I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t sold on what Platinum Games was doing with the Metal Gear brand after Kojima Productions first announced they had handled off development of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (then known as Metal Gear Solid: Rising) to the studio known for over-the-top, ball-to-the-wall action titles. Videos starting popping up online of Raiden lifting up full Metal Gear Rays with his bare hands and running on missiles and it just didn’t feel very “Metal Gear” to me. It was off-putting, and I did the only reasonable thing someone with the internet at his disposal would do - I blogged about it.
But as the launch of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance drew closer, I started to cut the game and Platinum’s distinct vision some slack. I started to open up to the title, looking at it from a viewpoint of “this is what Platinum Games sees as a Metal Gear game” instead of “this is what I see a Metal Gear game as.” It has made a huge different in how I approached the title, almost equating it to a creative team switcheroo in the comics industry, where fresh blood comes aboard a series with a radically different story to breath new life into it. I also found myself rewatching a clip from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots that made a lightbulb go off in my brain.
Here it is:
When the above clip was first shown, well before MGS4 released, it blew everyone away. Not only from a graphical standpoint, but also because it actually made Raiden cool. That’s no small feat, considering the character was reviled after he stole the spotlight from Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2. But thanks to the above clip, it was all of a sudden hip to like Raiden since he was now a cyborg-ninja badass. And this brings me back around to Platinum Games’ Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
See, Revengeance is as close an approximation as Platinum Games could get to actually playing something like the above video. There is no point in Metal Gear Rising where you don’t feel like that aforementioned cyborg-ninja badass, meaning the entire game is one long string of “oh shit, that’s awesome!” moments. It might be incredibly over the top and ridiculous, in typical Platinum Games style, but there’s no denying Metal Gear Rising is a fast, fluid and badass action game worth playing.
Maybe one of Metal Gear Rising’s greatest strengths is that it manages to offer up a challenge to the player, even on the game’s default, “normal” difficulty. Raiden might have all the tools in the world – two main swords, three secondary weapons and the ability to upgrade each with enhancements – as well as enough cybernetic implants to make him technically more machine than human, but strategy and quick thinking is still required for many of the encounters in the game. This is especially true for some of the later boss fights, which will test your patience and skills to the extreme.
My advice to you: familiarize yourself with the game’s dodge move, called the “Offensive Defensive.” It is the most important tool at your disposal. What’s kind of strange is that this maneuver is never covered in the game’s opening tutorial, nor is it listed in the instruction manual. I actually had to do some research online to find out that it exists at all, and mastering it is an absolute necessity (by the way, it’s done by pressing “light attack” and “jump” at the same time while moving the control stick in the designated direction). While the arsenal Raiden collects over the course of the game is impressive, ranging from a long-range bow-staff-like weapon to a sai capable of quickly pulling you towards your target, nothing gets you out of a pinch quite like the “Offensive Defensive” tactic. It's what turns the combat of Metal Gear Rising from simply enjoyable to an addictive ballet.
In addition, the game’s “Blade Mode” deserves special mention as it has always been considered Rising’s "gimmick," dating back to when the title was first unveiled and still under development at Kojima Productions. When you switch into “Blade Mode,” you’re able to freely slice your sword 360 degrees to cut foes and environmental objects to itty, bitty pieces. It works as advertised, and is a requirement in gameplay in order to pull enzyme-rich spinal cords from enemies to refill your health. Pulling off that perfect slice in the heat of combat feels oh so good, by the way.
Now, one area where Metal Gear Rising falters is the story. In a word, it’s ridiculous. The narrative revolves around the selling of child organs and corrupt government officials and it will have you laughing and rolling your eyes on a frequent basis. For the Metal Gear diehards among us, Rising does allude to what happened at end of MGS4, where Raiden seemingly hung up his implants and sword to instead pursue a life of leisure with his wife and son, but the game doesn't address it to a satisfactory level. When push comes to shove, Platinum Games' strong suit has never been story and that tradition is proven true with Metal Gear Rising.
However, what the game lacks in a captivating narrative it makes up for with a memorable cast of characters. They all have their own quirks and are given their own moments to shine. I seriously doubt you’ll be finishing the game hating anyone, and that even applies to Rising’s villains. The only character that maybe gets the shaft a bit is Raiden himself, simply because his “tough guy” voice is really hard to stomach most of the time.
While it took me a long time to warm up to the premise of Metal Gear Rising before release, I’m glad I went into the final product with an open mind, because it turned out to be a really awesome action game. The gameplay is slick and addictive, and the frequent over-the-top moments serve the franchise surprisingly well. It is worth mentioning, though, that the game can be finished in roughly six hours. I do feel the adventure is paced properly, so that wasn’t much of a deterrent for me, but your mileage may very. If it’s any consolation, you can always go back through the game on harder difficulties or screw around with the game’s VR Missions, of which there are plenty.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance may not have been what Kojima Productions originally envisioned for Raiden following MGS4, but there’s no denying Platinum Games has injected some much-needed adrenaline into the character to set the stage for a successful spin-off series. I’m ready for more.
CraveOnline received an early review disc of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance for Xbox 360 from Konami. We were held to the embargo date of February 19, 2013, at 12:00am PST. Before starting our review, we played the game’s campaign to completion, as well as a number of VR Missions.