When Platinum games makes a Metal Gear spinoff starring a laser-sword-juggling/pseudo-philosophical cyborg complete with a wise-cracking robot dog, “bat shit crazy” are the words that come to mind. While staying from the Metal Gear formula most deem as gospel (i.e. hiding in dingy rust-dilapidated lockers and barking an over-the-top cigarette spluttering cough), Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an empowering – and at times bizarrely humorous – hack-and-slash action game with rewarding, gung-ho violence worthy of both the Platinum name and the original series.
While it’s understood by most that the game runs under a short, 6-hour timeframe, that doesn’t take into account its charmingly convoluted cutscenes (in true Metal Gear fashion) and the multiple times you’ll no doubt have to “die and re-try” bosses the first time around to analyse their shifty back-handed Machiavellian battle schemes before formulating your own countering chess-master-comparable game plans (brain over brawn is mostly encouraged here); not to mention the countless collectibles (and “BP”) with worthy rewards including new blades, “wigs”(with perks), skills, weapon upgrades, VR missions plus the more difficult game modes to play. Rising hardly feels like a “short” game.
The controls are tight and alternate between soft and hard attacks, helping each battle stay fresh. The combat sees you rip fuel cells from your enemies by erratically slicing across their torsos in the game’s joyously violent “Blade” mode and ripping out their spinal cords to smash them into a blue, gooey mess. Despite their comfort, the “unique” weapons you unlock from knocking off bosses don’t seem to flow quite as well when combined with attacks from your main blade, sometimes delaying a fight by just enough milliseconds to leave you open for attack – a pretty big issue if you’re trying to achieve a cream of the crop “S” ranking. This flaw can be easily overlooked considering the heart-palpitating rush of the majority of the larger acrobatic fights in the game, especially since you can always change your weapon load outs to whatever combination you see fit.
The “REAL” issue with Metal Gear Rising‘s that of its camera, which can only be described as “broken.” There are often times you might lose a boss battle by five percent and just know that it was caused by the poltergeist-possessed camera that sometimes listens and other times has a temperament and a mind of it’s own accord. Although the lock-on in MGR is helpful, how can one parry or counter an attack if the placements of enemies directions can’t even be detected due to a sub-par camera you mostly can’t spin around at free will? Fighting in small rooms is tedious nightmare and the result is borderline enraging in a game where everything else seems to work so comprehensively tight and fairly.
Regardless, the ominously implemented boss fights are generally a tricky array of challenging, fast paced specific actions spliced with patience, timing and shoot-from-the-hip reflex actions to counter the sporadic strikes and purposefully harsh techniques of the bosses themselves; – you may have an “Oh, now I get it” epiphany or two after a series of losses before figuring out the precise method to defeating a boss and pizza-cutting them into shredded bacon bits along with their cyborg upgrade bells and whistles.
The gameplay eventually switches up dynamics to surviving an onslaught of enemies one after another on an elevator, almost reminiscent of the old school Super Nintendo Turtles in Time elevator levels. There’s also a portion in which you control one of the armed ball “Dwarf Gekkos” that’s very strange and off-putting, but kind of fun at the same time. The point in which the gameplay switches most drastically is in its optional “stealth” segments. While oil drums and cardboard boxes make their triumphant return, don’t expect the sneaking to be technically up-to-par with the original Metal Gear Solid titles. For the most part, it’s a pretty dumbed down version of the sneaking quality fans are used to via the MGS series, but it still warrants some extensive box-crawling fun.
The stealth system doesn’t function according to any kind of standard. Smashing glass doesn’t attract attention from an enemy in the next room, but sprinting somehow does. One time, a guard simply kept walking into a wall when I threw the holographic equivalent of a nudey-magazine about a metre away from the room’s entrance. AI inconsistencies like these quickly turn your stealth options sour and while stealth itself is a decent enough of an aspiration to keep Metal Gear fans happy, it’s a half-baked one compared to the absurdity of performing a million and one stabs and slide kicks on an enemy before literally ripping them apart. The latter’s what Rising is really about.
