Best Served Cold As Steel – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
If you are a gamer who hasn’t heard of the Metal Gear Solid (MGS) franchise, you probably live in a cave. It’s a giant game of cat and mouse with your opponents, stealthily making your way through covert operations to stop enemy corporations like The Patriots from controlling the world. But today’s Metal Gear release takes a different turn, away from the familiar and into something a little more off the beaten track. Platinum Games and Konami proudly presents to you: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Say goodbye to the hardcore, no nonsense, smoke-sucking Snake and his stealthy ways, and say hello to the slightly unstable, sardonic Raiden and his cyborg ninja ways, in his hack-and-slash world.
Four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Raiden is accompanying the President of Africa as they drive through a new, less chaotic country, taking in all they had accomplished in such a short time. Raiden and his team were hired by the president to train the African military, and provide a stability that could force a new, more peaceful order to exist over the land. This forward thinking from the government, in conjunction with the hard work training the troops, has seemingly paid off – until disaster strikes. While escorting the president, an attack breaks out – a cyborg and his team, bent on capturing the president, wipes out an entire platoon in front of the convoy, and causes the Presidential limo to crash, leaving Raiden to distract the enemies while the president escapes. This is where the action begins.
As you fight your way through an onslaught of cyborgs and UGs (AI units called Unmanned Gear), you uncover their objectives: to spread chaos through the lands for monetary gain. Raiden faces some impossibly strong foes named Sundowner and Samuel Rodriguez, who escape with ease, after killing the President, cutting out Raiden’s eye, and his arm – again. Once Raiden has recovered, he goes right back into the action, along with some upgrades to his body (such as a new arm, and some tech to compensate for the lack of vision in his left eye). His mission is to uncover the culprits behind the attack in Africa and reveal their plans, but there is a much bigger game afoot – one that will have Raiden questioning his alliances, his enemies, and even himself.
While replacing David with anyone else may have fans screaming, “Snaaaake, we’re not finished yet!” it’s time to let the old man have the retirement he has more than earned. For those players who have religiously followed Snake’s career, it will be hard to accept a new character that is so different than him. But unlike the troubled youth in previous games, Raiden has started to come into his own a little more. He’s less concerned about the world raining down on him, and more concerned with justice and duty – and exploring the thin moral lines killing enemies can make. Raiden brings his own qualities to the table, and a type of gameplay that is sure to get you pumped up and ready for action once more.
Raiden, while a plausible strong character, has some major instability which will either leave players rooting for him – or begging for him to shut up and move on. An example of this would be that at one point, Raiden is mentally tortured for a very short while by his adversaries, and he goes completely ballistic. He turns off his pain inhibitors, calls himself ‘Jack the Ripper’, giggles as he pulls an enemy’s sword out of his stomach, and then proceeds to leave a trail of chaotic carnage in his wake. Afterwards, he seems to almost shy away from this newly returned persona, and starts questioning if he was just angry, or if he really is ‘the Ripper’ he claims to be. While this kind of epiphany could have been used to really kick things up a notch, there is little to no conviction in this reaction, and leans more towards the idea that Raiden is more of an emotionally unstable philosopher than someone traumatized to the point of emotionless killing sprees.
To be fair, the kind of life he has had, and the barrage of emotional and physical assaults against him, one could argue that none of us could live through it and be sane. That is why his character may just grow on you, because even through it all there are moments where Raiden comes across as completely epic, with his execution of lines, amazing fighting skills, and his never-ending determination to do what is right and just – but there is that little crack in the foundation of his mind, and if it’s not at least patched, it could cause him to simply erupt and take the world down with him. Regardless of how you feel about Raiden, in the end, the ups and downs will pull you in, and leave you waiting to figure out what is going to set him off next.
