Raiden has always been the black sheep in the Metal Gear character roster. He was more-or-less hated when he first made his debut back in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, but he did manage to get some fans with his reappearance in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Now, with Kojima taking a backseat and Platinum Games taking the helm, we get a fresh look at the cyborg ninja.
Japanese as hell
Platinum is well-known for the insanity in its games and it definitely shows in Revengeance, right from the nonsensical name of the game to the first boss fight and even some of the weapons you get to wield. Right from the start, the game makes you feel like a super-powered ninja; it is one of the rare games out there that makes you feel like you’re using a real sword, instead of something to just whack enemies again and again with till they fall over and die.
One of the things that stand out about Revengeance is just how fluid everything is. Platinum made a wise choice to keep the game running at a solid 60fps. This makes animations feel fluid and the gameplay feel fast. This, along with the rocking soundtrack, makes the whole game feel like an extended adrenaline rush, especially with all the crazy things happening all around you.
Raiden's cyborg parts have been upgraded
The first boss does a great job of letting you know what the tone of the game is going to be like. You fight what has been established in other Metal Gear games as one of the most advanced and dangerous enemies possible—an unmanned version of Metal Gear Ray. Raiden makes short work of it in spectacular fashion, with key moments including lifting it up and throwing it into the air while he’s cutting it up, and jumping at the rockets it is shooting from afar just to get to it to cut it up some more.
Because of the insanity and blatant disregard for the laws of physics at display, the game ends up feeling much like an episode of some shonen anime. This may very well be one of the most distinctly Japanese games to have been made for this console generation and sits proudly alongside Bayonetta for being completely batshit insane.
Low frequency blades are for cowards
The action is fast-paced and frantic. Raiden, equipped with a cool-as-hell sword that supposedly vibrates at a very high frequency (hence letting him cut through giant robots and buildings alike), is an extremely offense-based character, and this can be seen in the control philosophy employed by platinum. There is literally no way of dodging attacks short of just moving out of the way yourself, and the game lacks a dedicated block button.
One of the two defensive moves you get is the parry, which is pulled off by timing your light attack in the direction the enemy’s attack is coming from. Time it right and you get to do a counter-attack that leaves the enemy open to a Zandatsu. Zandatsu is essentially Raiden kicking the enemy’s ass a bit and then letting you go wild in blade mode in the end.
"What’s blade mode?" you might ask. Well... blade mode is one of the most-touted features of the game. It basically lets you slow down time to a crawl while you pick where and how you want to slice up enemies. It’s interwoven into the fights well, with bosses needing you to use blade mode to exploit their weaknesses sometimes.
As they say, the best defense is a good offense
The other defensive move involves running. Running while holding down the L1 or LB button (depending on your platform of choice) lets you run around in Ninja Run mode. This mode is special because, first of all, it automates the platforming for you as long as you’re running in the right direction, and second and more importantly, automatically deflects regular bullets as long as the mode is on.
The controls aren’t exactly ground-breaking, though. You have simple light attacks and heavy attacks, and mixing them up lets you do combos that look spectacular. On the Normal difficulty, the game can be finished by simply button-mashing, but play on hard or higher and you’ll have to keep an eye on what combos you’re pulling off where and when.
Often the greatest enemy you end up fighting is the camera, though. The camera controls are God-awful in the game, with it constantly focusing on inane objects while you’re trying to stay alive through a constant onslaught of Gekkos and cyborg mercenaries. The camera ends up being the cause of death more often than even the bosses do, and hopefully, Platinum will fix the problems eventually.
While you do get healing supplies that automatically heal you when your health drops too low, the main way of staying alive in the battlefield is to enter blade mode, slice up the enemy in a strategic spot, and rip out its spine to absorb the electrolytes. Because of this, some fights tend to feel too easy.
Would you like some cheese with your plot?
The game’s story is just as insane as its gameplay, though this is pretty much par for the course. Taking place a few years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and the subsequent fall of the Sons of the Patriots system (along with the Patriots themselves), the plot revolves around Raiden and what he’s been up to since his last appearance. He has joined a Private Military Company (PMC) named Maverick, which specialises in offering security to high-profile people. Raiden’s minding his own business and protecting an African leader, when suddenly, cyborgs attack! They kill the leader and defeat Raiden in a rather humiliating fight, and thus kicks off the "Revengeance", as it were.
Raiden is about to get VERY humiliated
Most of the story focuses on a PMC named Desperado LLC and its plans to kidnap poor homeless children, harvest their organs and put their brains through VR training so they can become cyborg killing machines. Raiden, a once-child soldier himself, doesn’t take kindly to the idea and promptly sets out to destroy Desperado.
