Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the highly-anticipated sequel to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Set four years after the events of the last game, Rising stars a cybernetically-enhanced Raiden and features a drastically different game style from that of its stealth-based predecessors. Instead of the clunky controls and primary focus on stealth, Rising is fast-paced, action-oriented hack-and-slash fun, with an emphasis on dismembering enemies at lightning speed and parrying attacks from massive automated mechs.
The dramatic shift in gameplay style and emphasis drew a mixed reaction from critics and fans when it was first announced, and when it was discovered that the game was going to be cancelled, there were fears that Rising would never see the light of day. Despite initial troubles, developer Platinum Games was brought in to save the project and Rising was finally completed. In fact, Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima said recently: “Honestly, I’ve been making games for over 25 years and the state that this game was in when it went to Platinum… was really a mess! The fact that they were able to pull it off is very impressive”. Platinum Games are the developers behind such titles as Vanquish and Bayonetta, both known for their fast-paced action, their over-the-top visuals and their amazingly fun gameplay. While they might seem an odd choice of developer for a series noted for its story and depth over its gameplay, Platinum Games have turned out to be the best thing to happen to Rising. Their emphasis on action and speed in this Metal Gear title fits perfectly with the proven power and combat skills of cyborg Raiden. However, has this title maintained that unique ‘Metal Gear experience’ that fans love, or is it too alien from the franchise? Well, there are two ways to approach Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. One is by seeing it as a standalone game, a Platinum Games experience that has the flavour and appearance of a Metal Gear game. The other way to approach it is as a Metal Gear fan, coming to Rising with certain expectations of a Metal Gear experience. Your overall enjoyment of Rising rests on which approach you take when booting up the disk.
Even from the opening act, Metal Gear Solid Rising is a very fun, very slick game to play. The combat is, at times, breathtaking and always runs smoothly, whether Raiden is slicing through enemies with combos, parrying attacks with lightning speed, or diving through the air to avoid damage. Being the overpowered cyborg that he is, it’s deeply satisfying to cut through enemies like butter and effortlessly parry bullets as if they were nothing. That said, there is some welcome depth to the combat. There are combos to learn and unlock as you progress, and whilst you can initially hack-and-slash at enemies sooner or later you will have to learn to dodge and parry attacks. It’s not just about button-bashing, which is a good thing, though struggling players will be able to just enjoy the story and gameplay by breezing through on the lower difficulty levels, honing their skills for challenge of the harder difficulties to unlock. When you get it right, Raiden feels like the invulnerable cyborg ninja of Guns of the Patriots, flipping through the air and slicing through enemies with power and grace, but when you get it wrong enemies can quickly overwhelm Raiden, especially when fighting groups of ‘mixed’ enemies such as when Gekko’s and cyborg troops rush at you to get their attacks in. Raiden can parry most attacks if you get the timing right, and a perfect parry will result in a counter-attack. It takes some practice, especially on harder game modes, but feels very satisfying and is definitely required for the later enemies and bosses. The boss fights themselves are also well done, utilising occasional quick-time events that are actually fun and lead to cinematic attacks that look amazing. Each boss feels unique, and are challenging enough to require skill to defeat. The much-touted Blade Mode is welcome in combat, feeling intuitive, responsive and very accurate. You can carve up enemies, mechs and inanimate objects into precise slices to your heart’s content, grabbing their exposed spinal columns to replenish health and energy. Unfortunately, later on there is a distinct lack of enemy variety, which isn’t too concerning as the combat remains hectic but it would have been nice for a wider assortment of foes. However, Rising’s saving grace is that it never gets dull, even when fighting the same enemies.
Despite the virtues of the gameplay, the story itself is fairly short, which is a bit disappointing, but it does mean you can blitz through the story time and again to try out different difficulty levels and S-Rank all of your combat scores. The whole game could take around 4-6 hours on lower difficulties, though obviously will take longer on the higher difficulties which are very unforgiving. One cool feature is that on higher game modes, stronger and more numerous enemies appear earlier in the story, making it feel like a different game experience. Despite its length Rising has high replay value with unlockable VR missions, unique weapons and suits to unlock, and skills to purchase. The in-game currency that you purchase everything with, Battle Points, are awarded for combat proficiency so there’s an incentive to go back and slice more enemies open.