For those clinging to nostalgia, many elements from previous installments still remain. Alert Mode has the same familiar sound, and the communication between base and Raiden will remind players they really are in an MGS world. You’ll begin the game with a team of four to help you: Boris, Kevin, Courtney, and Doktor. Boris is your commanding officer, while Kevin handles Intel, Courtney handles your tech (including any new information about it), and Doktor is the closest thing to a mad scientist you will meet and he offers you upgrades in exchange for the arms of fallen cyborg enemies. All of these contacts are available at any time if you need information or even just some moral support. Gradually you meet new characters, all of whom will offer you different types of help. For example, you defeat a UG early on, which then gets reprogrammed as a K-9000 unit and nicknamed “Wolf”. He assists you by doing extra reconnaissance while you make your way to your objectives, letting you know what to expect as you move towards your destination and giving you a tactical advantage against your foes. For those of you who are privy to previous storylines, you’ll be pleased to know that the child prodigy (and brilliant programmer) Sunny will also make an appearance in Revengeance, though that part of the story will be left for you to discover!
Just in case you aren’t a fan of the MGS series, and simply picked this game up out of curiosity (or love of all things ninja), other pop-culture references and hat-tips are sure to make you chuckle while you play. An example of this would be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles joke, when a little boy named George (who you meet in a sewer), instantly recognizes you as a cyborg ninja. You save him from some dangerous UGs, to which he joyfully cheers, “Go ninja! Go ninja! Go!” as you slice and dice more enemies in front of him. Michelangelo would be so proud, Mr. Tamari. So proud, indeed! The witticisms in this game are so varied that you’ll hardly find yourself bored with the dialog. But in the event that wit and wonder isn’t enough to keep you satisfied, the game inserts both compelling plotlines, and interesting philosophical themes, intertwined together in an almost symbiotic fashion.
Gameplay isn’t very ‘cut and dry’ this time around, with so many different types of combinations, camera angles, and weapons, it can be hard to keep track of it all! As you progress in the game you will obtain new weapons aside from your trusty Samurai sword, and pick up stealth items like flash grenades, cardboard boxes, and more. Then there are the options for missiles and rocket launchers, designed to take down helicopters, or even (though it’s overkill) enhanced, two-legged cattle UGs (seriously – they moo). The mechanics in the game are a blessing and a curse – as they can be a deterrence if you aren’t careful. While there are different combinations for weapons and attacks, players will also be responsible for parrying incoming attacks from their enemies. In the heat of the action, you’ll find the left analog stick (which controls both the direction of your blade aim and the camera angle) gets twisted, simply by trying to aim your blade, causing visual blind-spots that can cost you your health – or even your life. It doesn’t help that when you aren’t in Blade Mode, the camera is controlled by the right analog stick instead of the left, and the switching back and forth in combat can get confusing and frustrating at the same time. This wouldn’t be an issue if the third-person angle was zoomed out, or if most of the game wasn’t reliant on your quick reflexes to dodge and parry incoming attacks, but this is the main focus of the action, of which there is a multitude.
An added feature to this release is that practically everything in the game is sliceable – with the exception of main buildings, or stray cats (those cats are better ninjas than you’ll ever be, plus that’s just wrong). You’ll be able to run around and cut up cars, trees, poles – even cement pillars. Though the game is linear in nature, you’ll still have plenty of opportunity in each section to cut everything down to size before you move on to the next area.
If you think this game is going to be something you can let your kids watch you play – guess again. This is the type of title that is not for the faint of heart. If the M for Mature rating didn’t warn you already – with its promises of gore, language, and violence – you really need to take a look at just how intensely mature this game is. In Kill Bill Vol. 1, when O-Ren Ishii’s scalp is sliced off with a Samurai sword, you really got a slow-motion look at what powerful steel can really do to a person. In Revengeance, this is not only present – it’s actually customizable – and they even kick it up a notch via the Zandatsu technique. In Blade Mode (R1 on the PlatStation), when your fuel cells charging your blade are at full strength, you will automatically enter into a slow motion phase. This grants you the ability to control not only slicing your opponent vertically and horizontally, but the angle in which you slice – cutting through each anatomically correct limb or body part, and showing the full effect of the body splitting apart where your sword hits. For those who really enjoy a good gore-fest, this will become your new favourite pastime.
