Back at E3 2009, Hideo Kojima took the stage at Microsoft’s Press Conference to show off the spin-off in the Metal Gear series, “Metal Gear Rising”. The game was to focus solely on Raiden, deviating from Solid Snake’s more stealthy approach and more hack-and-slash action. After a few years in developmental hell, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is finally on consoles thanks to Platinum Games stepping up to the helm to provide their take on the MG universe, in collaboration with Kojima Productions. However, is this alternate take on the MG universe worth cutting into?
When it comes to a storyline by Hideo Kojima, it’s easy to look forward to seeing what he has in store. With his knowledge on military technology and the level of research he does, it’s easy to get engrossed into how detailed his stories in the Metal Gear universe are. With Metal Gear Rising, it’s a bit of a different take…and unfortunately fails to capture that level of awe that he achieved with the MGS series. Taking place four years after MGS4‘s events, Raiden is now a mercenary for hire that works with a PMC organization called Maverick Security. The game starts with Raiden escorting the ambassador of Africa until things get a little haywire. Without spoiling anything, certain events transpire that cause Raiden to hunt down another PMC group known as Desperado Enterprises. Apparently, they’re involved with terrorist activities that pose a threat to America. As you progress through the story, there are some moments where they try to connect little details from the MGS4 story and characters into this.
Metal Gear Rising’s story is decent for what it is, but feels like it tries to cut corners just for the sake of trying to get players to be in control of Raiden again. For example, something may happen to Raiden and the cutscene will end, then start up showing everything’s fine. It just lacks those fine “in between” details that not only were important to the MG series, but storytelling in general. Also, the character’s aren’t all that interesting…which is strange since characters from the MG universe were always fleshed out very well. Dialogue is also mixed, with some solid lines and then some very cheesy cliche lines. It just doesn’t represent the MG universe in a great way. It’s not a bad story, but it’s kind of “blah” and forgettable.
Let’s get this out of the way, Metal Gear Rising is not a new take on the stealthy experience that was provided with the Metal Gear Solid saga. Instead, we find ourselves taking control of Raiden with all the ninja-badass elements that fans loved in MGS4. Gameplay is pretty straightforward, in which combat will be handled with the light and strong attack buttons, and can create an almost endless stream of combos. Interestingly, there’s no proper “dodge” mechanic, but is instead replaced with a “parry” system. By simply pressing a specific direction on the analog stick and the light attack button, you’ll deflect an attack from your opponent. You’ll only be able to parry when an enemy flashes red, showcasing they’re about to attack you. There’s a big time window that allows you to parry but if you time it just right, you can counter-attack the enemy and dish out severe damage to them. There are times where a QTE (quick-time event) will appear next to them to initiate, which will weaken them so that you can slice them to pieces entering Blade Mode. Blade Mode allows you to manually aim and slice specific body parts off of your enemy utilizing the left analog stick to move your aim and the right analog stick to fine tune it and slice. Depending on what parts you dismember will grant you extra BP (Battle Points) which you can use to upgrade Raiden. However, to keep Raiden healthy, you’ll have to slice a specific region of the enemy (highlighted in a red box) to detect their fueled spines, rip them out and absorb them, giving Raiden full health and Fuel Cells to keep initiating Blade Mode.
As you traverse through the levels, Raiden can maneuver across anything by simply holding down the Ninja Run button. Not only will he sprint, but also vault over or slide under any obstacles that appear to be in his way. It works really well and helps keep the flow of the game at a breakneck speed. There are times you’ll need to switch to Augment Mode so that you can scour the environment for items or plot out where enemies are. The game attempts to incorporate the option of stealth, but feels incredibly forced and nowhere near as refined as what you would expect in a Metal Gear game. Yes, this is a spin-off that’s not about stealth but if you’re incorporating into the game and it’s sloppy, why bother adding it at all? You’ll also find sub-weapons in the environment that you can collect and use at your leisure. For example, you’ll find rocket launchers, homing missile launchers and grenades, as well as the iconic cardboard box. While the addition of sub-weapons are nice, you’ll almost never use them, rendering them as solely filler items that you’ll never resort to using. There are additional custom weapons Raiden can equip, allowing you to mix up the combos using a cleverly designed robotic arm staff, sais, or blade cutters. You can only equip one of these per level, unless you access the upgrades screen to switch your loadout. To keep things in Metal Gear perspective, Platinum Games also incorporated the infamous Codec so that you can contact your team for extra tips or even manually saving. It’s a nice bit of fan service but honestly, you’ll never find yourself using this. Again, it’s there for the sake of being there. In terms of upgrades, at the end of a chapter (or by calling a certain frequency on a Codec) you’ll be able to customize Raiden. With the earned BP, you can upgrade Raiden’s weaponry in terms of strength, absorption and energy. You’ll also be able to upgrade Raiden’s life gauge, fuel cell gauge and skills. Additionally, you can also purchase new outfits, including Grey Fox’s ninja suit from MGS1. Upon completing the game, you could replay it to continue upgrading Raiden, as well as tackling the harder difficulties. Plus, as a fan service to Metal Gear fans, players can partake in VR Missions. These challenges will test your skills to the limit as you try and complete the obstacles within a certain amount of time. While it doesn’t hold a candle to the original feel of the MGS VR Missions, it’s a nice bonus to have in there.
