Does Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance make the cut, or is Raiden‘s solo adventure a little dull?
We’ve all been here before: sneaking across a war torn battlefield in a procured cardboard box previously used for medical supplies. We look around to see three guards on patrol. One of them turns away, giving just enough time to get behind him. Here’s where it gets interesting: a ninja emerges from the box, slicing the guard into somewhere between 70-80 pieces. The other two draw their weapons, but not in time to escape a similar fate. Meanwhile, hard rock blasts over the speakers and a German guy starts discussing political philosophy.
It would seem that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is not a game of subtlety; the constant speeches about freedom, war, and the fallibility of the American Dream are just as shamelessly displayed as the violence juxtaposing it. Make no mistake; what Platinum and Kojima Productions have created is a transparently in-your-face action game that, above all else, is one of the most fun video games I’ve played in a while.
All of that subtlety that is absent from the presentation is present in Platinum’s trademark accessible-but-deep combat. It’s no Bayonetta– I’m reminded more of Rocksteady’s Batman games in this regard- but literally ripping through heavily armed squads is always fun. The three pillars of Metal Gear Rising’s combat lie in the game’s speed, the parry, and Blade Mode. It takes just a few minutes for Raiden to take out a few Gekko, Metal Gear Solid 4’s bipedal bovine mini-Metal Gears, or even helicopters with just his blade. Rising’s brisk pace sets it apart from any other entry in the franchise.
Still, few would walk away from Metal Gear Rising and not mention the Blade Mode, the slow-motion free cutting mode from the reveal trailers. In Blade Mode, enemies stand almost still as you find the best slice to deal with them. The controls take a little getting used to; the left stick controls where the center of the cut will be while the right handles the angle of the cut, as well as the cut itself. There’s a slight learning curve, but I was hacking with precision in no time.
Perhaps the toughest and most flawed mechanic in Metal Gear Rising is the parry. When an enemy is about to attack, their eyes will very noticeably flash red. If you can time a light attack in the direction of that enemy, Raiden will either block or parry that attack. The problems come in how the game recognizes the difference between an attack and a parry. To parry, the analog stick needs to be at rest before pointing it towards your attacker. This system works most of the time, but it occasionally results in some tough hits you shouldn’t have taken.
One of the largest concerns fellow gamers and writers here at The Game Fanatics have had is Metal Gear Rising’s length. On my first playthrough the in-game clock read six and a half hours. Including the times where I died and the time spent watching cutscenes, that number jumps to about 8. However, Metal Gear Rising is a game designed for multiple playthroughs. Collectables are hidden in each level, ranging from combat laptops that unlock challenging VR Missions to soldiers hiding in cardboard boxes of their own. Raiden can upgrade his health and weapons using currency gathered through nearly every in-game action. Even slicing the left hands from certain enemies unlock performance-boosting wigs for Raiden, similar to Metal Gear Solid 2.
In fact, more returns from the series past than I had anticipated. Not only can Raiden sneak around, but also the overall tone gives a Kojima vibe. You won’t mistake the game for one with his hand involved, but Metal Gear Rising feels more like a blend of both studios’ styles than a Frankenstein creation of varying design philosophies. Some things are streamlined, like Evasion mode’s absence, to update the Metal Gear model for this new type of game.
Unfortunately, the story isn’t as strong as in previous Metal Gear titles. It’s definitely Platinum’s best, but that wasn’t a terribly high bar. Metal Gear is known for well-rounded characters who, for all the cheese and melodrama, ultimately feel like real people. In Metal Gear Rising, Raiden is the only dynamic character. Everyone else is a caricature or stereotype. There’s the comic relief, the selfish politician, the arch-rival, and even a gruff sounding Russian unimaginatively named Boris. What story is here goes absolutely bonkers very quickly, with Raiden’s ongoing struggle with his dark past the most interesting thing here. It opens up interesting ground for a new franchise, but this one won’t wow anybody.
I was never sure how I would feel about Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance from the trailers and game footage, but after playing the full game, I’m sold. I’ve already completed it twice, and I’ll be coming back for more. It’s a game that is both digestible and expansive at the same time. Simple, but deep enough to master. Briskly paced, but slow right when it counts. Platinum in every aspect, but no less Kojima.