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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has been through a lot ever since it was originally announced three years ago. Hideo Kojima was the executive producer of this spinoff from the legendary franchise letting a younger team at Kojima Productions develop the game based on Raiden, who first appeared in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. After struggling to design the game for a couple of years, the project was handed off to Platinum Games, who made Bayonetta, Vanquish, last month’s Anarchy Reigns, and more. Platinum Games is no stranger to the character action genre and them making Metal Gear Rising seems like a match made in heaven. Does Revengeance live up not only to the Platinum Games standard, but also the Metal Gear pedigree? The answer to that is simply: yes, as it is one of the best character action games I played in a while.
The story takes place four years about Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Raiden works for Maverick, a private military company that was assigned to protect a prime minister named N-mani in Africa. However, things go wrong when an unknown cyborg organization attacks them and N-mani is kidnapped. The mission is a bust when N-mani gets killed after Raiden trails those who were behind the attack. After a fight with Jetstream Sam, Raiden was no match for his adversary losing his left eye and arm. With a new armored body, Raiden was set for revenge against the organization behind the prime minister’s death. As you progress through the game, the enemy organization’s motives are revealed that they were using children’s brains to build a new army of cybernetic soldiers. Their motives reminded Raiden of his past and it is up to him to save those kids along with his quest for revenge.
Metal Gear Rising’s story also deals with philosophical themes, which have been, surprisingly, dealt with before. Some games like this question the protagonist’s moral reasons to kill any that oppose him and save the innocent. Last year’s Ninja Gaiden III messed around this for a bit for Ryu Hayabusa, but Platinum and Konami handle it a bit better in Revengeance with Raiden. Raiden at times questions his own motives for killing and using his blade as a “tool for justice.” Even his combat abilities get limited for a short period of time because of how mentally unstable he gets during these scenes. I thought it is a neat touch of the game’s story and shows that protagonists have their vulnerabilities becoming more human than we thought in games like this as we normally see them do badass things at a constant pace.
Even though Revengeance looks like your typical Japanese character action game from a gameplay standpoint, a few key concepts and mechanics separate this game from the likes of Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden, Bayonetta, and the like. The closest of those three Rising compares to is the modern Ninja Gaiden games because defense plays a huge role in the combat other than just stylish offense. You are still graded on how well you perform in enemy encounters, but style is not the first thing you think about. Survival is possible because of the parry mechanic. Parrying is your main form of defense by flicking the direction of the left analog stick and timing your light attack button press (square on PS3 and X on 360) whenever an enemy attacks Raiden. However, some attacks cannot be parried, but can be dodged with the pressing the square & X buttons at the same time (X and A on 360). At first, parry timing does get some time to get used to especially in the first two missions as I was dying numerous times, but the parry mechanic does shine through in the more intense enemy encounters and the boss battles, which I’ll talk more in a bit. It is a welcome addition and a great take on defense for the genre.
Other than your regular light and heavy attacks, Raiden’s core offense revolves around blade mode (arguably the most important gameplay mechanic in the game alongside parrying). Blade mode has its own meter and slows down the action so Raiden can cut his foes up in a precise manner. While you can still press the light and heavy attack buttons in this mode, precision with the right analog stick is required in numerous situations to cut up body parts and other things. There will be numerous instances where Raiden can regain his health and energy meter by cutting specific parts so he can absorb fluids from enemies’ spines. This whole concept is called “Zandatsu.” Along with parrying, Zandatsu is the key to survival as it is the main way for Raiden to regain lost health. Once some enemies are stunned ready to be executed, Zandatsu can be activated that way as well.
Raiden’s arsenal of moves with his high frequency blade are not as deep as, say, the Devil May Cry games, but his move set is still effective against opposition when mixing up light and heavy attacks. As stated earlier, Metal Gear Rising is not about getting graded on stylish offense, but there are definitely some stylish set pieces Raiden gets to do throughout the game even though most of them are quicktime events. Despite that, those set pieces are the craziest I played through in a long time, but this is expected coming from Platinum and the series. In classic Metal Gear style, Raiden can sneak up and instant kill enemies from behind. AR Mode, this game’s version of Batman’s detective mode, can show enemy movements that are helpful in planning your next attack and finding item locations. Other than his main sword, he does have access to more weapons after defeating certain bosses to expand his repertoire and sub-weapons from rocket launchers and various grenades even though they are not as useful in regular combat. In addition, Ripper Mode, this game’s version of devil trigger or rage mode, is at your disposal if you want to dish out more damage against your opponents.
The boss battles in Metal Gear Rising are another reason why this game is up there with some of the best games of the genre. This game is an example of how to do boss battles right from a gameplay standpoint and also general spectacle. Executing well in these fights, both offensively and defensively with parrying are the most satisfying moments I personally experienced in quite some time. These fights are not fought the same way unlike another action game that came out earlier this year as they put your combat skills to the test on normal and harder difficulties. Speaking of difficulties, Revengeance does encourage multiple playthroughs on harder difficulties and max out Raiden’s stats and move set while finding numerous collectables. There are also unlockable outfits to buy with experience points gained in the main story mode. Besides the main game, which is about four to six hours in your first playthrough, challenging VR missions are available to increase the game’s replay value to further test your skills. Sure, the game is a little shorter than many thought, but it is an amazing four to six hours filled with intense action.
If there is one major flaw in this game, it is the camera issues. The camera can be your worst enemy most of the time because it can angle you at awkward times against the opposition. Blade mode and parrying are also pivotal to the camera as well. Parrying in the wrong direction can happen because of a certain camera angle. This is more of an issue against some of the bigger bosses in Rising where you sometimes can’t see an incoming attack from above unless you adjusted the camera a bit. With blade mode, the camera can be a problem when trying to perform specific slices unless it is adjusted with the left stick. The camera could of been better especially in a game like this, but it does prevent the game from being action game perfection. There are also minor framerate hitches whenever you complete an enemy section waiting for the gate to clear. In addition, the Ninja Run does not go your way at times when navigating through narrow obstacles or dealing with platforming sections even though there are not a lot of them.
Revengeance looks amazing just because it runs at 60 frames per second, which is a necessity for a character action game these days. Sure, some games in this genre are fine with 30 frames per second, but seeing Rising in 60 is truly satisfying from beginning to end. The CG cutscenes also look great as expected from Platinum and Konami. I mentioned earlier how amazing the boss battles are and the game’s soundtrack plays along with that. The heavy metal tunes just add to how epic these fights get making them mean more. I also enjoyed the characters’ voice acting throughout the game and the numerous codec conversations that are also a Metal Gear staple. These codecs contain more background and backstory to the game’s storyline, but they are not mandatory to listen through if you just want to cut people up.
It is about time Raiden gets to shine in his own game and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance definitely lives up to the wait as well as the pedigree by both the series and Platinum Games. The game’s storyline is good enough and keeps things up about Metal Gear Solid 4 for fans of the franchise. It also surprisingly deals with philosophical ideas well compared to other games in the genre. The blade mode and parrying mechanics does separate the game from the rest of the pack giving it its own identity and play a major role in Raiden’s survival. The game is also filled with crazy set pieces and the most memorable boss battles of the genre in a while. The camera issues are Rising’s only major flaw. Other than that, the game runs amazing at 60 frames per second along with a pumped up soundtrack that shines in its big moments. Revengeance, to me, is a reminder that games can still be actual games and not theatrical interactive experiences that seem be the norm in this current generation of consoles. In other words, Metal Gear Rising is a straight up video game. Nothing more, nothing less.