The story gets a little too heavy-handed with its message sometimes, in true Kojima fashion. Messages about war and child soldiers being bad are literally hammered into your head at some points, and the game sometimes goes out of its way to cast the actions of Raiden himself in a morally ambiguous light. Despite this, the story manages to be crazy enough to go well with the rest of the Metal Gear mythos.
The voice-acting gets pretty cheesy sometimes, with Raiden suffering the most. While his regular voice is just fine and dandy, it’s when you unlock his "Rage" mode, called Ripper mode in the game, when his voice acting gets crappy. Think of someone attempting an extremely bad impersonation of JC Denton of the original Deus Ex and you’ll know what I mean. His voice gets extremely raspy and guttural. There is also an extra serving of cheese and anvilicious aesops through some of the philosophical ramblings that bosses in Metal Gear games seem to have a habit of doing.
A snake by any other name
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance isn’t all hack-and-slash. There are some stealth mechanics in the game. And while it’s not exactly possible to finish the game without being spotted, it’s still been pulled off well. By default, if an enemy hasn’t seen you yet, they will be completely oblivious to your presence. There’s no sound mechanic either. You can run around enemies all you like as long as you don’t get in their line-of-sight, and they will be none the wiser. Don’t be fooled, though, the stealth mechanics are tertiary at best, with action and minor platforming being the main gameplay elements that the game chooses to focus on.
The cool thing about the implementation of stealth in Revengeance is the ability to let you pull off stealth kills. You can sneak up behind, or in some cases, above the enemy and, if you’re positioned well, you can basically finish them off in one hit and use blade mode to get their spines. More often than not, this ends up being more of an opening attack into a large group of enemies, rather than an effective tool for quickly dispatching a room-full of baddies.
The best way to kill Gekkos
Raiden’s inability to pull off missions stealthily is even lampshaded by your support group over codec conversations. “I thought you said you were good at stealth,” says one of the characters as I royally screwed up my attempts of getting into the Desperado headquarters through the sewers without being spotted.
I need scissors! 61!
You read the last paragraph right. Revengeance being a hack-and-slash action game hasn’t deterred Platinum from including a Codec, and by extension, weird conversations into the game. The game never pauses for codec conversations, though. Instead, the conversations load up in an augmented reality window and you still have some control over where Raiden moves as he does a Gears of War-esque hand-to-ear walk-and-talk sequence.
As is usual for a game with the Metal Gear moniker, the codec conversations range from being informative about the story to being downright hilarious. In fact, for those who haven’t played Metal Gear Solid games, the codec is a great way to get yourself up to speed in the happenings of the Metal Gear universe. The codec conversations can fill you in about events revolving around Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4.
The boss fights of the game are clearly the high points. The bosses were good enough for me to draw comparisons between this and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and that’s saying something. Comparing any game’s boss fights with another game that had fights like The End and The Sorrow is a claim that doesn’t come lightly.
The game starts on a high point with the Metal Gear Ray fight and just keeps going higher. A robotic dog that tests your ability to parry, a woman that uses interlinked cybernetic arms as a staff, a man who uses explosives as a shield and a samurai showdown in a desert are just some of the stellar boss fights in the game.
As is expected in a game like this, killing bosses nets you new weapons. These range between the cybernetic-arm-staff to giant scissors that you can use to cut your enemies with ease. All of the extra weapons are unique and operate wildly differently. For example, the staff gives you access to attacks that cover a large area, but with the penalty of being locked into longer combos, thus leaving you vulnerable to attacks from behind.
Mistral is just one of many awesome bosses
Rules of Nature
While the action is fast-paced and the spectacle is epic, Revengeance has a soundtrack that blows the socks off of anyone. Each boss has different versions of their own musics, with the tempo and lyrics getting faster and more epic as the fight progresses through the bosses’ different phases.
The music definitely sets the mood, especially with songs like Rules of Nature playing as you lift up a Metal Gear and toss it into the air, or The Only Thing I Know for Real playing as you fight your main rival in a samurai showdown in the middle of the Colorado desert.
Bolts of lightning
Wrapping things up, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a stellar game. While a bit short, with my first playthrough clocking in at slightly over six hours, the game is one exhilarating adrenaline rush. It's a definite must-buy if you’re into Metal Gear games, and if you aren’t, this would be a great place to start out, since it doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the mythos.
Despite the bad camera, cheesy story and sometimes-terrible voice acting, the game manages to be a great ride. And I for one am very excited to see where Platinum Games and Kojima Studios take the series next.