When Metal Gear Rising came across Platinum’s desk, there were already plans for the game in motion. It was originally supposed to tell the story of Raiden’s journey from Metal Gear Solid 2 to 4, and it even was initially thought up as a side story involving Snake’s arch-nemesis, Gray Fox.
But none of that initial plan came to fruition. Instead, an all new story and concept was formed, taking place after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, directly tying into the events that concluded the game. Naturally, people were worried.
But I have to say: Platinum really knocked it out the park on this one.
The world of Metal Gear has always been a bit askew. There were undead vampires that could run up walls, cyborg ninjas that could slice targets with pinpoint accuracy, and people that could stop bullets with their minds. Naturally, at some point that off-the-wall aspect of the universe had to be embraced. That’s where Revengeance comes in.
This time around, the story is based entirely around Raiden. After Metal Gear Solid 4 winds down and the influence of the Patriots has waned, Raiden goes back to working for PMCs (private military companies) to earn a living, and support his family.
The rest of the game follows Raiden’s path to redemption, as well as dealing with his past and the haunting impact of his “Jack the Ripper” moniker — one he earned as a cold blooded killer before he became the hero everyone knows and loves from the Metal Gear saga.
While it isn’t the most original setup in the world, it works. Because the game paces itself well, it never really has a chance to get boring, and while you may not find Raiden quite on the level of a tragic Shakespearean figure, you’ll empathize with him enough in between cutting up an obscene amount of enemies.
Revengeance also serves up a healthy side order of philosophy, mostly delivered in the form of Wolf, Raiden’s sometimes reluctant, yet faithful, AI companion. If you’re up for it though, you can also call up any member of your crew and engage in some pretty weighty optional conversations as well. There’s comedy littered about the game too, and some parts actually had me laughing out loud, or smiling like an idiot — think Devil May Cry 3, but a little less cheesy.
But enough about the thematic elements, onto combat! Unlike most of their past games, Platinum went with a whole different feel for this one in terms of confrontation. Revengeance is basically a departure from the status quo, as you’re not really going to be dodging everything left and right.
Although you can dodge somewhat (you get a sidestep move, and you can jump out of harm’s way, which is essentially a vertical dodge), there is no real “dodge button” — the game is based on parrying enemy attacks and strategically counter-attacking — think Skyward Sword‘s combat system, but much more challenging, deep, and engaging.
Simply put, combat basically distills down to parrying and slicing — but it’s much more deep than it sounds.
If he has sufficient energy, Raiden can utilize Blade Mode, which slows down time to a crawl and allows him to cut in any direction he wishes using the right analog stick. Once enemies have been weakened a bit, their limbs will glow blue, letting you know that they’re ripe for the taking. Just rev up Blade Mode, aim your cut, and slice whatever you feel like clean off.
Because Raiden’s suit is constantly depleting energy, he needs to recharge his blade so that you can use Blade Mode. Slashing enemies with regular and heavy strikes will replace this meter (essentially MP), allowing you to activate your cutting ability, and rage meter (think Devil Trigger or Rage of the Gods). I love this, because it keeps you constantly in the action.
Playing in with the story, our hero will also will want to steal health from enemies from time to time. To do this, you use the “zan-datsu” technique, which involves slicing up an enemy at the right moment, in the right place, and grabbing their energy core before it touches the ground and shatters. If you pull it off, your health and energy meters will be fully replenished.
The implications involving Raiden’s suit doesn’t mean that you constantly lose health in any way — you can just recharge it by using this technique. I found that once I mastered it, it made the game a lot more fast paced.
Instead of running around looking for a health item, or even worrying about the health items I had, I started using zan-datsu to heal myself. And you know what? That’s pretty damn cool once you get the hang of it.
But Raiden doesn’t always take everything head-on, as there is a bit of stealth gameplay involved. Stealth gameplay in a Platinum action game — it sounds stupid, right? Well, it actually works, and it works well. Due to the challenging nature of getting swarmed, players may opt to take the safer option and sneak around to avoid some confrontations.
