I was quite skeptical about Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance back when it was announced. It wasn’t going to be a typical Metal Gear game, but a spin-off focusing on Raiden and sword-wielding action. But a while later, upon getting the Zone of the Enders HD collection, I had the chance to play Revengeance’s demo, and was left pleasantly surprised. Sure, it wasn’t a true Metal Gear, but the action was incredible, and the setting was relatively in line with the Metal Gear universe. Initially, we all expected the story of Raiden saving Sunny from The Patriots, but instead, it was a separate story, set after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. And it worked quite well.
Konami were in fact close to cancelling this game… Kojima’s team had difficulties implementing their ambitious vision within the time restraints. But Kojima took it upon himself to salvage it and outsourced it to PlatinumGames, whose team is known for the likes of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. Using their own engine and still maintaining the core ideas, Platinum managed to produce a pretty impressive result. Revengeance may not be nearly as ambitious as Metal Gear games usually are, but it is a very satisfying experience for the player, and that counts for something.
Game: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Original release: 2013
“CUT AT WILL!” is what the back of the box says… And that’s the best summation of a game in a single sentence I’ve ever seen. Revengeance is all about cutting stuff with your sword. There’s even a counter for how many parts you’ve cut stuff into, and I was quite proud having cut a palm into over 1111 pieces early in the game. But aside from that sheer joy of cutting, Revengeance is a really solid action game which still offers a stealth factor as if to remind people it still bears the “Metal Gear” name. Its story is not particularly special, but it has some really memorable characters that make up for it.
- Fast and enjoyable action typical for PlatinumGames, with some distinct mechanics like Blade Mode and Zandatsu
- Still some situations allowing for stealth in Metal Gear fashion
- Relatively cool villains, especially the main antagonist
- Epic boss battles, quite true to Metal Gear tradition
- Polished visuals paint a pretty near-future
- Story tries, but is still a bit dry in comparison to Kojima’s Metal Gear games
- Power metal soundtrack – a bit awkward for Metal Gear, but maybe in-line with the action
THE WAR ECONOMY
Revengeance’s setting and story are hardly original… There is some good criticism for modern society, which in my opinion is influenced by the last game Raiden was the protagonist of, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, but Revengeance goes nowhere nearly as deep. In the world shortly after Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, The Patriots have been destroyed, and Solid Snake is revered as a legend and a role model, at least by Raiden, but the hunger for power of the elite is still the same as ever. The effects of The Patriots’ war propaganda that brought the rise of PMCs (private military companies) linger on, and PMCs still make great profits off the backs of weaker countries involved in military conflicts. Raiden is also part of a PMC, but one that wants to make a difference and “do good” in the world… That is, of course, in line with Raiden’s ambitions, too.
Enter Desperado, a relatively small, but very well-funded PMC. The source of their finances is unknown, and they cross paths with Maverick in a very painful way in the game’s prologue, killing the president of an unnamed African nation that Maverick had been hired to protect. Raiden not only fails to stop the assassination from happening, he is defeated in a sword duel by one of Desperado’s top dogs, Jetstream Sam, and loses his left arm and eye in the process. His desire for revenge is intense, and, having got a new and more powerful cyborg body in the meantime, when Maverick catch track of Desperado up to no good again, it is clear that, ahem, (re)vengeance time is near.
WARRIORS WHO STAND ABOVE THE REST
Raiden is of course the main character, and they’ve tried their hardest to make him into a badass – even more so than in Metal Gear Solid 4, where Kojima had already redeemed the lost and confused Raiden from the Big Shell incident. After the disastrous events in the prologue, he gets a new and improved cyborg body, thanks to the brilliant former East German scientist called “Doktor”. That somehow gets to him and, in contrast to the prologue where he relatively closely resembles what we saw in Metal Gear Solid 4, he gets quite edgy and incredibly self-confident. In a way, that is justified, given the newly acquired power that he’d never had access to until then, but it’s also a bit sudden of a change. Still, doing what’s right guides him, and that’s most important.
