From watermelon-chopping tech demo, through development purgatory, to Platinum – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has been through a lot. This could be a point of concern for many, a point laid to rest within the first 10 minutes when your seat can no longer contain you from the excitement of the onscreen action. I was giddily jumping in front of your TV, mashing away at the controller, as Raiden was throwing about and chopping up a giant robot, skipping on rockets and running down buildings while avoiding debris and oncoming missiles.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has come a long way from Kojima Productions to a temporary non-existence and finally to Platinum Games – the developer that knows not the meaning of “holding back”. With Bayonetta they proved themselves as masters of combat mechanics; with Vanquish they showed that a genre is as good as the approach to it – stylish, over the top, insane and exhilarating. Both these masterpieces combined give Revengeance.
The combat feels truly fluid as one combo flows into the next without the obvious delay and transition from one animation to another and while having the fluidity of water it is more alike mercury in its weight. Every blow feels like it experiences resistance from the enemies’ bones and muscles as it rips through them and slows down just a bit, a feeling further amplified by slight controller vibrations. The combat is more empowering than any game I have ever played because it gives a definite sense of mastery and power when a slide tackle launches some poor schmuck into the air to be diced to pieces in blade mode and spinal cord smashed, then connects with a parry and finally a seamless transition of the sword from hand to foot as Raiden pierces the enemy dozens of times with lightning-fast stab-kicks.
While the parrying system is a bit less elegant and too forgiving, as it does not rely on perfect timing, it is very reliable and central to the gameplay. The enemies deal quite a lot of damage, when they manage to squeeze through the barrage of hacks and slashes and parries, so the fact the zan-datsu (cut-take) technique is easy to pull off is not to the detriment of the game’s difficulty, it is balanced by the sheer number of enemies and their overwhelming strength, which makes Raiden seem like what he really is – an exquisite, masterful killing machine that is nonetheless confined to an almost-human body.
Unfortunately sometimes it is hard to see what Raiden is doing, exactly, because of the atrocious camera that sometimes just decides to put itself behind a bunch of enemies or constructions. Only possible way to prevent that from happening is constantly using the right trigger to lock onto targets, but even so the camera gets quite chaotic sometimes.
While comparing this to a Metal Gear Solid game is ridiculous, some are bound to do it and there are more similarities than expected. Revengeance retains MGS’s pushy philosophy, its history lessons, humor, cheesiness, stealth and of course the over-the-topness but turns the latter up to 11.
Surprisingly, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has many optional, and quite good, stealth sections where instead of alerting and then taking on every enemy in an area Raiden can stalk and silently kill them one by one. For stealth the player can utilize the signature cardboard box to hide in, a notion that even the game doesn’t take seriously and makes fun of because of the ridiculousness of a badass cyborg ninja hiding in a tiny cardboard crate.
Lengthy codec conversations and long cinematics that would make even those without lactose intolerance hurl from the astronomical amount of cheesiness are a legacy of the Metal Gear part of the game’s title and while fans of the original series will most likely love them, it is almost certain that newcomers will be put off by them.
When somebody mentions Metal Gear one of the first things that come to mind is the amazing roster or bosses – physically and emotionally scarred supersoldiers that insist on having deep soul-to-soul conversations before their asses are kicked. Rising does not veer off that path and while the main point of critique is that the bosses are met just before the battle it is unjust – most bosses in most Metal Gear games are that way, think the Cobra Unit from MGS3, only the major ones appear throughout a story before a major showdown, while meetings with others strictly precede their timely demise. The real drawback is the lack of interest and development of their backstories, but the grandeur and badassery of the fights themselves largely overshadows that.
The look and aesthetic of the game is very similar to MGS4 as the game takes place only 4 years after those events. As this game is a blend of Japanese approach to games and the Western, the divide and incoordination of the two make it quite bland. While it has the big set pieces and large areas of western games the more Japanese approach to level design where everything is clear-cut and box-like makes it seem artificial and very rarely does it feel even close to real – it mostly succeeds to do so in indoor levels.
Music and sound design of Metal Gear games has always been top notch and while Rising may have gone off the orchestral modus operandi of the root franchise, its fusion of metal and drum ‘n’ bass certainly does what it sets out to do – pump adrenaline through one’s body by the motherload. If one has even a shred of affinity for the two genres, especially the former, they will certainly love the hell out of it – in fact it is what I’ve been listening to for the last two weeks exclusively.
Lastly, those concerned with the amount of bang that this game delivers for the buck need not worry. While it is a short game – about 5 or so hours – the amount of bang-per-buck-per-minute dwarfs most games and coupled with the fact that this game has 5 difficulty settings, many desirable unlockables (such as suits, weapons, upgrades, sombreros), a ton of collectibles, extra virtual reality missions and a perfectly paced and supertight gameplay it will have you coming back for more day after day without even a hint of boredom.
All in all, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an almost perfect brawler with well integrated and non-forced elements of stealth, plenty of content and so much excess testosterone that your hypothetical 8 year-old sister would, with ease, grow a 3-foot-long beard within 20 minutes of exposure to it.