Ever since its initial concept, Rising promised Metal Gear fans a 180 on the series’ traditional formula: the careful exploration of your surroundings and silent approach to enemies would change to a fast and noisy combat with a focus on slicing things up. Kojima Productions took a lot of time to work around the concept, but the game started to fade into oblivion and was seemingly doomed.
But then, Platinum Games stepped in.
Title: Metal Gear Rising – REVENGEANCE
Developer: Platinum Games
Genre: Action (1 Player)
Available on: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360
Europe: Feb 21, 2013
North America: Feb 19, 2013
Japan: Feb 21, 2013
Set after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, Rising is a canon spin-off that presents Raiden in a series of missions across the world to stop Desperado, a cyborg organization hellbent on creating havoc across countries to stimulate war and profiting off the outcome. Joining with Private Military Company Maverick to help his family, Raiden ends up facing a bigger threat than terrorism, while facing his inner demons that haunt him ever since his childhood. It is a short game, containing only seven missions, but there is much to be done in them.
Consistent with all the previous backstory shown in MGS 2 and 4, we continue to see the badass ninja’s struggle in suppressing his deadly persona Jack the Ripper, developed during his experience in a war while he was still a kid. Along the trip, the game focuses on the protagonist dealing with his reasons behind fighting this organization, put into question by Desperado’s captains. This is no melancholic scenario, though, as Raiden faces the problem in a surprisingly enjoyable way that develops his character in a direction unexpected by those who accompanied MGS4.
In typical Metal Gear fashion, the game presents Desperado’s captains just like Dead Cell or the Cobra Unit from past titles: a group of distinct personalities, with unique characteristics and fighting styles. Each of them gets a special spotlight throughout the game’s chapters, with great introductions and conclusions for their encounters with Raiden. Of course, this is not simply a game of black and white: you will even wonder why you are fighting them and not just because of their tragic past. Also, some recurring characters will evolve during the game and interact with Raiden in quite significant ways. To make justice to the series’ title, expect also a crazy Metal Gear confrontation (and I’m not talking about the RAY in the intro chapter).
In fact, most of the game is quite absurd in what you will be doing, like running up a crumbling building or dive kicking a chopper and slicing it in half, but this is a Platinum Games title, so it’s expected. The crazy-o-meter cranks up as the game progresses and complete madness ensues in the final chapter, sending the game off with a bang.
This game got quite the treatment in the visuals, despite being rushed due to Kojima Productions’ problems during development. The first mission already throws you in against a gigantic Metal Gear RAY with a great variety of effects in every section of the battle, and it gets better with every boss you face. Some lighting effects really touch up the scenery you pass by during your path of carnage and realizing you can cut most of the objects scattered on these stages is quite impressive. The characters’ design is as unique as one would expect from other Metal Gear titles, with bosses boasting rather noticeable characteristics that are suitably implemented in the gameplay. Even your colleagues in Maverick and some other friends are nicely designed and memorable, with personality traits that enhance their participation along Raiden’s journey. The enemies are also quite detailed, with considerable variety and no repetition of assets. One could argue about the abundance of common cyborgs, but they also have some significant variations.
The gameplay: this is where Platinum Games’ work really shines. Boasting impressive 60 FPS despite all the visual work is quite an impressive feat. You might not have a great variety of movements and your combos are quite limited, but your options are more than enough to deal with both aerial and ground enemies. The basis for the combat is composed of light / heavy attacks and the parry. In order to evade attacks, you have to point the analog stick in the direction of the attack and press the light attack button. If you manage to parry exactly once the attack connects, you can make a counterattack that can break the enemy’s defense. Some of them can be finished up by slicing them normally, others will require a specific command input followed by the Zandatsu.
Zandatsu is your main form of recharging life and fuel energy. By cutting down a weakened enemy in a specific area in Blade Mode, you can rip out his spine and smash it for some free energy (I’ve even managed to connect a triple Zandatsu one time). The Blade Mode can be activated anytime you have fuel energy and serves to cut everything up with precision. You can adjust the angle with the analog stick and attack by tilting and releasing it. If you’d like to rapidly slash without worrying too much with precision, you can use the light / heavy attack buttons to slice horizontally / vertically, respectively.
You can access your codec and menu at all times, but you must stand still to do so. This is a bit annoying because you can’t access your healing items or equipping a sub-weapon such as a grenade or a rocket launcher during a fight unless you take some good distance. You must also switch your equipment on the menu, so the quick-select tactics that you got used to in other action games won’t work here. Quite sad, as the boss weapons could connect some really powerful combos.
Besides walking and jumping, you can also do a Ninja Run to travel faster, dodge obstacles in Parkour style and deflect bullets. While running, you can slide to swipe enemies off the floor and slice them in air. There is a special visor you can activate to see the enemies in infrared vision. You can also approach enemies from behind or from a high ledge or platform to stealth kill them instantly. If you’d like, you can traverse a good part of the game’s rooms by sneaking and killing enemies like this, but you won’t gain as much BP and boss encounters will be more challenging.
It’s important to note that all the bosses can be approached with different tactics (even though they have specific actions to transition the battle’s stages) and will test your skills in various situations, like appropriately using your blade mode, parrying long strings of attacks and dealing with groups of enemies, so you are expected to learn and hone your skills before facing them. One boss specifically tests your pure skill with the basic commands, so train hard to become a pro by then. Good luck!
The audio is up to Metal Gear fans’ expectations, but the music is subject to personal taste. That’s because the bosses’ themes are made of heavy industrial rock, with lyrics to boot. Of course, they have a reason to be there: what happens in these fights is worthy of a compatible rhythm. They also change depending on the situation, in a progressive style: starts with the basic instruments, then it catches up in the heat of battle and the vocals finally enter in the last stage of the confrontation. The lyrics are suitable to the bosses and will even make you know more about their backstory. The normal battles are also accompanied by hard rock, but with no vocals.
