Slicing enemy soldiers into 438 pieces, taking on giant robots, jumping across firing missiles and running down the side of a clock tower in order to split a 10 story behemoth in half might sound like impossible work for an average guy. Raiden calls this a Tuesday afternoon.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the newly resurrected game from Platinum Studios. It stars everyone's hated protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and favorite badass, katana-wielding cyborg from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Metal Gear's often-ridiculous storyline and Platinum Studios' ability to deliver over-the-top action is a perfect marriage, and it shows right from the very first level.
The series that built itself up on stealth gameplay has traded in its 'stay in the shadows' mechanics for a more combat-oriented approach; long story short, you'll be slicing and dicing bad dudes into hundreds of tiny pieces, and you won't have to be stealthy about it. The game relishes in its action and shines when you're taking on a multitude of enemies, if only to see them be ripped apart by Raiden's extremely sharp katana. With that said, there are sections where a stealthy approach is preferred, and often rewarded, but in the long run, you'll just want to take everyone on in the most violent way possible.
Revengeance certainly has tons of flair. Raiden moves around with an almost ballet-like quality; he swings around his weapon while masterfully hopping between his enemies, delivering deadly blows from all sides. Landing a stealth kill from above is pure bliss -- Raiden attaches his sword to his heel and does a dive worthy of an Olympic medal, as it cuts deep into the enemy. Even Raiden's Ninja Run looks graceful as he deflects oncoming bullets with swift swings of his sword.
Revengeance's free-flowing sword mechanics are certainly the show-stopper, though the game still relies on a mix of light and heavy attacks, strung together to form deadly combos. Once enemies are whittled down to a near-death state, you can slow time and channel all of your rage toward a single or multiple points with a press of the Left Trigger. You do this by using either the Right Thumbstick for precision slices or just repeatedly mashing the X and Y button for horizontal and vertical slices. Seeing your enemies break apart into tiny pieces right before your eyes as you rip out their robotic organs is both beautiful and rewarding.
Raiden has a few other toys to play around with, courtesy of taking down some of the bosses. You can smack some soldiers around with a staff that's made up of individual robot hands holding onto each other (super weird), or an electrically charged Sai that you can throw at enemies to close gaps. Either way, you'll find the perfect combo that suits your playstyle.
Each individual encounter will score you based on completion time, amount of kills, etc. That score can then be used as currency to unlock new moves for Raiden, weapon enhancements or completely new costumes. Raiden as a Mariachi? Absolutely!
As fun as it is to unlock new goodies for Raiden to use, the big problem I had was the lack of explaining how to pull them off. Sweet, I just unlocked a badass move called Thunder Strike, but I have no indication how to actually execute it. I did eventually pull it off mid-combat, but it was just a result of me mashing buttons.
The story is standard Metal Gear fare. Wars are dying out, and Private Military companies aren't having that. Of course, this means ridiculously built humanoid robots with psychopathic tendencies will stand in Raiden's way. Chances are those that are coming into the series for the first time might find themselves a bit confused with the entire premise. Even worse, I'm familiar with all of the games up to MGS4 -- save for a few of the PSP games -- and I still found myself scratching my head in confusion. Turns out, it doesn't really matter. As much as Platinum is trying to shove a narrative down your throat that revolves around a cyborg Private Military, testing on children and salvation through violence, you'll forget all of this as soon as you pull that gorgeous blade out of its sheathe.
Platinum Games might have had their hand in developing the game, but Kojima's DNA can still be felt throughout. Overly long and drawn-out Codec conversations are still a staple of the game, though cutscenes are surprisingly short and to the point. While there is no dedicated Stealth button to sneak around levels, fans of the series will appreciate the ability to once again hide under a cardboard box or metal can, Snake style!
The problem with MGR is that it doesn't take the time to explain its mechanics to newcomers. Series veterans will know to call the beautiful girl on their Codec to save the game, but new players might miss this altogether. It's a shame, because the game begs to be explained in a more thorough manner, and yet the game relies on VR Missions to help explain various mechanics. The game's meek five Tutorial VR Missions do very little to explain the plethora Revengeance has to offer; it's just counterintuitive.
Revengeance also shows its rough edges in certain platforming sequences. Raiden's jump is clunky and feels almost unresponsive with just a slight delay of the button press. And while the Ninja Run allows him to scale, slide under or jump over various objects, series like Assassin's Creed does it way better.
The biggest problem with Rising, though, is its twitchy camera -- especially during boss fights. The game is smart enough to occasionally focus on the boss. Many times, however, it will focus on the boss and then turn itself completely around, leaving you scrambling to find him again. There is a lock-on button, which fixes the issue for the most part, but if the game knows to focus on the boss, we shouldn't have to rely on the lock-on button. Tl;dr, use the lock-on button during boss fights.
When all is said and done, the game is primarily about being a complete badass, slicing and dicing enemies left and right. Revengeance is certainly over-the-top, as it should be, and that's reason enough to pick it up. Just don't go into it expecting a stealthy situation.