When you think of Metal Gear, you think of stealth, espionage and deception. Action is a feature that has never actually really been pulled off well in that franchise, despite several attempts from series creator Hideo Kojima to do so. So what happens when you take an unloved character from that series, throw him some cybernetic bones and let one of the most renowned action game studios around today go wild? You get one rip-roarin’ cacophony of carnage, chaos and cheese.
It’s been four years since the events of Metal Gear Solid 4. Raiden is now a man/machine of peace, seeking to help restore balance to an African nation that has been in a stereotypical civil war for tears now. And after three years of working his exoskeleton off towards that goal, he succeeds. Peace! Freedom! Rainbows! Killer cyborg mercenaries looking to kickstart a new global war! Wait, that’s bad.
Yep, quicker than the announcement of yet another season of SA Idols being produced, comes disaster. Despite sporting some cybernetic augmentations that make him strong enough to throw a Metal Gear Ray around, Raiden quickly finds himself on the wrong side of a sword, and with fewer appendages at the end of the day.
Rebuilt, pissed off and seeking answers, Raiden sets out to go and confront the Private Military Group Desperado, one badass explosion-walk away-from-without-looking-at moment at a time. In short: This ain’t your daddy’s Metal Gear. Fortune favours the bold, and they don’t get bolder than Raiden who spends a normal work day running up an exploding building while slashing his way through three-armed automatons and end-level bosses born from a one-night stand between retro games and Japanese comics.
Much like in previous Metal Gear Solid games, Revengeance also looks at the effects of war, the toll it takes on a human mind. Child soldiers, the war economy and morality all take a front seat in the tale that unfolds before Raiden. A tale which falls flat on its face. By trying to mix a Baysplosion with a Spielberg moment of inner reflection, the game fails. But it fails in an endearing way, as Raiden gruff voices his way through cut-scenes and radio communications. It’s a cheesy story overall, but hell, it’s hard to not love the game because of that. And the second that a man began turning human beings into chopped advertisements for “Will it blend”, you knew that realism was being tossed out the window.
It’s all about the action in MGR:R. You don’t block a mooing Metal Gear that is trying to ram you, you parry it with a sword that is coursing with electrons, and proceed to hack away even more. You don’t run away from a barrage of missiles coming at you, you slice your way through them. It’s the very antithesis of Metal Gear essentially, as stealth elements are tossed aside like a red-headed stepchild.
And yet, in creating a game that throws away the sacred parts of the Metal Gear franchise for something wildly different, developer Platinum Games has come up with a sincere love letter that series of games. The theme of the game is undoubtedly Metal Gearsy, from soldiers popping a familiar exclamation mark over their heads when they spot you, to signature design elements being seen in various stages. But mixed with that unique blend of mech and madness that Platinum has become so well known for throughout games such as Vanquish and Bayonetta.
Popping in the game, initial combat sorties are going to feel like a button-mashing extravaganza. Raiden has light and heavy attacks, but the game quickly demonstrates that timing and environmental awareness are what counts in this title. Knowing when to attack, and knowing when to parry are the key aspects of the combat here. The much hyped “Zan-Datsu” mode that Platinum inherited from the original Kojima production is also present, as weakening an enemy sufficiently allows you to enter Blade Mode, a slow motion cutting experience that gives you an opportunity to leave an enemy in a state resembling a certain Black Knight. Tis but a scratch!
Blade Mode also gives players an opportunity to recover health and energy, by ripping the spines out of foes and stocking up on their electrolytes. Hit the right spot with a bit of precision, and Raiden will top up, or go slash-crazy and leave an enemy with just enough of a torso to try and bite your legs off. MGR:R is a game that reverses the focus of other MGS games, which means that stealth mechanics do pop in here and there. But they’re more of an afterthought than anything else, a more challenging initiative due to the fact that Raiden is more limited in that department.
An Augmented Reality mode allows him a heads up of his surroundings, while sneaking around in a box provides more of a giggle than a tactical edge. It’s a system that the game at times tries to encourage, with some annoying insults hurled your way by your support team when you decide to rather take advantage of the fact that you’re a walking suit of Iron Man armour equipped with a sword that can cut a building in half with one stroke.
It also has no bearing whatsoever on the final score tally, and can at times feel like a tacked on component, made just to ease the anger of rabid MGS fans, upset with the direction that a spin-off game has taken. But when the action hits, it hits hard and the core gameplay benefits anyone who knows when to strike, and when to parry. Battle points are accrued at the end of every round of combat, which can be used to augment Raiden even further, bolstering his health, energy, attacks and techniques.
All in all, it’s a simple, yet somehow deep style if play. Combat can be hectic, with several enemies forcing you to attack in a circular method of brutality, while their own AI helps them avoid your blade, making Blade Mode something that needs to be triggered at the right time, instead of a game-killing function.
A ninja run allows Raiden to move with speed, alongside a simple dodge, extra weapons can be equipped, and Raiden later unlocks a psycho mode which allows him to cut loose with higher damage outputs. Mind you, you may not find out about this the first time you play though, because MGR:R does a piss-poor job of explaining some of the finer tips of combat to players. It’s an annoying realization, and it’s something that Platinum should have actually known about before releasing the title, Shrugging your shoulders and leaving gamers to discover this on their own shouldn’t be acceptable in this day and age.
One other grating aspect of the game, is the camera. It’s not terrible, but when you find yourself in a corner surrounded by a Metal Gears and cyborgs, it quickly devolves into an epileptic zoom of randomness. It’s not a game-killer, but it is pretty irritating when it happens. One overlooked design aspect that deserve some special mention though, is the audio.
It’s a great mix of heavy rock and hard guitar slashes (Ha!), while swinging a sword around feels authentic and sounds crisp. Visually the game looks great and Japanese, with mechanics from the future dominating character designs, mixed in with some flawless skin and flowing hair that would require hours of maintenance at a hair salon.
But no matter how heavy the action gets, the frame rate never suffers. It’s a crisp experience all the way through, and that includes scenes where you’re slicing cars in half while a maniac is throwing tanks at you. It’s just a pity that the various bland environments didn’t receive as much love. But if there is one aspect of the game, one key area that really benefits from all the positives mentioned, it’s the boss battles.
There are only a handful of them, but they are glorious. Utilising the cutting mechanism perfectly, you’ll find yourself parrying attacks while slicing through arms, explosive shields and segmented bodily functions, all culminating in an end-boss fight that lives up to a pedigree of challenge and coolness that many modern games lack in this day and age. Platinum knows how to do a boss fight, and in MGR:R, they set a new benchmark for that neglected side of game development.
So here’s the big question, that most of you have been asking: How short is Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance? I won’t lie to you, it is indeed short. Playing on normal, I clocked the game in at under six hours. But here’s the thing; I can’t think of any other game that has been more satisfying in those six hours. If you’re looking for a game that is all about the action, then you’ve come to the right place.
Forget the cheesy story, the occasional bad camera and the fact that MGR:R is about as stealthy as a snowflake in a coal mine. The game knows that it’s a winner on the action front, and it takes steps to make certain that that is what gamers come back for. Sure, it may be over quickly, but with VR missions, secrets, easter eggs and upgrades, it’s worth replaying a few times.