Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a slice n’ dice action game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game is a spin-off from the seminal and iconic Metal Gear Solid series, where the game’s star, Raiden first made his appearance in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. His crazier cyborg appearance from Metal Gear Rising, however, first shows up in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriot, where he swoops in to save Old Snake by doing insane cyborg ninja dancing to dice up tough enemies. Kojima Productions originally started developing the title back in 2009, but after years with no substantial progress and realizing they couldn’t achieve the action the game deserved, the game went through limbo after showing off some pieces of fleshed out material. After going dark on the project, Hideo Kojima met with Platinum Games’ Atsushi Inaba and soon the game was back alive in 2011 and now under the adept hands of Platinum Games. Now, after a long road to completion and far away from development nightmares, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is slashing through boxes into gamers’ consoles. Does Raiden’s first solo adventure cut through the arteries or does it get stuck before cleaving through the body?
Metal Gear Rising takes place after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Now PMCs (Private Military Companies) and cyborg technology are proliferating rampant in the world. With more cyborg enhancements available PMCs are beefing up their forces with new tech leading to highly augmented foot soldiers who are more capable than ever before. Raiden is with Maverick, a PMC, who is currently protecting an African Prime Minister N’Mani, while his country recovers from a civil war. As Raiden and N’Mani are driving around, a cybrogian swordsman, Sam, stops them and kills the armed guard leading their procession.
Raiden is not down forever though because Maverick rebuilds him into a better, stronger killing machine with enhanced cybogian tech and a cool new black look. Now equipped with new tech and a purpose, Raiden is out for revenge on Desperado. The trail on Desperado is not a straight line and Raiden has to pick up the scent again. As he tracks down areas where Desperado is rumored to be active, he learns more information about the PMC and the more he learns, the angrier and ragier he gets. Not only does Raiden want revenge, but he wants vengeance. Raiden is out for revengeance.
The story in Metal Gear Rising is tightly scripted and paced incredibly well. There is no filler in the story and it moves from one logical mission to the next without any need to lengthen the story artificially. Metal Gear Rising fits perfectly within the themes and motifs that Platinum Games deals with typically with cyborgs and soldiers and revenge. While it does have Platinum’s quirky little flairs, it is tempered with Kojima-isms and working with Kojima has lead to a cohesive and smart story. The game raises some interesting and not pretentious questions on what it means to be human when technology is so proliferate and ubiquitous, what it means to be a soldier in light of cyborg enhancements and who gets the right to judge what is moral in this culture of technical augmentation. In addition, the game never loses focus on adding layers to Raiden’s character and during the game, his character goes through some stuff and psychologically the player gets a glimpse at what makes Jack tick.
How can anyone really describe in words the joy that is the combat in Metal Gear Rising? It is visceral, fluid and intuitive for a start. Combat is made up of light and heavy attacks while using Ninja Run to augment each leading to visually compelling combos. Once an enemy has been weakened enough, the player can enter Blade Mode to cut things into slivers. There is elegance to the initial move set of Raiden’s HF Blade, which is a good mix of light and heavy attacks for devastating results. Moves can be upgraded between missions, as well as new weapons purchased (after beating the right boss) to add variety to basic combat.
There is an insane degree of control while in Blade Mode and performing Zandatsu. Although, it does take a moment to acclimate to angling things just right, but once that is over, players will be slicing and quartering enemies into sashimi. The Ninja Run is the answer to making chase scenes cinematic and dynamic without taking the control from the player to show cool escapes in a cut scene. When first using it to hurdle over obstacles seamlessly, it is jarring, but soon it becomes second nature and every action game should use a similar feature. The same can be said about Blade Mode, where it gives the player a tool set to perform crazy killer moves that are normally done in cut scenes to any enemy they encounter.
The enemies scale as the game progresses with the basic cyborg soldiers being easy to cut to pieces, but less anyone thinks the game is about letting anyone off breeze through it. It quickly introduces smarter, tougher and more difficult enemies that cause the gamer to evaluate strategy, movesets and their reflexes. The Parry system is still tantamount to defense, but is more forgiving in the game than the demo where it does not require preternatural reflexes and timing to be successful. It remains one of the most frustrating and yet compelling mechanic that players should practice and learn to be a more efficient killing machine. The boss fights are clever, interesting and a ton of fun to play through.
Graphics and Sounds
Metal Gear Rising is a pretty looking game. Flat out, it is visually sumptuous. Raiden’s androgyny in the beginning of the game makes him seem like he should be modeling Dov Charney’s gross clothing rather than taking out soldiers in a hot zone in Africa. The polish of the game’s visuals is necessary because the action is so unpredictable since Blade Mode allows a good amount of customization. So Platinum Games has done a great job making sure the animations are visually engrossing and they have done an amazing job at making blood splatter on screen. They are like Basquiat with plasma.
Jamie Christopherson composed the soundtrack, his other notable work is Lost Planet 2, Bionic Commando and Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams (all for ). Much like Platinum’s other game this year, Anarchy Reigns (there are other parallels with MGR and Anarchy Reigns) it goes for a specific sound filtered through feel/genre. Where that game featured hiphop distilled through Naota Tanaka, Metal Gear Rising features metal-ish and electronic music filtered through Christopherson with help from Tanaka and both Platinum Games and Kojima Productions. The result is mixed in a way; the vocals on the tracks are a bit unnoticeable for the most part when the tracks pop up in combat because everything is so immediate that they fade into the music. Yet when the player notices them, it is hard to say whether they are enjoyable. The music underneath the tracks is quite good, but the vocals are likeable on a track-to-track basis. As with any soundtrack with a specific genre it is aiming for, the soundtrack’s mileage will vary based on players’ personal tastes. The voice acting is top notch and aides the cinematic feel of the game.
Metal Gear Rising is impressive because Platinum Games and Kojima Productions managed to take a franchise known for a specific and deliberate type of game play and changed it to the polar opposite with much success. Raiden is a compelling and fascinating character that definitely needs to make a return at some point in the future (probably after Ground Zeroes, Metal Gear Solid 5 and Bayonetta 2). The quirky marriage between Kojima and Platinum Games has resulted in an action game that has done plenty to revitalize the action genre and introduce combat mechanics that need to be incorporated into the canon of action games. Metal Gear Rising mixes elements of revenge with a Spaghetti Western feel filtered through ninjas and cyborgs to churn out a delightfully mash-up. It is a satisfying, albeit short, gameplay experience and anyone who enjoys action games should definitely give cutting through enemies like gossamer a slice.