Maybe it was because I started the Metal Gear franchise with Sons of Liberty, but I never quite understood all the hate that the character of Raiden has received all of these years. I mean, yes, he is very feminine looking, and it’s hard to match listening to the gruff voice of David Hayter when it comes to preventing a nuclear holocaust. But it was a gutsy move on the part of Hideo Kojima to pull a bait and switch with their main character like that, and in doing so, they managed to craft a thoroughly developed character from the whole mess. Besides, did you see him in Metal Gear Solid 4? Bad. Ass.
I guess what I’m getting at is that the only thing Raiden is guilty of is trying to steal the spotlight from Solid Snake… and for starring in a game that had a plot that was wall to wall crazy. Despite all that, Konami has decided that he deserved a round two by playing the lead role in a new spinoff game with a little help from Platinum Games. If you enjoyed his cybernetic ninja getup from Guns of the Patriots, then you’ll really get a kick out of what they did this time around.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance takes place three years after the collapse of the Patriots system and both Private Military Companies (or PMC’s as they’re often referred to) and cyborg technology are on the rise. Despite what closure he might have had at the end of MGS4, we find Raiden working security for a company called Maverick somewhere in Africa. As the game opens, the motorcade housing him and Prime Minister N’Mani is ambushed by a group known as Desperado in an attempt to destabilize the region, with aims to reignite the declining war economy. During this encounter, Raiden battles a man named Sam and ends up losing both an arm and an eye in the skirmish. Now it’s time for payback, as Raiden sets out to remind everyone why he used to be called Jack the Ripper.
While most of the story is told largely via cutscene (and some very gorgeous looking ones at that), Revengeance is not nearly as winded as previous games in the franchise. Yes, the whole premise pivots on loads of political talk, serving as a sort of commentary on the war economy, particularly that of the United States in all its post-9/11 behavior. It’s pretty heavy stuff given the type of game, and I feel as though the message may be lost on the audience, or at the very least, not taken as seriously as the writers might have hoped given some of the ridiculousness of the other content thrown at you. One scene in particular has Raiden arguing philosophy with one of the antagonists as an enemy soldier plays with a stray cat in the background. Perhaps this was done to entertain those who otherwise don’t care about what’s happening on screen, but I found myself struggling to determine if what I was watching was legitimate satire or self-parody.
Outside of the political speak, Revengeance spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to evolve Raiden’s character. While he starts the game very naive, fighting for justice and vowing to protect the weak, he eventually turns very cold and shows little empathy for those he slays. He runs into a few moral roadblocks down the road, and while the decisions he makes are relatable given his history, not to mention very convenient for completing his mission, you could say that he becomes less of a “good guy” as the plot moves along. Perhaps the message here is that sometimes, in order to help the greater good, we have to do some unsavory things. Or perhaps they just wanted to shape Raiden as more of a flawed character than he was previously represented to be. In either case, I give Konami and Platinum Games props for having the guts to go against the grain in terms of storytelling norms.
On a visual level, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is quite appealing. The cutscenes in particular are most impressive, with well designed characters that come to life despite being a healthy mix of both flesh and electronics, even if they do spend much of the time talking. There are a few scenes that showcase some incredible action sequences that, while they most certainly would be more exciting to play rather than watch, are still quite breathtaking in their execution. There are a few hiccups in the engine from time to time, but otherwise the transition from cutscene to gameplay is quite seamless. The stages that you traverse are equally as remarkable, despite being mostly urban areas. I found that this worked to the game’s advantage, as it provided more of a playground with which to cause destruction to your surroundings.
It should be noted that the game can get rather gruesome at times, so if you have a weak stomach, be warned. Even though the majority of the soldiers you face down are comprised mostly of robotic parts, there is a lot of blood that will be spilled. Remember me mentioning the part of the story where Raiden loses an arm and an eye? Yeah, you will witness that happen, and it can be a little gross. Not to mention how many limbs you will be slicing off yourself. Keep the kiddies away from this one.
Quinton Flynn reprises his role as Raiden and does an admirable job of bringing the character to life. There were a few instances where he tried to really deepen his voice when his character was acting very cold that sounded almost forced. Despite that, there’s no one else I’d rather see in the role. The rest of the cast is just as well done, which is nice to have in an English dub. Also, I hope you like rock music, because you’ll be hearing a lot of it as you hack away your enemies. It’s not quite as heavy as DmC‘s soundtrack, though there are a few tunes with vocals. The game does very well with queuing lyrics just as something epic is in progress, which is a nice touch.
In terms of gameplay, Revengeance is nearly the polar opposite of other games in the Metal Gear franchise. Rather than sneak your way through a level, you are encouraged to engage your enemies openly. Alerts were kept in the game, so if you wanted to tip toe past a pack of enemies, you can do that if you find that they’re too tough for you. On easier difficulties, you’ll likely just dive headfirst into any trouble that comes your way unless you’re looking to assassinate an enemy. In fact, it has more in common with Bayonetta than it does with Metal Gear. I have no problem with this, mind you, as I was never that great with stealth anyway, but franchise fans, be warned.
While the combat never feels as deep as Bayonetta or last month’s DmC, there are a lot of neat tricks at your disposal. The square and triangle buttons are Raiden’s light and strong attacks respectively. Later in the game, you can acquire new weapons that the strong attack will unleash and can be mixed in with the regular sword attacks to create new combos. As you deal damage, you may be prompted to hit circle, either by itself or in a combination with another button, to watch Raiden deal a crippling blow to the enemy, sometimes causing time to slow down momentarily. When this happens, you can use L1 to activate Blade Mode and chop them up unabated. By cutting open foes, you can rip out their cybernetic insides and squash them in your hands, thus replenishing any lost health. You can equip items similar to rations to refill your health if you aren’t granted any opportunities to snag health, though.
