There have been Metal Gear video games in the past that strayed from the traditional stealth action formula that’s made the series so wildly popular. None of them quite hold a candle to the extremes Platinum Games’ Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance goes to deliver its one-of-a-kind experience.
Heavily steeped in Platinum’s action roots, Revengenace delivers a full-frontal assault of non-stop insanity from one moment to the next. Focused solely on Metal Gear Solid’s pretty boy-turned cyborg Raiden, and featuring a core mechanic based on cutting anything you want into tiny pieces with a sword, Revengeance shows the Metal Gear universe has plenty of room for new ideas.
For those of you worried that you’ll need a hefty encyclopedia of Metal Gear Solid history in order to pick up and play Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, you’ll be glad to know that’s not the case. While longtime series fans will certainly get more from the game’s cameos and natural extension of the plot from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Revengeance does stand on its own.
That said, the plot in this spin-off is just as bizarre and occasionally convoluted as any of the prior Metal Gear games. Though there aren’t nearly as many lengthy cut scenes slowing down the action, Revengeance does echo themes and key elements from Hideo Kojima’s perception of the ever-changing landscape of war and government. However, in this offshoot the emphasis is on the action. While there is certainly a plot leading Raiden along his adventure, the narrative is secondary to the gameplay.
Revengeance’s big hook is with the ability to play as Raiden, you’ll be capable of pulling off impressive combat maneuvers, have super-strength, and wield a sword that can cut through watermelons as easily as a giant mech’s legs. The amazing abilities he possesses are on display almost immediately when you’ll be tasked with fending off Metal Gear Ray in the opening sequence of the game.
While you do supposedly have the option to sneak through a given level old school style if you want, there’s absolutely no incentive to do so. Plus, whatever sneaking mechanics have been included (yes, you can still hide in a box), don’t work anywhere near as well as they do in Metal Gear Solid titles. All of that’s perfectly fine though, as you’ll discover you never want to avoid combat since slicing and dicing enemies to bits is both incredibly addictive and fun.
Platinum earned its action hallmark on titles like MadWorld and Bayonetta. Metal Gear Rising’s combat is superior to MadWorld’s, but doesn’t quite capture the depth of a title like Bayonetta (or its inspiration Devil May Cry). That’s perfectly fine though, as there’s still plenty of strong combat to enjoy here, as long as you’re willing to put in the time to learn how to fight properly. There’s a bit of a hefty learning curve early on, especially because the game doesn’t do a very good job of explaining how to play.
At first the VR Missions appear to be a secondary mode to get more out of Revengeance, but the brief missions are actually quite important to learning the intricacies of combat. It’s a shame the proper game doesn’t tell you more about the parrying system, target locking, or even explain how to pull of Raiden’s combos. Sure, button mashing might get you through some segments, but it’s certainly not going to be much help later in the game, or when battling a boss.
Parrying is one of the most crucial aspects of Revengeance’s combat to learn. When an enemy is about to strike, a red flash will glimmer off the foe’s body. Time your block right, and Raiden will parry the attack, beginning a Zandatsu counter. The game will switch to slow motion and enter blade mode, where you have complete and utter control over Raiden’s sword. You can pick your attack spots at will, and slice and dice opponents to shreds. Certain foes have key target spots to hit on their bodies indicated by a red box. If you slice through those, you’ll give Raiden the chance to steal an enemy’s energy source for his own use. It’s very empowering and satisfying to pull off Zandatsu attacks, and blade mode (which can be activated at any time based on a energy meter), is equally as impressive.
If you’re not able to get the hang of parrying though, combat becomes incredibly cumbersome. Not only that, but you’ll also be missing out on Zandatsu, one of the key components of Revengeance’s combat. It’s really disappointing Platinum left so much of the gameplay to hinge on this one particular aspect. While you can still block attacks even if you don’t manage to parry them, blocking accomplishes nothing, save for keeping your health up. Of course, if you do figure it out, and you can get the knack for how Raiden actually controls, Revengeance’s combat results in a euphoria you’ve never experienced in a Metal Gear game before. This is especially true during the insanely over-the-top boss battles, which stand out as some of the best in the whole franchise merely based on how personal and intimate the encounters are.
The boss battles are also pretty memorable for Platinum’s unique selections for the score during those segments. The standard game moments have a decent, if unmemorable, soundtrack, but the boss encounters have added personality thanks to the rocking tracks used to accentuate the action. As the tide of battle turns in Raiden’s favor, and the action becomes more intense, so do the vocal tracks accompanying each different boss. Mistral’s theme stands out above the rest, though Jetstream Sam also has a very iconic song attributed to his fight as well. It also helps that the bosses are really the only other characters in the game with any personality. All the other characters are rather unremarkable, making Raiden’s brief encounters with these (somewhat), realized antagonists more engaging.
Oddly enough, where most Metal Gear games have continually pushed the envelope in their presentation, Revengeance is rather average. It’s not a bad looking game by any means, but there are definitely more characters and locations that got more attention than the rest of the game. Raiden’s adventure is limited in scope as well, as there are really only a handful of settings during the game’s seven-chapter campaign. If you’re able to overlook some of the more mundane moments, and enjoy the flashy animations and moves on display, there’s a lot to like about Revengeance. Some of the levels do feel like corridors guiding you to the next boss fight, and can be a bit boring. However, once that sword comes out, all is forgiven. You know, provided you’ve gotten accustomed to the combat.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance did have a troubled development cycle, but it’s fortunate Platinum was able to salvage this game. Though its gameplay isn’t nearly as deep as some of its contemporaries, it is just as rewarding. You will have to make some concessions though to really appreciate this game, and being a Metal Gear fan certainly helps to overlook flaws like the inconsistent parrying. There haven’t been many games to provide such an astounding swordplay engine though, and for all its shortcomings, Revengeance is still a solid game that should be proud to bear the Metal Gear brand.
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.