Few games go through as much turmoil as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. What started out as a mainstay entry in the Metal Gear Solid series has morphed into the fascinating collaboration of Kojima and PlatinumGames. It’s not exactly public knowledge on who is holding the reigns tightest on this game, and since this essentially a brand new path for the Metal Gear franchise, there are conflicting expectations for Revengeance. Fortunately, this is a crowd-pleaser for fans of Metal Gear and PlatinumGames alike, nailing the truest senses of what makes Platinum titles fun and unique, while not selling short the Metal Gear Solid sensibilities.
Set four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, the world of technology has grown exponentially, but he shadow that the Patriot organization left still remains. Private military companies, or PMCs, have spread like wildfire, with many using it as a means to spread the war economy concept that Metal Gear veterans know very well. We see Raiden in one of these PMCs, but rather than spreading the war economy, they’ve sworn from the beginning to protect those in power while still caring for the weak. Things go south when another PMC proves too powerful for our favorite Cyber Ninja, and what results is one of the most enjoyable action games I’ve played in a long, long time.
If you were worried that PlatinumGames would put too much of the Bayonetta or Vanquish spin on Metal Gear Rising’s story, cast those fears aside – Metal Gear Rising manages to keep the cinematic angle that makes Metal Gear games special. There are plenty of cutscenes to gawk at in Metal Gear Rising, but none of them last long enough to overstay their welcome, a common complaint of the Metal Gear series. Some of the narrative gets very ham-fisted towards the tail end, but that is another staple of the franchise, so it fits pretty well.
Raiden taking center-stage in Metal Gear Rising works better than anyone could have imagined, with a fairly decent character arc going on as you slice and dice more baddies. Seeing the Tarentino-levels of gore throughout isn’t seen as something glamorous as you keep at it. There are moments of questionable morality given throughout the game, revealing a side of Raiden that’s been missing for quite a while. I think contrasting Radien’s skills with Snake’s sensibilities and confidence is a nice touch when we’re talking about characters in the same universe. However, none of this would matter if the combat wasn’t great – which it is, barring a few hitches.
This isn’t your typical Metal Gear Solid kind of gameplay, but there are many ways to get from point A to point B when traversing the world. Stealth kills are rewarded, as you’ll be back at full power and full health, and you won’t alert guards. Of course, if that’s not your style you could just run-and-slice your way through, taking no prisoners. And if you want to goof off, try some of the RPGs and grenades you’ll pick up throughout the game. They, along with various health-related items, liter the battlefield in oddly-placed boxes and corpses. You’ll find that explosives are pretty useless when you’ve got that gorgeous blade in your hands, however. Speaking of blades, let’s focus on where the game truly excels – combat.
The combat system for Metal Gear Rising is fundamentally similar to other PlatinumGames titles like Bayonetta, but even a character-action veteran would find Rising difficult to master. Sure, spamming buttons will get the job done to a degree, but it’ll only work well against the grunts you’ll cut to bits. Honestly, it felt somewhat difficult to grasp at first, but as the game goes along, you have to master the basics. Otherwise, you’ll be shit out of luck when it comes to bosses. Luckily there’s a fairly deep tutorial system that’ll ease you into harder aspects of combat.
As you start fighting bigger and more menacing enemies, you’ll have to master the parry system. It’s not too difficult to comprehend; you simply hit the X or Y button while pointing the left stick in the opposite direction of your opponent. It works well with the humans you’ll be fighting, but once you start fighting Gekko units in particular, things get difficult. Gekko’s are always twice your size and look like AT-ATs from Star Wars, so you can’t exactly parry their sword-slashes. The parry system immediately takes a turn for the worse, and you’ll frequently break combos if you aren’t careful. Let’s not forget Metal Gear Rising’s biggest combat cache – Zandatsu. Land the perfect parry and hit the right button combo and you’ll be thrown into a bullet-time like effect, where the cartoonish effects of the slicing and dicing come into effect. It doesn’t end there, since when you cut enemies up enough, you’ll be able to rip out an energy-flowing spinal cord that instantly replenishes you to 100% (or more!). It never fails to satisfy, even amidst some of the more annoying robots.
While you’re cutting your way through enemies, you’ll fight a few varied, interesting bosses with their own unique quirks. These bosses will test your skills, and occasionally, your sanity. The game isn’t too difficult as a whole, but the later boss battles prove to be very hard, as the parry system is crucial to some bits and pieces. The later bosses carve such a unique spin and aesthetic to them that they’ll be remembered for years to come, no doubt. As you defeat them, you’ll collect their signature weapons, much like Mega Man Robot Masters. Each weapon controls differently, and work well on different types of enemies, making the gameplay that much more varied and enjoyable. Fortunately, the game features a New Game+ mode, so you can keep your various upgrades going a second time around.
Just because Solid Snake is nowhere to be found in the game doesn’t mean that we’ve severed ties with the Metal Gear Solid universe. You’ll find all sorts of self-referential collectibles, unlockables, even funny references throughout. Some are hard as hell to find, and difficult to justify as “worth it”. I won’t spoil them, but it’ll definitely give Metal Gear fans a chuckle when Raiden acknowledges some of these sillier moments. The largest and most valuable of these collectibles are the VR missions. These missions range from a traditional “kill ‘em all” survival, to traversing a certain area as fast as possible, and beyond. Most center on completing a task as soon as possible, and leaderboard connections work extremely well.
The sound should be very familiar to fans of PlatinumGames’ previous work. Yes, the fast-paced, techno-inspired heavy metal sound is ever so present in Metal Gear Rising. The key difference this time around is that there is a specific focus on some of the lyrics, which honestly is like cherry-picking songs that might relate to a particular cutscene that just occurred. Still, the music is very adrenaline-pumping and archaic in nature, and fits the tone of the game very well.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance had an uphill battle from the start, despite all the tribulations that kept piling on top of it as the years went by. PlatinumGames and Kojima managed to make the best of both worlds by keeping the gameplay fresh and the story easily comparable in scope to previous Metal Gear titles, resulting in what I consider to be PlatinumGames’ strongest work yet. Yes, the combat is difficult to master, but once you’ve got it, you won’t want to go back. Drawn out soliloquies litter the ending portions of the game, but overall, there’s a good narrative stringing the game together. If you love Metal Gear, or anything by Platinum, give Metal Gear Rising a shot. It’s well worth the price of admission.