Review: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
By Joseph Christ on February 19th, 2013 (16 comments)
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was almost a completely different beast at one point. Originally under development by Kojima Productions under the same gaming tenants as previous Metal Gear titles, it was quietly canceled in 2010 amid development problems only to be resurrected by Platinum Games and re-introduced to the world as a high-speed action title. Undoubtedly a huge change for the series, it would be one befitting of the story's main character. And as we enter this new chapter of the Metal Gear universe, this time eschewing the tactical stealth gameplay for the open fighting style Platinum Games is known for, we find a solid and capable entry. One that stumbles at times, but is still throughouly enjoyable from beginning to....well, we'll get to that.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Developer: Platnium Games
Release Date: February 19th, 2013 (360, PS3)
MGR takes place four years after the events in Guns of the Patriots. Raiden finds himself working for a privatized PMC group called Maverick Enterprises who specialize in security for political VIPs. Not too far into the game he finds himself facing off with rival PMC, Desperado Enterprises, known for their ties to terrorist organizations, who make things go downhill very quickly for our cyborg protagonist. The story is pure Metal Gear from here on out but with far less twists and turns than your typical Kojima production. In fact, MGR is the very essence of an amalgamation between Platinum Games and Kojima Productions design philosophy. The crazy action and scenarios indicative of Platinum are ever present in cut scenes and gameplay, but the ultra-detailed conversations and storylines are tucked away in the Codec menu when you contact different members of your team.
The separation works very well, allowing the player some control over the dissemination of the more detailed story aspects but unfortunately these don't save over time. Meaning that if you leave an area without checking the codec, you can't go back later. This does nothing to stall your progress, of course, but the conversations are fairly entertaining and informative so I actually found myself checking them frequently to ensure I wouldn't miss them.
MGR is an action title in the pure Platinum Games sense but the main star is the much touted cutting mechanic. Having played bits and pieces of the game over the years I've seen it change and tighten as development has continued, and I can honestly say that this final code version has it down perfectly. The mechanic works by expending a “Fuel Meter” which allows Raiden to go into Cut Mode -a sword version of 'bullet time'- until this resource is extinguished. During this period time slows to a crawl and the player is able to slice up enemies either using the analogue sticks to issue refined cuts, or using the face buttons to do quicker horizontal or vertical slashes. There is simply no greater joy than slicing up multiple enemies in slow motion. Libs flying, chests bursting, heads...flying further still. Slice through a red targeted square located on the enemy and Raiden reaches into the mass of bursting flesh and pulls out a recovery module which heals him completely and refills the fuel meter. Miss this and you can still pick up smaller bits on the ground that refill a smaller amount. Failing that, the fuel meter fills up itself as you slash your way through enemies.
Almost everything in the world can be sliced. Trees, benches, columns, with only larger structures being oddly immune to the effects. I suppose they had to stop somewhere. Effected objects can be sliced in literally hundreds of pieces -I think 210 pieces was my highest- and I know because the game keeps track of how many pieces you've sliced something into. The hardware deals with all this extra geometry by slowly disappearing sliced objects, but I did notice a few instances of slowdown when the cutting was getting a little wild. There are also some moments where Raiden will block a doorway by inadvertently cutting objects that then fall in his way. Luckily, you can just cut those objects until the game decides that they are no longer needed in the world. This was hardly a problem, however and the few times it happened was due to me happily cutting at trees just because the mechanic is so damned fun to use.
Cut Mode is also used in conjunction with some QTE events as well which turn them from an eye-rolling fight mechanic into something inexplicably wonderful. Inexplicable...but allow me to try. I'm fighting an enemy cyborg soldier to the point to where he becomes dazed. A QTE happens...I catch it and Raiden grabs the enemy, throws him through the air and jumps after him. As I'm flying over the enemy in mid-air, Cut Mode initiates, so in slow motion -flying through the air- I'm cutting this soldier into pieces like pepperoni in an Italian deli. I hit my mark, Raiden -still in midair- reaches in and grabs the fuel cell, lands on his feet and crushes it in his bare hands. Variations of this move happen throughout the game with multiple different enemies. It's amazing every time.
My only real issue with Cut Mode is that not much has been done with it beyond this. It would have been great to see it used in a hostage situation, where you have to slice through the enemy without hurting the victim, but unfortunately when this type of scenario is introduced to the player the outcome is completely left up to the cut scene to play out. Stranger still that this very scenario was shown on in-game cardboard cutouts when MGR was shown at conventions.
