I've experienced years of frustration with Metal Gear Solid. Despite acknowledging the series' brilliance, the stealth-or-be-killed gameplay wasn't designed for players who want the instant gratification of eliminating bad guys. This is where Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance comes in. Platinum Games, the esteemed studio behind Bayonetta and Vanquish, asks an important question: what happens when you take a classic series and think completely outside the cardboard box?
Raiden's adventure is unlike anything we've seen from Hideo Kojima's franchise. Much like my insidious dealings with Metal Gears of the past, this title is a proverbial stress ball to all those who have suffered frustration during Solid Snake's era. You don't need a silenced pistol, health rations or active camouflage, nor do you need to tiptoe around enemies with the fear of an exclamation mark ushering in the boys. Raiden possesses a sword, years of pent up anger, and the desire to save children from having their brains harvested.
Size doesn't matter, right?
Exciting combat is Platinum's staple diet. The studio crafted one of gaming's greatest feats of balletic savagery in Bayonetta, and it must be said, Revengeance's system is up there with the best. After a gruesome beating, Raiden receives improved cyborg enhancements that ready him for a globe-trotting journey to end the shading dealings of Desperado Enforcement. He is “DOOMPed” into action with little remorse, but as the story progresses, begins to question his role in a complex struggle for power.
Raiden strikes with great ferocity. He is nimble, strong, and most importantly, accurate. Although Platinum ground combat with the usual array of light and heavy attacks, these should be considered jabs before the knock-out punch. A flurry of successful hits will see Raiden's energy fill up, letting the girly-haired ninja unleash Blade Mode and release a Zandatsu attack. This dramatically slows time down and places complete control of the blade in your ability to swipe with the right stick. Raiden will mimic any flick of movement; a realisation that serves up endlessly satisfying results.
Torsos will be split in half, heads will be removed. If you want to see an enemy hop around in despair, why not remove his right leg? Vitally, this barbarianism is far more than sadistic visual aid. You will encounter a diverse set of enemies throughout the story's 6-7 hour playtime and should adapt your strategy accordingly.
Most testing of the usual grunts is the Mastiff; a Silverback type that loves to squash Raiden with a snuggle. This attack has a slightly unfair reach and, once embraced, forces you into wiggling the right stick to escape. Targeting the mechanical gorilla's arms with a well-placed slice eliminates the danger and provides a moment of humour as the giant stumbles back and forth without the ability to grab.
Saving yourself from pain is just as important as dealing it out. Visual cues indicate if you can block an incoming move and whether or not you should move out of the way. If the enemy sparks yellow, get yourself to safety. Blocks are executed by flicking the left stick towards an opponent and pressing X at the correct time. This may seem bloated and difficult, but the action involves players so much more than holding a button until your opposite is worn out. You are forced to feel every blow, as every clatter of steal must be reacted upon if you want to survive.
This is most apparent in boss battles. You'll encounter The Winds of Despair, four cyborgs who possess a daunting set of skills. French mademoiselle Mistral harnesses the power of (many) robotic arms, while the red-faced Monsoon mockingly spreads his body into many pieces, making it difficult to cut. Metal Gears are also brought into the action and amount to some of the game's finer set-pieces.
Unfortunately, the final boss succumbs to a horrific difficulty spike and is a cheap way to conclude a fantastic new vision of Kojima's brand. Without putting the dampeners on too readily, the last fight matches up with Deus Ex: Human Revolution's terrible boss battles. Platinum would do well to issue some sort of tweak in a future patch.
Other problems do arise throughout the campaign. Camera issues plague encounters with certain enemies. Winged cyborgs are difficult to see and properly target, while incoming attacks from those off screen sometimes catch Raiden out. Your overseeing crew will also tell you to progress through areas quietly, but levels aren't designed to do so. Although a number of stealth kills will be performed, it's only a matter of time before everything kicks off again. Worst of all, there's an encounter with a small boy whose accent and subtitled dialogue is so cringe-worthy it's almost offensive.
Being a Metal Gear title, Platinum Games have done well to include a number of nods to the wider franchise. Sneaking beyond the gaze of highly-advanced cyborgs in a cardboard box or oil drum still promotes a chuckle. If you look carefully enough, one room in the latter section of the game is full of watermelons for you to chop up, just like the original gameplay presentation. Posters of big-boobed Japanese women make an appearance, and until you cut attempts to cover it up, will remain unseen.
One feline plays a huge role in the story. This? He needs to be extermined
Franchise aficionados will know how convoluted Metal Gear plots can be. Revengeance also stumbles into preachy territory and tries to provide comment on America, politics and terrorism. This is expected for the most part and doesn't become too overbearing until the final hour, where cutscenes take an even greater role in proceedings. If the sociocultural commentary becomes too much, Virtual Reality missions offer a direct chance to get down and dirty.
Platform Played:Xbox 360
METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE VERDICT
Even so, Platinum Games should be commended for a fine effort. Whether you struggle with Metal Gear Solid or love Kojima’s creation all the way through, give this a chance. In the same way as Bayonetta, this title flourishes under a combat system that provides players with power. Although there are a few technical hiccups and misplaced inclusions along the way, Raiden’s solo offering is a memorable and highly-important addition to the long-standing Metal Gear name.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The combat. Slicing and dicing enemy cyborgs never gets old.