Let’s get this out the way, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a far cry from the originally announced Metal Gear Solid: Rising at E3 in 2009. It’s also a lot different to what people have come to expect from the Metal Gear series, it’s also completely awesome. If the idea of a cyborg ninja literally throwing Metal Gears around doesn’t appeal to you, this game isn’t for you. However if you are interested in a rollercoaster ride of Metal Gear themed lunacy then Revengeance delivers on all levels. Platinum’s latest is a perfect exhibition of the developer’s talent for great action and just plain stylish video games. It may not be the longest game but there’s enough quality content to make you want to keep playing even after the credits roll, it’s truly all killer and no filler and one hell of a ride.
Revengeance’s main strength lies in its gameplay. The game is a Devil May Cry style action game set in the Metal Gear universe, and though it’s not as complex as some of its genre contemporaries it’s more accessible and potentially more fun. A lot of this fun comes from a feature called blade mode, which helps the game to stand out from the competition. The combo based hack and slash combat is satisfying and well executed, but it isn’t best in class. Blade mode however brings the overall package to the next level. Much like the game announced in 2009, Revengeance gives you full control over protagonist Raiden’s incredibly powerful sword. The net result of this is that you can slice things up to an extent not seen in other games. A tap of a button puts you into blade mode where time slows and the sticks give you full analogue control over your sword rather than your character, allowing you to slice things up any way you want. Thankfully these flexible sword controls are backed up by some impressive technology which truly allows you to cut at will. Items will break apart as they should and every time this feels awesome and is hugely satisfying. Admittedly this isn’t Red Faction, not everything is destructible, but a lot of things are (a surprising amount actually) and cutting is always fun to do.
Though blade mode is fun in itself, the most interesting part is how it factors into combat. Though you can unleash blade mode at any time, this isn’t the way to use it. The more you attack foes the more a power meter builds up, which determines how much you can use blade mode. When it fills things get a bit different. Beforehand slashing foes in this mode doesn’t cut them up, it just deals damage in the way normal attacks do. When your meter is full blade mode enables you to slice up foes and indicates where their spines are so you can rip them out. This isn’t quite as grim as it sounds, you are fighting cyborgs and ripping out robotic spines. You still rip them out though, and crush them in your fist which (for appropriately insane story reasons) gives you full health. This gives you a reason to cut with precision and adds a flow to the combat. Weakened enemies can also be sliced up, but the modes full potential is only truly unleashed when you are ripping out spines like the cyborg ninja you are. This is so different to anything else out there that it manages to be an awesome feature from beginning to end, and turns a competent fighting system into an excellent one. The game also is great at finding novel ways to use blade mode, especially in boss encounters, which highlight how great this feature is and make the game stupendously enjoyable.
Combat in Revengeance is very offensive, they want you to be on the attack and this is especially shown by the game’s parrying system. Blocking is a bit strange in this game, there is no dedicated block button, instead you attack into other attacks to block or parry them. All you need to do is push the left stick towards your attacker and press the light attack button at the point when his attack should hit you. Attacks are telegraphed with tell tale flashes meaning you can focus on your own combos rather than slavishly watching enemy animations, another feature that keeps the fighting lightning fast. If you get your timing spot on you will do a parry, if you are too early you will merely block. There is a surprisingly forgiving window of opportunity here, and the focus on defending on an attack by attack basis makes the game more active. Incorporating blocking with attacking incentives maintaining an offence and means there is little room for turtling. Parrying isn’t perfect , there is a learning curve to the system but even when mastered it will occasionally feel it to be a bit off. It’s not always clear what direction you should parry in and sometimes you will feel like a block should have connected when it didn’t. This is the exception rather than the rule though; overall the parrying system is incredibly satisfying. The curve to mastering it may be off putting at first, but this all helps to empower the player when parrying becomes a necessity against late game bosses. You feel like you have truly mastered a ninja technique and it feels amazing.