Along with the Cut Mode, Raiden also has a host of other fighting skills that can be augmented by learning different moves, finding different weapons, increasing the stats of weapons, etc. Raiden can also upgrade himself with more life, larger fuel cells and, yes, even different outfits. One glaring problem with this process, however, is that the movesets are badly explained in the menu where they're purchased, and the actual button presses to initiate them are found in an entirely different location. I was moments away from emailing my PR contact to ask where the move explanations were when I realized they were hidden in the 'help' menu when you hit the start button from the main game, and nowhere to be found in the Codec or even in the menu where upgrades are purchased.
MGR does approach defense differently than you might be used to in that there is no dodge button. Instead, Raiden must parry all his attacks by hitting the attack button while pushing in the direction of the incoming enemy attack. It certainly took me awhile to get used to, but when you get it down it feels completely natural for the character. However, even though enemies telegraph their moves with plenty of time before they actually connect, this can become a real problem when facing off a large group of enemies, some of which may not even be on screen. Often times I would just run away from a group, if I could, and re-establish myself in a better fighting position than continually be cheap-shotted by off sceen nuisances.
As good as the combat is, and it is very good, there are two big issues that really cut into the enjoyment. First, the camera in MGR swings about wildly, especially when you're fighting in tight areas, and there were many times when I simply couldn't see my targets as I found myself pounded from every which way. This is not so much a problem in larger areas, but when fighting two mechs in the confines of an office building hallway, the camera becomes your first big fight before the enemies. The camera is also set just too close to Raiden as well, making seeing the battlefield a squinting-affair at times. Yes, Raiden is a beautiful, beautiful man -and his modeling is exceptional- but at the detriment to seeing what's around you.
Second, and I was honestly surprised to find this problem in a Platinum Games product, Raiden has a terrible habit of having to finish almost every animation of his movement before taking on another one. When facing off mutltiple enemies, or one boss who likes to chain their attacks, you can often times find yourself getting hit while Raiden insist on finishing that kick animation when you're trying to parry. Or find yourself being continually knocked down because Raiden hasn't finished his getting up animation before another knock-down blow lands. The overlook is strange, especially considering that Raiden is shown as a spry fighter with all the moves of your most bombastic anime hero. And considering the developers track record in this area.
These problems don't get in the way as often as you might think, however, and they're surely outweighed by the fantastic scenarios and memorable boss fights you encounter. Boss fight in particular are exceptional in MGR, and come in the 'boss of your size with different skill-sets' variety. Seldom will you be fighting a titanic mech-like creature. Instead you'll be facing off against equals who all have a defense against a skill or style you've invariably been using, forcing you to re-think the fights and find new angles for success. Boss fights are heavy with both substance and style with my one complaint being that I wish there would have been more of them. Well, that is until I reached the final boss. Perhaps it was just me, perhaps it was the way the game ended up, but I found the final boss fight to be a disproportional difficulty spike that came out of nowhere. With little room for error, it also features one-hit-kills which I always believed should be forbidden in any boss fight...especially one without checkpoints. It took me no less than 12 tries to take down the final boss (on normal after having no difficulty previously) and I'm convinced that the game took pity on me during my final attempt.
Running at a sweet 60fps doesn't come with some sacrifices, and even though the character models and effects are well done, the world of MGR is especially drab. You didn't come to the game expecting grand vistas and bustling cities and you're certainly not going to get it. Areas are much more akin to set-pieces than anything resembling a living world, but it does resemble a world that can be sliced to ribbons with some of the fastest console frame rate around. Cut scenes also looked washed out and far worse than the actual game which makes me wish they could just do them all in-engine. This is outweighed however by that Platinum charm which oozes from those cut scenes in buckets. Much different than your typical Metal Gear, MGR more resembles a sci-fi kung fu movie than anything else. The results are non-stop entertainment. Overacting was never so enjoyable as it is here.
Ultimately, Metal Gear Rising is a fantastic inclusion to the Metal Gear universe, and a great action game, but it's poor camera and insistence on animation over function do put it slightly below par with Platinum's better games. Still, the cutting mechanic almost completely negates this for simple fun factor, and the game features a host of Metal Gear characters and details to keep the Solid Snake aficionado interested throughout. Some more enemy types, a prettier world and a better camera, and Metal Gear Rising would have easily been a much better game. As it is, it's still great and highly recommended, but the dull edges certainly stand in stark contrast to the deep cuts the game should have left on our hearts.
80-89%: Great - Only very minor issues get in the way of greatness.
Joseph Christ is the Reviews Editor and a Podcast Personality at 4Player. Specializing in reviews, editorials, drinking, and saying inappropriate things about gaming franchises that are beloved by millions, his satirical and sometimes edgy style offsets a more serious and penetrating substance lurking below the surface. He is also the host of the Cocktail Time Podcast. You'll follow his Twitter if you know what's good for you.
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