STAFF REVIEW of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Xbox 360)

Friday, February 22, 2013.
by Adam Dileva

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Box art Metal Gear Rising, not Solid; this isn’t a story about the infamous Solid Snake or Big Boss, which is why the Solid has been dropped from the title. Rising is to distinguish that a new hero is at the forefront of this tale, someone that we’ve played before…unwillingly. If you’re a Metal Gear Solid fan like myself, you’re probably still a little bitter over the debacle of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. For those that aren’t in the know, essentially when the trailer was shown it depicted Snake in certain stages and it looked great. We all bought Metal Gear Solid 2 and had the ole bait and switch done to us. Sure we played Snake for a bit at the beginning, but then he was swapped out with a prissy looking man named Raiden and we kept waiting for the game to give us back control of our beloved Snake; it didn’t for the most part, and after all these years I still hold that grudge. Raiden returned in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and he was given a much cooler style as he was half cyborg at that point.

Going from a character that we loved to hate, to a bad ass cyborg ninja, it seems Raiden was finally star in his own game once Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (referred to here on as Rising or Revengeance) was announced; but Revengeance almost never came to be. Four years ago when Rising was announced it was intended to bridge the gap between Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4 (3 was a prequel) and by Hideo Kojima himself. After realizing that they were unable to make the game they wanted based on the swordplay mechanic it was quietly cancelled, but in 2011 something unexpected happened. It seemed that Rising had been passed off to Platinum Games (known best for Bayonetta, Vanquish,and Mad World) to take the reins of development. This was a big deal, as it game Platinum Games more freedom to develop the game they envisioned but keep correspondence with Kojima Productions to help with the basis. This is also when the name was changed to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. I’m not sure how Kojima, Konami, and Platinum Games have done it but they’ve managed to salvage Raiden’s image and he’s no longer on my hate list; quite the opposite in fact.

Taking place four years after the events from Metal Gear Solid 4, Risings plot focuses on the cyborg ninja Raiden and his fight against Desperado Enterprises, a private military company. Private Military Companies (PMC’s) are employing more and more cyborg technology as it’s become prevalent since the fall of the Patriots which is causing uneasiness and constant battles to gain more power. Raiden works for the peaceful PMC Maverick Security and has vowed to save lives rather than being the killing machine he was once known to be at a younger age; Jack the Ripper.

Not wanting to be a solider on the battlefield any longer, Raiden now works as private security, escorting a VIP when they are attacked by other cyborg ninjas, namely one called Samuel Rodrigues. The two do battle and Raiden falls, almost completely broken and mangled. Maverick Security is able to reconstruct Raiden into a better, stronger, and more lethal version of his formal self after the incident and this leaves Raiden looking for revenge and vengeance (do you get the clever Revengeance title now?). Raiden is reconstructed by his PMC, and his search for Sam and the company he's working for, Desperado Enforcement LLC., drives him into a quest for vengeance. I won’t go into too much more details about the plot, as it keeps the carrot dangling in front of you long enough to want to find out what happens, but also because it’s so short that it would ruin almost the rest of the game. While Revengeance might technically be a spin-off of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, it does take place in the same universe and expands the main lore even further.

Raiden’s weapon of choice is his trusty Katana that he not only wields in his hands, but with his feet as well. Playing as Raiden is absolutely nothing like playing as Snake or Big Boss. While in the Metal Gear series you’re generally trying to be as stealthy as possible and not be noticed, Rising is the complete opposite, with an emphasis on action, sword fighting, and combat prowess. There is one section in Rising that forces you to go the stealthy route, but for the most part you’ll be given an option, though I highly suggest putting Raiden’s battle skills to use as you earn Battle Points from defeating enemies which can then in turn be put towards upgrading Raiden’s weapons and abilities (amongst other things). Raiden likes to face his challenges head on, so don’t deprive him of what he was born to do.

While Raiden’s weapon of choice will always be his blade that seems to harness the power of lighting, he is also able to equip and use secondary items such as grenades, rocket launchers, and more. As you defeat bosses along his journey, you’ll gain access to their weaponry as well which can then be used as a sub weapon. You have light attacks which cut horizontally and heavy attacks which slice vertically. While most games have you memorize long and confusing strings of button combinations to perform in combat efficiently, Raiden is quite different, as he more relies on parrying which will lead into his own combos of attacks, lifts, spins, juggles, and more. Raiden makes his entire attack skills look so easy and seamless, transitioning to one attack from another without any hesitation; the gameplay feels just as smooth as well. Once you get a few levels in and really wrap your head around the combat, what works and doesn’t, you’ll feel almost invincible when you’re parrying attacks from all sides and taking out a horde of enemies one by one with ease. This is where Risings big hook comes in: Blade Mode.