Blade Mode is really the meat and potatoes of the experience, both as a means of dispatching enemies, as well as a way to entertain yourself outside of the main game. You can enter Blade Mode at any time, though any time spent in it drains a meter that has to be replenished using electrolytes gained from fallen enemies, like some sort of cybernetic Gatorade. Square and triangle will allow you to slash vertically or horizontally, though the right analog stick can be used to aim your slashes any which way you want. So, if you want to chop a car in two, you can do that… or pillars… or bridges… or anything you can find, really. One of the best experiences I’ve ever had in a video game was flying in the air and quite literally chopping a helicopter into hundreds of pieces with a sword. To think that such a minor gimmick could have so many entertaining applications, it’s a wonder that more developers don’t do it. The interaction with the environment that this game and other titles such as Red Faction: Guerilla bring to the table needs to be duplicated more.
Outside of normal sword attacks, Raiden can equip various sub-weapons mapped to the L2 button, such as rocket launchers and grenades. You can even creep around in a cardboard box for old time’s sake if you wish. There are numerous obstacles to overcome, made much easier with the Ninja Run function. Simply holding R1 as you move will cause Raiden to sprint forward, leaping over and diving under any obstacles that get in his path. This is nice considering his manual jump feels a little clumsy by comparison.
While sneaking around your enemies is certainly an option, it’s very difficult to do on account of Raiden’s lack of utility for such things. He can’t stick to cover, or crawl under obstacles, or anything of that nature. He does get an Augment Mode, courtesy of pressing up on the directional pad, that acts as a thermal visor of sorts. He can see any enemies in the vicinity as well as items that can be looted. Any actions taken will turn the effect off though. Creeping up behind an enemy soldier will give the option to impale them with your sword, with an added opportunity to cut them up and take their insides. Having them spot you will trigger the alert sound and warn any nearby soldiers of your whereabouts. This is generally what happens anyway, as killing enemies earns you BP that can be spent on upgrading Raiden or buying him new outfits. This, I think, will be the main sticking point for Metal Gear fans.
There are so many throwbacks to the older games, including the ability to contact characters with the codec and have lengthy conversations play out with them. Yet, the key thing that gives Metal Gear its identity can easily be chopped out without heavily impacting the rest of the game. Again, I don’t consider this to be a negative, but I can’t stress enough how little stealth matters to the core game if that is your favorite part of the franchise.
Much like the God of War titles, Revengeance knows how to build spectacular set pieces in which to stage engagements. Right from the opening sequences, the game knows how to build excitement by constantly throwing new stuff at you. You could be battling on a moving train one moment, then running across a bridge trying to evade an air strike the next. The boss encounters really build upon this, allowing you to engage in a fight with something so small as a chainsaw-tailed robo-dog and as massive as a Metal Gear in just the first mission. If one thing can be said about Metal Gear Solid 4, it’s that the game grinds to a halt the moment you are forced to tail someone without being spotted for an hour. Fortunately, Raiden doesn’t have to worry about sneaking up on people.
Parrying plays a big part of your success in Revengeance. If you don’t learn how to parry effectively, expect to get slapped around helplessly. The tricky part about the parry system is that it relies not only on your ability to hit square right as the enemy is about to strike, but you have to simultaneously be pushing the left analog stick towards them. The forward movement that this creates messes with the timing, not to mention you are moving when you don’t intend to be. You do get used to it after awhile, and on the easy difficulty, there is a setting you can enable to take the forward motion out of the equation. Still, I felt this could have been mapped differently.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance allows you to choose between easy, medium and hard from the get go, and each works exactly as advertised, ensuring that players of all skill levels can find a worthwhile challenge and complete the game. There are also a number of collectibles scattered throughout the game, some of which unlock VR missions for you to challenge outside of the story. This is good, as the story can be completed in about four to five hours, though it has the potential to be longer depending on how frequently you crash and burn on the tougher difficulties. While I’m used to games of this genre being on the short side, this one felt more so. I usually advocate games leaving me wanting more rather than having me want the game to end, though I kind of wished there were at least a few more hours of story missions on my plate. If nothing else, it’s at least consistent with the length of the other Metal Gear games. Hopefully, plans for future DLC can expand this so long as it’s reasonably priced.
Short Attention Span Summary
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance brings Raiden back to the spotlight, but this time does so without stealing it away from Snake. If fans of the franchise take nothing else away from this, it’s that this game is a huge departure from its series brethren and plays more like Bayonetta than anything else. There is a light stealth mechanic, but it’s underutilized, and the game ends up encouraging you to dive headfirst into every encounter you run across anyway. This isn’t to say there aren’t any attempts made to connect it to the series. There are still codec conversations to be had, alerts from being spotted, and even the occasional cardboard box to sneak around in. On the other hand, if you happen to enjoy titles that belong to the God of War pedigree, then you’ll most certainly have a blast with the game, however brief it may be. The plot is one big political commentary with a healthy dose of absurdity thrown in to balance it out, though the game does earn high marks in presentation. Combat, while not as deep as others of its ilk, relies on one of the most entertaining gimmicks I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing in a video game and that is chopping everything, including the environment, to pieces. If Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance doesn’t sell you on the idea of Raiden having his own game, I doubt anything ever will.