Dragonball Z meets Metal Gear - Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is heavy on style, so-so on substance
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance seems determined to throw a wrench – or perhaps sword would be a more appropriate metaphor – at the age-old wisdom, “If it looks like a duck, and sounds like a duck, it’s a duck.” In Revengeance‘s case, the game may look and sound like a duck (if by “duck” we mean a Hideo Kojima Metal Gear Solid game), but it acts like a roided-up honey badger with an adamantium vibro-sword clenched in its teeth.
The Kojima Legacy
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance takes place three years after Metal Gear Solid 4. Raiden has joined up with Maverick Security, a Private Military Company. Maverick loans out cyborg soldiers as peace-keepers and a threat deterrent, and Raiden oversees many such operations.
Unfortunately for Raiden, a long-lasting peace doesn’t make for an interesting game, nor does it suit the interests of attacking cyborgs from Desperado, another PMC. These cyborgs kill a VIP under Raiden’s protection and handily defeat Raiden himself, slicing off one of his arms and his left eye. Thus begins Raiden’s quest for revenge… ance.
Yuji Korekado of Kojima Productions told CVG in 2012 that, while development was in the hands of Platinum, Kojima Productions approved the game’s cutscenes and wrote the script. Perhaps the split attention explains why Revengeance has a very strange and middling tone with its narrative, like it’s not quite sure if it wants to break away and be its own thing, or if it needs to be grounded in the Metal Gear Solid lore that’s already been established.
For example, while previous MGS games have lectured, at length, on the horrors of war and violence, Revengeance‘s world is far more gray than black and white. Around halfway through the game’s story, Raiden gets served a monologue from one of Desperado’s cyborgs about the cruel nature of mankind and our need for war.
Instead of dismissing the villain’s claims, Raiden’s voice deepens and grows darker, more sinister. “All that talk about justice, and here I am, just another killer,” Raiden says as his armor and eyes begin to glow red. “That nickname you love so much,” he growls, referring to when, as a child soldier, he was called “Jack The Ripper.”
“Want to know how I got it? Actually, why don’t I give you a demonstration? I think it’s time for Jack… to let ‘er rip!” Raiden grins wickedly and strokes his blood-soaked sword, and lashes out. Mind you, this all happens after he has a conflict of conscience, after he begins to realize that the people he’s fighting might not have as much choice in the matter as he initially believed.
Even the final boss comes across more like someone with a “means justify the end” mentality as opposed to someone who sows chaos and death just for shits and giggles. Raiden can be downright sadistic at times, and definitely gravitates more toward ‘90s comic book anti-hero than some anti-war, peace-keeping paragon of virtue like he was in Metal Gear Solid 4.
Thankfully, the plot at least makes sense, though you might miss out on some details if you’re not an established Metal Gear fan. It dives into some dark and unsettling territory, and several people loudly, proudly proclaim, “Fuck America!” throughout the game. It probably won’t make you think about the meaning of your existence, but Revengeance has got far more heart and way bigger nerve than you might expect.
And don’t worry; you won’t find any hour-long cut scenes here, and there’s even a good amount of humor thrown in. During that same monologue I just mentioned, if you turn the camera to the right, you’ll see one of the security guards bend down to play with a kitten and wave bye-bye to it as it saunters off. When Raiden meets an orphan in the sewers, the little boy cheers, “Go ninja, go ninja, go!”
Slice ‘n dice
Not more than 10 minutes into the first level, Raiden squares off, solo, against an unmanned Metal Gear Ray. You know, that giant dinosaur-looking robot from Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4? Here’s how this totally rational, believable fight plays out:
You slice off the Ray’s armor and limbs, bit by bit, weakening it until it slams its tail onto you. You stop this 50-foot long hunk of metal with your sword, grab the tail, and throw the Ray over your shoulder before cutting it some more. It eventually jumps back and fires a barrage of missiles at you. You run forward and leap from missile to missile, heading straight for the Ray. It grabs you with its “mouth” and chucks you into the side of a clock tower.
You dislodge yourself and sprint down the side of the crumbling clock tower, dodging debris and missiles until you reach the Ray once more. You land and dig Raiden’s blade deep into its faceplate and then slide down its back, splitting it neatly in two.
This was a major enemy that was feared for its nigh unstoppable power in previous games, and not only do you cut it in half, you do so in the first level. This is the type of conflict to expect in Revengeance. You’ll fight plenty of enemies of varying size and ability, and the boss battles never disappoint – even if the final fight feels less Metal Gear and more Dragonball Z.
Controls are simple, though perhaps a bit too accommodating. There’s a light attack button and a strong attack button, and that’s basically it when it comes to combat. Dealing your enemies damage and absorbing their power cells builds up your energy, which you can then use to activate the slow-mo Blade Mode.
While in a charged up Blade Mode, you can cut enemies in half, quadruplets, or dozens of pieces, should you so choose. Cut your enemies just right and you can instantly refill your energy and health. The process is extremely satisfying to watch, and makes you feel like an incredible badass. The only downside is that it doesn’t take much to earn.
It’s very easy to button mash your way through battles instead of actually paying attention to enemy attacks, so long as you make sure to look out for the occasional yellow gleam that indicates an unblockable attack.
You block incoming attacks by pressing the left analog stick toward your attacker while hitting the light attack button. Since the block function is tied to the same button as attack, you’ll sometimes see an enemy’s attack coming but be unable to do anything about it since you’re in the middle of an attack animation, or might even move yourself into harm’s way.
There’s also no dodge by default, you have to purchase that as an upgraded skill using points earned by performing well in battle. I made it through the entire game without ever using it, simply because I didn’t care to purchase the ability. Maybe I should have, because later enemies have some very aggressive AI and seeking attacks which can’t be blocked, only evaded.
Even when you lock onto a target, enemies are so fast they frequently disappear off-screan. This means battles can get very confusing very quickly. Sometimes you just button mash, jab the thumbstick in the vague direction you think an off-screen enemy is, and pray that you’re aiming the right direction.
You can mix up your fighting style by purchasing new combos and skills, but I never noticed a significant difference in game play. You’ll also take weapons from the Desperado squad after you defeat them, giving you access to new combos throughout the story. These attacks simply replace your strong attacks however, so you’re still not getting a lot of depth or versatility from them. I only used one throughout my entire adventure, since it was the only one designed to hit multiple opponents in a wide area.
In other words, while fun, Revengeance isn’t a terribly deep action game. It’s a simple, almost hypnotic rhythm of button mash, Blade Mode, rinse, repeat. You don’t juggle enemies or toss them into each other, you don’t have to deal with different enemies by using different strategies, you just beat the crap out of everyone and everything until you can make use of Blade Mode and absorb their energy cells.
Another downer: Revengeance is short. Ridiculously short. You get a special mention at the end if you beat the game in under eight hours, but on Normal difficulty with several deaths and retries, I clocked in at just over three and a half. This is a game that can be beaten in a single afternoon.
That being said, it would be one hell of an afternoon.