METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE REVIEW:
Saturday February 23rd, 2013 by WALLEYE
Originally announced at E3 in 2009, Metal Gear Solid: Rising faced a troubled development and was at one stage cancelled. The project was later revived through a partnership between Kojima Productions and Platinum Games. Through this partnership, the game evolved into Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
For this review, the game was played in two extended sessions across two days running the PlayStation 3 version on Normal difficulty. The day one update was not installed and the game was played as it was when it shipped.
GRAPHICS & VISUALS
Metal Gear Rising is by no means an ugly game. Character models and scenery all have highly detailed textures and the sword slashes create a nice range of effects. The combat scenes more closely resemble a Zone of the Enders fight than anything you would expect to find in an MGS title.
Lighting effects are well done, creating detailed lens flare visuals when aiming the camera towards the sun and the water at the beginning of the second chapter (the section from the demo included in the Zone of the Enders: HD Collection) also looks very good. For the most part, the game runs comfortably at 60 frames per second, although on occasion the frame rates will drop during some of the mandatory codec calls. The same also occurs should you choose to slice objects into croutons, though this tends to create frame skip, rather than slowdown. Aside from these rare instances, the on screen action is very slick and consistent, which helps the game to deliver it's fast paced action.
Some of the facial animation is also very good, particularly with Raiden's rival character - Jetstream Sam. He often has a wry smile on his face when mocking Raiden and the animation really captures the condescending tone of his words.
With no tactical gameplay to mention and an emphasis on all-out combat, Rising's gameplay is fairly repetitive from the outset. A prime example of this comes during an early boss fight against a modified Metal Gear RAY unit. Use 'Ninja Run' to avoid RAY's attacks until you get close enough to mash the attack buttons and unleash your sword on it's feet, which are marked with a "target" icon showing you exactly where to attack. Repeat this process as RAY jumps around until you are prompted to use 'Blade Mode' to slice off sections of armor. This is how battles against unmanned vehicles will play out throughout the game. The later encounters are far less obvious than those at the beginning, but nonetheless they follow the same formula.
As you progress through the game, battles swing from one extreme to the other. Boss fights become less straight forward and the bosses themselves become less forgiving, ranging from mildly annoying to flat out frustrating. You can expect to be bombarded with constant attacks with no time to catch your breath before the next attack starts. After dying a few times and working out what you need to do, the feeling of satisfaction when you finally win these battles is very much welcomed. Rising doesn't hold your hand and tell you how to defeat the bosses, instead leaving you to your own devices to work it out for yourself, which I liked.
Some of the gameplay elements are pretty solid while others feel quite cumbersome and counter-intuitive. 'Ninja Run' is the best way to move around, but you often have a lack of control when running over objects and you can find yourself clumsily falling off of things and going completely the wrong way. While the parry mechanic is crucial to your progress through the game, it doesn't work the way you expect it to, or the way the "combat manual" tells you it does. If you don't master it early on in the game, you'll find yourself struggling more and more the further you get into it. An assist mode is available to those playing on the easiest settings which will automatically parry for you.
"Rising doesn't hold your hand and tell you how to defeat the bosses, instead leaving you to your own devices to work it out for yourself"
Platinum Games are proud of 'Blade Mode' and while it can be a little disorientating at first, it works very well when you get the hang of it. It's not always as precise as you'd hope, but when it works it is satisfying to cut three cyborgs in half with one swing and perform consecutive zandatsus (cutting enemies and taking their repair units). It's not just the robot goons that get the surgeon's knife either - there will be times when you need to carve down gates, doors and other obstructions in order to move on. Annoyingly though, there are occasions when the hacked remains can prevent your progress through the walkway they were supposed to reveal. It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen.
After each battle with enemy cyborgs, you are presented with your battle score for that encounter. While this is good for tracking your performance, it hangs around on the screen a little too long and while it is being displayed, the rest of your HUD is disabled. When focusing on the enemies instead of your surroundings, you can find yourself disorientated until your battle score is removed and your HUD returns. When in a battle, a "combat zone" is established and you are unable to roam the area until the battle is won. The boundaries that stop you from leaving the combat zone do not disappear until the battle score does. This means you cannot progress until the game lets you, even when all the enemies have been defeated which can be a pain sometimes.
MUSIC, VOICE ACTING & DIALOGUE
One of the signature elements of Metal Gear games are the soundtracks. Sadly, Rising falls short here. Most of the boss battles and general enemy encounters are supported by heavy metal vocal tracks, which are reminiscent of the uninspired techno music used throughout Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. Most of the music doesn't necessarily seem out of place, but nor is it particularly memorable by Metal Gear's previous standards.
Voice acting on the other hand is, for the majority, very good. There are times when it feels a little unnatural, when characters are laughing for instance, and Raiden's "Jack the Ripper voice" sounds a little like Quinton Flynn doing a bad impression of Quinton Flynn.