Almost any object in the game can be cut with Raiden’s katana, including enemies and much of the environment. Activating Blade Mode will slow down time and present a translucent blue line that represents the plane that you want to cut on. Rotate to any angle and cut away, as since it’s happening in slow motion, you could get in dozens upon dozens of intricate cuts through an enemy before even hitting the ground. Blade Mode allows you to precisely slice enemies and objects strategically, which will be needed when you need to disable a boss with very specific cuts or want to specifically cut off the left hands of enemies. Blade mode takes its toll on Raiden though and it will drain his fuel cell energy. To refill his fuel cells, and his health, he will need to perform a Zandatsu move upon a greatly injured enemy. This move will expose the enemies’ weakness, allowing Raiden to perform a final blow-like maneuver to refill his fuel cells and health, while making it look cool though of course.

Raiden’s most used combat tactic is his ability to almost sense incoming attacks, which he can then parry, regardless of how many enemies are surrounding him at a given moment (much like how combat in Assassin’s Creed works). This allows him to counterattack and pull off exciting combos that will surely open enemies up for a devastating Zandatsu attack. Raiden can also Ninja Dash which not only allows him to run with increased speed, but allows him to flow over and under objects with parkour and other ninja moves without any effort. As you complete battles you’ll be graded on your performance and receive a grade based on your actions. The higher the grade the more points you gain to spend towards upgrades for Raiden’s equipment and maneuvers.

If you’ve played previous games by Platinum Games, there’s no doubt you’ll compare it on the surface to Bayonetta (or even the new Devil May Cry), but the biggest difference I found with Rising is how powerful Raiden truly feels once you get the hang of the combat mechanics. There are a few tutorials and VR missions you can take to learn the basics, but you’re going to learn best by simply trying everything out for yourself and seeing what works best for you. Rising has a fantastic balance of offense versus defense, and the more masterful you become at combat, the less reactive you’ll have to play and can start to go on the offensive more often. You’re going to feel like a complete bad ass once you learn the combat mechanics and having a handful of giant mechs coming your way only excites you, to see how quickly you can brutalize them and make it look good.

Rising does have its flaws though and there were three major ones that stood out in my play session. The biggest problem is the tutorials, or the lack thereof. Sure the VR missions will teach you some things, but many of the core mechanics aren’t taught to you early on, or ever. Nowhere in the game does it teach you half of the things you need to really know; half way through the game I learned I could lock on to an enemy. Yea, half way through I figured it out myself by trial and error when the camera kept giving me grief in big battles. The same goes for Blade Mode; sure it teaches you how to use it, but not really the ‘why’, which is a complete game changer once you realize you can refill your health at any time. Once you know what you're doing however, Revengeance goes from fun combat mechanics to feeling like a truly bad ass cyborg ninja. It’s that big of a difference.

Second is the length of Rising. It’s extremely short and my final clock in was just around four hours long. Yea, I didn’t search for all the collectables or try and S-rank every battle, and true, the timer at the end doesn’t count cutscene time, but it still felt very short. If you know you aren’t going to play through the game multiple times, find all the hidden collectables, or try and score high on all of the VR missions, the full price tag might sting you a bit in the end. However, if you’re the type that wants to find every collectable, S-rank all the battles and VR missions, and play through the much more challenging difficulties, then you’ll find that there is plenty for you to do in Rising.

Lastly is the voice acting, and specifically when it comes to Raiden. Quinton Flynn returns as the voice actor, and I don’t remember his performance this shoddy in Metal Gear Solid 4, but to be fair it’s been quite a few years since I’ve played it. You would hope that the main character’s voice acting would be strong enough to carry the emotion and seriousness of his lines, but it seems very hit or miss, almost in every scene. Sometimes it feels like he’s trying way too hard and trying to mimic Christian Bale’s Batman voice, and other times he sounds way too sissy for the event that is unfolding in front of him. There are times where it’s perfect as well, especially with the purposeful dry one-liners, but it’s very inconsistent as a whole when it comes to the voice acting.

The best part of Rising aside from the constant high octane battles is easily the boss battles and crazy set pieces littered in each of Rising’s seven chapters. The boss battles are completely over the top and are intricate multiple-phase encounters that don’t disappoint. You’ll have to learn their attack patterns quickly if you want to survive, it’s just a shame there weren’t more bosses in the game, as they were easily the highlight of the whole package.

All of that being said, Metal Gear rising: Revengeance is a completely over the top action game that makes you feel immensely powerful once you learn the mechanics, albeit without the game’s help. There are some genuine hilarious moments and many subtle fan service moments that Metal Gear fans will thoroughly enjoy. The Solid may have been dropped from the title, and Snake may not be the hero this time around, but Raiden’s stock has certainly gone up with me in my books; if you were surly with how Metal Gear Solid 2 treated you and still haven’t forgiven Raiden yet, just as I was, give Rising a chance as long as you know this is absolutely nothing like a Metal Gear SOLID title, this is Metal Gear RISING. You know it doesn’t have much sub(sis)tance when it comes to game length, but you’ll completely enjoy it the whole way through.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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