I remember when Kojama first showed Metal Gear Solid: Rising, then subtitled with “Lightning Bolt Action”.
It was to be a different take on the Metal Gear series with Raiden as the leading man, since we’ve all seemed to fall in love with him now that he’s a bad ass cyborg who slices people up. After an impressive trailer we were met with silence until Kojima basically canceled the game.
That was until Platinum Games stepped in, saved the project, and renamed it Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance!
So what does Platinum have to offer the Metal Gear universe besides a ridiculous subtitle? Find out after the jump.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Systems: Playstation 3, Xbox 360 [Reviewed]
Developer: Platinum Games
Release: February 19, 2013
Revengeance’s greatest strength is that it feels equal parts a Metal Gear game and a Platinum game. You’ll get staples like lengthy cutscenes, interesting Codec conversations, a plot filled with political babble, and the signature alert signal the series is known for. But throw Platinum into the mix and you’ll also get their over the top presentation, sense of humor, flashy gameplay, and an interesting soundtrack to boot.
Four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, we are re-introduced to Raiden while he’s chatting with the Prime Minister of an unnamed African country. Things are going great; Raiden and the private military company he’s working with have been a big help to the country by stabilizing the violence and training their military. But Desperado, another private military company, screws things up by kidnapping and killing the Prime Minister Raiden was supposed to be protecting. He chases after the culprits, but gets his arm cut off again for his troubles. From there, the story tracks Raiden’s quest for revenge and the inner conflict he faces about the atrocities of the line of work he’s in.
Of course the Metal Gear series has always had flashy cutscenes, but the playable action in Revengeance rivals what happens in them. The big emphasis is on “blade mode” which lets you cut almost anything to ribbons. There are a few rudimentary combos and air juggles, but the meat of the combat is using blade mode in stylish ways with the crux being “Zan-datsu” – meaning cutting enemies to bits and, if you’re precise enough to slice your enemy’s critical point, taking their glowing spinal columns. Ok, it isn’t actually a glowing spinal column, it’s a nano paste dispenser which replenishes health. See, the mechanic is both stylish and practical.
Outside of sword swinging, Raiden also has a ninja run move which lets him maneuver around the environment, similar to Assassins Creed. You can use this to also maneuver around enemies while in combat by hopping over their heads, slide out of the way of enemies that want to grab you, or quickly sneak up on enemies.
Yes, it wouldn’t be Metal Gear without stealth. Getting around the enemies stealthily is almost another game by itself. It plays out like a puzzle in trying to figure out what enemies to take out and in which order. You have a small arsenal to help you out like holographic distractions to lure enemies, smoke grenades (every ninja’s gotta have ’em) to make a surprise escape, rocket launchers (which doesn’t exactly scream stealth) to take out enemies from afar, and of course cardboard boxes to hide in.
So while Revengeance’s biggest strength is that it feels equal parts a Metal Gear game and a Platinum game, it’s also a factor that hurts the game. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Revengeance had a confused identity. Being a Metal Gear game the developers felt obliged to include stealth but what’s implemented isn’t all that satisfying and a far cry from the tactical gameplay the series is known for. Sure, you are rewarded with achievements and some collectibles for playing stealthy, but not much else. Nothing forces you to play stealthily other than your Codec partners suggesting it to you. And there aren’t any real penalties for ignoring their suggestions other than them making fun of you.
In fact if you’re an action gamer you’re rewarded for taking the action route completely. There were plenty of segments during the game where once an enemy is alerted they would call in back up, which brought stronger and more varied enemies. Any one who loves a good challenge would rather take this route than sneak around in boxes. That is, if the combat were more fleshed out.
The defensive and movement side is fine. Instead of blocking or dodging, you parry enemy attacks by moving the control stick towards the attacker and press light attack at the same time. Its takes a minute to get used to, but works great once you get the hang of it, and it’s satisfying to parry a three hit combo to get that split second counter. Outside of that you simply use ninja run to move or slide out of the way.
The actual offensive part is what disappointed me. I’d hate to say that it’s just button mashing but that’s what it feels like. It’s nowhere near as fluid or expressive as, say, Bayonetta. Sure, you get a few sub weapons besides your sword, but there isn’t that much interplay between them. I guess it’s so simplistic because they didn’t want to detract from blade mode, which is fun and it doesn’t get old to see guys chopped to tiny pieces, but one mechanic can only get you so far. I’d best describe the combat as a mash-up of the parrying and quick maneuvering between enemies like you find in Ninja Gaiden, combined with the simple button mashy combat of No More Heroes, topped off with flashy finishing moves. It’s perfectly serviceable, but nothing that compelled me to explore and master it.
The story also shifts between serious and seriously goofy. It’s where the personalities of both companies shine. One minute Riden is discussing the legal technicalities of importing cybernetic brains and the next he’s sneaking into a Mexican sewer wearing a poncho and sombrero. It feels like Kojima was writing a usual Metal Gear story and every now and then Platinum would step in and take jabs at how silly some of the tropes are.
I dig the whole feel of the story, my only gripe would be the bosses. They are fun to fight but they barely get any characterization. Most of them just show up, give a royal dump of a back story, then promptly die. It’s a shame since Metal Gear is known for really great bosses who were given time for their characters to develop so that it means something when you give them the final blow.
Overall Metal Gear Rising (excuse me) rises above its individual parts. The game comes together to create a flashy and memorable experience. Chopping enemies to tiny bits never gets old. The campaign is tightly paced and filled with tons of spectacle. While the combat is simplistic, it’s enjoyable enough to warrant a second or third play through on the harder levels.
It’s a shame though, the opening levels give glimpses of the peaks we know both of these companies can provide, yet instead of getting the best of both worlds we get a decently entertaining middle ground.
Really, the stand out girl is Mistral, the French-Algerian beauty with red hair and brown skin which I totally dig. She’s equipped with a suit that lets her attach the arms of dwarf geckos to herself. I dunno why, but the image of her surrounded by hands makes me confusingly aroused. It’s like she’s surrounded by a gang of hands getting ready to touch every corner of her body.
Moving on, there’s also Courtney Collins, the blond chick on Raiden’s support team who may or may not be into you, and excites all those secretary fantasies.
And keeping with Metal Gear traditions, there are a few magazines and posters of Japanese pin up models scattered about the campaign, but I’m pretty much grasping for straws at this point.
– Sullivan O. Bradley