Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – Review
Imagine, if you will, a future almost overrun by war. It has driven technology forward and changed the way that society itself is structured. It has its own savage beauty, with powerful machines and fully independent AI populating cities of towering buildings and war torn countries alike. Now imagine that you can cut anything in this world into a hundred little pieces without even breaking a sweat. Welcome to the world of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
Our introduction to Rising and its protagonist, Raiden, also serves to set the scene for the twisted story that he is is dragged into. We first meet Raiden in a country somewhere in the depths of Africa, where he is acting as the head of a private security force working for the President. Under the name Mr Lightning Bolt – don’t even ask me why – he’s co-ordinating the training and forces that his company provide when the President is attacked and kidnapped by a group of cybernetically-enhanced insurgents who want to disrupt the peace that Raiden has managed to build.
This is Raiden’s cue, and our first introduction to the wonderful gameplay of Rising. It may not make much sense in a world of advanced technology and any number of different types of guns that swords are used, but they are the main method of offense for not only Raiden but a fair few of his enemies as well. Very few of them can use a sword quite the way that Raiden can, as he makes use of his cyborg enhancements to wield his blade in a rather unorthodox manner. As unorthodox as it may be – and I kid you not, he uses his sword with his feet on occasion – it is mighty effective, often seeing him tearing through enemies before they can even lay a hit on him.
That’s not to say that the cyborg forces that Raiden squares up against are ineffective, as they are anything but. Even the most basic enemies approach with caution, and none of them show the sort of wild aggression that would allow you to tear through them without a care. They will often stay in a defensive stance, forcing you to wait for the right moment to strike, and when that moment appears the pressure is on to make them pay. When they do attack, which is often during all the times you really wish they wouldn’t, Raiden is equipped with a parry to ensure that he doesn’t take damage. When the enemies emit that tell-tale signature that informs you they are about to attack, a light attack directed towards them with the right timing will move Raiden into a parry that shrugs off their assault and allows him to lash out and continue dealing damage. Get the timing perfect, however, and there is a brief opportunity to kill the enemy with a single strike.
If over-the-top combat begins to wear you down – it won’t, I promise – there is the option to try and stalk your way through the levels, raising as few alarms as possible. Raiden has a clever enhancement that allows him to survey levels and see through walls, picking out where the enemies are and their area of sight. This means that, if you’re careful enough, you can sneak through without alerting them. If you can manage that and get behind them, you will also have the opportunity to perform a stealth kill, which often equates to Raiden driving his sword through his hapless victim’s chest. Almost every enemy is vulnerable to that stealth kill, so ensuring that you are not seen can be worth the effort, but it is not made easy. Apparently cyborg legs don’t do so well on the crouching front, so the only options available to effectively stealth your way through missions are effective use of his radar systems and, unsurprisingly, a cardboard box.
Once he has dished out enough damage Raiden can switch to blade mode, enabling him to slice through enemies with a single swing, allowing the player to choose exactly where they would like to strike, directing the position and angle of the attack before it cleaves through flesh. Blade mode leads into what I personally think is the coolest feature of Rising: the Zendatsu. This is how Raiden regains health, and, in practical terms, is simply the act of tearing the cybernetic spine out of an enemy that has just been sliced in half and crushing it in his fist. Visually it is unbelievably striking, and the first time that it is accomplished it inspires equal feelings of awe and excitement, both of which are tinged with a hint of disgust. However awesome a move it might be – and it is very cool – it’s still tough to escape the fact that you have torn a man’s spine from his slowly falling corpse, which is pretty dark.
Raiden doesn’t share that disgust, and he shows no hint of remorse. In fact, for the most part, he views his adversaries as something less than human, even calling them “Human vending machines”. It’s odd, because over the course of his vendetta against the men who kidnapped and killed his ward, Raiden often preaches a very different ideology. When he is confronted about his actions early on in the story he insists that his sword is a tool to defend the weak and nothing more, but time and time again he kills those that are weaker than him to meet his own ends. Nevertheless, he maintains his stance throughout, refusing to acknowledge that he has much in common with the enemies that he is fighting so hard to destroy.
Watching as Raiden struggles with his identity and ideology, as he continues to fight an enemy more powerful than himself, Metal Gear’s signature narrative flair begins to shine through. Though the story itself is solid at best, the character development of both Raiden and his main antagonist, Sam, are excellent. Unfortunately, this does come at a cost, as Metal Gear’s other signature also makes an appearance in the form of lengthy cutscenes, which often waffle on endlessly while you’re chomping at the bit to get back into the action.
The length of these cutscenes do have an unfortunate side-effect, showing off with their excessive size quite how short the actual game experience is. I completed Rising on the normal difficulty in just a shade over five hours, which included watching all the cutscenes and fighting a couple of the bosses time and time again. That’s short for any game, but when the cutscenes are taking up at least half an hour of that, if not more, you realise that you are only getting four or so hours of gameplay. Hell, if you are any good it would be even less than that, as I was consistantly getting ranked at about C on my missions.
That’s not the only sore point either as, at some points, especially later on, there is an issue with repetition. Time and time again the same animation is used, especially with things like the zandatsu animations and certain QTEs that make sporadic appearances in the bigger fights. Certain mission structures crop up time and time again, and although a certain amount of repetition can be expected with the hack and slash genre, these do begin to grate by the end of the story, which is saying a lot considering the length of the campaign.
For the most part though, these flaws do little to dull the enjoyment of a fantastic hack and slash release. The combat stands out as some of the best I’ve had the chance to play, with the parry sytem allowing for an increasingly dynamic experience as you come to terms with it. The character development is superb, and time and time again I was struck by how much I enjoyed watching both Raiden and Sam grow and change over the course of what is a relatively short experience. Some of the cutscenes do drag on and the story can be a touch convoluted at times, but for the most part it is as good as you would expect from a Metal Gear title. Despite some noticeable flaws, Metal Gear Rising is undeniably excellent and, for want of a better term, plain cool.Pros
- Combat is superb
- Watching the characters develop and question themselves is a pleasure
- The world and technology is just plain awesome
- It’s short. Really short
- Some of the cutscenes drag on, endlessly
- It suffers from repetition
Being an all powerful cyborg that cuts up everything that moves with a ninja sword is every boy's wet-dream, and Rising doesn’t disappoint. Combat is fluid and impressively dynamic, with blade mode adding a constant undercurrent of power that leaves you feeling like you could take on the world and, in fairness to Raiden, he probably could.
The design of the world that Raiden inhabits is designed wonderfully, with characters and locations that are great fun to explore and cut into little bits. The story is solid, although cutscenes drag, and though there is a little repetition it does nothing to hamper enjoyment of what is truly a fantastic title.
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