Since the inception of the Metal Gear Solid series in 1987, we have seen the series grow bigger and broader ever since. But it wasn’t until 1997 that Metal Gear found mainstream success with its first 3D title on the original Playstation. It’s been one of the few series that remains lively to this day, and with a movie currently in the works and Next-Generation titles underway, the series isn’t showing any signs of slowdown.
For those that don’t know, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has had a pretty troubled development. Initially being shown in 2009, Kojima Productions wanted to provide a different type of MGS experience by placing you in the shoes of a ninja, enabling you to slice anything you want. Be that any car, building or soldier that stands in your way. But it seems a lot of trouble was met with these high expectations, as the team found it hard to provide enjoyable sword-play, coupled with the fact that being able to cut anything was playing havoc with the game’s level design. Instead of cancelling the project entirely, creator of the series, Hideo Kojima, decided instead to outsource its development to another studio, PlatinumGames.
Anyone who has played previous titles from PlatinumGames, such as ‘Bayonetta’ or ‘Vanquish’ will know roughly what to expect with this new interpretation of the Metal Gear universe. Compared to the traditional structure seen in prior MGS titles with everything orientating around stealth espionage, it’s definitely a strong departure from sneaking around in cardboard boxes, although the latter does make an appearance.
Let’s make one thing clear, if you’re expecting a traditional Metal Gear title then don’t. It was never going to match the same feeling as previous entries and, quite frankly, it shouldn’t have to. Your focus is totally different, there is no ‘Snake’, no ‘Colonel’ and you aim to keep your blade hot – not stick in the shadows. But though this does have an entirely different feel to any other game in the series, with more running and slicing than slugging around in vents, it still does a good job of retaining much of the humour and trademarks the series is famous for. Enemies can be found hidden in cardboard boxes, subtle references are made of previous titles and the cheesy dialogue is still there.
Since Metal Gear Solid 4, Raiden has been providing protective detail for high-profile figures and, unfortunately for him, his skills can’t match the resistance he faces at the start of the game. Set four years after the end of the patriots in MGS4, private military companies (PMCs) still have a major presence in everyday life, and alongside advancements in human biotics, have strengthened their position on the battlefield. Very quickly things turn from bad to worse, as Raiden fails to protect the Libyan Prime Minister N’Mani, and is ultimately worse for wear come the end of the first act.
Patience and skill
If you’re thinking that you might just button mash your way through the game, then think again, as this game is hard. Really hard. Even on normal difficulty, I still found it incredibly testing to progress and almost found myself rage quitting after a few mind numbing boss fights. However, that’s not due to bad game design, it’s solely down to my own mistakes. One of the most important skills you’ll need to acquire in order to defeat your foes is the ability to parry and counter their attacks, and it will take some time. It wasn’t until a third into the game that I managed to figure out how to perfect my parry, enabling me to cycle seamlessly from enemy to enemy. The trick is to flick the left analogue stick in the direction of an enemy’s incoming attack, coupled with the square button. Do this successfully in order to keep opponents off-guard and to strike their health even lower.
Mechanically the gameplay flows rather smoothly, with only a few occasional hiccups and the frame rate busting a joint here and there, but overall I was impressed with the amount of enemies handled on screen alongside the action involved. As a Cyborg you essentially run off the same juice as any other soldier, meaning you have an energy bar which must be re-filled by slicing open enemies and ripping out their glowing spinal cord. It looks incredibly cool no matter how many times you do it, plus the action slows down just enough so that you can savour the moment.
In order to cut with such precision though, you have to enter what’s called ‘Blade Mode’. In this mode (which can only be accessed once your energy bar is full), time slows down and you have the opportunity to cut from whichever angle you like. For instance, perform a sliding kick to an enemy, slide under and perform blade mode, line up your pre-emptive strike line and slice away. Just remember to slice off their left hand with clean accuracy as well, as each soldier contains highly sensitive information stored in a small chip in their left hand. Once enough of these have been collected, you are then given extra abilities and items. Also worth mentioning is that the action is accompanied by a fully-fledged rock-themed soundtrack, featuring many fast paced songs built to help you feel like a bad ass and keep the action flowing. Even as a normal album to listen to, I’d thoroughly recommend it.
Keeping the flow
Once you get to grips with the flowing pattern of the fight, you can then customise each aspect of Raiden, including the addition of different costumes and even being able to use RPGs and daggers as secondary weapons, aside from the usually health and energy upgrades. Note that you can also access sword enhancements which add greater amounts of damage and speed to you sword, something that proves useful particularly when you begin to encounter enemies that are quite clearly a bastard to kill. Just try to reframe from what I did, only realising on the second to final boss that you could upgrade your sword in power and speed. I feel as though I made more work for myself than needed. As a side note the visuals do keep up for the most part with some beautiful vistas along the way, but I can’t help but think that the inclusion of being able to cut 99% of your environment has meant that the graphics had to take a hit. As you’re often met with the same grey interiors and dreary brown landscapes, though the artistic flare of enemies and fighting scenes tend to make up for it, and you’re often not in one place for too long to take notice.
Throughout the game you’re met with an array of different enemies, each with varying amounts of armour to slice through. Even in your first encounter with a boss, you’re face-to-face with a Metal Gear Ray; an enemy that would’ve previously taken a worthy amount of time to defeat. But you’re a ninja and things operate slightly different now. Dodge its attacks, enter Blade Mode and systematically strip the behemoth of all its armour, while you effortlessly run across its body, focusing on weak points. That first fight sets the tone perfectly, giving you a taste of what you’re capable of, but rest assured that a much larger and tougher opponent is fought later in the game. Thankfully a fair amount of variety is also seen with many of the main boss fights as well, keeping things fresh at each turn. But I will leave it to you to learn and endure each encounter.
Old meets new
Making a popular return is the addition of the cardboard box, which allows the player to tackle certain situations from a stealth perspective. Although a nice idea, every time I decided to don the brown box, I found it impossible to sneak by undetected. Almost every time I’d move ten feet, an enemy would spot me from far away causing me to ditch the cumbersome item and start slicing away. It makes me wonder as to why they kept it in the game in the first place. Even though the team at Platinum has done an amazing job at being able to realise the original vision of the game, it’s not without its technical flaws. When precision is needed in order to block and parry an incoming attack, when the camera angle is in the wrong place, it’s frustrating to get set back by not being able to see anything.
For those looking for a story of more than seven hours may be disappointed by the criminally short campaign. Even on normal difficulty, which I explained was more than your average challenge, I ended up clocking in just less than six hours of playtime. Nevertheless there are a host of features and goals to keep you coming back. Collectibles are littered throughout the game, VR missions also make a comeback to help you hone your skills on the battlefield. As expected, ridiculous difficulty modes set to test even the most dedicated of gamer, provide further replay value. For anyone who just wants to dive straight into the hardest difficulty without completing his or her first play through, enter the Konami code. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google it.
- + High-octane action
- + You get to play as a ninja, which is awesome!
- + Epic end boss fight
- - Some niggling camera issues
- - Extremely short
- - Stealth options feel out of place