Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Review

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Developer(s): Platinum Games
Publisher(s): Konami
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360
Review Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: February 19, 2013

Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Superman and Batman. Catelyn Stark and Cersei Lannister. Pop-culture has seen no shortage of characters that act as foils to one another. Today, we add the Metal Gear Solid franchise and Metal Gear Rising franchise to that most illustrious list. Solid relies on stealth elements, whereas Rising encourages you to approach combat with reckless abandon. Solid features a main character that is calm, cool and collected, even if a bit conflicted at times; Rising features a seemingly suave, irreverent, fashion conscious main character. Solid is serious in the manner in which it presents the game’s themes and story; Rising is eccentric and frenetic in such manners, and certainly contains no shortage of tongue-in-cheek story moments.

Metal Gear fans are likely to approach Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance with a healthy dose of skepticism. But, I implore those of you who remember Raiden as the terrifying—yet somewhat clownish—Jack the Ripper, to approach the game on its own merits. Revengeance is not trying to be a Metal Gear Solid game, and it doesn’t deserve to be treated like one. What you’ll find here is a splendid title, filled with all the hacking and slashing, and splashing of organic brain matter on walls that one could possibly want.   

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has you playing as Raiden, a biogenetically and biomechanically enhanced combat cyborg who specializes in all things sharp. You’ll spend most of the game going from warehouse to military base to sewer, back to a warehouse and then back to a sewer, only to end the chapter with an exhilarating boss fight. Along the way you’ll earn battle points to upgrade Raiden’s various weapons and other standard fare such as upgrades that increase health. You’ll also have plenty opportunity to find all sorts of goodies stashed throughout chapters that, when found, will unlock VR missions (essentially glorified tutorials), or concept art.


Enemies are well-varied and you’ll spend plenty of time during your first sit-down with the game learning the weaknesses of various enemies. Enemies are smart, too. They aren’t afraid to gang up on you, making crowd control an important aspect of combat; and, they often look for openings in your attacks to interrupt combos and push you into a defensive posture. The boss battles are, with the exception of the last one, done quite well. I found myself especially impressed with the first two bosses, a multi-armed, staff-wielding French cyborg named Mistral, and Monsoon, whose ace-in-the-hole is a Lego-body that can detach and reattach one of its many independent pieces at will.

Combat is especially important to Revengeance. The only way this game was going to work is if the focus of the development team was spot on… and it was. Combat flows beautifully, and I used “beautifully” specifically to emphasis how astonishingly pretty it is to watch Raiden dance around his enemies with such precision and strength. You feel the weight of the heavy blows, and the windy turn of his blade as it wisps through a torso on the more effortless strikes. Blade Mode changes everything though. When your attack meter is high enough you can enter this mechanic of mass-slaughter. Essentially, when activated, time slows down and Raiden cuts through anything in his path. Again, here the strikes are precise, effortless yet powerful. And, it’s extremely violent. Ever wondered what it’s like to slice someone right down the middle? Well, Revengeance allows you to do such a thing, as gruesome as it may be. Blade Mode is something that’s also used throughout the course of the game to add a layer of tactics. You’ll have to use Blade Mode to take out specific parts or weapons of an enemy in order to make them more vulnerable to normal attacks, and on some enemies, you’ll have to slice through several layers of armor before you get to the squishy bits that can be cut through—all only being possible with Blade Mode.

So, Revengeance gets right the parts that it absolutely had to. In fact, it absolutely nailed them, while providing many—what I call—“FUCK YEAH” moments along the way. But, it does have its fair share of problems. For starters, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a story that starts out so strong in the beginning, falter so much in the middle and end parts of the game. What I thought was going to be near-future commentary on the dangers of transnational corporations and private militaries quickly turned into a confused story about Raiden’s personal demons, only then to end with a truly bizarre boss fight in which the narrative attention of the player is pulled to a theme about freedom, war and the privatization and individualization thereof. There are a few technical issues as well. The camera is, at times, absolutely atrocious. It fights you every step of the way. Eventually, you’ll learn how it likes to be handled and you’ll be able to nudge it in the directions that you need it to go, but you shouldn’t have to do that. Many times during an intense group fight I died due to camera issues. The camera should focus on whichever direction an attack is coming from, but, instead the camera insists on pulling itself back to whatever direction Raiden is facing at any given time, and if there’s an enemy behind you—which is often the case—it makes timing a counterattack a needlessly tedious affair.