Beyond its bland environmental textures and horrible lip-syncing, Rising‘s graphics are on point with its shiny metallic surfaces, gun metal greys, and plenty of neon-glowing lights. Visually, it fits right in with the Metal Gear series thanks to Metal Gear concept artist Yoji Shinkawa’s dedication to maintaing the game’s Metal Gear flavor. As a result, the game looks great even from a design standpoint and projects a tone that helps encapsulate Rising in the Metal Gear universe.
Electric guitar riffs compliment the main battles and ensure the player comes fully equipped with an amped up demeanor in a war in which cutlasses replace instruments. The game’s top-notch soundtrack mimics the missile-hopping, goliath killing madness onscreen. The sound effects are similarly are pretty impressive. If you’re a Metal Gear fan, be ready to hear the same “alert” noises, bleeps, bloops and chaff grenade “sparkle” sounds you know and love.The voice acting, on the other hand, ranges from okay to bad. Things like a child character who has the voice of a full-grown man that can’t help but break fantasy to some extent.
Rising’s unashamed in continuing the franchise’s socio-political discussions, unabashedly waxing philosophical at any given moment. Genetic experiments, organ trades, human trafficking, and Illuminati-esque conspiracy theories – it’s all here, with a few Richard Dawkins references to boot. Will you walk away from Metal Gear Rising with any eye-opening new opinion? No, probably not, but it’s always entertaining to see the circus of intellectualism thrown onto the screen. While Raiden’s more emotional than Snake (even with his gravelly Christian Bale Batman voice), somehow the theatricality of his character works here and even grows a little between killing.
The fact that Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima once opted for a Metal Gear spinoff chronicling the backstory of Metal Gear Solid‘s Grey Fox still echoes the lost opportunity the game’s choice of protagonist feels like (admittedly the younger people on the team thought Raiden would be a more fitting main character for newer MGS fans). Here we get the story of how Raiden went from androgynous, prissy-haired emo to an androgynous, katana-wielding emo, all in in high heels, I might add. Though Raiden isn’t half the misstep of a protagonist as some Metal Gear fans like to think he is, his presence doesn’t diminish the game’s plot, nor does it add to it. And there’s always the game’s Grey Fox suit DLC for die-hard MGS fans to slap onto him if need be.
The plot isn’t as emotionally engaging or needlessly complex as Metal Gear Solid 4‘s, nor are its characters, with the exception of your robot dog AI, Bladewolf, who learns to think for himself and Raiden’s rival, Jetstream Sam. It does the job given its simple goals, but it just isn’t comparable to the depth and magnitude a character like Otacon. It could be dismissed as even Raiden can be considered bland by these standards as this is the streamlined angle that Rising’s aiming for. You could think of it like a fun, popcorn-action spinoff of an otherwise intricate, complex-to-the-point-of-brain-haemorrhaging franchise. Nevertheless, its long-winded speeches are equipped with a skip button (thank god) for those of us playing the story mode for the second or third time.
While most of the humor takes place during the second and third chapter of the game, it’s a relieving change from all the “Nature of war”/”duality of man” talk, complete with a Vanilla ice reference. Bladewolf’s grasping the concept of comedy himself even leads to a funny exchange with a couple of confused Mexican townsmen as Raiden attempts to hide his criminal obvious cyborg identity under a poncho and sombrero to no avail. It’s laughs like these and some offbeat conversational topics over the Codec that liven the pace between bosses and keep Rising’s cutscenes marginally interesting.
Ultimately, Metal Gear Rising’s a god-like experience and arguably the greatest hack-and-slash of the year. While it never claimed to be a Metal Gear Solid game, it maintains some of its original spirit while channeling the elements from its deservedly well-loved counterparts. Its stealth segments aren’t the most amazing thing under the sun and its camera’s one of the worst things you could encounter in modern times, but its action-packed gameplay speaks volumes for its mesmerizing spectacle that’ll leave blisters on your hands, skin marks on your controller, and a sense of battle-weary relief after every adrenaline-pumping battle to the death.