Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Review
Chances are that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has been on your radar for some time. Announced years ago, the game has changed hands, styles and developers on its road to retail, and like many titles in the same predicament, some wondered if it would ever see release. Finally, in the expert hands of action game aficionados Platinum Games, the Metal Gear spin-off is real and available, and series also-ran hero Raiden is now taking center stage in a way that won't enrage Solid Snake's fanbase (oh, Metal Gear Solid 2...). On paper, Revengeance is a slam dunk: robot ninja + swords and guns + fan-favorite series spin-off + fantastic, seasoned developer = perfect action game, right? Almost. Revengeance is a solid effort and a nice turn on a series not exactly known for gameplay, but something still feels like it is missing from Raiden's bag of robotic ninja tricks.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance follows the confusing, overblown events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, but thankfully there is only passing, occasional mention made of the events of the Metal Gear Solid series. Hideo Kojima, the man behind Metal Gear, passed off the reins on Revengeance to Platinum long enough ago that his trademarks - unintelligible storylines, clumsy gameplay and 40-minute long cutscenes - are nowhere to be found in this action title. Instead, Revengeance follows its own post-MGS4 path with a story based around Raiden's work with for-profit military companies. After a bloody and disfiguring incident in a developing African nation, Raiden is rebuilt as a cyborg (even more so than he was in MGS4) and ends up going rogue in a fight against a shadowy company using kids' brains in an army of synthetic warriors. As crazy as the plot sounds, it is downright digestible vanilla when compared to some of the nonsense the Metal Gear Solid games asked gamers to swallow, and it works well throughout Raiden's adventure. A late-in-the-game shift in Raiden's character, a shift that doesn't work and flies in the face of everything we have come to know about the character, is the only misstep plotwise, but Revengeance works and benefits from being handled by writers new to the Metal Gear universe.
The departure from the Metal Gear Solid series doesn't end with plot, the gameplay in Revengeance is completely different than anything seen in any of Solid Snake's games. Remember clumsily fumbling to use Raiden's sword in the final boss battle of Metal Gear Solid 2? I do, and it isn't a pleasant memory. Raiden is a completely different animal in Revengeance. He controls and plays about how you'd expect he would in the hands of the people behind MadWorld, Anarchy Reigns, Bayonetta and Vanquish - awesome. With a full compliment of sword-based attacks at his disposal, Raiden plays like a dream in combat. Much like Bayonetta, the range of movement available to the player is stunning, and what can seem like button-mashy action at first is actually quite deep and refined. Fully-fleshing things out is Blade Mode, the game's main action showpiece; a press of a button zooms the camera to over Raiden's shoulder and give the player complete control of the ninja's sword. The right analog stick (or easier-to-use button presses) governs the direction of the blade and allows players to chop up anything in sight with laser like precision. This mode becomes a little finicky when used in boss battles late in the game - EXTREME precision becomes required and can be a little frustrating - but overall it is crazy awesome and a ton of fun to play and experiment with. My only real beef with combat is the blocking mechanism. It is overly touchy and parrying can become the most challenging part of some fights, which feels like an unpleasant contrast to the general skill needed in doling out punishment. Other than that, Revengeance's gameplay is always entertaining and tightly balanced.
One thing that Revengeance does hang on to in the steps away from the Metal Gear series is the boss battles. I suppose Platinum Games' titles all feature awesome, larger-than-life encounters with seemingly insurmountable foes, but it is something the Metal Gear games always had so I guess you could see it either way. Though you'll see less than 10 major boss fights over the course of the game (with at least two being identical repeats of bosses already bested), each has a flair and style all its own. One of the first, a multipart battle against a fully functioning Metal Gear, is among the best, and only one of the encounters feels like a shallow disappointment (sadly, this fight, against Monsoon, is one of the repeated boss battles - it sucks... twice). Overall, Revengeance is a game for those with a thirst for huge set piece boss fights, much like previous Platinum Games adventures and Metal Gear games alike.
I wanted to touch quickly on a final positive and a final negative before I wrap things up. The positive is that over the course of Raiden's adventure, bested bosses' weapons become instruments of death in the ninja's capable hands. Old school gamers remember the joy of using a bad guy's trademark against his brethren in games like Mega Man, and it feels great to see this forgotten idea return to modern gaming. It helps that one of the first bosses has a staff that is unmatched in combat against multiple foes, and the other weapons aren't half-bad either. My last negative isn't indicative of how I felt personally about the game, but others may consider it a smudge of the overall experience. A gamer of average skill can probably finish Revengeance is between 5-6 hours total. My first time through came in at about five hours, with my second playthrough topping out at just over four. Personally, I felt that if the game were any longer it would have worn out its welcome, but many - especially online - are furious over the adventure's length, hence it being listed as a negative here.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance isn't the best action game ever, nor is it Platinum Games' best effort (I still hand the crown to Vanquish, but MadWorld is right up there, too). It is a little short and can get frustrating in its final scenes. What it is, though, is one of the best games with "Metal Gear" in the title and a thrill ride for anyone even mildly interested in swords, robots, huge boss fights and/or fast-paced action. And the best part is there isn't a sitcom-length cutscene anywhere in sight!
Final Rating: 78%. A little short and a little frustrating, but it's still more of a thrill ride than any other Metal Gear game to date.