Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Developed by: PlatinumGames
Available on: Xbox 360, PS3 (reviewed), PC
Developed by PlatinumGames Inc. and released in 2013, Revengeance is not only a made-up portmanteau but a stylish action game that has more in common with Platinum’s Bayonetta series than Metal Gear’s stealth-focused past entries. The spin-off takes place four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and once again sees the return of former child soldier Raiden in the leading role. However, he’s seemingly given up the life of peppering flesh with bullets in favor of slicing and dicing robots and people alike into little wet chunks. He also has a robot dog, which kinda rules.
In a nutshell, the story focuses on Raiden’s involvement with the private military company Maverick as they seek to eliminate a new rival PMC known as Desperado Enforcement, who are into some pretty fucked up shit — like removing the brains of children, placing them into VR combat training programs, and then implanting them into cyborgs to create supersoldiers.
After having an eye and an arm chopped off within the first 15 minutes (talk about a rough slice of humble pie), Raiden and his new robotic wolf companion chase down the members of Desperado and engage in some of the absolute raddest boss fights I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. I sliced apart Metal Gears, battled a multi-armed French woman and her army of strange robot minions, dodged tanks and helicopters thrown by a guy that could summon tornados, and took revenge(ance) for my missing appendage against the unfortunately named Jetstream Sam.
The story itself is typical Metal Gear nonsense, but I actually enjoy that sort of thing. Sometimes. There are occasions when I want to partake in a fine dining experience and others where I just want to shovel french fries into my mouth until I’m on the verge of puking. My point is, I’m not always in the mood for Metal Gear Solid’s expected exposition where verbose cutscenes account for half of the experience. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is much more akin to consuming fast food, where it’s still good, I’m still full, and there’s little to no waiting for the main course to arrive.
There’s never a dull moment here and the game is considerably better for it. Events play out via cutscenes or optional CODEC conversations, protagonists and their shady motives are clearly laid out over time, and living comfortably between these two slices of narrative bread is the combination of ninja-like traversal segments, a blistering soundtrack, and engaging combat mechanics that mostly stand front and center.
Although I enjoyed the story and Metal Gear Rising’s overall aesthetic, particularly Raiden’s anime-inspired cyborg getup, the highlight is definitely the combat. Jack the Ripper is incredibly agile, stringing together lightning-quick attacks with his katana while weaving in stronger attacks with the unlockable weapons obtained by defeating Desperado’s big bad evils. Weapons are upgradeable and new abilities can be purchased between missions, features which are commonplace in these types of games, but what truly sets the Revengeance apart from its genre brethren is Raiden’s Blade Mode.
By either staggering enemies into a state of vulnerability, entering a scripted quick-time event, or by simply holding in L1, Raiden can slow down time and deliver a barrage of slashes controlled by flicks of the right analog stick (or mashing the light and heavy attack buttons). Blade Mode plays a pivotal role in Raiden’s offense, allowing you to target specific areas in order to remove an enemy’s protective armor, or outright vanquish foes with quick attacks that segue into instant-kill command prompts. Each individual slash in Blade Mode is depicted by actual physical damage shown on Raiden’s target, which is quite a sight to behold. If you can somehow land 100 slashes in any which direction, you’ll witness every slice dismantle armor and sever limbs in a most gruesome fashion.
Playing into the swift feel and extravagant visual nature of Metal Gear Rising’s combat, composer Jamie Christopherson (Lost Planet, Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams) took the musical score in a whole new direction for the series, which favors power metal guitar riffs, heavy electronica, and clean vocal tracks throughout most of the battle scenarios.
It can be pretty thunderous at times, particularly the track “Stains of Time” that plays during a late-game boss fight, and I thought Christopherson and company did an excellent job overall at matching the flow of the game. Seriously, the soundtrack is just pure ear-sex.
While Raiden is exceedingly nimble, easily vaulting over obstacles and traversing platforms by merely holding in the R1 button (similar to how free running works in the Assassin’s Creed games), I was surprised by his inability to dodge incoming damage. A traditional dodge can be purchased from the ability shop if that’s your thing, but PlatinumGames clearly wanted me to focus on parrying attacks instead. By tilting the directional stick toward an attack while simultaneously pressing square (or X on a 360 controller) at the exact moment it would have connected, Raiden will deflect the blow and initiate a brief QTE that segues into Blade Mode and a swift, visceral death for the opposition.
Metal Gear Rising’s quick traversal mechanics could have definitely benefited from a little more time in the oven, though. While there were instances of insane brilliance, like holding R1 to skip along a barrage of rockets in mid-air during an intense boss fight, it often worked against me in tandem with the game’s wonky camera control. This was a non-issue in the more open areas, but the camera had a rough time keeping up with Raiden in tight corridors or while tucked away in corners.
Free running, in general, is a bit touchy, with accidental falls and indirect platform hopping being repeat offenders throughout my 8-hour playthrough. Again, this is exacerbated within confined areas but never ruined the overall experience.
With a predictable final encounter that commits the cardinal sin of placing you in combat without any of the weapons you just spent 8 hours leveling up, and a fairly absurd story to boot (because nanomachines, son), Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a game that really didn’t need to happen, but I’m certainly glad it exists. It’s anime as hell, feels great to play around in, and demands an amount of focus, patience, and perseverance from the player that feels incredibly rewarding once the nuances become second nature.
Revengeance is clearly flawed in the traversal department and it’s infrequently marred by questionable camera hiccups, but once I separated the wheat from the chaff the spin-off not only features some of the most interesting boss battles in franchise history, but the overall experience, from PlatinumGames’ signature combat focus to Jamie Christopherson’s blistering soundtrack, is totally worth doubling back for if you missed out on this dandy of an action game in 2013.
So, where’s the final score? There isn’t one. I spent a lot of time conveying my opinion in the above text, and I hope that’s worth more to you than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. Basically, I’m not a fan of scores so I no longer use them. Read the review and judge for yourself if the game is worth your time and money. I trust in your ability to make the right decision!
Full disclosure: This review was done using a physical PS3 copy that I purchased myself. While I’m sometimes given games to critique, I pride myself on providing an unbiased review to fellow consumers, along with constructive feedback to hard working developers and publishers. Whether or not I pay for a game is irrelevant.