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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Review

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Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Genre: Action

Publisher: Konami

Developer(s): Platinum Games, Kojima Productions

ESRB: Mature

Release Date: February 19, 2013

MSRP: $59.99 (Standard), $149.99 (Collector’s Edition)

 

 

Note: This review is based on gameplay of the PlayStation 3 version.

Over two years ago, we were treated to an E3 reveal of Metal Gear Solid: Rising, which featured the protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2, Raiden, hacking things like cars and watermelons into a billion pieces with the new “Cut What You Will” system. Since then, Kojima Productions nearly cancelled the game before renowned developer Platinum Games, the makers of such titles as Madworld, Vanquish, and Bayonetta, picked up developing duties. This resulted in a name change that dropped “Solid” from the title and added “Revengeance”, a clever bit of word play. Make no mistake, though, as Rising lives up to the name of Metal Gear, just in a completely different way than fans of the series are used to.

As I mentioned, MGR stars Raiden, who’s back several years after the events of Metal gear Solid 4, still kicking it as a cyborg ninja. He’s been spending his time keeping the peace in Africa by working with the Prime Minister in strengthening his military forces so that they can maintain order. However, some people aren’t too keen on the fall of the war economy, so they decide to assassinate the Prime Minister in an effort to spark war efforts once again. Try as he may, Raiden doesn’t succeed in protecting him and winds up badly wounded in his encounter with another cyborg by the name of Jetstream Sam. Three months pass and Raiden is back in action, though this time, he’s out for revenge.

Meet Sam. He's the one you'll be wanting to kill the entire game.

Meet Sam. He’s the one you’ll be wanting to kill the entire game.

The plot delves into the usual political tropes the Metal Gear series is known for, which should satisfy long-time players of the series, as well as building on Raiden’s character that has been established since Metal gear Solid 2, which, if anyone remembers, includes a past filled with much horror and hardship. However, MGR is a game that can easily be played without any prior knowledge of the franchise, though it does make the game more rewarding for veterans of the franchise when past events are given a nod and cameos pop in, as few as there are. The plot isn’t anything to write home about, really, and as well as it’s told thanks to some strong voice work and well-produced cutscenes,  it’s not a primary concern for a title like this. It serves its purpose as a means to string together the insanity that ensues, and, man, is this game off-the-wall insane.

MGR is a tried-and-true hack n’ slash in the vein of Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden, and Platinum Games’ own Bayonetta. Don’t think for a second that this is just some rip off with the Metal Gear label slapped on it, though. MGR defines itself from the outset, delivering an experience unlike any hack n’ slash you’ve ever played before. This is, in a big way, thanks to Blade Mode, which is where the “Cut What You Will” catchphrase comes into play. Beyond alternating normal and strong attacks to string together gorgeously-animated combos, Blade Mode allows you to freely swing Raiden’s sword in any direction with the use of the right analog stick. This enables you to hit enemy weaknesses, thus dismembering them or even instant-killing them, which can also expose their cores for you to absorb in order to refill your health and Blade Mode gauge. It isn’t a system you can abuse, though, as its use comes after weakening enemies enough, which is usually denoted by a crash of thunder. Using it at the wrong time can leave you open to attacks from other enemies, as proper use will enable time to slow down, allowing you to go to town on your victims in slicing them into dozens of pieces.

Which is exactly what makes Blade Mode so satisfying. Nailing the timing and chaining together an insanely long combo that results in leaving your enemies in a pile of bloody chunks is a euphoric feeling every single time you do it. It never, ever gets old. The system is put into better use during the game’s many memorable boss fights, which is a staple of the Metal Gear franchise that Platinum Games manages to nail down here with brilliant execution. I don’t want to spoil anything, as the boss fights are intense and highly-memorable moments that must be experienced to be appreciated, but the use of Blade Mode in these fights not only makes them more than just mashing buttons and parrying attacks, it also makes for some downright ridiculous executions that left me raucously laughing after every single one as well as serving as a means to strike weak points, thus exposing bosses to more punishment. The music that accompanies such encounters are fast-paced, electronica/heavy metal pieces that match each moment perfectly, making fights that much more intense and emotionally involving. The settings even manage to play a part in determining just how crazy a fight is getting, as many objects are destructible with every slash of your sword, leaving behind piles of rubble amongst the blood puddles in your wake.

MGR holds nothing back when it comes to violence.

MGR holds nothing back when it comes to violence.

