The lights are on
From what seemed to be a questionable and drawn out development cycle rises a game that impresses way more often than it disappoints, and further sediments the Metal Gear franchise as here to stay. Rather than bog down the game with hallways filled with nothing, backtracking, and mindless fetch quests, Revengeance maintains a constant forward momentum. The game urges the player to blast through it at lightening speed over multiple playthroughs, while endlessly punishing them for acting too quick or attempting to mash their way out of trouble. Butthurt fanboys and lazy review writers will likely chastise the game for its short length, but any classic gamer will instantly recognize its obsession with quality over quantity. In nearly every moment where the game could have gone wrong, it excels, surprises, and excites. Most importantly of all: it never wastes your time.
One big surprise is the attempts Platinum has made to establish a heavy emotional core to the story and its cast. The story is simple and direct: abandoning his government ties, the child slave turned warrior (Raiden) sets out on a quest to find those responsible for using child slaves to harvest and create cyborg warriors. Its campy and awful, as anyone would expect, but there is an obvious effort to write Jack as a believable and real person. Furthermore, the colorful cast of villains fall perfectly in line with classic Metal Gear staples: self awareness, philosophical musings, and the endless debate of "which side are you actually on?". The codec cast is the stories biggest problem, with seemingly flat and uninteresting characters all around. However,one supporting character who is introduced stands as an awesome additon to the Metal Gear universe. He has presence and gravitas, and most players will find themselves disappointed in how little a role he plays in the game. This is something that the past two Metal Gear entries have completely failed to do
Adherence to classic Metal Gear themes is actually the games strongest element. Whereas the game could just pass itself off as another action title, players can stealth through over 75% of the entire game. Items like the cardboard box and grenades are not just useful, they are seemingly mandatory as you progress towards the harder areas of the game. Stealth gameplay delivers a nostalgic and satisfying feeling all the way up until the games conclusion. Oh, and not only can you roll inside the drum can, it makes Raiden puke after excessive use. The game is filled with clever touches like this that constantly fill it with personality and nostaligia, while never damaging its integrity.
The games core mechanic, blade mode, is not only flawlessly implemented, but also insanely addictive. Slicing enemies into tiny bits just plain never gets old, and Zandatsu - the act of slicing a targeted area and then absorbing enemy health/special meter - always leaves the player with the feeling of true skill and execution. Even if players get bored with Zandatsu (they won't), they can just slice the legs off an opponent and watch them continue to advance crying: "you aren't getting away" or "you can't kill me". Personally, many laughs have been had at the expense of legless cyborgs crawling towards me. I often move just an inch out of the way as they take their pathetic strikes.
I taunt them and laugh. Its beautiful.
At every turn, the game rewards players for skill and precision, and punishes them for mindless hacking away. While last minute written reviews may claim that Raiden's defense is weak or that offense is key, the real truth is that the harder difficulties of the game demand absolute perfection. This game is fn hard, but not boring hard. Its awesome hard the same way that games like Dark Souls are hard. Its all about execution and timing. Even on the hardest difficulty, you can still wipe out a room full of enemies with just a few perfectly executed moves, and they can wipe you out just as quickly. This is in stark contrast to games like DMC or Ninja Gaiden, where endless blocking, dodging, and slashing bog down the pace and ultimately dry out the games fun on harder difficulties.
You are not given a block in the traditional sense, instead you must press forward and attack to parry. This forces players to use flawless timing and think about what they are doing. Perfect parries and dodges always take precedent over completing combos or heavy attacks. This is especially true in later difficulties or various boss encounters. Pattern recognition coupled with clever improvisation are often required to survive. Anyone who complains about he defensive mechanics of this game are simply just not good at them, and should probably retreat to other, more slashy-slash, mashy-mash type action games.
The games length may seem like an issue, but the truth is that this game hearkens back to the classic design philosophies of the eight and sixteen bit eras: where shorter and more difficult games demanded absolute mastery. These games were totally unforgiving, and left the player always wanting more. Multiple playthroughs are pretty much mandatory, especially if one wishes to acquire all the different blades, weapons, costumes, and items. The weapons costumes and items all have their own personalities, as well. The only real major design flaw with the weapons is there is no button assigned to swapping out your secondary weapons or items ala Devil May Cry. This mechanic is decidedly absent, and probably one of the biggest missteps in the games design.