Raiden gets a supporting crew in Maverick’s most prominent members. In traditional Metal Gear fashion, he can talk to them via codec (and there are much more codec conversations in this game than in MGS4). The Russian Boris Popov is the leader of Maverick, offering military and tactical assistance. The Americans Kevin and Courtney offer more casual conversations, some quite hilarious. As a whole, the game’s tone is lighter than the typical Metal Gear – even if the overall setting is just as serious. Maybe it’s just an impression left by the obviously inferior quality of the writing. But then again, your writing will more or less ALWAYS be inferior, when you have to match Hideo Kojima. Doktor is also a codec support – while he works closely with Maverick during the events of the game, he is not an actual member, but rather a contractor. He’ll give Raiden scientific insight.
As far as villains go, Revengeance has more to offer. Desperado’s finest soldiers are called The Winds of Destruction, their group resembling the Metal Gear Solid game’s units (and easily better than the Beauty and the Beast Corps…). The best of them, Sundowner and Sam, are pretty cool, if ruthless. The former is quite cynical and shows no remorse for any of his evil deeds – a typical villain. The latter is somewhat of a rival to Raiden throughout the course of the game – something to be expected given the events in the prologue. He has a distinct style and is full of composure, matching Raiden in many ways. It’s no coincidence that his boss fight is incredibly intense, and in my opinion the best in the game. But even those two are eclipsed by the mysterious man who actually provides Desperado’s funding. He is by far the most interesting character in the game, and his official introduction and dialogue with Raiden truly stand out.
FAST-PACED SWORD ACTION
Revengeance is a fun game above everything else. This is, of course, to be expected from a Platinum action game. It’s all about the fast-paced fighting and cutting stuff with your sword. The basic controls are very straightforward – you move with the left stick, move the camera with the right one, you have a weak and strong attack with square and triangle, respectively. The weak attack also lets you parry some attacks of your enemies, by directing it towards them as they strike. By pressing X, you jump, and the circle button is the “Action” button, working much like in other Metal Gear games (lets you activate switches, etc.). By holding R1, Raiden executes his ninja run, a mode during which he automatically vaults over obstacles and even deflects regular bullets (but not rockets and the likes) with his sword. You also have secondary weapons, and even the almighty cardboard box at your disposal, but those are called “secondary” for a reason. You’d better master your blade.
There are also recovery items – one of the two ways for Raiden to regain health is by consuming a “Repair Nanopaste”. If you keep this item equipped, it’ll be automatically used as your health goes down to 0. The other way to regain health is by cutting cyborgs and other enemies in the right way, at the right time… By holding L1, Raiden goes into “Blade Mode” – time slows down and you can aim your sword cuts more precisely. This is how you get to cut stuff into many, many pieces. Anyway, while in Blade Mode, if your enemy is damaged enough, a small target will appear. Cut through it with your sword, and you’ll get the chance perform “Zandatsu” by pressing circle – Raiden grabs the enemy’s spine or other vital part (depends on the kind of enemy), and crush it, recovering full health and Fuel Cells. Fuel Cells are consumed during Blade Mode.
With every enemy killed, Raiden gains battle points, which can be exchanged for upgrades between checkpoints. You can upgrade your sword, making it take more damage, you can increase Raiden’s health and fuel cell power, you can buy new attacks for Raiden, executed via different button combinations, and you can even buy new bodies. There’s also downloadable content like Gray Fox’s Cyborg Ninja body and his sword from Metal Gear Solid. The button combination attacks I mentioned can be incredibly useful, and once you acquire more of them, your arsenal and ability to counteract various enemies increases greatly. Some of them are also quite flashy to boot.
Revengeance is a rather challenging game as a whole. Raiden can destroy regular cyborgs with ease, but some more powerful unmanned gears (UGs) like Gekkos, Mastiffs and Raptors can give him a harder time, and take much more hits to defeat, too. Mastiffs are pretty tough, and you’ll need to rely on Raiden’s speed to defeat them. Still, there’s a way to destroy enemies via stealth, executing so-called “ninja kills” by sneaking up behind an enemy and pressing circle. That way, you kill anything in one hit. Unfortunately, there are only so many such opportunities – often, you are outright ambushed at some point and have no choice but to fight and destroy enemies in the most straightforward way. It must also be noted that there aren’t that many enemy models – you destroy lots of the same UGs through the course of the game. But that makes sense within the game universe – enemies tend to use the most cost-efficient UG models.
