Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Review: Slice Away at Cyborgs in the Name of Justice

by David Sanchez February 23, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

Metal Gear Rising Revengeance - Review - Feature

If there’s one thing Platinum Games is good at, it’s creating wonderfully insane action games that make you feel like you’re playing a wild anime. Thankfully, the Japan-based studio is also really good at a lot of other things. For example, Platinum is good at taking a revered franchise such as Metal Gear and developing a spin-off that just makes you feel badass every time you play. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance strays far from the path set forth by its predecessors, but that’s not a bad thing. Not in the least. What you get is a game that, while flawed, still successfully doles out an incredibly action-packed experience and one of the most satisfying rides of early 2013.

Revengeance takes place four years after the events in Metal Gear Solid 4. You play as the cybernetically enhanced Raiden, who’s on a mission to stop a malicious group that feasts on the chaos of war. If you’ve been following the series for some time now, you’ll understand what’s going on, but chances are you’ll still get a bit confused. That’s because the plot in Revengeance is stupidly convoluted in parts, and characters are so chatty that your interest in what they’re actually saying may dwindle. Worry not, though, newcomers. Even if this is your first romp in the world of Metal Gear, you’ll be fine. All you need to know is that Raiden is fighting the good fight while continuing to discover who he is and what he’s fighting for. Not surprisingly, Raiden’s personal journey is also a bit long-winded and vague at times.

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There’s a large cast of heroes and villains in Revengeance, and while you certainly see why the good guys are so determined, they’re fairly uninteresting on their own. The bad guys of this story take the spotlight and are much more interesting than any of Raiden’s buddies. It’s great to be able to appreciate a game’s villains, but when you care more about what the antagonists are saying than the protagonists, you begin to question why so much emphasis is put on the good side. Case in point: During any of your missions, you can contact Raiden’s pals and listen to some briefings — I never really cared enough to do this more than once.

While the plot and characters of Revengeance leave a bit to be desired in certain instances, the gameplay is mostly remarkable. The flow of the game is largely linear, but as you carve your path of destruction with Raiden’s sharp, blood-soaked blade, you’re treated to some stellar hack-and-slash combat. Pulling off combos is easy and satisfying, and it’s a total blast coming out victorious despite being outnumbered in every single battle. You’ve got quick attacks and strong attacks, and you can seamlessly combine any variation of the two. As you play, you unlock new blades for Raiden and even some sub-weapons. Utilizing these to their fullest potential isn’t key to getting through the game, but it does make the experience a lot more entertaining.

While that signature Platinum vibe is inherent throughout Revengeance, it’s easy to spot the Kojima influence. Several sequences allow you to take a more stealthy approach to disposing of your enemies. While you can go into any area ready to slice away at dudes, you can also pay close attention to your map and hide behind walls, only to strike silently and assassinate enemies from behind. You can also make death rain down on them if you’re on a higher ledge by performing a cool downward kill. Spin-off or not, this is a Metal Gear game, so if you want to hide under a box, you can most certainly do that, too.

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The fast-paced combat and stealth sequences are brilliant in their own right, but some of the most thrilling gameplay in Revengeance comes when you slow down time. This delightful mechanic occurs as a result of successful parries. While in Blade Mode, as it’s aptly dubbed, you use the left analog stick to aim and the right analog stick to hack away at enemies’ body parts. As long as the appropriate meter has enough juice left, you can continue to slice apart your foes, and if you hit a specific highlighted mark, you can even rip out their core and use it as an instant health item. It’s totally visceral, and it’s rewarding watching cyborg limbs being ripped apart into seemingly countless pieces. I say “seemingly countless” but there’s actually a counter off to the side that lets you know exactly how many bits of metal and flesh are being torn apart. It was usually over 100 pieces for me.

Even on the normal setting, Revengeance is a fairly challenging game. This is most evident during the game’s intense boss battles, and your patience will truly be tested during these instances. Memorizing enemy patterns isn’t enough — you really need to pick your spots and strike at just the right moment. It’s not uncommon to nearly defeat a boss only to fall victim to one of his or her ridiculously devastating and brutal attacks. It’s during these moments that you have to play a bit more carefully as opposed to just mashing away at the buttons, especially if you want to achieve those coveted S ranks.

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As much fun as it is to just play Revengeance, several moments are marred by some awfully glaring flaws. The guiltiest culprit is the game’s camera, which is functional a lot of the time but often ranges from tedious to downright unbearable. While it’s easy to overcome the camera during regular enemy fights, battling larger enemies or taking on bosses can be a problem when you can’t even see Raiden on the screen. Another aspect of the game that’s poorly implemented (though not nearly as annoying as the camera) is the item switching system. Selecting different items, whether you’re going for health pick-ups or grenades, is done through the pause menu. It can really hamper the experience having to pause the game to use your items rather than having instant access to them. Additionally, if you want to switch Raiden’s main weapons, you’ll have to get out of the main game and do so in an entirely different screen.

If your main priority is simply getting through the campaign in Revengeance, you’re looking at a play-through of about five or six hours. There are, however, collectibles to be found and bonus VR missions that you can tackle. These usually revolve around reaching a specific checkpoint or defeating a set number of enemies. They’re hardly as exciting as the main game, but they’re still a worthwhile distraction for players looking to get the most out of this package. Despite its rather short campaign, there’s enough fantastic gameplay and crazy cut-scenes to make paying full price justifiable. Some of the story sequences toward the end of the game, for example, are so amazingly ludicrous and fun to watch that you can’t help but be equal parts shocked and baffled at what’s going on.

Revengeance is a nice looking game, though it could look better. It’s definitely a treat for the eyes, but everything always seems too cold and sterile. Lighting effects are great, and seeing the reflection of the sun bounce off puddles or bodies of water creates a great aesthetic effect. For reference, though, the argument could be made that Anarchy Reigns, Platinum’s previous endeavor, looked quite a bit better than Revengeance. The lack of enemy variety is a great indicator that this title could’ve used some real sprucing in that department. Aside from bosses, you can expect to see the same types of enemies repeatedly.

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The sound design in this frantic action experience is definitely nicely varied. As far as the soundtrack is concerned, orchestral scores play on during dramatic cut-scenes while fast-paced and catchy rock anthems provide a hectic ambiance for your battles. Voice acting is great and delivered strongly by all characters, but as previously stated, it’s easier to care about what the bad guys are saying because they’re just more interesting. This is even obvious during story sequences, and it almost seems like the voice actors who took on the roles of the enemies were more passionate about making you feel a certain way about them.

Regardless of whether you’ve played any entries in the Metal Gear series in the past or not, if you dig absolutely insane Japanese action games, you should check out Revengeance without hesitation. The full $60 price tag is a bit steep considering the adventure is over in under six hours (I got to the end of the game in five hours and 49 minutes), but this is such a unique ride that fans of hack-and-slash titles simply need to play. Great variety, larger-than-life boss encounters, and a bunch of WTF moments make Revengeance a game that’s worth seeing through to the end. This is such a solid experience overall that you’ll be able to forgive the game’s rough spots. Well, maybe you won’t be able to forgive them, but you’ll certainly learn to deal with them.

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