You’ll also run into problems when trying to retrieve items from crates you slashed into pieces or glass you hacked into shards. Often times, whatever box or glass cabinet you’ve reduced to many little pieces will fall on top of whatever it is you’re trying to get at that was inside said box or cabinet, thus rendering the object irretrievable. You literally have to sit there and wait for the many-pieced box or crate to fade away into nothingness before you are able to get at whatever was in the box. This seems like a minor complaint but it really does break up the otherwise excellent fast-paced action. It’s immersion breaking, and that’s all there is to it. Buttons, buttons, who’s got the buttons?! After the button-pressing fest that was Halo 4, I cringe slightly every time I run into a button-press sequence in a game. Revengeance is chalked full of them. Friends, Romans, Developers! Lend me your ears! I come here to bury button presses, not to praise them. Please, for the love of all that is good and just in this world, stop making me press buttons!


Now, we come to my biggest problem with Revengeance: the final boss. The entire game has you believing that your final confrontation will be with one of two extremely badass cyborgs, Samuel or Sundowner. Well kids, “Jk lols.” Not only is the boss someone you only see in one cutscene throughout the entirety of the game, but he’s a borderline insulting caricature of the American politician, and really quite laughable. That is, up until he breaks out almost every final boss cliché there is, and then he becomes downright deficient, completely substandard and inadequate in every way. After the first fighting sequence with this boss there is a second, and then a third, and then a third and a half. It progresses something like this: Defeat boss in first sequenceàFind out boss is invincible during second sequenceà Find out way to make him vulnerableàHe doesn’t appear to like that and becomes invulnerable againà Make him invulnerable againà He doesn’t like that either and decides to double his health and give himself an auto-heal that seems to kick in whenever the hell he wants it toà Engage in final, exhaustive sequence. The whole thing is contrived and lasts entirely too long. It feels cheap toward the player, especially considering that all the other bosses were done so well and with such imagination.    

This is also where the game tries to combine the theme of Raiden’s awkwardly told tale of redemption and revenge with some of the broader themes of the story, and boy does it come off as unnecessarily preachy. The whole sequence feels like an indictment of the West (how I despise that term), and its political and social values. It could just be the hyper-aware political part of me, but the whole thing made me feel a bit uncomfortable, like I wasn’t necessarily playing a game anymore and instead the game was trying to engage these high-minded philosophical ideas. It struck as something that belongs in the book of a radical revisionist historian, not in a videogame. Certainly, it was a part of the game where the focus on excellent combat was nowhere to be found.


Also, the game clocks in at somewhere between four and five hours long. Some reviewers have argued that any length issues are solved by multiple playing sessions, but I don’t think that’s the case at all. There really isn’t all that much replay value. If you do decide to replay the game, you’ll find that the higher difficulty doesn’t necessarily scale well with the leveled weapons you have access to from your previous play session, making playing on hard seem not all that different from playing on normal. Yes, you have a chance to go back and replay some areas where you might have missed some unlockable VR Missions, but the game doesn’t really force you to change the way you approach it in any way, which is what I’m looking for in any game that claims to have replay value. Really, the only reason to come back for more is to experience more of the awesome and addictive combat. Luckily for Revengeance that’s reason enough.

I’m not going to lie, there are a lot of things that really annoy me about this game and it was, at times, difficult for me to take seriously. But, when it comes down to it, it succeeds where it needs to and somehow manages to make me smile at some of its more absurdly idiotic moments. Overall, I very much enjoyed my time with Raiden and I absolutely cannot wait to see what future installments hold for players. 

Final Score “A Superb Spin-Off” 8.0
Graphics
The environments are generic and extremely uninteresting, not to mention that they look atrocious. I hope you like the color gray, because you’re going to be seeing a lot of it. Buildings are textured poorly, as it foliage and whatever it is you happen to be walking on at any given time. Thankfully, the character models are excellently done and the bosses and Raiden himself look really good. The weapon effects also look stunning. There are moments when the different hues of blues and purples surging forth from Raiden’s electrically charged weapons really could be described as beautiful.
7.5
Gameplay
A well-deserved score for a game that is an absolute blast to play. This is what it means to play a game in the purest sense. The pace of the action and a superbly built combat system make this game a pleasure.
9.0
Value
There are many who will decry the length of this game up against its $60 price tag. I’ll admit, I would have liked it to be a couple hours longer myself. I also happen to think that if you buy this with the intention of only playing it through once, than you shouldn’t buy it at all. This game deserves to be played multiple times, if only to experience, over and over again, the well-done combat.
7.5
Sound
I seem destined to review games that see this category bumped up by one point simply because the soundtrack is quite good. That’s the case here. The voice acting, for the most part, is pretty terrible, especially the voice acting for Raiden and Sundowner. But, the soundtrack steals the show and ultimately gives the game a higher score than it would have had otherwise.
7.0

Review by Jon Hamlin
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Jon Hamlin is a freelance game journalist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He plays too much Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and enjoys a good glass of wine. Occasionally, he can be found commanding his legion of doom on Xbox Live as GeniusPantsPhD. Follow him on Twitter @WordsmithJon, or email him at jonshamlin@gmail.com. All Articles by Jon.             


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