Review from a Gaming Expert – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Proves Everybody Wrong

I was expecting Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance to be one of the most polarizing titles ever.

In my experience, all Metal Gear Solid fans love the original. From there, two very distinct camps exist:

  • Those who love the more down to earth, muted, straightforward Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
  • A much smaller crowd that loves the audacity, boldness, and complexity of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Well, you’ll be shocked to hear my assessment was way off – even experts get it wrong sometimes. Turns out Metal Gear Rising isn’t even the most polarizing title of this year yet (hello, DMC: Devil May Cry). If you loved the over-the-top dialogue, ridiculous revelations, insane character arches, and techno-philosophical musings that comprised Metal Gear Solid 2, you will love this game.

If you love tight gameplay, visceral set pieces, and white-knuckle action, chances are high that you, too, will love this game.

Ninja cyborgs are SO hot right now.
Ninja cyborgs are SO hot right now.

Plot and characters

If you worried that Rising would be too far a departure from the rest of the series, put those worries in the dumpster and light it on fire. Right now. Rising is more Metal Gear than any previous spin-off has been, and arguably more than even its NES predecessors. The plot, writing, and directing are all in tune with what Metal Gear fans have come to expect from the series. Raiden, everyone’s punching bag in 2, does an excellent job of leading the show, and an intriguing twist down the line makes him even more compelling and unpredictable.

The plot, while at times silly (You’ll hear different variations of “WE HAVE TO PROTECT THE BRAINS/HOW ARE THE BRAINS DOING/I HOPE THE BRAINS ARE SAFE” multiple times), travels to dark, very personal places, and makes direct links to major plot points in 2. Combine that with certain cameos, references, and story lines introduced in previous titles, and this truly feels like a successor to the Metal Gear brand…

…although it is worth pointing out that while I may have missed a key codec conversation, not even a small reference is made to Snake. You know…the HERO of the entire series? I get why that would be the case, sure, but when you’re talking about the world-altering mission that Snake completed, but then don’t mention the man himself, it gets a little weird.

The sequel to "The Grey" that we always wanted.
The sequel to “The Grey” that we always wanted.

Your codec crew this time is solid, offering interesting insight and surprisingly educational information. You get world history lessons about as often as plot conversations, but it’s refreshing in its own way, especially because they are entirely optional.

And here it is, cards on the table: I enjoyed and was engaged in this story and characters much more than I was in Metal Gear Solid 3. Take that for what you will.

Gameplay

Here was always the true test, and everyone knew it. How do you take a game built on stealth and gunplay, and translate it to electrifying action gameplay? Konami’s initial answer was to rely on wonky mechanics to manipulate a sword that could cut through anything…a move that was thankfully rectified when the developers realized they needed some serious help and outsourced to Platinum Games.

Crafters of the exceptional action game Bayonetta, Platinum Games went back to basics with Raiden. His sword play is lightning-fast and art in motion. While players can choose to go stealth the entire way, I see the majority of the audience using it briefly at the start of encounters to thin the enemy numbers, and then going balls to the wall on everything else. The action is simply too much fun to do otherwise.

To get the most out of Rising, players will have to balance between these offensive bursts and defensive parrying. To parry, players must trigger an attack at the same moment an enemy attacks them; time it right, and the results vary from staggering the foe to setting off a chain reaction that sees their robotic spines getting ripped out.

Parrying does take some getting used to; I got completely owned in the beginning of the game trying to master the art but flubbing the timing. Robot gorillas pounded my face in. Cyborg samurai’s skewered me repeatedly. Metal Gear robot cows impaled me with cables and tossed me a like a ragdoll. But with enough practice, you’ll get it. Probably.

Sunny - still as pimp as ever.
Sunny – still as pimp as ever.

Speaking of spine rippage, in Rising, it’s not just a violent flourish; it ties into one of the main mechanics of the game. When Raiden slows down time by triggering his blade mode, he can strike the enemy in the right spot to rip out their spine. Upon completion, Raiden’s health and energy are fully restored, allowing for an intricate loop if you have the skill and the patience to pull it off.

Which isn’t to say it’s easy. Enemies become more complex and numerous as the game progresses, and you’ll be forced to change your tactics accordingly. I found myself missing a reliable defensive tool, such as Devil May Cry’s dodge roll, but the combat in Rising is fast, fluid, responsive, and hard to complain about.

Just be aware of the difficulty spike near the end. If “Flying Senator Elbow Drops” mean nothing to you now, they will. Save your repair packs. That’s all I’ll say…

Presentation

The presentation of Rising is, for the most part, through the roof. The character models look fantastic, the voice acting is mostly top notch, and the music is stellar. Seriously. The boss fight themes, specifically, are great because the music is supplemented by lyrics that tell the story from the bosses’ sympathetic point of views. Rather than drown in exposition (which still happens on occasion – hello, Metal Gear), the lyrics demonstrate the perspectives of these “villains,” and why they fight. It’s a small detail that encapsulates the entire experience.

He's got, HUNGRY EYES
He’s got, HUNGRY EYES

Criticism

Platinum Games and Konami dotted all of their i’s in a game that was almost lost to development hell, with three minor exceptions: the game length, the environments, and the camera.

Metal Gear Boring

While I didn’t find them as distracting as some, the environments were clearly an afterthought in the game design, ranging from super bland to completely junior varsity. When your character models bleed next-gen while they’re traversing through a level built in “Videogame Design 101, it’s distracting.

The camera assassin

While mostly reliable, the camera sometimes goes completely bananas, resulting in lost health and even death. I have to wonder how much good a simple “lock on” mechanic could have made.

The Halo 2 effect

That’s not really fair, considering the game does tell a complete satisfying story, but at only seven chapters (with two of them in the middle lasting very briefly), you’ll reach the end of the game and be astonished that it’s over already. As masterful as some of this title can be, it’s hard to recommend a purchase. While there is quite a bit of replay value due to new game plus and collectibles, with the core campaign clocking in at easily less than ten hours, it may not be worth your 60 dollars.

Bet you never thought this would represent a boss fight in Metal Gear. Or maybe you did.
Bet you never thought this would represent a boss fight in Metal Gear. Or maybe you did.

Summary

Criticisms aside, Metal Gear Rising is a great title that completely justifies the Raiden spin-off experiment. In its battle with DMC: Devil May Cry for best action game of the year, it falls short. However, considering that both of these titles are the launch point of new franchises (hopefully), I’d say Metal Gear Rising actually has more potential going forward. By polishing the experience and building the game from the ground up with this design I mind, I think Metal Gear Rising 2 could establish itself as one of the premiere action titles of next gen.

Here’s hoping.

I give Metal Gear Rising four Flying Senator Elbow Drops out of five.

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