The story is another great part of Revengeance. On one hand this isn’t surprising, the Metal Gear franchise is home to some of the best stories in gaming, but on the other hand this is Metal Gear under new management. Platinum are a talented studio, but they aren’t the storytellers Kojima Productions are. This holds true in Revengeance, compared to other Metal Gear stories this falls a bit short, but on its own merits it’s great entertainment. There’s enough thematic interest and political overtones to make it feel like Metal Gear, and it’s goofy enough to feel like Platinum. It’s not an emotional tale but it is an interesting one with some neat twists and turns, and some great characters. The narrative tells the story of Raiden post-MGS4, but is more of a sequel to the world of Guns of the Patriots than the game itself. Ties to previous games are kept surprisingly low, and this can feel like a missed opportunity, but Revengeance still manages to tell a story worth listening to. The war economy is gone, the Patriots have been taken down, but all is not well in the world of Metal Gear. War mongers still want to reap the benefits of combat and make grandiose speeches about political ideals and the greater good. It’s the Metal Gear you know, but it’s more self-aware than usual. Cutscenes are a little bit shorter (though still not short) and there’s more of a nod and a wink to the dialogue than ever before. Revengeance is ludicrous, and it knows it is ludicrous. In spite of this there is still a decent narrative here that is very well told and is complete with some standout moments which are quite incredible. Raiden has a character arc to him, and it is an interesting one. The bosses aren’t quite as fleshed out as usual but they still deliver, especially later on in the game. There’s a good level of moral ambiguity to them, as well as a dash of insanity, which makes for interesting characters in spite of your brief encounters.
The boss fights themselves are also standout moments, not every encounter is a winner but at their best the fights are simply outstanding. Early fights are a tad easy, but creative enough to make them fun nevertheless. Platinum use spectacle incredible well and know how to make an insane gameplay moment which will consistently feel like the best thing you have ever done in a game. In later boss battles the game really shines though, the last few battles put up a great challenge and are incredibly satisfying to take down. Mastering a boss once again makes you feel like a ninja, and shows off the potential of the games combat (especially when you fight foes with a similar skill set to your own). Some may give you a hard time, but victory is never too hard to attain and the challenge makes it so much sweeter. Another thing which makes the bosses so good is the soundtrack, and this is the same throughout the game. Revengeance is not the kind of game to have a symphonic score; it’s a bit too insane for that. Instead of your usual majestic Metal Gear music your ears are treated to squealing guitars from beginning to end thanks to a fantastic metalcore soundtrack. It’s a perfect example of a soundtrack which works even if the music isn’t your cup of tea. It fits the action so well and just matches the tone of the game completely. Intense encounters are made even more so by the games use of music as the speedy guitar matches the insane pace of the game.
Not everything is spot on in Revengeance however. Most notable is the games camera, which can be frankly awful. This doesn’t ruin the game but it is a detraction to the overall experience. The action is not always perfectly framed and the uncooperative camera just gets in the way a few times too many. Most of the time the game is fine, and you will learn to put up with it, it just could have been a lot better and stands out in an otherwise superbly made game. On top of this the tutorialising is quite poor, important parts of the game are explained in optional tutorials which take you out of the action, and other features are needlessly hidden away. You can unlock the ability to dodge (which is completely invaluable), but after doing so you have to look up the move list and scroll all the way to the bottom just to work out how to do it. On top of this, though dodging is effective the controls aren’t very intuitive. On PS3 you have to press X and square together which, whilst functional, would have been better off as a one button affair. This stands out more when circle is only used for ripping out spines, and comes up as a QTE prompt every time anyway. Ultimately though dodging works fine, it just could be refined a little.
Put simply, Revengeance is a master class in how to make an incredibly enjoyable game. It is stuffed full of memorable moments and creativity all built upon a rock solid foundation. It won’t take you long to complete but its highs are so high that you will want to experience them again. It’s the rare kind of game which manages to be fun from beginning to end, and a lot of this is down to its more focused approach to game design (so its length feels completely forgivable). The action is sublime, the story is reasonably intelligent and darn entertaining (if a bit heavy-handed) and the soundtrack is just the icing on the cake. Everything just works together perfectly to create one brilliant video game. Metal Gear fan or not, if you like fun games you can’t do much better than Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.