The leading man of this offshoot in the Metal Gear saga: Raiden, is a character who has never before felt in place in his rugged environment. He sports androgynous hair and svelte, feminine features at odds with the gruff-o-matic series regular Solid Snake, whom has become synonymous with the franchise.
Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima stated that he had been disenchanted by mulleted Solid Snake being slated as ‘old and ugly’ by Japanese schoolgirls, when surveyed while developing Metal Gear Solid 2, and was keenly aiming for that demographic when pulling the rug under the feet of players everywhere and replacing tough as old boots Snake with pretty boy Raiden. Really.
Since then Raiden has undergone some serious cybernetic augmentation, and can be spotted dicing a fifty foot weapon of mass destruction in two with a katana, in the opening minutes of this Platinum Games developed slasher. In your control, cyborg Raiden is an impossibly graceful and fierce blood-letting monster, one who has finally found his place.
Set after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, a dystopian future is introduced with terrorists seeking to incite a world war for economical gain, people trying to thwart this and a great many acronyms, trite philosophy and posturing that belies a story more elaborate than it really is.
Cut-scenes are uncommonly brisk for a title under the Metal Gear banner and no knowledge of the series is required to tell up from down in this straight-forward narrative – though there are references and cameos from previous games, they’re mostly explained in the ever expository and oft-entertaining codec conversations with Raiden’s eccentric support.
Platinum Games are in full tongue-in-cheek mode here: campy dialogue and a campier soundtrack that in some instances wouldn’t be out of place heard in Power Rangers; signature offbeat humour and outrageous action sequences that in many other games would be consigned to cut-scene. This is an actioner of unashamed silliness that completely dispenses of the previous Metal Gear titles’ elegiac qualities and jumps into the power fantasy arena of manga and anime.
While this is a game about acrobatic swordplay in a future where guns are all but useless; where modern-day samurai bat aside bullets like wasps, there is still pretence that this is a Metal Gear game at heart beyond fan-service. Stealth is an option, but it plays like an unfitting concession to Metal Gear fans and lacks the pomp and circumstance of rushing in and leaving the room in tatters. Reading simple patrol patterns, and cutting down foes from behind is far too dull and restrained for Raiden’s tool-set.
Raiden is empowerment personified and from the very beginning displays that he is capable of anything. Holding a single button allows Raiden to ‘ninja run’, enabling him to duck under obstacles, bound up ledges and deflect bullets in a straight shot of momentum that is a joy to manoeuvre – MGS:R is a triumph in complex framework behind effortless control, much akin to Assassins Creeds’ middle ages parkour.
Attacks are focused on the timing of button presses for variation but until more weapons and techniques are unlocked I found myself hungry for more options in combat than a succession of light and heavy attacks, the only real variation coming from the centrefold blade mode, where a flick of the right stick can cut a limb or a complete torso in half with perverse accuracy, and in sickening slow motion. Cut the victim’s abdomen and you can grasp the still-beating heart and crush it, completely restoring Raiden’s energy in the process.
Slaying foes and taking their life blood is a smart mechanic in that it promotes aggressive play and necessitates the blade mode for Raiden’s survival. Enemy cyborgs can both endanger and revitalise Raiden, and this does makes stealth kills a more attractive prospect when low on health.
Raiden can acquire secondary weapons that do inject more depth into the combat, like a futuristic sai that latches onto enemies from a distance and propels you into them with a devastating flying kick, but switching between the different weapons requires you to dip into the menu, unlike Devil May Cry which has every of Dante’s weapons assigned to a button. This is a bit of a missed opportunity, as being able to use every weapon on the fly would have allowed for more creative combos and guile.
Enemy designs cover the usual bases. There are the cyborg grunts; the slow and heavies; the flyers, who are easily dispatched with a rocket launcher sub weapon (grenades are also available) and the bipedal Gekkos introduced in MGS4 that still make the same inexplicable and disarming mooing sound. Manageable to fight one on one or in a swarm, the camera and the controls hold up in most situations, with the generous parry giving you enough breathing room in a tight spot. But the grunts are mere starters in light of the tremendous boss fights.
Platinum Games’ design philosophy of making every boss battle feel like a final boss never fails to make itself known. Boss’ throw readable patterns your way, but when those patterns entail everything and the kitchen sink unleashed from a wonderfully eclectic range of psychopaths, breath is taken away. Quick time events do rear their head, but are lenient and player agency is usually gifted more often than not. Boss fights seldom get more spectacular and engaging than this.
MGR:R aims to deliver a frisson of excitement in every deranged situation Raiden is put into, and down-time in this linear game is kept to an absolute minimum, but even for a game as relentless as this it is exceedingly short-lived. I finished the main campaign in five hours and thirty minutes having endured a considerable number of deaths to boot. Unlockable VR missions add some vital extra content that provide a stern challenge for those wishing to be pushed to their limits.
Having soon acquired the majority of techniques and weapons, and having truly synergised with Raiden’s abilities, it is galling to find that the game ends before this sweet spot can be fully appreciated. Due to this, a second playthrough becomes an entirely different experience. With the full extent of Raiden’s abilities at your disposal from the offset foes can be danced through and styled on, and Platinum’s mechanical expertise makes itself truly apparent. Normal mode or Hard mode becomes irrelevant when in mastery you’re now untouchable.
The Good: awe-inspiring and involved set-pieces, sixty frames per second response, slick controls, high replay value, dismembering foes in blade mode is worryingly satisfying,
The Bad: bland and lifeless environments, extremely short, inability to change secondary weapons on the fly spoils combat engine potential, uninspired storytelling, stealth is half-baked
3.5 out of 5
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was given to us by Konami for reviewing purposes free of charge.