Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Review
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On 03/04/2013 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus
Metallica, Megadeth, Metal Gear?
Fans of Metal Gear, fans of Platinum and fans of all things Metal.
Spinoffs can be a dicey proposition. There’s a real danger of diluting the name of the original franchise by slapping it on a bunch of games that are only somewhat related, and if the spinoff isn’t a quality game to begin with it can cause brand degradation. When a spinoff succeeds though, it can lead to an entirely new franchise that runs parallel with the source material, slicing and dicing its own path to popularity. I’m happy to say that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is just that type of game; something that can stand on its own as a great action game while still fitting into the convoluted Metal Gear universe. But this isn’t your daddy’s Metal Gear; if Solid Snake is a little bit country, Raiden is 100% metal.
Platinum Games wastes no time in establishing the pacing and tone for Rising. The company that put the character action genre on hallucinogens with Bayonetta handily puts its unique stamp all over this game. If you played Metal Gear Solid 4 and wished you could do all of that crazy stuff Raiden did in the cutscenes this is the game for you. Even if you skipped MGS4, worry not—Platinum tells you all you need to know about Raiden in the first level when he slices and dices a Metal Gear Ray (an end-game boss from MGS2) with ease.
Cleaving three story tall bipedal tanks is only the opening act for Rising, though. Raiden is a walking, talking symphony of destruction, opting for a full frontal assault with his trusty high frequency blade over sneaking through air ducts or hiding bodies. Adrenaline is the name of the game here, but Platinum knows when to bring things down to just a bass guitar before ramping things back up to eleven for those intense rock opera moments.
Like any great action game, the controls and move-set for Raiden are easy to pick up, a joy to maneuver, and crazy combos are a snap to pull off. Of course, this is a game made by Platinum, and with that comes the potential to go deep into the game’s mechanics, turning enemies into neat little cubes while slipping between oncoming attacks like a ghost. Parrying is vital for success, as is the “Zandatsu” blade attacks that allow you to slice off enemy armor, weapons and in extreme cases, body parts.
Unfortunately, the game does a piss poor job of educating the player in the finer points of ninja badassery. That all-important parry is crucial to opening up enemies to vicious counter attacks, but when the timing is off it results in a paltry normal block. I went through the entire game not realizing that this was the case. I wasn’t taking damage, and in truth the game is quite easy on the normal setting, but I also wasn’t pulling off the really awesome moves I could have with any regularity. The same was true with the moves I was unlocking by spending battle points. The moves list is hidden under the inelegant “help” section in the pause menu, but even then the list didn’t reflect all of the moves I had purchased.
The camera controls can also be a bit problematic. Simply put, the camera in Metal Gear Rising is one of the absolute worst cameras I’ve ever had to deal with in an action game. Raiden often gets thrown into situations where he’s fighting against either large numbers of enemies or really huge foes in tight spaces. Getting backed into a corner and constantly assaulted is a regular occurrence. The lock-on would help, but thanks to the poor tutorials I didn’t realize that it existed during my first playthrough. Raiden is also in desperate need of an evade move like a roll. He has an unlockable defensive move that can be used for side stepping but, yep, the game didn’t tell me that I could do that, either.
Metal Gear Rising also tries a little too hard to pay lip service to the Metal Gear Solid school of gameplay, shoehorning stealth elements into the game. It’s not a problem if Raiden gets spotted as he can handle a room full of guards with ease, but certain levels have this push towards not getting detected that is at odds with the way the game is built. Raiden doesn’t have a lot of options for hiding or being sneaky, but I felt like I had played the game wrong when I finished it and noticed that I had been dinged for getting spotted so many times. It’s a strange, vestigial throwback to the Solid games that has no place in a game ruled by metal.
One excellent tradition carried over from the main series would be the boss encounters. Raiden doesn’t get to square off against as many colorful characters as you might expect after playing the Solid games, but the Winds of Destruction do not disappoint. These cyborg mercenaries bring some of the best moments to Rising. They are tough enough to take on Raiden head on, but they also fall back on some amazing environmental set pieces that add a lot of cinematic flair to the fights. Each battle is punctuated with a piece of heart-thumping metal music, and makes these signature fights feel like pieces of an overall rock album. There’s also nothing quite as satisfying as getting to slash the bosses into tiny bits with the Zandatsu at the end of each battle, although it’s rather bizarre getting the standard Metal Gear Solid post-boss fight speech from an enemy that’s been diced.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Metal Gear game without a heavy-handed story about the nature of war, and Rising is no exception. I was surprised at this for some reason, possibly because I don’t equate Platinum Games with narrative. Rising goes to some dark places, even as it winks at the player with some great references to older games and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is one of the only games I can think of that addresses the fact that the main character has no qualms about slaughtering hundreds of enemies while still maintaining a moral high ground. Raiden’s personal motivations are put to the test from the midpoint of the game on, and it makes for an interesting tale, even if the lead voice actor doesn’t quite get the job done. I was also impressed with the mastermind of the whole situation, because he’s not your typical “world ruler in training” type of dude. His motivations aren’t actually all that terrible, even if he does terrible things to achieve them.
Let’s talk about those terrible things for a second, and by that I mean the absolute worst final boss battle I’ve encountered in years. I’m talking about a final boss that has double health, unblockable attacks, moves faster than Raiden, and does massive damage with even regular hits. It takes place in an arena that enjoys throwing up damage dealing barriers that the boss then pushes Raiden into. Sure, you can avoid a lot of this stuff, but that’s when the frustrating camera comes into play. The final boss made me feel like I never actually learned how to play Metal Gear Rising, and I spent a good two hours or more trying to beat him, and when I finally did I felt like I did so by accident. Also, my final time for the entire game was under six hours, and even though the times I spent continuing on the last boss wasn’t logged, that means that I spent one third of my overall playtime banging my head against the wall that was the last fight.
Metal Gear Rising isn’t without its faults. The final boss put such a bad taste in my mouth that I considered giving the game a lower score, but that would be turning a blind eye to how much damn fun I had for the first 90% of the game. Now that I have a better idea how to play Rising I look forward to going back and improving some of those poor battle scores I have, and finding the rest of the secrets I missed. Those opening boss fights alone are worth the journey, and the ending of the game leaves plenty of room for a sequel, and I’d very much like to see that. Rising is a metal album, and like a great metal album it brings plenty of epic tracks to the table but finishes before it wears out its welcome.