Michael Johnson finds out if Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a worthy port for PC gamers
For many PC Gamers, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance marks a welcome return for Konami's popular franchise to the PC. But just as significantly it also marks the PC debut of Platinum Games, whose lunatic brilliance shone in titles like Vanquish and Bayonetta.
So how does Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance stack up to those titles, while shouldering the weight of the cumbersome Metal Gear Franchise? In fact it stacks up rather well indeed, the excess and style of Platinum Games' creative vision is a good fit for the Hollywood-meets-anime styling of Metal Gear and returning hero Raiden has long since graduated from the effete disappointment of Metal Gear Solid 2, having since transformed into a ludicrously growly voiced cyborg ninja. Thanks to his range of swords and free-running ability he is actually fun to control. In a break from Metal Gear tradition, where characters usually perform amazing feats of physical endurance and strength in cut-scenes before reverting to fragile humanity when we actually get our hands on them, here the disconnect is less evident, with plenty of the game's spectacle being under our control.
The giant robot quota required of a Metal Gear game is suitably filled
In terms of actually playing Revengeance, it feels pretty much like a direct continuation of Platinum's work with the Bayonetta franchise, with bravura action sequences meeting an extremely robust combat system. Playing as Raiden you chain together attacks and combos using a mixture of light and strong attacks to wear foes down. A great deal of importance has been placed on the players ability to parry enemy attacks by using the right trigger and analogue stick. A well timed parry leaves a window of opportunity for Raiden to enter Zandatsu mode, where time slows down and you can control with precision the strokes of Raiden's sword, allowing you to cleave and chop your foes into a heap of blood and metal. It should be noted that while there is rudimentary support for playing Revengeance with a keyboard and mouse, it was designed with a controller in mind and the controls can feel a little alien and ill-fitting should you attempt to play without one.
The mechanics of combat are well executed and the game looks spectacular throughout. While it's unfortunate that the resolution of the game is capped at 1920x1080, the game still looks fantastic on PC running at a steady 60 FPS throughout on the mid-end machine used for this review. Zandatsu mode in particular feels a little like a technical marvel; what at first appears to be a gimmick, quickly becomes a tool for innovation and separates Revengeance from its peers like the stylistically similar DMC. Once you get past the initial hurdles to controlling Raiden you'll find yourself unleashing spectacular combos, dodging and parrying with precision before slicing your foes into wafer thin strips of meat. Executing the proper attacks even allows Raiden to restore his health, meaning you can flit from one encounter to the next pausing only to listen to the boring babble of the cast of supporting characters.
Our old friend 'stupid amounts of lens flare' returns during a tense encounter
Boss battles provide a different challenge to the steady fodder populating most levels. Defeating one of these colourful characters usually boils down to working out which attacks to avoid, which to counter and when to strike - but neat touches abound. Red-neck cyborg samurai Sundowner for instance has an explosive shield, requiring you to counter him and carve the shield up with precise sword strokes before he becomes vulnerable. Revengeance remains challenging without being frustrating throughout its play-time, with harder difficulties and a score-chasing aspect to the game offering opportunity to those who want to seek mastery over the combat.
Outside of the fighting and the slicing, Revengeance is slightly less successful. Early in the game an excess of cut-scenes and codec conversations slow down the action. While not on a par with Metal Gear Solid's over-indulgence in non-interactive exposition, many of the characters will try to engage with Raiden in lengthy debates of the nature of ideals and 'memes'. Conversely when the cut-scenes aim for the action-movie jugular they're far more successful - cyborgs on motorbikes, katana wielding robot dogs and aeroplanes being sliced in half all make an appearance. Don't get me wrong, I do admire that the Metal Gear Franchise tries to engage with history, politics and philosophy. The problem comes from the level at which it's pitched and the ludicrous juxtaposition imposed by moving from a katana wielding cyborg samurai indiscriminately slaughtering alongside his robot dog, to earnest discussions of the horrors of war. At times it feels like a undergraduate philosophy student giving you a patronising lecture on morality, which is rarely a welcome occurrence, the skip button is somehow a less satisfying conclusion to such an encounter than the real world solution of punching the offending philosopher square in the nose.
The game is spectacularly pretty at times, with an excess of style
Revengeance feels a little bit like what it is – a game made by two different studios, both doing the thing they're most well known for. Platinum Games give us systems and fights to test and challenge our reflexes, the occasional annoying QTE and some of the most spectacular action set-pieces you're likely to see on PC this year. Kojima Productions give us a storyline and cut-scenes that provide action thrills, yet are let down by a po-faced examination of the world's ills, simplifying complex moral matters into black and white (apart from one character, who manages to retain an air of mystery and ambiguity). The two aspects of the game occasionally butt heads, with certain characters advising a stealthy approach - utilising the Metal Gear franchise's signature cardboard box. The problem with this approach is that during each chapter you're graded for your combat prowess and stealthily avoiding encounters is likely to net you a far lower score. It's a case of the storyline and the mechanics being at cross-purpose, pulling the player toward different goals (although I'm sure Hideo Kojima would try to claim it's intentional).
METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE VERDICT
Despite the flaws and interruptions of the story and presentation, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a superior title. Platinum Game’s genius for creating thrilling action games and simple to learn, yet difficult to master combat systems is in full effect here. If you’re a fan of the Metal Gear franchise you should consider Revengeance an essential purchase. Otherwise it will depend on your tolerance for cod-philosophy and hilarious(ly bad) voice acting.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Several of the boss battles hit the sweet spot of providing a stern challenge without ever frustrating, hitting that perfect counter and slicing your foes apart with precision remains a thrill throughout.