Metal Gear Solid: Rising was a failure.
That project was originally intended to explain the events between Metal Gear Solid 2 when Raiden was initially introduced and Metal Gear Solid 4 where he reappears as a decked out, katana-wielding cyborg ninja. However, they couldn’t figure out the gameplay and the game was quietly canceled.
Thankfully, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is anything but a failure. Platinum Game’s latest creation is fast, fun, flashy and fluid yet still finds a way to retain much of the Metal Gear feel, despite being a drastically different type of game.
Set four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, Raiden now works for a PMC (Private Military Company) called Maverick and is on a job to protect an African president. As expected, the situation turns sour and Raiden now has to face off with a group called the Desperadoes, who are lead by multiple enhanced cyborgs known as the Winds of Destruction.
Revengeance, while not directly part of the Solid sub-series of Metal Gear, retains many features of those games so series veterans can feel right at home (well, as much at home as possible, anyway). You’ll see both Dwarf Gekkos and regular Gekkos – the latter of which I affectionately refer to as “Moo-Moos” – and hear classic Metal Gear sound effects like the codecs and low health noises. They even have a Metal Gear Ray as the first boss you face.
The plot is very much a Metal Gear plot, which is great, because it is considered series canon. Every major enemy will give you their own philosophical spiel shortly before you dispatch them and the overarching plot is thin and easy to miss. While more narrative depth and backstory can be gleaned through listening to the optional codecs, it never reaches the levels of crazy and convolution that is normally reserved for primary Metal Gear entries. It’s condensed Metal Gear, if you will.
Previous games bearing the Metal Gear name have been mostly stealth based affairs, but Revengeance takes the entirely opposite approach. You can actually use stealth in some areas (cardboard boxes make an appearance), it’s kind of awkward and contrary to the game’s design. Raiden is a cyborg ninja, after all. He’s meant to slice things into many small pieces. And slice he does; you can take your blade through much of the game’s environments, though it doesn’t let you slice your way into a corner that would prevent you from progressing.
But the game is most satisfying when you’re slicing up your enemies. Swordplay is fast and intense, allowing you to string together combos and literally cut your enemies in half. Your typical enemies will go down in a few hits, but later, armored and heavy cyborgs are introduced to keep you on your toes. To dispatch your foes in the most stylish of ways, you can enter Blade Mode which puts you in slow motion while you “precision slice”. If the enemy is weak enough, there will be a target box and cutting through it will allow you to perform a Zandatsu – ripping out the enemy cyborg’s spine to retrieve their electrolytes and restore your health and energy. I love Zandatsu; it makes Blade Mode a relevant gameplay mechanic and just looks cool.
Another gameplay mechanic that is just as important (if not more so) is parrying. There is no outright block button, so parrying is your greatest tool for defense. Timing and execution are very important to parrying and mastering it can take some practice. Only problem is that Revengeance hardly takes any time out of its schedule to properly introduce the mechanic, creating a steeper difficulty curve for many. You can beat all of the game’s normal enemies without every parrying, but facing bosses often require a level of skill most players aren’t yet ready to face.
Raiden isn’t just limited to his blade, though. Defeating each of the Winds of Destruction will grant you access to their unique weapons that range from interesting to useful. Additionally, there’s rockets and grenades available. They’re littered fairly liberally throughout the game’s 8 missions, although using them isn’t always practical; once combat is initiated, the use of sub-weapons are made more difficult by the high speed action because they’re so slow.
As a cyborg ninja, Raiden is not slow. While he’s not Sonic the Hedgehog, he does have a Ninja Run that lets you sprint and automatically scale obstacles., deflect bullets or just do a “run-by” while randomly slashing your sword. It’s worth noting that the camera sometimes struggles to keep pace with the action, making for situations where you’re being attacked from off-screen. Using the lock-on feature mostly takes care of that, but groups of enemies can still be bothersome.
About halfway through, Raiden changes from normal sounding to a more scruff, Christian Bale Batman-esque voice and gains access to Ripper Mode. It makes your attacks stronger, but it uses the fuel cells you’d otherwise need for Blade Mode. It’s meant to create a sort of balancing act between the mechanics, essentially making you choose at times between Ripper Mode and the ability to perform Zandatsus.
While mostly underdeveloped as characters, the bosses in Revengeance are fantastic. Each boss provided a very unique challenge to the player with their varied attack styles. I found all of the these fights to be very memorable and (aside from Jetstream Sam) my favorite parts of the game. I even enjoyed a lot of the heavy and fast-paced music, and that’s saying a lot.
Metal Gear Rising is meant to be replayed multiple times, with four difficulties and rankings at the end of each fight. Rankings range from D (the worst) to S (the best) and these affect how much BP you get at the end of the mission to use for upgrades to Raiden’s weapons, skills, or to buy new skins. The game is fairly short as well – my initial playthrough took me 9 hours (with a lot of deaths), my second took 4.5 while I was collecting all the items. If you really want to, I’m sure you can blast through in less than 3 hours when skipping all the cutscenes. When you’re done with the campaign or looking for a change of pace, you can try your hand at the VR Missions once you find them hidden throughout the levels. There are 20 in all (DLC will likely add to that) and you’re scored, so there’s additional replay value there, too.
Platinum Games ventured to rescue a scrapped project, and their hard work shines here. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is, for lack of a better phrase, frustratingly fun. The pure bliss of gracefully slicing enemy cyborgs in two and the challenging boss fights are more than enough to make up for the game’s shortcomings. I just hope that if (when?) they make the sequel, I can still play as Gray Fox.
Full disclosure: I purchased this game for review. I spent approximately 18 hours with it, beating the game twice and several of the VR missions.