Review of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

By Jin Lovelace; Team Writer & Videographer

For those who somehow haven’t heard, the Metal Gear series, created by Hideo Kojima, is Konami’s flagship title that’s reinvigorated the action/adventure genre. It incorporates tactical espionage elements to immerse you in a world where rushing through with guns a-blazing  might yield drastic consequences. The series has been lauded for its finesse on how you take on your enemies, and for the depth of the storyline, which revolves around political situations and the fantastic characterization of the series protagonist, Solid Snake.

Those who’ve followed the series know that Snake isn’t your average James Bond, though he resembles and may have been inspired by the character Snake Plissken from the movies Escape from New York and Escape from L.A. Whereas most action games star some wicked character with a an overdose of machismo who can conquer just about anything and anyone, Solid Snake is a far cry from being the typical beefcake we have seen in most of our action heroes, either recently or in the past.

Solid Snake of the Metal Gear series

In Snake’s grim world, war is nothing but a valued tool for the economy and fighting is an expression for a better future. Fighting is all Snake knew how to do. He has no family to go home to, he lived a reclusive lifestyle in Alaska, and his eyes have seen much more than we can ever imagine. To me, he is a realistic take on how we approach certain situations in our lives and find a better solution to them. Is killing necessary against this one particular enemy? How can I avoid these traps without setting off the alarm? The series breaks tone for many philosophical points as we find solutions to near-impossible situations, and so is not a straightforward action game.

Though the series is well-known for its tactical stealth options, the game boasts so many memes, references, and ads that it’s not even funny. One feature of the series is the abundance of characters. Notably, in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, we were not only introduced to a brand new major character of the series, but a playable one as well: Raiden. In the current game, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Raiden is the main point-of-view character.

Many didn’t give this fellow a chance due to his metrosexual appearance (which is a nod to the female fans of the series) and his overall personality. Another issue for some fans was how the games he was featured in lacked control of Solid Snake, who had been replaced by a “wannabe Ninja” who could cartwheel over enemies and had delusions of grandeur at the expense of baring his manhood… literally.

Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 2

Many saw him as this overly metro-emo guy with little to no substance in his character. But I saw him differently. I saw how Raiden was a rookie special ops agent who was dropped into Snake’s realm of lies, deceit, and betrayal, and realized that everything he believed in, everything he had fought for, were all nothing but lies. Unlike Snake, who grew into a legendary status, Raiden has a girlfriend that he spoke to over Codec, and a baby on the way. How could you not sympathize with someone whose family was in the cross-hairs of the enemy’s iron sights? How would you feel if everything you were told was true, turned out to be nothing but a ploy for the terrorists?

This is one of the very reasons why we see Raiden transition from the metro-emo guy to shedding every bit of his humanity as he attempts to define himself again.

It’s intricacies like this that make me love the series so much. You’re constantly reminded that even though it’s a game, the story quickly immerses you in a world where every character matters, along with the rich details of the game itself. You’ll search every nook and cranny for things you’ve possibly missed. And trust me, there is much to explore.

Though the games are highly lauded, the series also as the reputation for having some incomprehensible plot holes that’ll have you scratching your head a bit, and for the games’ short length. The main draw, however, lies with the lengthy cut-scenes. It’s like watching a movie throughout the game, but if you ask me, it would be one of my all-time favorite movies (no offense, True Lies.)

In 2009, when I was heavily playing Metal Gear Online, which came out with MGS4, Konami announced a fifth installment to the series by the name of Metal Gear Solid: Rising. The game was to focus on the character Raiden himself, and his story during the events after MGS2 and leading into MGS4.  The game would retain stealth tactics, but would introduce new gameplay elements for Raiden’s High Frequency Blade, and the use of Blade Mode, a feature that focuses on precise cutting or dismembering limbs of the enemy Cyborgs, as well as the “Zandatsu”  (“cut and take”) technique for acquiring energy, items and ammunition.

Much hype surrounded this game upon announcement, and even a few vignettes and an inside look were released, in spite of the fact that the game was to be exclusive to the Xbox 360. The decision for the game to be on the PS3 as well, and the later decision to cancel the Xbox ports, was the beginning of development hell.

Kojima and his young team ran into several issues and conundrums on how they could approach the game’s initial premise, which incorporated action with stealth tactics. Personally, I find it to be rather tedious to preserve the emphasis on fast-paced action (hence the series tagline “Lightning Bolt action”) given that Raiden is more of a Ninja than an ageing hero with a military background. And it doesn’t help that the game would be a interquel to Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4, making it likely to be a rather stagnant title.

I can only imagine this was what KojiPro were thinking as well, thus silently dismissing the game overall.

That is, until Platinum Games came into the fray.

Known for such titles Mad World, Anarchy Reigns, and Jin Lovelace’s personal favorite Bayonetta, Platinum has a decent track record for their imaginative games. So when Kojima approached the developer to take over the project, it was like the right ingredients were coming together to create this recipe for a pan of delicious, fresh baked brownies. In this case, despite what others may say about KojiPro’s decision on handing this game over to Platinum for development, the result is a game that stayed true to its Metal Gear roots, only to be complimented with a tall glass of innovation and charm.

I swear, this is probably the best dish of awesome I’ve ever tasted.

