Written by: Jamaal Ryan
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance defies expectations. If you aren't already in the know, Revengeance is not a stealth Solid game. It is the exact opposite. It's an incredibly fast, and incredibly stylistic action game. At first play, the mechanics may seem paper thin with a "cutting" gimmick attached. Underneath and in between the barrage of strikes lies a cyborg over-killing, enemy decimating combat repertoire with strong push back from foes who are so desperately trying to cut you down first. As a follow up to Guns of the Patriots, Metal Gear fans have the benefit of context for Raiden's adventure. But Platinum Games welcomes anyone to blood soak themselves in one of the most aggressively violent action titles this generation.
The word "Solid" is removed from all aspects of Revengeance. It's not in the title, and there's no sight or even reference to Solid Snake. As a character piece of the once-lame turned super badass ninja cyborg, the story in Revengeance is stupid – really, really, really fucking stupid. And yet, it pulls this stupidity off with unapologetic finesse and a dash of assassin existentialism along with a grandiose/cartoonish critique of American consumerism. This type of pontificating exposition is what Metal Gear heads feed off of, and it requires - yet does not demand - that level of patience. The story however often works against the game’s pacing, with constant dialogue and cutscenes that are rampantly interruptive throughout Rising’s quite short campaign. As one whose first completed Metal Gear game being MGS4 (one of my favorite PS3 titles for no apparent reason) I suffered through all the self-contained, self-referential, and poorly delivered dialogue so that the rest of you passive newcomers don't have to. Feel free to skip it.
-- Omg, SHUT UP! --
Revengeance isn't a very good teacher when it comes to its surprisingly steep battle system. For at least the first hour and a half, the game can easily pass up for a simple, yet fun, button masher with a number of flashy and occasionally superfluous special combos to mix up the frenzy of melee inflictions. Advanced moves are sharpened to effect with confrontations holding real consequences. Additionally, the bonus VR missions aren't quite the ideal dojo for practice with limited enemies and the ever-present chance of death. Overall, there is no safe environment to hone and experiment with Raiden’s attacks. Blade Mode, the lethal stance in which enables Raiden separate bodies in any direction that the right analog stick allows, is highlighted in specific segments which are far from the much higher number of opportunities where you can cut as you please. This is a self-taught lesson that’s coached in a brutal fashion, both for you and your very unfortunate foes.
-- Finally... A chance to hone my skills. --
But with practice, players will begin to see how Rising warms the corner seat in the pantheon of the action game while cutting down the walls that hold it up... literally. The Blade Mode mechanic can be pressed deeper in the combat than initially seen. Raiden can literally cut through a number of enemies in a matter of seconds, knocking them into satisfying slow motion before dicing them up into mincemeat. You will get a complete recharge bonus if you cleave enemies in the right spot as well – cut, cut, cut.. recharge, cut, cut, cut.. recharge. Once this technique is mastered, unarmored foes serves as nothing more than electrolyte containers with limbs and a suicidal attitude. At its best, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance hosts one of the most satisfying combat systems in any action game.
-- This is just being generous. --
Enemies spin around the cyborg killer like a violent tornado - leaping, sliding and sprinting in an array of offensive maneuvers and vantage positioning. It's a mighty tough game too, with numerous attacks occurring in a tight frequency with little breathing room. Comparisons to Ninja Gaiden are appropriate as you’ll have to manage your enemies almost as carefully. The reference is even more appropriate with the horribly drunken camera, although Team Ninja still holds the trophy for that one. The combat brought me back to the thumb t-shirt days of gaming, pulling off quick and precisely timed parrying. This holds a very fighting game-esque feel with jamming the left analog stick and the X/square button on the attacker's direction.
The game also brings some of the fastest series of QTE sequences. Larger enemies are a blast to fight, as they move at a speed that very much gives Raiden a run for his life. Beating them into a submissive state awards opportunities for fantastic finishers that are equally as fast as they are spectacular.
But despite how speedily satisfying Revengeance is, there are a number of little knacks that causes it to lose points in ergonomics. The UI stands as an unnecessary reference to Metal Gear proper by forcing the player to cease combat to select different items and weaponry. This makes sense for a stealth title (even then, not so much in this day and age), but takes a shit in current action games. There are claims that the engine doesn't allow on the fly weapon swapping; but in a game that's technically unimpressive on occasion (grainy CGI and last gen quality environments) with meat and metal confetti animation as the only exception, this is very hard to accept. And as dangerously sharp as the combat could be, the omission of traditional parrying is puzzling. Counter attacks are very much a staple, but Raiden feels less graceful at times more than nearly every other action game lead without a traditional role dodge of some kind.
-- Missed. --
Outside of unlocking the ability to turn into a sprinting Magic Bullet, Raiden - along with the basic combat - changes very little along his path of Revengeance (there, happy with your use of vocabulary Kojima?). Sub weapons are painfully infrequent and largely useless with the exception of the fittingly wide ranged Pole Arm, and upgrades simply increase stats on the cyborg ninja. But the beauty of Metal Gear Rising is that the game is so successfully hyperactive and so quick, that any desire for further accessories becomes nothing more than a faded memory.
The constant decimation of recharging fodder and bloodthirsty enemies closes with vicious boss battles. These fights impressively match the game's pace perfectly, and never compromise the demand for skill and hair trigger attention. Size matters little on how fast you NEED to move. If the bosses themselves cannot keep up with Raiden through traversal, their arsenal will - bombarding you with projectiles and long ranged strikes that stick uncomfortably close to Raiden's ass.
-- This first boss fight will make your head spin. --
The real bonus here comes after you've exercised your muscles within your first playthrough, mechanical inconveniences and all. The mastery of Revengeance’s combat system results in achingly satisfying fun. Take on higher difficulties to challenge your new developed skill, or repeat on the same level to obliterate anything and everything that crosses your path that may have stunted your progress before. Hell, you may even want to make better use of the game’s oddly fitting fan-served stealth moments if you so choose, or discover and complete the highly challenging VR Missions. Give Revengeance one more go (and seriously, just do it; you’ll shave hours off of your first playthrough), and you’ll truly see how much you've learned from the game’s rugged teaching style.
It’s hard for me to believe that I thought of this game as the Other M of Metal Gear. Revengeance's aplomb departure from its covert brethren is staggering. Platinum Games takes a beloved franchise, and morphs it into something nearly completely unrecognizable, ultimately producing a title that defines a different standard for what we see as Metal Gear. Solid Snake alum or not, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a fast paced, incredibly destructive, and completely ludicrous action game that piques exciting curiosity as to what could we possibly see next.
+ Heart racing battle system
+ Unintended replayability
+ Blade Mode
- Stupid story...even for Metal Gear
- Rough gameplay coaching