The Metal Gear series has always been primarily focused on stealth-action sequences, so what happens when Konami throws a cyborg ninja into the mix? Ultimate badassery if you remember Raiden’s numerous sequences in Metal Gear Solid 4. After the positive reception of the change in character, Konami decided on a spin-off title focusing on Raiden. What originally started as a game developed in-house by Konami focusing on the events between Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4 turned into a game developed by Platinum Games taking place after the events of MGS4. Did Platinum deliver a worthy experience for this cyborg ninja, or does the final product fall flat?
Metal Gear Rising takes a huge change in gameplay for the Metal Gear series. Changing from the familiar stealth action, Rising stars Raiden in a frenzy-filled, hack n slash adventure. Gameplay is rather smooth and fluid, with combos ranging from easy to learn and difficult to get the hang of. The game runs at a silky smooth 60 FPS, and it shows. Animations are fantastic in combat, and all is fast paced and quite responsive. Don’t expect everything to be too simple though, as there are some steep learning curves. A huge fan of hack n slash games (DmC, God of War), there were some gameplay options that were both questionable and innovative in their own retrospect in Metal Gear Rising. For starters, the lack of a dedicated block button – something very common and important in hack n slash games. Whilst playing through the first couple missions, it took some time to get used to the game’s parrying system. Players are to push the analog stick in the direction of the enemy while hitting the light attack button during an enemy attack to then parry the attack. The system works overall for the most part, but the steep learning curve can get rather intrusive. Another issue with the gameplay is the camera, which can become an incredible pain to control at times. During combat, the camera tends to pull away from the action, creating an experience that can become incredibly frustrating. Aiming at an enemy helps slightly, but then the camera feels too focused, limited the player to outside options. The next issue with the gameplay comes from a heavily hyped feature of the game.
Metal Gear Rising incorporates a blade mode which slows down the game and allows Raiden to slice in numerous directions with precise aim, slicing his enemies (and occasionally watermelons!) into little, bite-size pieces. The blade mode is a nice little addition and is pretty damn cool…when it works. The blade mode can be used with the right analog stick or by pressing the light/heavy attack buttons. While Platinum Games pushed for the analog mode to be the frequently used of the two methods, the game just feels a lot more comfortable and at home when pressing the light/heavy attack buttons. While the blade mode is definitely precise, the sensitivity of the analogs make for awkward and unwanted slicing directions. While this may not be the biggest deal in gameplay, especially since players are generally given a choice, it becomes more than a hassle when players are forced to use the analog mode during two specific boss fights. Fortunately, the rest of the game gives players the freedom of choice during blade mode.
The story, as noted earlier, takes place after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4. However, newcomers to the series can easily pick Rising up and understand the events as the story is standalone. The story follows Raiden as he seeks revenge on a company of terrorists known as Desperado Enterprises, haunted by his past when learning of the company’s true motives throughout the course of the game. The story is an incredible, cinematic thrill ride that starts off great and ends even greater. Enjoyable villains taking the screen over each mission, a familiar with the Metal Gear series, creates for some truly superb, climatic moments. Interactions with the troubled, aggressive Raiden prove to be even more enjoyable than some of the interactions between Snake and company in the Metal Gear Solid series. However, one of the game’s biggest issues has to be its length. Spanning 7 missions, not including the intro mission, the game can take as low as four and a half to five hours to complete in its entirety. This is incredibly short, even with today’s standards. The game does pack a wide amount of collectibles, though nothing truly spectacular. The best of the bunch are the iconic VR missions which make a return in Rising, testing players to kill enemies in specific ways, reach the end of a stage, or implement stealth skills to maneuver around enemies. These VR missions are sure to keep players busy after finishing the main campaign, and higher difficulties are always available to test player skill.
Metal Gear Rising introduces a new cast of likable characters, all pretty stereotypical. Voice actors are nice for the most part, with a lot of standouts, primarily by the fantastic cast of unique villains. Sound effects and score are great, from the slicing of the blade to the nice blend of heavy metal and dubstep. It seems as though those two music genres may be the new standard for hack n slash titles, a la DmC. Along with the sound, the game also looks pretty good. Character animations are relatively smooth and environments look vibrant and stand out. Certain details in environments are lacking, but the game doesn’t fall completely because of it. The same can be said for some basic character designs, as well.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a solid entry in the Metal Gear series, and a well-crafted spin-off. An absolute blast from beginning to end, both in fun factor and cinematography. With smooth and intuitive gameplay, the game is just an overall enjoyment to play when you get the hang of it. The big problem that may scare players off is the steep learning curve surrounding the parry system and the awkward blade mode that is a nice, new touch for hack n slash games but wasn’t executed to its full potential in this one. The story was on par with recent entries and solid, though ran an incredibly short length for a series of this caliber. With not much to do afterwards, aside from some pretty neat VR missions, that can lead players to question the overall value of the full-priced game. The game also looks and sounds great on almost all levels. Fans of hack n slash games such as God of War and Devil May Cry will feel almost entirely welcome with Metal Gear Rising, so being a fan of the Metal Gear universe is an even bigger plus. Fans of the gameplay in the Metal Gear series, however, will surely be turned off. That doesn’t mean they should steer away from this game, as it is a worthy, albeit, flawed spin-off title. Following through with Raiden and his devastating blade proves to be a great, but short, thrill ride.
[Note: A free copy of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was provided for review by Konami]