Previously, many MGS games would not allow you to advance without successfully sneaking your way through many areas, but Revengeance gives a little more leeway to those who are sick of waiting patiently under a box for five minutes until your enemies decides to turn the heck around already. There are still stealth options in Revengeance with almost every encounter, much like its predecessors, but it is not typically a necessity and won’t usually stop you from hacking and slashing you way through every enemy if that is more your style. Complete with all the old garbage tins and cardboard boxes to hide under (like previous MGS games), you can still feel like the stealthiest operative this side of the future, while still slicing away the competition when the mood strikes.
Whether you are a stealthy little sneaker, or a loud and angry powerhouse, there will be several different ways to keep Raiden topped up and in peak condition throughout the game. Fuel cells are what charge your weapons for special attacks – and can be replenished by defeating enemies. You can also gain health and BPs (Battle Points) from enemies you kill, so make sure you don’t just slash and run, as foes can drop helpful items that will keep you alive – and help you upgrade your gear! Cargo cases will also hold many different kinds of upgrades, BP drops, and more – so remember to scout around for boxes before you leave an area. Every once in a while, you’ll come across enemy laptops that you can hack into. These contain VR Missions (VR meaning virtual reality) are available from the Contacts menu, and help Raiden in his quest as you can run Tutorials that teach you how to properly execute moves against your opponents, and you can access challenges which unlock better Intel on your enemies. More loot is available (for instance BPs) along your travels and can be discovered by searching around each area you enter.
Visually the game delivers – with incredible, interactive battle scenes, and beautiful detail on everything: from the dusty, city streets of Africa to the clean and overly-polished buildings in the United States. The motions in battle are smooth and precise, making it easy to see exactly what your enemy is doing before he launches his attacks, and the special effects and thought that went into the enemies are genius – as your main boss battles are ever-changing and always producing new and interesting elements to anatomy or even just pyrotechnics. However, there are a few notable graphic details that can potentially detract from the gameplay. When Raiden gets an incoming call about his next objective, more often than not the game chugs. This causes noticeable lag and stuttering in the visual effects. Naturally you’ll be moving slowly when talking to Boris, but the game goes a step further and oftentimes will pause itself briefly, then resume – sometimes with Raiden disappearing and reappearing a few steps further, or just simply continuing on from where he left off. The audio never seems to be compromised when this happens, but it can be irritating as your mobility is already severely lacking during these scenes. The consistency of Raiden’s weapons also comes into question, as most of the time his sword or Sais will have a phasing effect with whatever objects they come into contact with when they are out and not being used to slice and dice other objects or enemies.
The music is absolutely fitting with the theme and tone of the game, and seems to change constantly – giving you a fresh new feel for each stage. The boss battles are accompanied by plenty of metal tunes, with heavy electric guitar and base that really pound in your ears, and get you pumped up for the action. Interim tunes are more ambient techno, which leaves an equally alert feel without overdoing it. The voice of Raiden is still done by Quinton Flynn, who was Raiden in MGS4, though Paul Martial steals the show as Doktor, with his entertaining flair for the dramatic in his tone – especially when remarking on how exciting things like analysing children’s brains are in the lab.
When you get right down to it, Revengeance is a great playthrough, with a new combat style that has an overall amazing feel to it. It also makes sure not to leave old fans behind, as if their preferences were no longer relevant. Revengeance is a merging of the new generation with the old, in an incredibly layered storyline that will be sure to get at least a few really good ‘did that seriously just happen?’ moments from the players. It’s the kind of game that explores the ramifications of a hero’s actions, how easily something can be set in motion, and how much that ripple effect can change the world. The storyline is compelling, and something that players will enjoy debating for hours on end – and the gameplay holds true to its roots, while still giving something more to its players than what they’d expect.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance receives a 4.25/5.0
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