The game controls like a dream and every moment and action feels fluid and within the scope of the players control. The only real problem is Ninja Run, which is needed throughout the game but just never feels fully fleshed out or complete. Players will watch Raiden endlessly hopping in the same spot as he attempts to run up a wall, or derping out completely when hitting certain ledges.
Let us also not forget that the camera (as with every action game) is a bloody nightmare, and probably the greatest single villain. Get too close to a wall, and players will find themselves constantly fighting a camera that will not oblige. After Zandatsu, the camera will realign itself in seemingly mindless ways, disorienting players and often leading to unnecessary health loss while surrounded. These design flaws are standard is most all action games, let alone 3D games in general, but its an issue that had better be seriously addressed in forthcoming sequels. Ironically, a series that was built on fixed camera angles now finds itself constrained by the cons of free form camera movement.
The environments are not particularly memorable, with wide corridors, hallways, and streets being the primary battleground throughout the game. Yet, because of the games excellent pace and constant forward motion, this never stands out as an issue. The attention to detail is purely fixed on beautifully fluid animation, unique enemy types, and awe inspiring set pieces. It is in this way that the game excels at every turn. Rather than ten hallways filled with the same four enemy types (ala DMC or Ninja Gaiden), the game is constantly throwing the player into new situations with new enemy types, new bosses, and new patrol layouts. This is especially true when transitioning over to the harder difficulties. It is rare for the same situations to ever occur more than once. Quite frankly, gameplay has more going on in ten minutes than most other action games have in ten hours. I was a little surprised not to see swimming or mini games, as well.
The games sound design and music is another element that seems sketchy at first but eventually wins a player over completely. In tandem with the games breakneck speed, thrash metal is faded in and out during battles, and refrains transition in as boss phases progress. The soundtrack meshes with the gameplay well, and all of the sounds feel genuine and have weight. This is especially true when a cyborg unexpectedly dropkicks Raiden in the grill and sends him flying. The hits feel like they count on both sides of the fence. Players will also be hard pressed not to find themselves crying "BULLSEYE!" or "DEAD ON!" when they nail a Zandatsu.
Its been a long road for this game, and I can honestly say that my low expectations coming in are a driving force behind my total satisfaction coming out. Rather than a bland, one dimensional action game filled with sketchy mechanics and underwhelming moments, the game feels tailor made for fans of both the action genre and Metal Gear. This game truly is a Metal Gear game, and yet maintains its own identity throughout.
The game is short, its true, but since every Metal Gear game actually winds down to roughly four hours of actual gameplay, it keeps perfectly in line with series precedent. Sure, it feels like entire sections of the game did not make the final cut, but its seemingly to the games benefit. The developers have obviously scrapped the weaker elements of the game, and strengthened what works really well. The game never dares sacrifice its pace, freshness, or depth.
Rather than constantly wasting my time and slowing my progress with backtracking and hallways filled with nothing (as Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden both love to do), this game throws it into overdrive and does not let up on the gas until the end credits roll. The hack and slash genre has done literally nothing new in almost ten years, and each of the flagship series continue to stagnate while they fumble around looking for gimmicks or new characters to revitalize them. This game is a breath of fresh air, and a load off the shoulders of Metal Gear fans the world over. "All we're trying to say is...give war a chance!"
P.S. Whoever wrote that garbage review of this game for GI should receive a corporate write up and be threatened with subsequent write ups that lead to termination. It reminds me of the Gamespy review for Starcraft 2, which was almost definitely written by someone who dumped maybe four hours into the game before quickly writing it. News flash, Game Informer, you are no longer on top of the gaming world, and you better trim fatties like that off before you wind up going extinct like Gamespy. This has been the Great American Virus reporting.
Noob. You obviously have never played a real game before and have no idea what you are talking about. Short games suck. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go play wow and press 111111111 for ninety hours.
Nice review. Don't listen to that guy. Everyone has the right to their opinion, and you should stick with it. Not be influenced, or forced by someone else. To the game itself, it does look fun. I might try it out one day.