Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, as all fans of tactical espionage action and their grandmothers know, is the exciting new almost-sequel-but-mostly-spinoff of Hideo Kojima’s exalted Metal Gear franchise. The crazy things about this entry, of course are A) the genre shift from a stealth/shooter hybrid to a balls to the wall hardcore action game and B) Platinum Games being behind development with Hideki Kamiya (The freaking creator of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta) spearheading the insanity. This is not a Metal Gear game in the traditional sense. Pack up everything you thought you knew about the franchise (except for nanomachines of course) and get ready for one of the wildest rides the genre has to offer. Forget buckling up; seatbelts are for nerds.
To be honest, I would love to just say, “It’s awesome; buy it fools,” toss my computer across the room, and get back to slicing cyborg cops and gekkos into slivers. Sadly, life is cruel, and demands that I must explain why Revengeance has set the bar so high for 2013.
Raiden handles like a dream. Remember how smooth and fluid Bayonetta felt? Forget it; Revengeance makes it seem like molasses. The game doesn’t do the best job of making it easy to figure out how to perform techniques and use items beyond the basics, but once you figure out how to do everything the controller will feel more like an extension of yourself rather than something you have to battle against in order to make progress. While not as cerebral as say, Devil May Cry (pre DmC), you can make full use of every tool at Raiden’s disposal in full cooperation with one another. Both light and heavy attacks blend with each other seamlessly no matter where in your combo you press them, and extra unlockable techniques make for excellent combo tricks that will cancel from just about anything. It isn’t without problems, though. Every now and then the game decides to pay homage to its legacy by forcing stealth sections on you. They are brief and not terribly demanding (and sometimes avoidable), but the mechanics do not lend themselves at all to being sneaky and nothing is really done to compensate. They’re awkward and not very fun, especially when you’ve been spending the past few hours bouncing around like the true ninja/samurai/cyborg you are.
Additionally, Revengeance is a wonderful, wonderful action game because of how earnestly it attempts to avoid QTEs. They are present, largely at the explosive ends of boss fights, but 90% of the zaniness shown off in the trailers is something you can actively do as a part of the regular game mechanics. Free-running up and across uneven terrain, tearing enemies to pieces, and even hopping across a barrage of missiles in order to reach enemy helicopters are all possible without having to honor countless lazy button prompts. This gives the game a much more natural feel and really takes the action to a new level that you won’t get in games like God of War.
With regards to presentation, Revengeance oozes style, but the graphics aren’t that great. The animations are slick and super creative of course, but the character models, textures, and environments leave a little to be desired. It’s especially noticeable if you compare Raiden in Revengeance to Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 4. However, Revengeance makes up for its graphical shortcomings with technical prowess. During gameplay it consistently runs at sixty frames per second. It doesn’t matter how much crap is exploding on-screen, it never falters. The soundtrack is a mixed bag; when it works it’s great, but other times it falls into the background. It’s a little disappointing considering how great the Anarchy Reigns soundtrack was, Platinum Games’s previous effort, but the gameplay itself creates so much noise (both audibly and visually) you’ll hardly notice.
The crux of Revengeance is the “free cutting” mechanic. The game is tailored around Raiden’s sword and its unearthly cutting ability. When you defeat enemies or attack destructible objects, they separate wherever the sword hits them. In addition to that, you can make use of “zandetsu,” which slows down time and allows you to strike with pinpoint accuracy (assuming you’re good enough) and potentially slice your foes into ribbons. This technique is Raiden’s ultimate tool for both destruction and survival, both serving as a flashy finisher, and a way to get through tougher enemies’ defenses. It also helps you out when bosses are hurling gigantic chunks of building at you. The game throws casual gamers a bone by allowing you to simply press a button to make horizontal or vertical slices, but more skilled gamers can use both analog sticks to line up cuts at any angle. It doesn’t quite let you use the buttons as a crutch, though, and by the end of the game you’re eased into learning to master the sticks by forcing you to use them in various ways.
You can’t talk about a Metal Gear game without mentioning the story, and Revengeance certainly has one, for better or worse. The plot definitely takes a backseat to the action (as it should), but what is present ranges from amusingly silly and borderline intriguing to nonsensical and annoying. It certainly serves its purpose, and eventually offers some new insight into Raiden’s character, but far too often it feels like a side story or some non-canonical silliness would have been more appropriate than a “sequel” to Metal gear Solid 4. There are far too many moments in which story threads from the previous game that you’d think are important are brought up only to be glossed over or brushed aside. For example, Raiden’s family, one of the most important parts of his story in Metal Gear Solid 4, is hardly acknowledged.
That said, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an awesome game, and probably Kamiya’s best directorial effort yet. It’s very short, but lends itself well to speed runs and replays with plenty of unlockable upgrades and weapons to play around with. It is the most mechanically brilliant 3rd-person action game I have played in a long time and I would definitely not say no to further installments of what could possibly be a rad new spinoff franchise.
Pros: Works fantastically as both a crazy new entry in the Metal Gear series and a brilliant new title in the Platinum Games canon.
Cons: The writing is kind of weird at times and the forced stealth sections are awkward.
Value: Sixty dollars might seem like too much to those who only run through once, but the experience and replay value is well worth your investment.
Verdict: I ran across a volley of missiles and sliced an attack helicopter into scrap metal in slow motion. What do you think?