February 19, 2013
Cutting or chopping stuff up is normally quite mundane. A real chore. It's so dull that supermarkets sell pre-sliced fruit and vegetables in bags. Slicing up carrots, apples, potatoes or whatever is pretty boring, but Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance makes chopping fun. Like, really really fun. It's so enjoyable in fact that chances are you'll be constantly distracted by things to slice into tiny little chunks, whether it's an innocuous wooden crate, a perfectly innocent tree or a rusty burnt out car. Brilliantly, you'll find that more often than not, practically everything can be carved up in some way or another. Especially cyborg soldiers filled with blood. It's ok to kill them in the most grisly way imaginable. They're only cyborgs.
Widely derided hero of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and enigmatic figure in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Raiden returns in his very own Metal Gear instalment, brought back from the brink by Platinum Games. There's no Snake anywhere to be seen this time, though Revengeance possesses that same Metal Gear essence, with a similar art-style and a somewhat complex socio-political story, with topical overtones and a soupçon of incomprehensible babble to boot. That said, MGS Rising's story is actually relatively easy to follow compared to past Metal Gears, and there's none of the hour-long cut scenes or meandering codec sequences to contend with either.
There's a bit of philosophising, a few grand speeches from various characters and the odd twist here and there, but then it wouldn't be a Metal Gear game if there wasn't. And you'll also discover the usual pondering of war and (huh) what is it good for? It turns out it is actually good for something, if you're to believe the nefarious 'Desperado' private military company that Raiden finds himself butting heads with on behalf of 'Maverick', the nice face of the military. It appears that there's only one thing for it. Cut up absolutely anything that moves, and anything that doesn't move for that matter. 'Cut what you will', as it says on the back of the box.
Underneath all of the wanton slicing and dicing, you'll find that Metal Gear Rising has a deeply gratifying combat system in true Platinum style, which is pretty much par for the course from the house that brought you Vanquish and Bayonetta. Getting to grips with the nuances of the combat can be initially quite challenging, with no obvious dodge move or block to speak of, but once you manage to master the parry system and get the timing nailed down, it all falls into place and clicks.
If you're struggling, there are plenty of VR missions to help you get better acquainted with the various fighting mechanics, although they're not essential for mastering the basics. Parrying is where the real challenge lies, as it can often feel like your timing is off, but you'll find there are visual cues to prompt a parry response. Executed by pushing towards your enemy and hitting the main attack button, when you're successful in parrying attacks, it's immensely gratifying. Getting to grips with the additional weapons you'll acquire and upgrades you can purchase makes things increasingly exciting too, as you unlock more moves and expand Raiden's repertoire.
Even more exciting is being able to string together a combo and lead straight into a spectacular Zandatsu finisher, which has Raiden activating Blade Mode by holding the left trigger and carving up enemies with the use of his precision high-frequency blade. In essence, the cutting system is remarkably simple and intuitive, with weak spots marked as red squares that when cut, enable Raiden to thrust his hand in to the dismembered bits for a tasty glowing blue spine, filled with electrolytes to replenish his fuel cells. Consuming said fuel refills your health and fuel bar, the latter of which designates how much time you're able to spend in Blade Mode. Later on, when filled, the bar enables Raiden to go into a furious Ripper Mode, slicing up foes with devastating swipes.
Ripper Mode is pretty much useless against the game's bosses though, who in true Metal Gear fashion each have their own weird gimmick or attack pattern. While the first two bosses are relatively straightforward yet exhilarating battles, Revengeance's later boss fights really turn the screws on you, with the battle against Sundowner putting your Blade Mode skills to the ultimate test. It's rare moments like these that you might bemoan the manual slicing, as what you'll have been using throughout the game to chop enemies into hundreds of bits without much call for precision, suddenly demands the deft skill of a surgeon.
