. Revengeance continues this renovation, upgrading Raiden further and putting him in the employ of a PMC seeking to help fix up the world after the events of MGS4. The prologue opens with Raiden and his employers riding in a limo with the president of Abkazia, whose army they have been training to respond to the proliferation of cybernetics (a major element of the plot). Shortly afterwards, the presidential convoy is attacked, and the president kidnapped. I won't spoil what happens, but things do not go well, and Raiden is quickly drawn into a very nasty conspiracy that threatens the world's newfound political stability.
At its heart, Revengeance carries much of the same campy identity of the rest of the MGS franchise, but with an extra touch from Platinum Games, who have campy down to an art style. In fact, those who have played Vanquish, another of Platinum Games' titles, may be able to spot some elements that were recycled, but in a good way. Revengeance also does a good job of cutting back on the infamously long cutscenes Metal Gear Solid is known for in favor of delivering background and plot in a more immersive manner, which I will discuss later. On the whole, Platinum Games manages to deliver an immersive and quirky universe that's fun to dig into, and large enough that you'll be doing just that for quite a while.
Of course, where Revengeance really shines is the gameplay. As Raiden, you'll have access to a variety of grenades and a couple ranged weapons, but your mainstay is your high-frequency sword, a katana capable of cutting through more or less everything you encounter in your environment (except cats; don't ask why). Raiden's combat style is aggressive, almost reckless, relying on his ability to simply outpace his opponent's ability to react and his power to execute zandatsu, a move where he cuts an enemy open and steals their energy, recharging himself completely, health and all. Zandatsu is tied to Raiden's Blade Mode, a meter charged by landing normal attacks which slow down the world and provides an adjustable aiming-plane for precise cutting when activated. This allows you to hit the red squares that are targets used to trigger zandatsu moves or cut the armor off tougher foes. You can even dismember some bad guys strategically if they're giving you trouble and you're feeling particularly sadistic.
Successfully completing an execution fully restores your Blade Mode meter, allowing you to chain executions together for bonus points. This is important since your combat performance is rated after every battle, granting you points which you can spend as currency between missions to unlock a variety of costumes, abilities, and upgrades. Combined, these mechanics turn Revengeance into a wild, high-speed cage match where you must balance your spatial awareness with managing your health, and where every kill counts spelling the difference between glorious victory and ignominious defeat. If you're nimble and skilled, you can overcome resistance without being hit even once. The whole system feels extremely empowering and rewarding, and at the same time, extremely risky. It's quite enthralling.
Of course, there are downsides. The focus on action means that stealth gameplay is kept to a minimum, and in many cases simply feels like a tiring add-on. Raiden is fast, and forcing you to slow down to sneak past foes is disruptive to the game's flow, though, on the upside, you are never forced to do so except for optional objectives or bonus points. Also, many of Raiden's huge number of moves are better executed when playing with a gamepad, where the use of a joystick and a lower number of buttons tends to make you less likely to mess up on the more complex and fancy attacks. It also really helps in regards to the blocking system, which requires that you hit the key to raise your guard at the right moment while simultaneously orienting Raiden's blade to anticipate incoming strikes. Thankfully enemies telegraph their attacks with a glowing red-eye effect before lunging, and the game includes a feature that helps those playing with a mouse and keyboard with getting their swords into position, making it a bit more forgiving.
This would all be fine and dandy if not the camera. Throughout my playthrough, I felt the greatest enemy I faced was the somewhat erratic and almost homicidal way the camera gets yanked around in the middle of fights. Other times, it's like it's refusing to cooperate and just won't stay fixed on the enemy you're targeting. Occasions, where this becomes noticeable, are low in number, but when it happens it can make you want to tear your hair out in frustration. I simply avoided the use of the camera lock-on, which saved me a whole lot of grief once I got used to manually directing things.
Sound & Design
Revengeance's soundtrack is an impressive affair. It's mostly a mix of electronica, vocal pieces and 'butt-rock'. The best bits are the boss fight themes, all of which are memorable and make the characters they're attached to even more interesting. In fact, the boss fights could be said to be one of the strongest parts of Revengeance's makeup. Every single one, despite playing somewhat minimal antagonistic roles in the story apart from certain exceptions, plays completely differently and is a joy to fight.The well-crafted challenge they offer is equalled only by the sense of accomplishment you get from beating them. I found myself going back again and again, mostly to see if I could do better, but also for the sheer fun of the battle, with every successful parry feeling hard-earned and every wound being just another lesson to take in, rather than a punishment.
The art style of Metal Gear Rising is also worthy of note. Despite going in such a vastly different direction from the rest of the franchise, I never felt like I had stepped outside of the same universe Solid Snake occupied, even though I'd never played a Metal Gear Solid title. The whole thing never truly broke my suspension of disbelief, even when it got completely over the top and I found myself fighting things like robotic wolves with railguns mounted on their backs. The game's sense of spectacle and the 'cool factor' of it all simply allowed me to gloss over the nonsense and enjoy everything as it came.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a great game, even years after it's release. Like most of Platinum Games' titles, it's just a blast to play. The game has a lot of replayability too, with a vast quantity of unlockables and extra time-trial missions to keep you occupied long after you finish the main story and DLC segments, both of which are included in the Steam version. Again, I'd recommend getting a gamepad if you want the best possible experience from this, but if you choose to play with a mouse and keyboard, it's up to you. That said, I absolutely recommend checking it out. If you love third-person action games, this is one title you don't want to be without.
|+ Exquisitely crafted combat system||– Frustrating camera controls|
|+ Awesome soundtrack||– Mediocre stealth gameplay|
|+ Fun, exciting story|
|+ Tons of stuff to unlock|