Most disappointing of all though was the alarming regularity with which the dialogue resorts to profanity. Before Rising, Metal Gear's swear jar was almost as empty as Otacon's bladder, with just the solitary F-Bomb dropped in MGS 4, and even that was highly unnecessary. NPC's, bosses and even Raiden himself casually pass out the expletives throughout this game and it only serves to lower the tone. Combined with the fast paced, arcadey action, it all feels a little immature.
STORY & LIFESPAN
Existing fans of the Metal Gear series will be familiar with plots and subtexts that don't initially make sense and may require multiple playthroughs before finally understanding what happens, but Metal Gear Rising takes this to a new level. It begins with Raiden running VIP protection for Prime Minister N'Mani. When their convoy is attacked by unknown cyborgs, the Prime Minister is abducted. It moves on from here following Raiden's quest to shut down Desperado Enforcement and tackles grey areas such as child abduction and organ harvesting before going off the deep end into outright absurdity in the name of kickstarting the war economy. While the story isn't exactly bad, it is at times hard to follow. Towards the latter stages of the game, it feels like it's no longer taking itself seriously and that only adds to the confusion.
"Between trophies/achievements, collectibles, upgrades and VR missions there is plenty to do"
My clear time was 5 hours, 47 minutes and while this does seem quite short, it does not include cutscenes, VR missions or retries. You can expect to put a lot more time into the game than the final stats would suggest. During my playthrough I unlocked around 30% of the trophies and a bunch of upgrades. While there will be people who will want to get the platinum trophy and unlock all the upgrades and extras, I find myself indifferent to the prospect. I have no real desire to play through it again, at least not straight away, but between trophies/achievements, collectibles, upgrades and VR missions there is plenty to do for those that want to.
Rising's supporting cast is full of new names and faces, but none of them are really developed, introduced or explained in any great detail - none of them have any substancial back-story. This is particularly odd in the case of Raiden's support team, as he seems to have a close relationship with all of them which is never expanded upon. The "Winds of Destruction" bosses also get very little in the way of explanation, aside from a few of them telling Raiden they experienced similar childhoods to the sword-weilding cyborg. That's something of a missed opportunity as they have created some very interesting characters, Samuel in particular, and it would have been nice to learn more about them.
One of the earlier bosses in the game, a robotic Wolf by name of LQ-84i, becomes one of Raiden's allies once you defeat him, after some modifications and repairs of course. Now named "Blade Wolf" this computerised canine is built up as a sort of companion character and you get the impression that he'll help you out in battles. To my disappointment, he doesn't. He repeatedly scampers off into the distance during the introductory cutscene for each new area to "scout ahead", and spends the rest of his screen time telling you where to go by Codec, which renders him a slightly pointless addition to the game.
In terms of the rest of the Metal Gear universe, Sunny makes nothing more than a cameo, Raiden's family are mentioned once or twice and Solidus gets a mention early on. Surprisingly, Solid Snake is not mentioned in the dialogue at all, despite several suitable opportunities to do so arising. It's slightly odd for a spin-off title not to mention the "legendary hero" upon whom the whole series is based. Having saved the world countless times, mentored Raiden in two seperate games and helped raise Sunny in Raiden's absence during MGS 4, you would be forgiven for thinking he would be held in high enough regard to at least be mentioned by either of them at least once. He is vaguely referenced through the use of "kept you waiting, huh?" but nothing more.
As a stand-alone action game, Rising is quite good fun. The dialogue isn't too long and the cutscenes aren't overly drawn-out, yet are still typical of Kojima Productions' cinematic style. The game is visually impressive, the combat is fluid and simple (except for parrying!) and the action is delivered as an enjoyable experience that doesn't hold your hand the entire time.
As a Metal Gear title, I'm less convinced. From a very early stage of the game, you are told by Boris that "this is not an infiltration mission" and that "there is no need to hide or avoid combat outright". Those are two key elements of all other games to bear the Metal Gear name, and as such it's quite a departure for the series to make.
Expanding the genre and gameplay is not necessarily a bad idea in itself, especially in a spin-off title, but such a radical change means this bears little or no resemblance to anything that goes before it, and because of that it doesn't feel as if it's closely related to the rest of the series.
Splinter Cell games provide a good example of how to grow the brand; in recent installments like Conviction and the upcoming Blacklist, you can see that the series has become more action orientated. Despite this, stealth gameplay is still at it's core. Metal Gear Rising could have blended the action experience we ended up getting with the stealth experience that Metal Gear is known for and probably would have been a better game for it, honouring it's roots and adding more variety to the gameplay.
With that said and as I mentioned earlier, to judge it as a Metal Gear title when it is so clearly different from the rest of the series wouldn't be fair. As it's own action game, Rising is great fun to play and would score higher than it does if the issues I've brought up in this review can be addressed. From my experience though, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is very good at what it does, but there is room for improvement.
- 7/10 -
METAL GEAR RISING:
|Developer :||Platinum Games|
|Platform :||PlayStation 3|
|US :||February 19th 2013|
|JP :||February 21st 2013|
|EU :||February 21st 2013|
|UK :||February 22nd 2013|
|PC :||January 9th 2014|