The history of Metal Gear Rising makes for a potentially suspect final product. It was shown at E3 2010 to modest praise and then was promptly forgotten about (by both Konami and fans) for years. When it was announced that Platinum was taking over development, some people were worried about the strength of the product. Platinum’s track record is quite good, but how would they handle this game that was unceremoniously dumped into their laps? While it is pretty obvious in a few places that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was developed by multiple studios, the mechanics at its core are solid fun action gaming.
Metal Gear Rising has you playing once again as Raiden, everyone’s favorite complaint from Metal Gear Solid 2. However, this isn’t whiny, hard-to-care-about Raiden; he’s in full badass-cyborg mode like he appeared in MGS4. He now works for a company called Maverick that hires out as security to protect VIPs. When a job goes wrong, the group tries to stop the terrorists behind it. As you may expect, it reveals a plot to destroy the world as we know it, requiring Raiden to fight his way forward at any cost.
Metal Gear Rising’s story is about as crazy as you would expect a melding of Konami’s introspective story style and Platinum’s batshit crazy flair. We may never know how much of the story was the result of one studio or the other, but I can at least tell you what I think happened. It seems to me that the base plot was developed by Konami. Many of the themes touched upon definitely feel like they belong in a Metal Gear game, such as the horror of child soldiers. However, it seems that Platinum sprinkled on a healthy dose of their magic juice to make it reflective of their own style. I could easily see many of crazier moments coming directly from Platinum’s influence–but of course, I don’t know for sure.
Oftentimes, Rising is hilarious: even when it isn’t trying to be (or is it?). Many of the plot twists are laughably flimsy or ridiculous, and the game doesn’t seem to care. The characters that inhabit this world are stereotypical but often amusing in their portrayal. You will probably guess the final boss’ identity before the final minutes of the game, but the form that he/she takes is so stupid that you will chuckle at its ridiculousness. This absurdity can make it hard to really care about the themes in place, but, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. My enjoyment of the story purely came from just how insane it was, just like other Platinum games. I didn’t really care about the characters or what was going on in the story; I just wanted the next Platinum moment to come along and knock me out of my seat.
Where Rising redeems itself is in the combat department. Combat is pretty much what is expected from an action game of this type, such as in God of War, but with two distinct differences. The first is the unique parry system. Unlike most action games which do a parry as a well-timed block, Rising forces you to both push in the direction of the enemy and hit the attack button. How well you time this parry gives you one of three results: you go way too early or way too late and whiff entirely, you parry with non-perfect timing and reflect the attack, or you parry perfectly and counter-attack. The timing for a counter-attack parry in particular is very specific, requiring near-perfect reflexes to pull off with consistency. Later enemies seem to get trickier with this timing. Proper use of this mechanic makes the game MUCH easier and is an almost necessary skill on harder difficulties.
The other unique mechanic is Blade Mode. Holding a trigger allows you freely swipe your blade in any direction with the right analog stick. If the enemy is weakened or stunned, this lets you slice them into (possibly) hundreds of pieces. It looks pretty ridiculous, not really striving for any semblance of realism, but it’s always amusing to just flail the stick around and go crazy. A more advanced technique is called the Zandatsu. When an enemy is weak enough, you can launch into a pre-canned animation that usually has Raiden flipping through the air, ready to slice his opponent open. Slicing a specific target has Raiden grabbing the enemy’s spine and using its energy to refill his health and Blade Mode meter (since they are all cyborgs–did I mention that?). You will see these animations constantly–which makes the lack of any variety in them a bit of a problem. Still, from minute one to the end of the game, I enjoyed frantically slashing enemies to pieces.
Where the game really forces you to play to perfection is in the boss fights. One in particular requires you to cut very specific areas with Blade Mode or get severely counterattacked. Most of them also require very precise usage of parrying in order to be overcome successfully. This is where the game can get a little frustrating, if you aren’t very skilled with the parry mechanic. Several of the bosses will eat you alive if you are unable to parry effectively. The benefit to this is that every victory feels pretty damn sweet to achieve.
Easily the biggest gripe I had with Rising was its camera. It may not be the worst I’ve seen, but it sure hindered my enjoyment of the game at times. It had a tendency to get stuck on everything and would often zoom in so far I could barely see the action. More than once I had it bug out entirely for a few seconds, costing me some much-needed life. There is a lock-on feature that helps a bit, but the camera still liked to get lost in the action a little too often for my liking..
Rising is a fairly pretty game, with a nice solid framerate (key in action games with as frenetic a pace as this one). Some things here and there look pretty rough, such as the crude way some objects slice apart, but they are hard to notice if you aren’t looking for them. One major issue to note is the lack of varied level design. Rising is a short game with a bit of repetition in the way levels look. It even has the gall to make you run through the same level again but in reverse. There’s some decent stuff to be seen, but I would have liked to see a bit more variety and quantity. Many people have said that the game gets much more fun on harder difficulties, something I didn’t get to try as I had to return my copy of the game (Gamefly rental). The combat may get harder, but the thought of running through those levels again and again for more combat just doesn’t appeal to me.
Musically, Rising is hard to describe. Every song is some crazy metal/punk thing that both sounds entirely out-of-place and fits the game perfectly at the same time. It is extremely hard to explain, and I would suggest just going to find some of the soundtrack on Youtube if you are curious. I was constantly laughing at every new piece of music, wondering who could pick such a strange collection of music. Then I remembered who made this and all was answered. On the voice acting side of things, it’s pretty comparable to your standard Metal Gear game. Some of the voices are perfectly fine; others are laughably bad. Raiden’s voice in particular shifts occasionally into a gruffer, more-badass tone (think Batman-voice from the Nolan movies) that just seems silly and unnecessary. I wasn’t really impressed with the sound as a whole, but it was what I expected from a game such as this.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance falls solidly on the middle of the scale for me. The story was constantly making me chuckle–even though its tone is somewhat serious at times. I really enjoyed the active nature of the parrying in combat which required me to put a little more thought into my fighting, unlike the button-mashy nature of many action games. However, the camera is a massive hindrance, and a few more enemy types and levels to test my mettle against wouldn’t have hurt. This definitely feels like a step down from Bayonetta for Platinum Games, but it doesn’t really seem like their fault. I’m just impressed that they managed to pull off something for Rising in such a short time. I would certainly love to see these mechanics more fully fleshed out in a longer game with some really clever enemy design. Maybe a game like Bayonetta 2?