Metal Gear Rising : Revengeance Review
Cart: Metal Gear Rising Revengeance
Cab: PS3, Xbox 360
Coin: Platinum Games
In amongst all the furore that met the reveal of Metal Gear Rising Revengeance (“Looks shit” “That’s not Metal Gear Solid” “Who wants to play as a gay ninja?”) people seemed to miss the obvious. Playing as a gay ninja in a game that looked shit and not Metal Gear Solid like was EXACTLY the shot in the arm the series needed after the miserable bloat that affected the (otherwise very enjoyable) Metal Gear Solid 4. True, Rising is more of a spin-off within the same universe, but making it the next console entry seems like a very well-considered decision with hindsight.
If I could sum up Revengeance in one adjective it would be ‘young’. Unfortunately this blank screen demands I offer a little more considered thought and effort but it’s an apt summation. The lead character is younger and far more vibrant than the decrepit Old Snake. Like most young people he has silly hair, strange fashion sense and metal things embedded in his face, and like most young people he favours the accompaniment of raucous music as he goes about his business. The story too concerns the enslavement and corruption of children (those who played and understood Metal gear Solid 2 will remember that being a child soldier was ‘a thing’ for Raiden).
Gone are the super-long cutscenes, incessant interruptions and hiding in the shadows. Instead it offers a vibrant, colourful, noisy, energetic and, more importantly, fun few hours of almost constant action.
And yet, it still feels distinctly like a Metal Gear game. It’s obviously a delicate balancing act to reinvent the wheel whilst making sure it’s still round and can carry stuff, but Platinum Games have done it with aplomb. You can hide under cardboard boxes, sneak up on enemies and tangle with oddly disturbing mechanical bipeds. You can stop to chat nonsense with your pals via codec during the games lulls and you can still appreciate non-interactive sequences where characters discuss the psychological effects of wearing figure hugging suits and killing people. But Platinum hasn’t forgotten its modus operandi: that ‘balls to the wall’ action games that run at a healthy 60 frames per second are their bread and butter. And that’s exactly what is offered here.
They set out their stall from the beginning of the game: Raiden encounters a Metal Gear Ray, formerly the game’s big bad and proceeds to open it like a bipedal tin of beans. Much was made of the ‘cut and keep’ approach early on in the game’s development cycle, and while this has been downplayed somewhat in the final release, it is all about mastering the arts of swordplay. You must learn to parry attacks*, switch up your offense and master attacking styles for each enemy. Thankfully, the game’s combat system is incredibly satisfying which makes persevering hugely satisfying. This is helpful because there are some really annoying difficulty spikes. I won’t give too much away but ‘chainsaw dog’ is one of highest peaks and lowest moments.
The most satisfying element of the combat is Zandatsu. By holding the left trigger you can aim Raiden’s sword swing. When using it against a suitably weakened opponent you can slice through their mid section, grab their spine and crush it absorbing their health in the process. And while this healing method may possess dubious medical accuracy, when combined with quick-time button presses you can do some very cool and incredibly gross maneuvers. This may be a ‘Kojima-lite’ commentary on how videogames desensitize us to violence, but the game doesn’t really allow for periods of reflection. There’s always some giant new creature around the corner waiting to be dismembered.
In fact, Metal Gear Rising Revengeance is like some kind of electric fever dream. Most of it is turned up to ‘11’ but it’s far from one-note, and you have occasional flashbacks of running down clock-towers, vaulting off statues, fighting cyborg apes down sewers and chopping helicopters into tiny shards. It was clearly designed with an old school remit, and while it may seem hard as a bastard it takes you back to a time when playing videogames was a thrill and not just a series of barely interactive sequences that unfold in front of your eyes with minimal interaction.
Appropriately for a game about youth, Metal Gear Rising Revengeance made me feel young again. It made me fall back in love with the concept of videogames as entertainment that tests your mettle, and it left me excited for the future of the Metal Gear saga. I would give it ‘fucking amazing/10’ if not for the occasionally erratic camera. As it stands it will have to settle for a mere ‘amazing’. Seriously, just go and buy it.
*I find it helps to avoid pressing a direction on the left-stick in combat until you’re ready to block / parry.
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Lancaster based writer, blogger and digital navel-gazer. Opinions are, sadly, all his own. Favourite games include: Streetfighter II, Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye, Tenchu, Red Dead Redemption, Deus-Ex and Granny’s Garden.