So the gameplay is solid. However, most gamers do not play games for the gameplay alone, and there are many factors to consider like the overall story. Then, there is also the game series to consider, and the expectations that come with the title. Rising is the latest title in the iconic Metal Gear series, noted for its lengthy cutscenes, depth of story, character development, and its plot twists and turns. As a Metal Gear title, does Rising fulfil its expectations? It was in the plot and the cutscenes that I began to find flaws in Rising. The story in Rising, whilst intriguing, was never given enough time to fully develop itself. It’s very fast-paced, matching the gameplay, but it could have benefitted with longer cutscenes and some more depth to characters and backstories. The cutscenes, while cinematic and occasionally breathtaking, are fairly short compared to the hours of cutscenes in the previous titles. I know Rising is distancing itself from previous incarnations of Metal Gear, and many complained about the hours and hours of cutscenes in MGS4, but it just felt like there wasn’t enough time to fully develop anything or build emotional attachments to characters. Character development can be seen by listening to Codec conversations, but Metal Gear games are famed for their screen-time given to development of the plot and the history, motivations and emotions of the characters. Rising’s cutscenes were too short to add this level of depth and emotion. It must be said that they are still very cinematic, and Platinum Games have an almost anime-style action in the cutscenes that can take your breath away. However, by the time the game was drawing to a close, I began to focus less on the gameplay and think a bit more about where the story was going, and why it was heading there so quickly. It should be noted that until I stopped and noticed these aspects in the game, I was having a blast. I was cutting a bloody path through enemies with lightning speed, so it was amazing and slick when I was getting it right, and down-right punishing when I messed up. The plot, while pretty bare, was interesting enough to keep me going, and I wanted to see how it wrapped up. I found the enemy unit, the Desperado’s, to be interesting in their own right and also powerful enough to make it seem as if Raiden had met his equals. So far, I thought, so epic. And then I got to the final part of the game, and Rising just ran out of steam.
As the plot of Rising was never given the screen-time and depth that other Metal Gear plots were given, characters were rarely given time to develop, whether their motivations or their history. The climax of Rising was intense and epic enough for me, but I had no emotional attachment or investment in the final fight and I was amazed that it was even happening. Despite the fast-paced story, I find the latter part of Rising to be disappointing. I think some players will love both the final fight and the characters, while others might be pulling out their hair at how underdeveloped it is. I think it could have been a lot more climactic if Rising had given more screen-time to developing the final boss and their motives throughout the story. Because as it stands, this was the first boss fight that I honestly did not care about. And that is a sad thing to say about a final boss. The actual fighting itself was fun, intense, and very challenging, so why couldn’t as much effort be put into giving this character some history and depth?
Ultimately, Rising sits well in the Metal Gear universe as a spin-off title, but as a fully-fledged Metal Gear title in its own right, it falls slightly short of the mark. In fact, at times it felt like it was made to be a Metal Gear game that gave a nod to Metal Gear fans but was primarily made for newcomers or those looking for a Platinum Games title. What was an amazing opportunity to shed light on Raiden’s dark past and flesh him out more as a character was, I feel, missed. And short of one cameo appearance from a character, no other Metal Gear characters appeared in Rising. In fact, unless I completely missed some major cutscene or hidden secret, there wasn’t even an explanation as to why Raiden is back in his cybernetic ninja body rather than his false human body. Even the events of the previous game are only mentioned in passing and in Codec conversations. It’s not all bad, mind. There are flashes of the Metal Gear Solid magic at times, and it is extremely satisfying to actually play as cyborg Raiden, for those who watched him in the Guns of the Patriots cutscenes. Some of the themes in the game are very dark, it deals with contemporary issues like war and terrorism, child soldiers, emerging technologies, and has that familiar mix of humour and sobriety. So as a spin-off Metal Gear title, Rising stands as a very playable, very fun addition, and the Metal Gear elements it does include really do make the difference. There are tons of Codec conversations to go through as you play the story, and the aspects of Raiden’s past and the occasional mentions of events of previous games are a nice touch. As a lot of the character background is discussed through Codec conversations, Metal Gear fans who put the effort in will be rewarded, whilst newcomers can carry on with the story without having to know anything about Metal Gear Solid. And fighting groups of Gekko’s and enemies reminiscent of previous Metal Gear Solid bosses is nostalgic. Plus if you were ever wondering what it was like to play as the bad-ass MGS4 Raiden, Rising gives you that chance and more. So it’s not that Rising doesn’t deserve to carry the Metal Gear title. It’s just a shame, because Rising could have benefitted so much with just a little bit more story, tension, depth, and more Metal Gear to it. There are simply too many missed opportunities and plot grievances to call it the bona fide Metal Gear experience that many hardcore fans may have been looking for. Despite this, it does shine as a great game for newcomers and Metal Gear fans looking for a spin-off title without the expectations of its predecessors. Whilst it might seem like a negative review, it must be reiterated that this is a great game to play, and as mentioned earlier it really depends on what you hope to get out of the game. I think of Rising like I think of Halo 3:ODST, a filler game to while away the time until the ‘proper’ instalment in the series comes out. Rising is a great game to play until Ground Zeroes is released, and a quality title in its own right which may even spawn its own dedicated series with Rising titles being released alongside the Solid games. It’s been good few years since the last Metal Gear Solid instalment, so Rising is a welcome addition despite its niggling flaws, and stands as a game that will bring players back time and again, whether to perfect their scores, obtain all the unlockables, beat all the VR missions or simply to hack-and-slash through armies of cyborgs to burn off some steam.
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