The game was renamed Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Contrary to common belief, the word “Rising” applies to the character Raiden, and “Revengeance” refers to taking revenge or vengeance against the development hell of the canceled project. I’ll leave it to you to decide how you feel about that exclusive tidbit.

Set four years after the events of the Guns of the Patriots incident (that’s four years after MGS4), all PMCs have been split into numerous factions after the demise of the shadowy organization that ran the war economy, the Patriots. Instead of basking in the utopia of the sudden victory, they turn to advanced Cyborg technology to make up for the Patriots-controlled nanomachines which regulated the Soldiers’ abilities. We’re whisked away to the events where the main character, Raiden, is on a mission to save the Prime Minister, who has been kidnapped by the members of Desperado Enterprises, which serves as the game’s antagonist to Raiden and his team he joined, Maverick Securities.

Game Play

The game discards tactical espionage action in favor of precision attacks and fast-paced action. In my humble opinion, this a welcome addition to the Metal Gear franchise, and I say kudos for Kojima-san for allowing Platinum games to start where his team left off. Those who are familiar with Platinum’s stellar title Bayonetta should feel some similarities in the control scheme — standard light and heavy attacks followed by your initial combo sets, which you can purchase using the in-game’s currency (BP), allowing you to also upgrade and augment Raiden’s cybernetic augmented body. You can also purchase weapons after unlocking them by defeating the initial boss battles in the game.

The standard sub-weapons, such as Grenades and Rocket Launchers, are also available as pick-ups. Though they may seem useless at the start, there are some advanced combos that can be performed with them, so experiment and find out how you can utilize these items.

As mentioned before, the game’s main draw is the Blade Mode system, which allows for precise slicing. You can dismember any and every Cyborg and Machine that you come across for extra combo points (more points=more BP) or you can cut and take — Zandatsu — their energy reserves in favor of restoring your health and energy. Though I find this premise to be extremely creative, the thrill of seeing one’s arm and/or leg lacerated into bits and pieces might be disturbing for sensitive minds.

Though you can approach this game like any other action title, the stealth tactics are optional. How you approach the enemies are up to you, and there are several ways to do so. And your choices grant rewards. Rewards are bonus BP and other goodies. You want BP in this game, point blank!

My only personal gripe with this part of the presentation is the camera. Though I’ve adapted by using the target lock function, the camera will occasionally angle toward an area at some of the most crucial times, making it highly inconvenient during certain fights and Boss battles. I don’t think it’s too bad, but I strongly suggest that there should be a patch to fix this.

But aside from that drawback, the game has a plethora of unlockables and incredible depth, and the action is fast-paced and fluid. With over 30+ VR Missions and two more DLC packs underway, you’ll get your money’s worth with Rising.

Plot

I have to say the game’s setting is astounding. I remember seeing comments, however, about how Raiden is a “wannabe Solid Snake” when Rising stars a rising legend. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

I admit I was one of many who had doubts about the plot of Revengeance. Though I’ve reassured myself many times that the Metal Gear franchise never fails with their literary craft, I couldn’t help but be a bit wary about some aspects of the story.

Thankfully, the game truly delivers in spades, while adding the same Metal Gear flair everyone recognizes. The story starts wonderfully, though still pretty serious and straightforward. It weaves in political nuance involving some plot twists that resemble — and heavily reference — the game Policenauts, one of Kojima-san’s earlier works. Not a bad thing at all, considering how that game broke so much ground with its masterful storytelling, gameplay, and interactivity. So it was no surprise to see some of these elements laced into Revengeance. But you would have had to be familiar with this legendary game to comprehend the reference.

And speaking of reference, any Konami fan out there will find plenty of those in this game. The team always made quirky use of advertising their own products and others in-game. It’s these tidbits that mark KojiPro’s unique creative style.

But then we come to one of my biggest let downs in Metal Gear history: the final Boss. I found that the Boss was pretty over-powered, but with enough tries you will persevere. However, it’s not just the fight, but rather who it’s revealed to be. One of the key points about the series is how they introduce you to your true antagonist, and create a background story about them, before the final denouement. In this title, they’ve only mentioned the character a couple of times throughout the game, with little to nothing about their background. And the cut scenes of the battle were highly questionable, as were some of the choices made in the game. I mean, it’s good to inject some breaks into the serious tone of story, but these were a bit too much for the series standards.

However, the biggest part of the letdown flows from the length of the game itself. On average, most Metal Gear games can be finished in three hours. At most, you’re playing the game, cutscenes and all, for a good eight hours. For Revengeance, the length of story mode was much shorter than any MG game in history. And the final battle, along with the ending, lacked the substance that made the series so prominent. Granted, there are some epic moments during the fight, and it even had me hyped for a good bit, but after the euphoria winds down, the harsh reality, AKA “the truth” kicked in.

Overall

My personal experience with the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was highly gratifying and I strongly recommend you purchase this game. If it weren’t for the disappointing length of the story and the big reveal of the final Boss, then my score would have been a perfect ten. The lack of impact from the ending, which has been KojiPro’s trademark for the franchise, really left me wanting more. So I’m rating MGR:R a solid 9/10.

The rest of the game, along with the core story and the Metal Gear goodness that you’ve grown to know and love, remains intact. Raiden is a bit fleshed out this time around, and the game play flows so smoothly, it’s pretty addictive. Be sure to pick this one up!

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