Monday, March 18, 2013

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

    I love the Metal Gear franchise in all its iterations.

    I can't play them worth a damn, however.  

    Metal Gear has one of the most entertaining storylines ever created for a video game. In a game world which starts in the 1960s and moves up to the near-future across numerous continents, the plot of the franchise is labyrinthine and bat**** insane (but in a good way).

    It's beautiful, thought-provoking, and proof video games can be a form of art. They're also damn difficult for people who don't like Stealth gameplay. Which, unfortunately, includes me. So, automatically, I'm going to give Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance a lot of credit for branching out. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an action game. You slice up lots of enemies and I do mean lots.

    The game really does an excellent job of making you feel like you're an invincible cyborg assassin--which is a pretty hard feeling to instill. It's not a perfect game, though, its flaws hampering a great premise and fun gameplay. The usual bat**** insane conspiracy theories which are a mainstay of the series have been noticeably mainstreamed (I hesitate to use the word "dumbed down") while the plot is absent the usual twists. Worse, there are parts which flat-out do not make sense with what we know of the setting.

    Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is also rather short, clocking in at about six hours to complete. It has a New Game Plus mode, which allows you to restart the game with all of your upgrades after beating it but this is a poor substitute for what should have been a few more levels. Finally, the game has more than a few plot-holes, a quality which was surprisingly absent from the convoluted series until now.

Yes, a cyborg ninja is fighting a robot wolf. It's that sort of game.
    The premise of the game is that Raiden, the protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2, has taken up work as a Private Military Contractor for an unnamed African country. Unlike most depictions of mercenaries, he's actually doing the job they're allowed to do in the real world--which is being is a bodyguard. No points to you for guessing his contract is killed and Raiden decides to get revenge.

    Hence the title.

    The plot later becomes focused on the use of child soldiers, cybernetics, mercenaries in conflicts, and American exceptionalism. Unfortunately, the game is too short to delve into these topics too much. There's even a serious plot hole where the villain explains his plan in detail at the end, only to never explain how the previous actions he'd taken benefit it in any way. Indeed, several actions done by the villains make no sense except to get the main character involved.

Is it wrong to chop up hordes of faceless mooks with your super sword? Does anyone care once the bullet time begins?
     The gameplay is completely the opposite of Metal Gear Solid, involving the character of Raiden slicing through literally hundreds of foes with his cybernetic sword. With the use of a Bullet-time mechanic to slow down enemies, you are capable of using your sword to slice foes into literally hundreds of pieces.

    There's an option to stealth through the game but it is actively discouraged by sections of the game getting "blocked off" until you have killed all of the various enemies who have spotted you. Really, you're much likely to have more fun by killing all of your foes with your high-tech sword. At least a couple of commentators have mentioned this game is a spiritual successor to the old arcade game Strider (where you play a cyborg ninja with his robot dog) and I can see their point.

    In a nod towards the franchise's well-known pacifism, the game eventually takes a rather dark turn which highlights that Raiden's rather cavalier attitude towards killing. I won't spoil this section but it's exceptionally powerful and the only moment I really felt like this game was a worthy successor to its predecessors. That doesn't mean it's not fun, however, just a tad underwhelming.

The game's tagline is lightning bolt action. It delivers, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, it gets a bit repetitive in places.
      I like Raiden's new look, attitude, and character development. The confident, dangerous, and somewhat insane character of this game bears little resemblance to the awkward newcomer of Metal Gear Solid 2 yet perfectly fits with what we know of him. I think the absence of Raiden's wife Rosemary, always a somewhat questionable addition to his story, helped matters somewhat. Rosemary  needs serious retooling if she's going to be an entertaining love interest.
    Raiden's supporting cast is entertaining in this volume, consisting of the mercenary company which employs him and a couple of surprising additions. I suspect some people are going to have severe problems with George, the Guyana war orphan, since his accent is bound to remind some people of Jar Jar Binks. I, on the other hand, found the kid to be quite entertaining and surprisingly courageous. None of the characters have story arcs as memorable as Naomi Campbell or Major Zero, however, which means the codec conversations aren't as entertaining or portentous.

     I like Raiden's new look, attitude, and character development. The confident, dangerous, and somewhat insane character of this game bears little resemblance to the awkward newcomer of Metal Gear Solid 2 yet perfectly fits with what we know of him. I think the loss of Rosemary, always a somewhat questionable addition to his story, helped matters somewhat. Raiden's wife needs some serious retooling if she's going to be entertaining.

Yes, he's jumping from missile to missile to attack a giant robot. Why have you not bought this game!? Ahem, sorry.
     I'm of mixed feelings towards Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance's villains. All of them are quite good with Mistral, Jetstream, Sundowner, and Monsoon being perfectly serviceable bosses. Jetstream Sam, in particular, is a character I'd love to see more of. I also felt that the final Boss was hilariously over-the-top but in a good way. Unfortunately, none of them relate back to the other games in the franchise and I'm not sure we'll see them built on like we did with the Foxhound unit in Metal Gear Solid. As a result, they sort of feel a bit insubstantial.

     The game's soundtrack also bears special note, being composed of almost pure heavy metal. While not all of the tunes are great to listen to when you're not in battle, they're excellent accompaniment to the combat on screen and rarely distracting. I was particularly fond of "Has to Be With This Way" which plays during the final boss fight. So kudos to the developers for coming up with some excellent music, I usually don't compliment the soundtracks during reviews.

     Is the game fun? As mentioned above, yes, it is. Unfortunately, the game feels almost half-done. It's not only short but the plot feels like it had additional levels and content which were dropped so the work could be released early. It lacks many of the flourishes which made Metal Gear Solid and its sequels great. There's still plenty of great stuff here and it's definitely worth the purchase cost, especially if you trade it in for store credit at Gamestop thereafter, but there's not much here to keep me occupied indefinitely.



  1. Having beaten this game not too long ago, I would have to concur it does feel pretty short.

    Another criticism is that I agree there is the minor plot hole of how the early half of the game ties into the latter, but it strikes me as less of an issue because you technically stumble across the real plot while following up another one that turns out to unrelated to yet connected to the whole.

    Namely, the early missions with you resolving the Desperado involvement in Africa, Azhadistan, and then Brazil (until the second half of the latter takes things in a new direction) still make sense because Desperado is a PMC, and just because their primary goal is assisting the main villain, it's not like they can drop all preexisting obligations or that the goals of the main villain fill up 100% of their time, so while their early unconnected acts didn't seem to make sense at first, the fact that they were revealed to be catspaws for an even larger conspiracy (that had it's own agents and goals) you stumble upon seems logical.

    After all, sometimes following A to B will lead to an unexpected C, which strikes me a fairly realistic scenario.

    How it all ties into the main villain's ultimate goal is still never explained, but it seems more like it was only intended to serve as an indirect way to tie into the main plot of the game, which mirrors the beginning of MGS2, which had Raiden believing he was stopping a terrorist incident that later turned out to a massive conspiracy that was nothing like what his original knowledge indicated, with the beginning aspects of his mission being downright inconsequential aside from leading him to the real plot.

    Given how Hideo Kojima loves recycling older storylines for newer games, it would make logical sense.

    1. Small correction to the above, I meant Mexico, not Brazil.