Developer: Platinum Games / Publisher: Konami / Played on: PlayStation 3 [also available on Xbox 360] / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language]
I’ve played and replayed every single Metal Gear title in existence, and consider myself to be a true fan of Hideo Kojima’s legendary series. Now, we all know that this particular title was not directed by him, and is meant to be an entirely new take on the Metal Gear mythos from Bayonetta developer, Platinum Games.
The story picks up three years after the collapse of The Sons of the Patriots, the system that was secretly controlling everything. If you have absolutely no idea what that means, don’t worry, since blood starts gushing within the first five minutes. It’s revealed that Private Military Companies have been fractured as a result of that collapse, which means new rogue companies are participating in criminal activities and using cyborg technology to further their agenda.
Meanwhile, Raiden has not retired with his wife and child, and now works for the Peace Keeping PMC “Maverick Society.” He was in the middle of protecting prime minister N’Mani when suddenly cyborgs known as Sam and Sundowner kidnap and kill the PM, and this being a Metal Gear game, take out one of our protagonists eyes. Raiden then outfits himself with powerful cyborg technology, a neat headband eyepatch thingie, and vows to get to the bottom of what happened.
Platinum has always been highly regarded for keeping the action going, but its trend of foregoing an engrossing story to support that action continues. We know why Raiden needs to get to point A to B, but we never really feel a connection to the guy, or empathize with his story since his motivation to provide “justice” with his blade and protecting the weak is unclear.
Granted, that is part of his personal conflict, and I did enjoy the story making Raiden confront his demons, but so many of the characters around him are such cardboard cutouts with cartoonish accents that it becomes difficult to appreciate his character arc. Take Sam, Raiden’s main baddie for most of the game: he speaks with his best imitation of an Antonio Banderas accent. Sundowner is one lasso shy from winning the rodeo, and Mistral of course has a seductive French accent. They drop in and out of the game so quickly that their impact and value is weak. Wolf, your AI cyborg canine buddy, is ironically the most relatable character in my opinion.
Though the story is not so hot, Platinum’s expertise is in fast-paced gameplay where it excels. Through the game Raiden travels to different locales such as industrial cities, hidden compounds, and even office buildings, and you have several ways to take them out.
The combat system is broken down into heavy and light attacks with your sword. You have an arsenal of combos, and most of them are pretty effective in dealing major damage, and can easily be strung together. And when the enemy is sufficiently damaged, you can go into super slow-mo–known as blade mode–where you slice and dice them to your heart’s content. What’s even better is that while in blade mode if you slice at just the right location you can take out the PMC’s nano repair unit, and crushing it refills your own health, encouraging offensive tactics.
You can also customize Raiden. After every level you can spend earned Battle Points on upgrading your health, skills, buying new ones, or even upgrading and equipping new weapons like a handy dandy rocket launcher useful for destroying helicopters, grenades, and even a couple melee weapons. Quite honestly I preferred to stick with the sword for most of the game since the pole arm, the bo staff weapon, while useful, has a very limited range of combos, much like the other unique weapons.
Which brings me to the weakest aspect of the combat: the counter system. Hack ‘n’ slash games are known for rewarding gamers with a perfectly timed last second dodge or counter, such as Platinum’s own Bayonetta, or Ninja Theory’s Devil May Cry. This game does reward you for a perfect counter, stunning the enemy allowing you to go into blade mode and kill certain enemies in one blow. You can kinda dodge, but it is merely Raiden taking a step backward or to the side while slashing. So you mash on the square button for prolonged periods of time waiting to counter, since if you switch over to the triangle button (or your heavy attacks) several of those animations cannot be cancelled, leaving you open to be attacked by another foe.
But when you are not attacking PMC’s, robots, or–wait a minute, is that Grlimlock?!–the game also has cool chase sequences that allow you to Ninja Run your way through various obstacles, often resulting in an awesome quick-time event where you literally hop on missiles and chop up your foe.
Furthermore, believe it or not, they did find a way to incorporate stealth into the game. And while several of these sections do work, some of them crumble under their own weight due to the lack of the most basic of stealth gameplay mechanics. Your “Soliton Radar” does not display your enemies’ cone of vision, so you are left guessing at their visual range.
Boss Battles range from fun and exciting, such as the early battle with Metal Gear Ray, or even the battle with Mistral, to being a test of your patience since later bosses have health bars that take a lot of time to hack down. The final boss battle, which I won’t show to keep this spoiler free, is an exercise in ultimate cheap boss mechanics including ridiculously over-powered attacks, unblockable attacks that result in forced quick-time events, and the ability for him to recharge his health three times during the battle.
VR missions are decent, but can only be unlocked by finding laptops in the campaign, not by actually completing them. Speaking of VR, the game does include several other references to the Metal Gear universe, such as the codec, and even allows you to use the legendary cardboard box. There are many more which I am sure fellow Metal Gear fans will have no trouble spotting.
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance plays exactly like the cutscene in Metal Gear Solid 4 where Raiden decimates several Geckos with ease. And for that, it deserves a lot of credit. So while the story is subpar, the stealth mechanics are weak, and the lack of a dodge ability does hinder a solid combat system, this short game–clocking in at around seven to eight hours–is certainly entertaining to play. And for you guys who still can’t forgive Raiden for stealing the spotlight from Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2, well, you can always dress him up as the original cyborg ninja Gray Fox right?