Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is better than it has any right to be. Originally announced in 2009, Rising was plagued by development difficulties over its four-year incubation, even being cancelled once by series mastermind Hideo Kojima when he felt his team couldn’t create the swordplay-based game he had envisioned. The main issue for the team was in trying to balance all-out, cut-anything action with the series’ trademark methodical stealth and infiltration gameplay. Something had to give, and ultimately the stealth elements were heavily toned down. But with a new focus on action, this change paved the way for Kojima to offer the project to Osaka’s Platinum Games, a studio with a masterful command of high-octane action games.
Bringing another developer on-board caused some consternation among fans of the Metal Gear series, but if you’re one of those put off by Platinum’s involvement – don’t be. It was the right choice.
Rising begins four years after Metal Gear Solid 4, with Raiden now working for Maverick Securities, a Private Military Company. Like Metal Gear technology before it, cyborg bodies have now gone mainstream, and with the fall of The Patriots’ nanomachine technology, PMCs have since turned to these augmentations in order to both create and regulate superhuman soldiers. Raiden, supported by faces old and new (one of whom is essentially Metal Gear‘s very own Jar Jar Binks), stumbles upon a conspiracy to destabilize the world in an effort to control this new war economy, a plot supposedly led by rival PMC Desperado Enforcement LLC.
While the storyline doesn’t have the twists, turns, double-bluffs and double-crossings typical of the greater Metal Gear saga, it’s a well-realised, well-told story for a six-hour action game, even managing to shoe-horn in a decent amount of character development for Raiden, as well as a number of memorable set-pieces, interesting antagonists and moments of sheer lunacy that underline the frantic action at the game’s core.
In motion, Raiden crackles across the screen like lightning; his high frequency blade a blur as he slices through his enemies. To keep Raiden in full flow, constant aggression is the order of the day, and this is reinforced by the parrying mechanic at the heart of the game’s combat system; there is no true block move in Rising, so you need to sense an attack coming (handily telegraphed by an orange flash), then press toward your opponent at the same time as hitting the attack button. Time this right, and you’ll not only parry the strike, but dish out one of your own and give yourself an opportunity to enter blade mode – granting yourself a few seconds of slow motion where you can freely cut the enemy up into however many robotic chunks you wish, at whatever angle you deem necessary – to finish the enemy quickly and stylishly.
This focus on offense even comes into play when healing Raiden. Though there are health packs to be found throughout his adventure, by far the most satisfying way to top up Raiden’s health and energy is via the game’s Zandatsu mechanic. Sufficiently weakening an enemy before dropping into blade mode will paint a small red square over their weak point, and successfully cutting this and nailing a button press will see Raiden acrobatically tear out the poor cyborg’s juicy, gooey spine to replenish his own reserves. Zandatsu never gets old, and it’s a true joy to pirouette from one enemy to the next, tearing out their innards in a staccato ballet of whirling destruction.
Of course, it’s not a perfect game by any means. Graphically, Rising can often look a little flat, and it’s certainly not as pretty as it was when Kojima Productions first showed off their interpretation back at E3 2010. A bigger issue is the rather wayward camera, which frequently fails to frame the action properly, something that can be fatal considering the parry requires a directional input. While Rising has a number of sprawling, lengthy stages, the final third of the game feels very rushed; of the last three levels, one is a ten-minute tear-through an area you’ve already fought through, while the other two are essentially boss fights, though fairly lengthy ones at that.
But those bosses, man. This is a Metal Gear game, so it needed memorable bosses – and they certainly do not disappoint. In one, you’ll leap across missiles to close distance on an enormous Metal Gear Ray, before sprinting down the side of a disintegrating building to slice the metal beast in two. And that’s just the prologue – every one of the bosses will stick in your mind, though at first that might be down to the difficulty; Rising is a tough game, and if you don’t have your parry down, the Winds of Destruction, Desperado’s top agents, will punish you cruelly.
But pay attention, become proficient at deflecting attacks, learn their patterns, and you’ll find some fantastic set-piece battles in the game, like the fight against Mistral and her swarm of Dwarf Gekko, or a samurai showdown with Jetstream Sam in the desert at sunset. Then there’s the ludicrously epic multi-stage final boss battle which, in its early stages, feels like a return to the screen-filling bosses from arcade games of old.
It’s in these boss encounters that the equally-frenetic music really comes into its own, and it’s a perfect match for the visuals; a blend of fast guitar work, electronic beats and filtered vocals that would probably sound cheesy as all hell in any other game. In Rising, it only serves to heighten the intensity of the encounters; Monsoon’s theme in particular is absolutely drenched in adrenaline, which is just as well, considering it may well end up being the thing that keeps pushing you to beat him instead of chewing off your own fingers. But every boss has a memorable theme that blends so well with what’s going on on-screen, like two pieces of a puzzle slotting together to create an audio-visual blitzkrieg on the senses. If you’ve ever wondered what it might feel like to pour Red Bull directly onto your brain, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance should give you some indication.
If you’re one of those Metal Gear fans that dismissed the game, perhaps now is the time to give it a chance; it can be bought for such a pittance now that it barely counts as taking a punt, and since January of this year it’s also available on Steam. In the meantime, those that loved the game will be hoping for a sequel, and perhaps they won’t have to wait too long. Back in August last year, a Konami survey asked fans what they liked about Rising, and whether they’d buy a sequel. More recently, Kojima himself took a trip to Osaka just last month to meet with Platinum’s president Tatsuya Minami and director Hideki Kamiya.
Nothing has yet come of that meeting, but with Platinum soon finishing up Bayonetta 2 for Nintendo and TGS looming on the horizon, perhaps it’s not too much to hope that we may see a Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance 2 for PS4 and Xbox One before too long. Considering what Platinum managed to turn out in a little over a year with the first game, fans will surely be salivating at the thought of a next-gen follow-up.