Most of your exploration is made of the classic Metal Gear stuff, though: calm or tense background soundtracks with the occasional effects that induce you to feel like you are in a vast, desolate and dangerous place. The Surround support is astounding: separate instruments for the soundtrack, explosions and enemies running around the environment and even some effects in cutscenes are distributed in different channels.
Just like in all Metal Gear games, I also consider Rising’s codec to be a separate entity because of the monumental work on the voice acting. There is so much to learn from your contacts in Maverick: geographical analysis, battle advices, historical backgrounds, food and culture from various countries and much, much more. It is entirely skippable and you won’t even notice its importance throughout the game if you ignore the SELECT / BACK button, but you are in for quite a treat once you decide to use it anywhere in the game.
It feels like an interactive manual for the game, providing you with just as much information on the game’s elements as you would find in a specialized wikia website or a game guide. Even some curiosities regarding the changes between this game and MGS4 are clarified on the codec, so dedicate some time for it because it is worth every second. It also works wonders for some character development too.
Being an action game, it would be a crime to neglect replay value. This game offers quite a lot of it, fortunately. For starters, all your combat and items rewards you with BP, which you can exchange for special abilities, unlockables and upgrades to your weapons and armor that carry over to the next playthrough. Surprisingly, your HF Blade isn’t the best cutting weapon in the world as previous games would lead you to believe: there are quite a variety of swords on sale (with differences that go beyond aesthetics) and also the boss weapons, which are available to buy once you get rid of its owners. Also, by getting collectable items and finishing on harder difficulty modes, you can obtain an item that grants you infinite fuel energy, effectively enabling a Super Mode where you can destroy non-boss enemies in a couple of hits and use Blade Mode at will.
All the unlockables must be bought first before you can use them, but there is no need to “grind” BP for them. Besides the five difficulty settings and chapter select, there is also a VR training mode where you can gain more BP and unlockables by facing special challenges that will test your skills from the most basic tasks up to the highest difficulty level: Revengeance.
Regarding difficulties, here’s what you will be facing: in Easy, there is an optional Assist mode that will automatically prepare you for the exact direction of an enemy’s attack, so you only have to press the light attack button to parry regardless of your position. In Normal and Hard, expect some balancing regarding damage and common enemy behavior. In Very Hard and Revengeance, enemy replacement becomes frequent (late-game enemies appearing in early stages, heavy enemies appear in groups) and they are quite relentless, always trying to gang up on you. Bosses also become more unpredictable and attack more often. In Revengeance, light attacks eat up a good chunk of your lifebar and heavy blows will take you down in one hit. Also, perfect parries for counterattacks become a MUST.
It’s important to note that the camera faltered frequently against the bigger enemies. While the lock-on works wonders against a pesky Gekko or Mastiff, you will cringe while fighting against two or more at the same time. This is purely because of the height at which the camera stays fixed and its reach across the battlefield: there is just no way to keep everything under watch at such an angle, specially when the combat goes at such speed. As such, expect bigger enemies to drop sharp blows on you from an unseen angle (specially from above). The directional parry is a great gameplay resource, but it doesn’t compensate for guessing cheap shots from the AI. One can only avoid so many situations of being cornered and feeling that your skills alone are not enough to overcome seemingly impossible situations is truly disheartening.
There is some stuttering while you are changing areas, but they are not intrusive. However, the greater amount of enemies in harder difficulties choked the game’s framerate a good number of times and I had some trouble with specific encounters. It is manageable, though, so you can take a different approach to disperse enemies and deal with them in more appropriate ways.
In regards to Desperado, two characters lacked some emphasis: Mistral and Sundowner. The former gets considerably less exposure than the rest of the gang and this gets more evident as the game progresses. Even Monsoon, who got just as much screentime, ends up being more memorable thanks to the events that precede his fight. The latter got a great exposure and development, but felt quite disappointing in his fight. Of course, we are expected to fight against a heavy enemy, but he spends most of his time hiding behind his shield. Once the battle starts getting interesting, you are already reaching the final sequence.
The gore in this game is not as shocking as you would expect, considering the Blade Mode and Zandatsu. Since you are fighting robots, their interiors appear as gray / orange masses of hot iron. Gekkos bleed green fluids and cyborgs have red blood, but nothing inside them will gross you out, even with Zandatsu. The only exception is the final boss, with quite a gruesome way to be disposed of. You are also subject to hear quite a good amount of F-bombs, so take care not to have children around. Their uses are appropriate though, so don’t worry about tiring your ears with gratuitous profanity.
While not directly appealing to fans of the traditional Tactical Espionage Action, this game will offer a great time, immersing you on the Metal Gear universe with a good amount of references and some returning characters (even though the humor is not as constant as in previous games). Some of the series’ elements are still there and it still feels like a Metal Gear title despite the radical differences. Rising manages to bring new, exciting features after all we’ve been through in established franchises and has its special, unique charm that I hope Platinum will continue to explore in the future.
Five playthroughs: First one on Normal clocked at 22hs while getting all collectables and occasionally listening to the codec, second on Easy for all codec messages I could find, third one on Hard while using a fully upgraded wooden sword, fourth one on Very Hard with the Infinite Wig while facing everybody on the way, final run on Revengeance avoiding combat when possible and killing enemies on stealth. Bosses and Mastiffs almost made me cry. Total: 52hs. Also did all VR missions except 18 and 19, they were too much for my heart.