The Metal Gear universe is one of the most well-known and loved franchises in all of gaming. It spawned the sub-genre of stealth games due to its innovative and engaging gameplay. Up until now, the franchise has been in the hands of its creator Hideo Kojima. However, Kojima’s interests seem to be moving away from the Metal Gear universe, and he decided it was time to choose a successor. After much deliberation, he gave his blessing to Platinum Games, and the match seemed to be made in heaven. From this combination of two excellent studios comes a game that not only makes the Metal Gear universe more relevant, but has expanded it to unimaginable heights.
This action-based, hack-and-slash game spins the stealth-based franchise on its head, moving it in a completely different direction. The story revolves around Raiden, a cyborg tasked with the job of consulting for a security firm. When the story begins, Raiden is speaking with the prime minister of an African country who just enlisted the services of Raiden’s firm. While the two are speaking about business in a limousine, the convoy is attacked and the Prime Minister is kidnapped and eventually murdered, while Raiden is severely damaged. In the fallout of this situation, Raiden swears revenge against those that murdered the Prime Minister and injured him.
If you didn’t catch it already, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a complete departure from the Metal Gear Solid franchise that you know and love. While you can still play the game in a somewhat stealthy manner, you’ll find yourself in combat more often than not. Though the campaign only lasts five-hours or so, there are lots of unlockable items and several levels of difficulty to work through that give the game some length on the numerous playthroughs you’ll ultimately want to experience. It is a shame that the story is so greatly diminished when compared to the other elements this game has to offer. It isn’t that a five-hour game couldn’t be the right length, but you will be left wanting more from the single-player experience. Luckily, this is the only part of Revengeance that leaves something to be desired.
Where Revengeance really shines is the combat: Raiden has a wide array of attacks and combos that are very, very satisfying to execute. Raiden is a capable warrior from the start, but his repertoire expands quickly through the upgrade system in the game. As you complete battles, you will be scored based on a formula of time and damage taken. The better you do, the more points you earn, and your access to better combos and equipment increases. Though Raiden’s array of battle techniques is impressive, the game’s coup de grâce is blade mode. When an enemy has received enough damage, Raiden can enter blade mode, in which time slows down to a crawl and Raiden can swing his sword a number of times at the enemy, severing everything it comes in contact with. No matter which way you slice, you’ll cut right through, leaving only a slew of mechanical pieces. This mode is incredibly satisfying and quickly takes center stage the first time you use it. Before long, you’ll be carving up everything that gets in your way. You will also see a red box in the center of the enemy when in blade mode. If you slice this box a certain way, you can execute a Zandatsu, which prompts Raiden to reach into the enemy cyborg and tear out its repair unit, crushing it in his hands. This instantly repairs any damage taken as well as any energy used for blade mode. Needless to say, the Zandatsu is one of the keys to your survival, but it is one of the most memorable moments of the game. It’s visceral, it’s ferocious, and it’s awesome all at the same time; pure, unadulterated fun, to put it simply.
While performing the Zandatsu is not particularly difficult, it does require precision. It speaks to a gameplay element that defines this game to its core; precision. You will find that this game requires you to be extremely precise in your attacks and your defense. If you rush your attack, or even if you attack too often, you’ll be punished by your eagerness. Timing is everything, and this game will put that to the test. You can’t just press a button whenever you want and have the game assume that you want to block; in Revengeance, you have to earn it. You have to time every attack and block precisely when the enemy attacks you. It isn’t forgiving, and it may test your patience, but it is a very rewarding system. This even carries over to the boss battles. Almost every boss battle requires you to change your blade angle quickly and accurately. As the difficulty increases, you’ll have less time to adjust and you’ll be forced to be more precise. Beginners may have difficulty at first with this premise, and they would probably tell you that the game is extremely difficult. While that does have a certain amount of truth, the game never feels like it cheated you out of whatever life you had left. You can always refer to a point in the battle where you made a critical error that led to you losing a ton of health. That is the mark of a great game. It challenges you to master its mechanics without resorting to cheap tactics that frustrate instead of reward.
From a technical standpoint, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a masterpiece. The game looks amazing and runs at a fast frame-rate most of the time. There were a few sparing moments where the frame-rate took a noticeable hit, but those were only moments when there were over ten enemies on the screen at once, all attacking at the same time. The few times you see the console take a breath from the action are worth the graphical fidelity you experience with this game. It is easily the best looking game on consoles today, and once experienced, you can’t help but be completely immersed in the visuals. It is also worth noting that the soundtrack for this game is excellent. Each boss has its own track, and it is comprised of speedy, electronic metal tracks that fit the setting perfectly. It is worth a listen on its own and is one of the few soundtracks that comes almost as recommended as the game itself.
Revengeance is one of those rare games that manages to completely change the way you feel about something you love. If fans were told that the next Metal Gear game was an action-based hack-and-slash, they would have surely scoffed at the mere notion. However, once you get your hands on the game, you’ll see it changes everything. The game is everything you want it to be and more; excellent combat, a challenging, yet fair, difficulty curve, awesome boss battles, a fresh look at familiar characters, non-stop action, and more. Sure, the game has some minor imperfections, but it never gets in the way of providing you with an incredible gaming experience. If you even have a passing interest in the game, we could not recommend this game enough: it’s worth every penny.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation 3 version of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance developed by Platinum Games, published by Konami