Platform | Release Date
360, PS3 | February 19, 2013
Developed by Platinum Games
Published by Konami
METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE takes the renowned METAL GEAR franchise into exciting new territory by focusing on delivering an all-new action experience unlike anything that has come before. Combining world-class development teams at Kojima Productions and PlatinumGames, METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE brings two of the world’s most respected teams together with a common goal of providing players with a fresh synergetic experience that combines the best elements of pure action and epic storytelling, all within the expansive MG universe. The game introduces Raiden as the central character; a child soldier transformed into a half-man, half-machine cyborg ninja, equipped with a high-frequency katana blade and a soul fueled by revenge.
There’s always an element of trepidation when you find out one of your favourite things is being spun off. It happens pretty frequently in TV land, and in a post-Harry Potter mega-franchise age, we can probably expect the silver screen studios to keep pace from now on. In gaming, it’s less common. Save for a few MMOs, and a whole bunch of Final Fantasy releases, developers trend towards straight sequels. I don’t think many people expected Metal Gear to buck these trends.
Snake’s adventures have a strict template. Over the years, features have been added and removed to keep the old soldier competitive in the modern era, even as he got increasingly more decrepit. Still, the core hasn’t really changed. Yet for this spin-off, Snake’s rule book has been burned, leaving just a few shreds of the gameplay that made Metal Gear Solid an iconic series. In the end, what’s most surprising is how comfortably and honourably Rising fits with its originators.
Taking place after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, Rising sees the cyborg Raiden operating as part of a private security firm in a market swamped by part-robot soldiers and AI controlled machines. After a major international incident in Africa, a rival company reveals a plan to restart the war economy that Snake had rid the world of. In true Metal Gear fashion, that involves Raiden facing a gauntlet of bizarre bosses and obtuse cutscenes. The big difference though? Raiden doesn’t sneak, he slices.
Developers Platinum Games bring a strong track record of hack and slash titles. Metal Gear Rising shares a lot with Bayonetta, offering similarly frantic combat which demands skill and excellent timing to really master. Raiden carries a lightning-infused blade, and nimbly flicks it between hand and foot, mixing quick and strong attacks into impressive looking barrages. An upgrade system grants new moves as you would expect, but the system’s real strength lies in how it handles blocking and special moves rather than combos.
Instead of gifting the player with a simple block button, Platinum make a much bigger demand. All incoming attacks must be parried; cutting swords and swinging hammers clanged back with a flick of the analogue stick and a quick attack button press. This radically changes how battles feel. Rather than rushing in, each assault on your enemy must be planned to account for the expected retaliation from his brothers and robots-in-arms. Spontaneous stand-offs materialise that mirror the best of Asian action cinema. The constant undulation between balletic sword swipes and tense stalemate is exhilarating, original, and addictive.
The entire project is steeped in Samurai lore. Raiden’s foes fit into archetypes of the genre, albeit it with distinctly Metal Gear twists. As ever, it remains incredibly fun to face off against oddball bosses, even if the dialogue between our hero and his enemies has taken an additional dose of cheese in the process of being spun off. If you don’t see the connection within the narrative, you’ll definitely see samurai in the combat, if only because of Rising’s most unique feature.
Zan-datsu allows the player to slow time, take a stationary stance, and choose the direction of each of Raiden’s sword swipes. Its power isn’t limitless, and although it allows you to cut your enemies into precisely sized chunks of your own choosing, you’ll still have to beat them into submission first. Regardless, the zan-datsu system facilitates incredible special moves unique to each enemy type. You’ll swing under robots, only to cut them in half, and you’ll throw cyborgs into the air, before slicing their arms off. Each one looks great and feels ridiculously satisfying. Abandoning any sort of Kinect/Move support for this was a great idea, and the end result marks the experiment as absolutely successful.
The main campaign can be completed in under 5 hours quite comfortably, especially if you get a hang of the parry system quickly. Full-on combat takes up much of that time, although the game supports and promotes the use of stealth, granting instant kills and enthusiastic responses from Raiden’s colleagues over the ever-present CODEC. This contributes to the overall sensation that this really is a Metal Gear game, and not just in name. Your play style earns you titles upon completion, just like several of Snake’s adventures, and the cutscenes possess exactly the same atmosphere of those classic titles. Most importantly, the plot fits perfectly with existing cannon, a few returning characters deepening the connection.
On every technical level, Metal Gear Rising is a success, with an outstanding soundtrack to accompany bright, interesting visuals. In still shots, it might looks like Raiden is exploring levels decorated with the same military-grade industrialism that Snake has inhabited for so many years. Once he starts moving though, it’s a completely different story – all flashing lights and explosive gibs.
There are a few unlockables and VR missions to pad out the package, but you don’t need to worry about the relatively short campaign leaving you feeling short changed. I’ve spoken to people that have already played it four times, and like me on my first time, they’ve had a blast for every single minute of it. Metal Gear Rising is a big, mad, brilliant game that I have no hesitation recommending. Sure, the story might not appeal to those not already invested in the Metal Gear universe, but the quality of the gameplay makes that a redundant concern. This is the best thing that Platinum Games have ever done. Why would you spin off Metal Gear Solid? Well, after playing Metal Gear Rising, the answer suddenly seems pretty obvious.