Review – Metal Gear Rising Revengeance (PS3/X360)

Metal Gear Rising Revengeance has arrived this week after being delayed, renamed, almost cancelled, and handed off to a new dev studio. Ditching the Metal Gear series primary protagonist Solid Snake, Rising stars on-again-off-again character Raiden. If you played Metal Gear Solid 4, you’ll know the Raiden we’re referring to – the cyborg ninja with the electric sword.

Rising is, rather than a tactical stealth shooter, an action game full of swordplay, crazy enemies, even crazier techniques, and for some strange reason 2 types of rocket launchers. If you’re expecting things to make sense… you’ve come to the wrong game. If you’re expecting things to get more and more insane with every minute you play… this is definitely the one for you.

Woes of A Child Soldierbot

Raiden, our protagonist, was born into war. He was a soldier in his childhood, trained and tortured until he was the perfect soldier. Then, some time later, he became a cyborg. Forgive me for not relating the incredibly convoluted canon of the entire Metal Gear Solid series, I can never remember it all. But this game takes place 3 years after the end of Metal Gear Solid 4 and the death of the ‘Sons of the Patriots’ system used to control the war economy previously. Here’s your warning, if you are not at least passingly familiar with Metal Gear Solid’s canon… do not expect to understand the slightest bit of what happens here.

While this game may be a spinoff that’s supposed to be a standalone… they do not take any measures to try to ensure you are aware of what is happening. And given the monolithic nature of the Metal Gear Solid story, this was probably the right decision. You could spend hours going over backstory and still be left wondering ‘wtf mate’. This isn’t a fault of this game, itself, but still something to be aware of when stepping into a game titled ‘Metal Gear’.

As far as the quality of the story goes… well, it’s a little awkward. There are some interesting aspects that are clearly providing a measure of parody to modern society – if taken to an extreme – but for the most part it just feels awkward. You get a lot of references to body parts, organs, brains, and abuse… and a lot of angry rhetoric from bad guys who are apparently in love with war. For all that there really is a lot of depth within the narrative, it unfortunately ends up feeling incredibly shallow due to the fact that they seem too shy to really tackle the subject matter. This isn’t helped by the number of puns and bad jokes used in the discussions either.

Lightning Bolt Action

Raiden is a Ninja. You are incredibly agile, wield a sword, and can cut things apart. That’s the core of the game, you cut things. When you’re fighting the regular enemies, for the most part it is an exciting and interesting experience. You get a very visceral and engaging feeling when you use any of the major weapons, although the secondary weapons do feel out-of-place(does a ninja really need two different rocket launchers and at least 4 types of grenades?). The controls work for making you feel like the agile, adept killer that you are. The flipside of all of this is that the game heavily revolves around two gimmicks. Very heavily. One of them feels satisfying in certain parts, the other is just plain unrewarding. I am, of course, speaking of Blade Mode and the parry mechanic.

Blade Mode allows you to slow down time to make precision strikes that can allow you to perform ‘Zandatsu'(lit. Cut and Take) which refills your HP. It is also how you finish every boss fight. Blade Mode is, for the most part, handled fairly well – although some of the boss fights rely too heavily on it since it is a mechanic that is somewhat… unreliable. You see, certain cases will have you slashing through little squares, and if you miss the squares you did it wrong, yet every part that has these squares behaves a little differently. Certain cases will give you a great deal of lenience – such as the last boss – while others require an absurd level of precision.

Metal Gear Rising’s parry mechanic is probably one of the worst gimmicks I’ve seen in a game in a long time. Not because it is difficult to perform, because it’s not. It’s actually very forgiving and quite easy to do. The problem with it is that it has 3 rather severe faults. The least damning of these faults is the simple fact that it is an unintuitive mechanic. The game doesn’t do a good job of instructing you in how to do it, I’ve talked to several people who had to look up tutorials or spend a good half hour practicing to figure out just exactly what it is they were supposed to do.

The reason it’s so unintuitive and awkward is also its second major flaw. It cannot be performed while moving. You have to stop moving, then do it. Yes, the only defensive mechanic in the game requires you to stop moving entirely to use. Now, there are certain types of games where this could work, but not one where you play as a ninja. A game focused on the type of frenetic action Rising has needs mechanics to support that. Not mechanics that punish you for moving. The third problem is that it simply does not feel rewarding or satisfying. I never felt good landing a perfect parry, I just felt stupid when I couldn’t.

Final Thoughts

This is a fairly short review… because it’s a fairly short game. You’re not going to get more than 5 hours out of a single playthrough. Now, luckily enough, there are a lot of collectibles and challenge missions to pad the game out. Also the game’s score system will ensure some players get replayability out of it. In fact I think I spent more time writing this review than I did playing the game.

Both Platinum and Kojima know how to make a game look good, so it is no surprise that this game is gorgeous. It runs well, I didn’t notice any graphical glitches or stuttering, and the environments are all heavily interactive. You can cut prettymuch every environmental element except the ‘hard’ walls. And in many cases, doing so will actually reward you – either by bringing enemies down to your level or with tangible rewards like items or secrets. Probably the most enjoyable part of the game for me was trying to see how many parts I could cut things into – my record was just over 2700. Incredibly satisfying.

The soundtrack… well… I have mixed opinions about the soundtrack. Most of the tracks were good, but some of them didn’t seem to line up all that well with what was happening. Some of them just felt a little out-of-place. It isn’t one I’m going to be hunting down the songs from to listen to on their own, though.

Overall

What Rising gets right it gets REALLY right. The combat is fluid and smooth and hectic and fun. Yes, that’s way too many ands but it’s appropriate. The problem is that it doesn’t let the combat shine, in stead relying on awkward gimmicks that just aren’t that satisfying. And, unless you are an avid completionist or really love this game’s gimmicks, you’re only going to get 4-5 hours out of it since you won’t be playing it over again or doing the VR missions. Again, what is good… is really good. There just is too much in between the ‘really good’ and not enough content overall.

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