None of the boss encounters come close to the sheer unbridled frustration of the final showdown however, which puts you through the wringer with several stages, all of which are likely to drive you to distraction. The less said about the innate rubbishness of the boss itself, the better. Suffice it to say, the final boss battle is a long, drawn out affair that quickly becomes something of a tiresome chore. And it was all going so well up until that point.
The truth is, the majority of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an absolute joy, filled with wall-to-wall moments of air-punching brilliance. But a few nasty difficulty spikes and the aforementioned abomination of a final boss fight put a downer on proceedings, especially as they seem to signify an ill-advised attempt at padding out the game's somewhat slender 6-8 hour campaign. You can tack an extra few hours on to that time with the number of frustrating retries you'll have to endure.
If you're thinking of pursuing Metal Gear Rising's achievements too, then you're in for a truly Herculean task. Yes, it's another typically hard as nails Konami list, demanding completion of every mission with an S rank on the unlockable Revengeance difficulty (playing on normal we got about three or four), collecting all of the data storage devices, finding all of the hidden VR mission terminals, discovering all of the hiding cyborg troopers and rescuing all of the civilians. It's a tough list before you even factor in the horrid secret achievements. It does however possess a nice bit of invention with some of the mission-related tasks that encourage a differing approach for playing each of the game's 'Files'.
Another string to add to Platinum's bow, Metal Gear Rising is a fantastic hack 'n' slasher tarnished only by a couple of tortuous boss battles and the odd difficulty spike. It has all of the Metal Gear hallmarks present and correct, with pervy posters to discover, cardboard boxes to hide under and the iconic sound of a soldier being alerted to your presence with an exclamation mark over his head. It does attempt some stealth, but steaming in with a Ninja Run and cutting everything down will likely be your preferred strategy. That sword can cut through almost anything. Seriously.
At its best, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance feels great to play and will sate all but the most demanding of gorehounds. Even at its worst it's still a blast, and is every bit as playable, polished and well-presented as Platinum's other titles to date. It fails to knock Bayonetta off its pedestal as Platinum's crowning achievement, but Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is immense fun while it lasts, and proves more than worthy of more than one playthrough. It's also more than worthy of a place beside the other Metal Gear games, which in itself is no mean feat.
Now when was the last time you considered chopping a carrot “immense fun”?
Ear-hurting rock with obtrusive vocals had us reaching for the mute button. The clangs, swipes and other sound effects are exemplary though, as are the iconic sounds and voice performances. You might notice that Raiden's also sounding suspiciously more like Solid Snake these days too.
Lavished in that trademark Platinum shine, Metal Gear Rising looks fantastic. It also retains the Metal Gear style with sharp detail and bold, well-defined environments and characters. Bosses like Mistral, Monsoon, Sundowner and Jetstream Sam are also in keeping with the manic spirit of invention the series is famed for.
Being able to cut anything to bits is something that never gets old, and Platinum's hack 'n' slash heritage stands Metal Gear Rising in good stead. The only downside is a slightly fussy parry system that takes some getting used to, and the lack of more intuitive dodge manoeuvre. Otherwise, this is a joy to play despite a final boss that sucks balls.
A decent-sized campaign weighing in at roughly 6-8 hours rubs shoulders with a raft of VR missions and plenty of impetus for multiple playthroughs. You'll find loads to collect, unlock and upgrade too, all presented impeccably.
Progress-based achievements are in, as you'd expect with some neat unique tasks for each of the game's missions. Less inviting are the S rank achievements and ones that ask you to take no damage during boss battles. Completing Metal Gear Rising's list will prove to be a tall order, making it a candidate for the toughest achievement list this year. It's not just tough however. It's also very run-of-the-mill, especially for a Metal Gear title.
Platinum Games knows this hack 'n' slash schtick inside out, and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is no exception, drawing upon the developer's experience within the genre. While it's no Bayonetta, Raiden's bloodsoaked outing is a superb action title and one that well deserves a place within the Metal Gear legacy. Fancy a slash? Very much so, yes.