The game also manages to make getting around its environments simple to execute, but with much elegance in its execution. By holding R1, you can “Ninja Run”, which allows Raiden to dash, leap, and slide over and under obstacles in his path automatically, and with certain set pieces in the game that highlight this mechanic, makes for many moments that are sure to give you a rush. This also has its uses if you choose to flee from certain enemies, as well as give you some distance from them during a fight to regroup and plan your next attack.

Beyond the hacking, slashing, and ninja running, the game also manages to drop in some moments of stealth, where you have the opportunity to sneak around your enemies and avoid fighting them altogether. Despite the series’ reputation for being a masterful stealth franchise, the sneaking portions here actually manage to fall flat. You can’t crouch or sneak in any way nor take cover behind objects, and enemy placements and patterns are placed in ways that make it very hard to figure out a path through. I actually tried one portion over and over close to two dozen times, trying different methods to see if I could get by before I finally became frustrated and just fought my way through. You can perform “Ninja Kills” by walking up to enemies from behind and shoving your sword through their back, but these take too long and, before you know it, other enemies either see you do it or see you running away right afterwards. The game is primarily an action title, and I at least appreciate the effort of injecting some sort of stealth system into the game given the series’ roots, but it simply doesn’t work very well, even with the ability to use cardboard boxes like Solid Snake did in previous iterations.

The beauty of Blade Mode in action. Poor sucker never stood a chance.

The beauty of Blade Mode in action. Poor sucker never stood a chance.

The story runs at a short 4-6 hours, counting retries, which can be tough to stomach for a full price title, but the game’s strengths come from making an experience that lasts just long enough to make for a memorable and fun experience, while being short enough to not out-stay its welcome, which can be a common occurrence for hack n’ slash titles as they’re not known for their depth, as well as the replayability of it thanks to a scoring system, unlockables, upgrades, and the series’ signature “Titles” that are awarded at the conclusion of the game based on your play-style. Some of those unlockables include VR Missions, which are also a series staple. These drop you into situations where you need to eliminate or sneak by every enemy as quickly as possible, among other variations and objectives. The stealth actually manages to shine more brightly here, though it still never manages to reach the brilliance of the MGS titles and still suffers from the same problems. These missions also manage to give you a significant challenge, as well, so if you’re up to them, you better bring your A-game, as repeated attempts are pretty much necessary in order master each challenge and beat the best time.

Raiden also has many customizations that can be purchased with BP, which are awarded after every story and VR mission. These allow you to enhance his weapons, teach him new techniques, and boost his health and fuel cell capacity, among other things. You can also unlock “Revengeance” difficulty, which is meant only for the most dedicated and skilled players. It’s no slouch on Normal difficulty, either, presenting smart and tough enemies as well as intense boss fights. When you take all of this into account, Metal Gear Rising is absolutely worth the full price of admission, making for a title that action fans will eat up for some time.

VR Missions add some strong challenges to Metal Gear Rising.

VR Missions add some strong challenges to Metal Gear Rising.

That’s not to say that MGR doesn’t have its share of issues. Beyond the aforementioned stealth sections, the game’s parrying mechanics are also a cause for frustration. Executed by pressing the Normal Attack button and tilting the left analog stick towards you enemy at the same time as an enemy attacks, the timing can be finicky and it doesn’t always register the input as a parry, resulting in you swinging at your enemy normally and resulting in you taking a blow that knocks you to the ground. Parries are also difficult to execute while in the middle of a combo, and they’re pretty much impossible to pull off while performing Strong Attacks, but they’re an essential component to survival, as there is no blocking nor any dodging system to speak of, so there’s little choice but to get used to them. The camera is also a problem, as it tends to have a mind of its own and has an inherit inability to pass through walls, instead shoving the camera into Raiden’s back, thus causing him to block your view. A lock-on system helps alleviate some of the pain, but it can be tough to get a good perspective of the fight, at times, and the camera makes the stealth sections of the game that much more difficult to pull off.

These issues aren’t enough to put a damper on such an exciting and thoroughly enjoyable title, though. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance stands as a game that, while its tone and core gameplay mechanics are a far cry from the series which it is spun from, can be taken as a brutal, ultra-violent, engaging and immensely entertaining thrill ride that wastes no time in delivering you an experience you’ll want to play over and over again. The combat is slick and satisfying, the visuals are smooth and greatly-detailed, the music will get your blood flowing, and the boss encounters and big set pieces will blow you away, leaving you moments you’ll remember for years to come. If you’re a Metal Gear fan or are looking for a great action title, your search is over. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a must-own.

4halfscore

Final Score: 4.5 out of 5

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