Boss fights are of course the high point of the game… And there’s nice variety in them, too. Some feature a gimmick and must be won by playing by the rules the game sets for you, but others (most, actually) can be won simply by besting the AI in swordfighting. Naturally, the latter ones are much more satisfying, and it’s no surprise that the best boss battle, the one with Sam, is one of them. The other boss fight I found quite difficult was the one against Monsoon, one of the lesser Winds of Destruction. Good thing I had enough Repair Nanopaste… Yes, during boss fights, acquiring Repair Nanopaste is ESSENTIAL for survival. Some are hidden around the stage, some can be obtained by cutting through lesser enemies and objects the boss throws at you… And of course, and this is hardly a spoiler, you get to fight a Metal Gear boss, and I’m naturally not talking about the RAY in the prologue. Of course… You are able to defeat it by using your sword, so don’t expect anything as epic as Snake’s fight vs. REX at the end of Metal Gear Solid… But it’s still good. And for completionists, aside from the main story, there are VR missions (unlocked by finding laptops around the stages during the main story) and separate DLC scenarios available.
THE FUTURE IS PRETTY
Military technology got even crazier after The Patriots… Weapons, cyborg designs and unmanned gears are plentiful, with designs based on animals like wolves, ravens, gorillas. Needless to say, the Metal Gear Raiden eventually fights is also an even more complex model than the ones fans of the series are familiar with so far. While it lags behind what the trailers were showing while it was still worked on at Konami (a necessary sacrifice to complete the game at all), the game is still quite sound graphically, not just in terms of enemy and character design, but also in terms of environments. While there are some dull urban stages, there are also some pretty impressive ones – a traditional Japanese-themed one being my favourite. Here’s the place to also mention that stages are often artificially restrained by invisible barriers – when fighting, you are often restrained to a zone until you finish the fight, and also simply when you’re going too far in a seemingly open area. This is a bit of a frustration due to breaking the immersion.
The soundtrack of Revengeance, composed by Jamie Christopherson, is rather strange. It’s a kind of angry, loud power metal, which I suppose fits the setting and the non-stop action the game provides, but it wasn’t very much to my liking. Still, there are several nice songs which make up for the relative mediocrity of the rest – namely, some of the boss battle themes, and the ending theme. It is a bit unfortunate that the best songs come late in the game, and I usually avoid providing ones of the kind, but I feel a Revengeance review here on Between Life and Games would not be complete without “It Has To Be This Way”, which is, in my opinion, head and shoulders above all other songs in the game.
THE EXPERIMENT WAS A SUCCESS
Sure, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is just an experiment, a spin-off. Make no mistake, it doesn’t come anywhere near the depth of a mainline Metal Gear Solid game. But it’s very good for what it is – a fast-paced action game with lots of crazy stunts and decent challenge. PlatinumGames did well in saving the ambitious Rising project. The campaign isn’t very long, around 15 hours at the relatively relaxed pace I play games at, but I enjoyed all of it, there were no sections that felt like a drag. Yes, there’s lots of action, but also chances for stealth here and there, which keep you from forgetting that this is a Metal Gear game. Boss battles are intense and really enjoyable, again keeping up with the Metal Gear tradition.
Of course, there’s a lot to be desired from the game, and, if you’ve seen original Rising footage, it’s clear that, had Kojima Productions completed the game successfully, it would have been considerably deeper and more polished than what we got. But the fact remains that they could not, and PlatinumGames saved it by using their own engine, preserving the main elements of the gameplay. The story and characters also aren’t quite on par with what we are used to in Metal Gear, but they work well enough. These small hindrances hardly take away from the experience – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a fun action game that I recommend to both fans of the series and those unfamiliar with Metal Gear.
FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10