METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE (2013) – PLATINUM GAMES
Here’s a dilemma for y’all to figure out: how do you create a new protagonist following in the footsteps of one of the most popular video game characters ever made and get people to like them? That was the scenario that Hideo Kojima faced when it was decided that Raiden should be the main playable character of MGS2 instead of Snake; fans were dismayed that they saw Snake relegated to a secondary character and Raiden took his fair share of abuse from critics. Kojima decided to rectify the situation in typically dramatic fashion; for by the time of MGS4 Raiden had become a badass cyber ninja able to stop a warship with one arm.
In quite a departure from traditional Metal Gear style of gameplay, Metal Gear Rising: Reveangence lets you step into the new and improved Raiden’s pointy cyber shoes for an OTT blend of swordplay and combat action; and the slick thrills it delivers as a result makes it arguably one of the best games of 2013.
First thumbs up for Revengeance – the plot is so nonsensical that it makes even the talk of military factions and artificial intelligence from MGS4 look almost restrained in comparison. The official line is that Raiden has to fight off a new private military corporation called Desperado and save millions of kids from being turned into future soldiers. What you actually get is a robotic wolf with a chainsaw for a tail, Raiden wearing a poncho and sombrero for no reason at all other than it’s cool, and a wonderfully crazed main villain – a United States Senator that wishes to stop the war economy…so he can start a war and restart the war economy. It’s utterly mental, and for a game like this that’s actually a good thing. Normally, Metal Gear Solid games trundle along so you have a bit of time to try and come to terms with things, whereas Revengeance wears its moniker of ‘lightning storm action’ very proudly on its chest; the first battle (against a modified Metal Gear Ray) has you leaping across a barrage of missiles and running ninety degrees vertically down a clock tower to deliver the final blow, and it only gets ever more ridiculous as you progress. In fact the bosses that you encounter in Revengeance are pretty much worth the admission price alone, a heady mixture of slick cut-scenes and fast paced action that rarely fails to entertain.
Platinum Games have earned themselves a reputation as one of the most competent developers of recent years with a knack for making exciting games (Bayonetta, Vanquish), and they’ve replicated the trick here. Raiden, as you might hope of a cyborg ninja, is great fun to play as. Basic sword maneuvers are split into light or heavy attacks which can be mixed up into combos, and whilst running Raiden will use his blade to automatically deflect bullets and clamber over objects like a parkour expert. The main departure in the control scheme here is that there is no magical block button – in order to defend against his foes, Raiden must parry attacks at the right time, and when his enemies are consequently stunned he can enter ‘Blade Mode’; where the action transitions behind Raiden’s shoulder and time slows down to allow you to freely control his sword with the analogue sticks. Whilst in Blade Mode you can get the job done in one cut, or go mental and chop enemies into several hundred tiny bits before they hit the ground (there’s an on-screen counter telling you just how many). Timing on parrying is very tricky when you pick up the game for the first time, and you can expect to die a fair few times before you see the credits roll. As you defeat enemies you gradually accrue experience which can be traded in for new moves, weapons and upgrades to health and damage.
Combat then is hugely engrossing fun – but only when you get the camera to work in tandem. Revengeance unfortunately suffers from a shoddy camera system that gets all the wrong angles and often hides enemies just as they are about to attack. When there are larger groups of enemies, and indeed bigger foes to fell, battles can become more frustrating than enjoyable. The worst thing is that there is a lock-on option to keep tabs on any one particular bad guy; but the game never tells you about it. On my playthrough, I randomly stumbled across it while furiously mashing buttons to attempt parrying, and while I was grateful to eventually find it, by then it was far too late to have had any real effect. That’s because of the other stumbling block in Revengeance: it’s a very, very short game. If you ignore the optional VR missions that you can unlock by finding hidden laptops around the world, the first run through of the game can be done and dusted in five hours (although as ever there are hours worth of Codec conversations to listen to). Sadly there is little replay value unless you want to master the more hardcore difficulty levels, so savor that limb hacking madness as much as you can first time around.
With the action as frantic as it is one might expect that Revengeance could suffer from graphical problems, but the game engine runs as smooth as you hope for (with promises of an ever more spectacular PC version still in the works). What is particularly impressive is that so much of the environment, not just Raiden’s enemies, can be slashed to pieces, and this destructibility gives Revengeance a slight edge over competition like God Of War or DmC . Revengeance also features one of the best soundtracks that I’ve heard in a game for a long while; a roaring mix of metal, heavy rock and electronica that serves to augment your cyborg rampage (of particular note is ‘The Stains Of Time’ which plays in the background of the best boss battle).
Revengeance then, is everything Metal Gear Solid isn’t: embracing the truly ridiculous and giving the middle finger to stealth in favor of pure action – and yet despite that, it stands as tall as any of Snake’s adventures. True, the terrible camera and short length prevent it from getting a look in for Game Of The Year, but as a shot of gaming adrenaline there is little better that 2013 has to offer.