I’ll level with you, I’ve not played a Metal Gear game before. A crime, I know right? The Metal Gear games were in their prime when I was about 12 or 13. Not only did I see the Metal Gear games as something far too mature for me but I couldn’t understand why a man with a gun wasn’t shooting the bad guys with the guns. Why did I have to be patient and stealthy? That was boring to me! Friends, a similar age to me played it and assured me multiple times that they were all great games, but I simply never gave them the time of day. This attitude towards the Metal Gear franchise stuck for years, until the announcement of Metal Gear Solid: Rising in 2009. I don’t know what suddenly clicked for me, if it was the new character, the fact that I didn’t have to be stealthy anymore or that I got to wield an electrified sword as a weapon but either way, something about this title had really hooked my interest and I couldn’t wait to see more. After that, Metal Gear Solid: Rising had a rollercoaster ride, changing it’s story, it’s name and the developers. It was on and off of the shelf multiple times before 2011 when Platinum Games took over development and changed the title to what we now know as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. And that brings us to today, launch day!
Starting off in a very Assassin’s Creed-esque tutorial area, a German guy called Doktor (I have no doubt he’s a familiar face to the fans of the MG series) talks you through the basic manoeuvres of the hack-n-slash genre, with the light attacks being the X button and the heavier attacks being the Y button. These were all fairly self explanatory and everything made sense, to begin with. Then Doktor introduced me to a slightly more confusing function, the “Parrying” technique. In this tutorial exercise the instructions were something along the lines of “When an enemy attacks, attack in the direction of the enemy’s attack“… I read the same line over and over and over again and it just didn’t make sense to me. It seemed to be by sheer luck I managed to complete this exercise with no greater understanding of how to parry. Don’t read into this as a fault with the game, as I’d probably put it down to my stupidity, although going into a fairly melee-based game with no knowledge of how to block nor counter an attack was like walking blindfolded into a mosh pit. Even so I soldiered on. Doktor, my German spirit guide then had another nugget of knowledge to share, and that was the “Ninja Run”. Whilst the name doesn’t shout originality, “Ninja Run” more commonly known as “sprint” gives our Cyborg-ninja protagonist, Raiden a slight speed boost. He’ll also automatically traverse walls, dive through windows, hop across ledges and generally look awesome between points A and B. It’s not as seamless as the manoeuvrability of Altair, Ezio or Connor from the Assassin’s Creed franchise but I’ll take my hat off to Platinum Games for trying it. The final task Doktor had for me was learning the ways of “Blade Mode”. This feature is the same feature you’ve seen in the gameplay videos where Raiden slices cars, trees and melons in two with no effort. I’d love to say that “Blade Mode” is a non-glitchy, super-efficient and awesome way to deal with enemies, but it’s not. I found “Blade Mode” and in actual fact, the whole combat system to be very touch-and-go. I’ll come back to that a little later.
Once I had finished with the tutorial, the story started. I was instantly worried when all the characters had bolts and barcodes on them. I was apparently in some sick alternate future where man had merged with computer and guts had been replaced with mechanics. Again, I’m sure to the fans of the series that this is all normal – but like I say, not something I’m familiar with. Desperately trying to concentrate on the script and animation of the cut-scenes and not the circuit-boards coming out of each of the character’s faces, I found that each personality had a well-developed back-story and I enjoyed seeing the story progress throughout the game. A tale of revenge, justice and Raiden’s constant battle with what’s right and wrong made a compelling and partly-believable storyline, however where the story was the highlight of the game, the actual gameplay and combat system unfortunately let it down.
“Blade Mode”, although one of the most ambitious features of a game I’ve seen for a while, was very touch-and-go. At times it would work really well, and other times it would throw you into an abyss of buggy-animation, continual-falling and screen-freezing. The camera, during these “Blade Mode” or “zan-datsu” (cut and take) sequences looked as though it was held round the neck of an Olympic gymnast, so I scarcely used this feature in fear of throwing up. When it did work, all be it quite rarely, it was an impressive show of Raiden’s ninja-like abilities and really made you feel in control of the battlefield. Overall, I was quite disappointed with the combat system as I strongly feel that this should have be the focal point of the game. With the inclusion of “Blade Mode”, the fighting in the game had the potential to be revolutionary, but sadly the award of the most fluid, brutal and generally entertaining fight systems goes to the Assassin’s Creed games again. However, where MGR was a let down in mob-kills and the slaying of half-witted security guards, it picked itself back up in the boss fights. I thoroughly enjoyed these parts of the game, where none were too tricky yet still challenging enough to feel as though I had accomplished something once over. The quick time events and death scenes were all very artistic and presented a chunk of the game I wish I had seen through it’s entirety.
At the end of each level you’ll be rewarded with credits that you can spend on upgrading Raiden. You can upgrade his health or power absorption rate or lower his power consumption. You can also spend credit on moves, but with no clear indication of how to use these newly purchased moves, I spent most of my credits upgrading my health. After all, a good offence is a good defense! You’ll also be able to purchase the weapons of defeated bosses, increasing the size of Raiden’s deadly arsenal.
In summary, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance isn’t a bad game. Despite the fairly complex combat-system and buggy-cameras, MGR is actually a solid game (mind the pun). With it’s compelling story line, even with the game’s apparent problems, I still wanted to play on. The cast is a colourful arrangement of very varied personalities, the boss fights are imaginative and action packed, the quick time events are artistic and over-the-top and all be it cheesy, the scripting is very well written. Maybe I expected a little too much from Platinum. They haven’t presented me with a title that I would’ve necessarily picked up from the shelf BUT, I have enjoyed it and that’s what’s important. I can’t comment on what die-hard fans of the Metal Gear series will feel about this but I urge people to give it a chance as it certainly offers something new.
With room for improvement, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance isn’t a game you should rush out the door for but, when it feels right, give this side-story a chance as it’s one of the industry’s longest living franchises dipping it’s finger’s into a new pie. I lift my hat to Platinum Games.