September 2018
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Review: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

It’s fun to imagine interesting developer cross-overs in the video game world. Even better is when we get to see the results of those cross-overs first hand. Sega made an F-Zero game for the Gamecube, and it was excellent. Square-Enix developed a Disney game, and it was very convoluted but occasionally a lot of fun. Team Ninja made a Metroid game for the Wii, and it….well, it was a disaster. Ninja Theory made a Devil May Cry game, and IT will be the subject of a future review. Today we’re talking about what happened when Kojima let Platinum Games – makers of Bayonetta – take over the reins for a Metal Gear spin-off. Thankfully, the result lived up to the high pedigree of both studiosRaiden.

In Revengeance, you play as Raiden the cyborg ninja from Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4. It’s funny how Konami managed to change public perception on Raiden. He started out being hated since he was stealthily switched in for Solid Snake in MGS2. When he reappeared in MGS4, he was a tough killing machine, and fans wanted more. In Revengeance, he’s an unstoppable force. The story is fairly typical for a Metal Gear game, if not nearly as convoluted as MGS4 was. There’s lots of talk of politics and soldiers for hire. Bosses give monologues about their political and social ideologies before allowing you to carve them to bits. There’s even a brief mention of the Patriots. But the core story is one that’s been told many times before – it’s a simple story of a cyborg ninja fighting other cyborgs to rescue the brains of orphaned children. You know, that old tale.

Luckily the story really doesn’t matter much anyway. The characters are all quirky enough to prove interesting during codec conversations, but the point of this game is action. And on that point it delivers in spades. Revengeance is all about hacking your enemies into tiny pieces. Control of Raiden is extremely fluid and provides that great balance of “easy to play, difficult to master.” You have two primary attacks, a light and a heavy attack. Later on the heavy attack can be switched out to allow you to use the weapons of the bosses you defeat.

Raiden SpineThere are two main systems at play here that are critical for mastering the game. The first is the parry system – move your left stick in the direction an enemy’s attack is coming from and press the light attack button at just the right moment, and you will stun the enemy leaving them open to devastating counter attacks. The second system to master is called the Zandatsu attack. When you parry an enemies attack or when you critically weaken an enemy, a button prompt will appear. Press it (the L1 button on the PS3) and Raiden will proceed to flip into the air and move in slow motion. Holding the L1 button and moving the right stick will allow you to swing your sword any way you want, slicing the enemy to ribbons. However, if you manage to hit the targeted area during this attack Raiden will reach in and pull out their cybernetic spine, crushing it in his fist and refilling his health. If you think this sounds awesome, you are not wrong.

Another ability of Raiden’s is aptly named the Ninja Run. By simply holding down R1 and pressing forward, he will automatically navigate obstacles in his path. This means jumping over barriers, sliding through narrow gaps and even occasionally running across missiles to reach an enemy. This ability works together with all of the others to ensure one thing – Raiden is almost never standing still. There are some areas that can be cleared more easily by employing some basic stealth in the form of sneaking up behind an enemy and performing a take-down move. And there are even cardboard boxes and barrels in the game that serve both as a nod to the series and as a way to accommodate the use of stealth. But none of that is ever required, and if you want to plow through the game full steam ahead, you most certainly can.

MGR ZandatsuOne of the stumbles of the game is that it leaves a lot of critical information up to you to discover. Even special moves you purchase do not readily provide information on how to pull them off, not without digging into menus after you have purchased them. One very critical move I bought, the side step, I did not figure out how to do until the very last boss fight where you HAVE to know how to do it. And even then, I found out by doing a Google search instead of in-game. The fact that they hide all of this information from the player is baffling, but not a deal breaker. You just have to know ahead of time that the game is going to require some outside help to really understand the moves at your disposal.

The presentation of the game really impressed me from beginning to end. Not only does the game look gorgeous, but it runs silky smooth despite the insane amount of things that can be going on at any given time. I noticed one very slight slowdown that lasted maybe a couple of seconds, and that was it for the entire game. Even more impressive, perhaps, is the fact that this game really manages to feel like a Metal Gear. I honestly did not expect that. I assumed with such a different developer in charge, and with Kojima supposedly taking a hands-off approach to this game, that it would feel like what it was – a spin-off of the series with a very different tone. Instead, I found that it fit right in with all of the other games in the series. Everything you expect from a presentation standpoint is there, although it is sometimes cranked to 11. Sound cues, voice acting, menus, codec calls – it’s all here and done just as well as you would expect from the series.

MGR ActionThe best part is the music, which is absolutely phenomenal. This is one of those rare soundtracks where I was constantly thinking while playing “I have to own this soundtrack!” Some of the quieter moments have fairly typical for the series music. But as soon as the action kicks in, so does the rock. It fits perfectly with the tone and action going on. Best of all are the songs that play with each boss fight. Loud, fast and epic to really get your blood pumping. My favorite touch was how vocals will kick in when you get close to beating the boss. The music could not have possibly been better.

The game does make one more stumble tho, unfortunately – the camera. Especially when you get near a wall or are fighting in tight quarters, the camera freaks out. Often pointing everywhere but where you need it to, you’ll do everything you can to get away from the wall. Sometimes it’s more a matter of just trying to keep focused on a very fast moving enemy. A lock-on would have helped immensely, but sadly there is none. The times when you’re fighting the camera more than your enemies are not fun, and they serve to tarnish what is otherwise an amazing game. Thankfully the issue didn’t pop up enough for me to be a deal breaker, but it is definitely an issue.

MGR BlockSomething that you may have heard is a problem but is not is the game’s length. Before going in I had heard it reported at around 4 hours, but for a first time play through that is not a speed run, this is ridiculous. The in-game clock – which does not count cut scenes or any time spent retrying a section – read about 6.5 hours for me. Counting in the retries & cut scenes, I’d say it was easily an 8-10 hour experience for me which is average for the genre. Also, this does not take into account the VR missions you unlock playing through the game or the very strong pull to do a New Game Plus run. It is impossible to level up everything in one run, plus there are collectibles to find and just the draw to experience the adrenaline-soaked madness all over again.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the summer blockbuster of the gaming world. It’s pure action that never lets up, and you’ll play the majority of the game with a grin that won’t go away. The couple of stumbles I mentioned are unfortunate, but they absolutely should not prevent anyone from experiencing this. There are things that take place in Revengeance’s prologue that most games would save until the very end, and things only get more and more crazy-awesome the further you go. The fact that all of that action is contained in a distinctly Metal Gear wrapper makes it all that much better. I’m looking forward to the next proper game in the series, but Konami (and Platinum) would be crazy not to do a follow up to this as well.

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