One of the highlights in Metal Gear Rising lies within its boss battles, as is to be expected with Platinum Games. Boss battles are intense and creative, testing your skills a bit more as well as your parrying. In particular, the boss battle against Sundowner is the most memorable one in the entire game, thanks to the environment and strategy involved to take him down. This particular boss fight has you testing your blade cutting precision skills to avoid being blown away from explosive armor (plus the music for the battle is awesome…when there’re no vocals, more on that in the “Sound” section). The satisfying moment comes down to finishing off these bosses, as you’ll initiate Blade Mode and slice them down to no end. So if a boss was giving you a hard time, don’t worry, you’ll be able to vent our your anger when you finish them off. While the nature of them being over-the-top is fine, there’s such a thing as “too much”…and towards the final boss fight, that threshold is passed to the point where it becomes just baffling what Raiden can do. I won’t say anything other than the fact that I found myself saying “really…” because it just didn’t make any sense.
Unfortunately, Metal Gear Rising has a few problems that hold it back from being great from a gameplay standpoint. First off, the camera…is just awful to deal with during combat. While there’s a lock-on button so the camera focuses on specific enemies, even that doesn’t work as well as it should. If there are any aerial enemies, it won’t lock-on to them until you take out the ground enemies, and the aerial enemies can be more of a hinderance because of it. You’ll just find yourself fighting the camera just as much as the enemies on-screen…and that’s not fun. Honestly, I was cursing the game off because the camera was more difficult than the gameplay itself. Secondly, I already mentioned the sub-weapons are lacking in use. It really does feel like they’re just there to remind you the game has Metal Gear in the title. Third thing is the control precision of Blade Mode. Sometimes when holding the right analog stick to aim your sword, then let it go so you could slice, it wouldn’t respond…making me have to re-adjust it quickly and try it again. Then there were times I’d let the analog stick go perfectly to slice and the precision would go completely off. The final thing is the length of the game, which severely hurts the score here. While I like my games to have a 5-6 hour length, MGR took me just over three hours on Normal Mode. To be more exact, three hours and 18 minutes. That’s way too short for the $60 asking price. While the overall gameplay experience is really sweet and can be very entertaining, it ends too abruptly.
Visually, MGR looks great and actually has the visual aesthetic of a Metal Gear game. The game runs at 60 fps, with a ton of sharp textures within the environments, as well as character models. Cutting through objects is very well detailed and seeing everything fall apart due to the precision of your slicing is impressive. There are times where the visuals have a few hiccups. There were a few times where the framerate dipped during action sequences, as well as some inconsistent shadow effects. For example, during a scene in the second level, Raiden had a codec call and as I was walking along, there were odd shadows being casted on the rock in the environment. The closer I got to it, the more a shadow just started amazingly forming, but as I backed away, the shadow started to disappear. This is not an instance where Raiden being near it would cause the shadow to appear due to lighting, this was just simply random shadow rendering. Another graphical glitch I came across was a boss actually clipping through an object, where his head was above the object and the rest of his body was through it. On the flip side, it’s nice to see little details such as rain running down Raiden during sequences outside in the weather condition. The game’s visuals aren’t perfect, but they’re certainly great. The strange thing about it was I couldn’t help but notice the visuals in MGS4 were still better than MGR, granted Kojima Productions developed MGS4…
Audio design is very superbly done in MGR, with sound effects sounding incredibly powerful. When initiating Blade Mode, the audio transitions silently in the background with more enhanced effects for slicing enemies to pieces. It’s a joy to listen to honestly. The high-energy, orchestrated/electronica soundtrack comprised for the game by composer Jamie Christopherson perfectly fits the setting and action happening on-screen. Unfortunately, the only thing that ruins the music a bit is when the vocals kick in for tracks. It just detracts from the intense experience that the otherwise excellent audio supplies. Voice acting is a mixed bag as well. Raiden, who’s voiced by returning Quinton Flynn, sounds like he’s unsure of how he wants to sound. There are moments where he speaks normal, then all gruff, then completely psychotic (due to his “Jack the Ripper” persona). When he speaks as “Jack”, that’s understandable. But when he’s speaking normally one line and then ultra-gruff the next, it’s just odd. Overall though, the audio is strong in this game.
Overall Score: 14/20 = 7.0 out of 10
Metal Gear Rising is a really neat experiment on the MG universe. Playing as Raiden a few years after the events of MGS4 sets up a cool premise, with a story that unfortunately falls flat at times. The combat is flashy, but a bit too button-mashy to feel like much skill is required. Overall, MGR is a very cool game that’s worth a rental, but at the game’s absurdly short length and a few other issues, it’s hard to recommend spending $60. Again, it’s a good game, but far from perfect.
+ Nice visuals
+ Flashy combat; rewarding Blade Mode
+ Solid audio
– Forgettable story
– Erratic camera that you fight with as much as the enemies on-screen
– Some gameplay elements feel thrown in for the sake of being part of “Metal Gear”
– Absurdly short for a $60 game