Using a stealth kill system that’s very similar to the Tenchu franchise, Raiden can silence enemies both from above and behind with a one-hit kill stealth move. It’ll net you extra credits to buy abilities and items with, and as long as no one sees you do it, you won’t raise the alarm.
Although you can fight your way through everything in the game if you’re skilled enough, stealth is a really cool, completely optional mechanic that fits the franchise anyways, so I’m glad it was included here.
It wasn’t until I put all of these proverbial puzzle pieces together one hour into the game that I actually got it. What I appreciate most about this design is that it contains its own learning curve. Although there are optional tutorials to teach you how to utilize these in controlled situations, actually playing it out on the battlefield is something else entirely — and that’s how action games should be.
Everything shouldn’t click for you right away in a complex game. You shouldn’t be able to master all of the game’s nuances in five minutes, or have fun drip-fed to you over the course of a ten hour affair (DmC: Devil May Cry). Other than a few sub-weapons and some statistical upgrades, Revengeance basically just gives you the entire kitchen sink at the beginning, and says “have at it.” That should be commended.
Using your codec, you can customize Raiden at any point mid-game by calling a certain frequency. There are unlockable costumes, weapons, health and fuel upgrades, as well as abilities to buy. While there can always be more, there’s enough to keep you interested, especially given the fact that you’ll have to beat the game multiple times to buy everything. The better you do in a level the more credits you earn, encouraging you to get stronger and stronger as a reward for quality play.
You’ll need all of these upgrades too, because enemies are tenacious. In one particular instance, I had sliced off both of a soldier’s arms, only to have him drop kick me as I was caught off guard for a surprise death. Rarely have games distilled that sense of urgency; like every enemy is really out to get me. It made the experience that much more fun, and that feeling was only further exemplified through the game’s boss fights.
Although there are only a handful of true boss fights, they’re unforgettable, to say the least. You will fight a few gears and machines in some of the game’s petty conflicts, but the main course is humanoid based dueling. I don’t say this enough, but I truly think the best fights of all time all stem from the same basic setup: humanoid combat.
What are some of the best boss fights of all time? Devil May Cry 3‘s Vergil, God Hand‘s Devil Hand, Ninja Gaiden‘s Genshin. All humanoids.
Revengeance follows that design philosophy as well, and it really pays off. Although I don’t want to spoil anything, the bosses are extremely engaging, as they force you to mix up your tactics on the fly.
A few encounters are pretty much sprung on you at a moment’s notice, with little to no buildup. Although it would normally feel indicative of a rushed game, Platinum seemingly does this on purpose, so you’ll have no idea what to expect from those fights — just to make them that much sweeter.
The campaign is rather short, clocking in at around 5-6 hours total, with mild exploration and codec calling. But like most technical action games, your enjoyment is mostly going to stem from discovering everything there is to find, powering up your character, and trying the game’s higher difficulties.
As previously mentioned, you can fully explore most of the game’s stages and find tons of hidden content. There’s 20 VR Missions to unlock (the PS3 gets some exclusive VR Missions DLC), hidden Easter eggs and items, civilians to save, enemies to hunt, and in-game achievements and parameters to fulfill.
After you tackle the game’s Easy, Normal, and Hard modes, you can try your luck the incredibly challenging Revengeance mode, as you try to get a perfect S rank on every chapter.
Although there isn’t as much content as say, Bayonetta, there’s plenty to keep you coming back, especially if you’re set on finding everything there is to find, and besting Revengeance mode.
Revengeance can now be considered part of the pantheon of action games, right alongside of Devil May Cry 3, Bayonetta, Ninja Gaiden, and other classics. Platinum created a deep and rewarding combat system, layered it on top of an action packed story that captures the most outrageous moments of the Metal Gear Solid series, and added their own signature mark.
Although I can always go for more classic, traditional Metal Gear games from Konami, I sincerely hope Platinum’s contract is renewed for a Revengeance 2 — it’s just that good.
This review is based on a physical copy of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance for the Xbox 360