The lights are on
As a long time Metal Gear Solid fan I've been dreaming of a Metal Gear game where I'd be able to play as one of the recurrent cyborg ninjas that sliced and severed their way to my heart. Ever since Gray Fox's brilliant introduction scene in the first Metal Gear Solid, running around with a measly firearm instead of a katana just didn't seem to cut it (pun totally intended). I'm sure there's about a billion people that agree with me there. That's probably a good thing because if you're a fan of this game then that's about all we're going to have in common.
Okay that last line may sound a bit harsh in retrospect, but it's not any less true. This is a decent game at best. It has a handful of highlights but a whole bigger handful of flaws. It is really hard for me to personally accept Revengeance as an official Metal Gear game. And not just because it has, arguably, one of the worst video game titles in history. It's simply because it doesn't feel like a Metal Gear game. Yes, I know it's not meant to be a stealth game and honestly, that isn't what bugs me. Raiden's character has been altered dramatically (not for the better, in case you're wondering) and the only resemblances to the previous Metal Gear universe are the names. Had this game been released under any other name with a different protagonist I wouldn't have been disappointed with the atmosphere of the game. I would, however, feel exactly the same about the gameplay, so rest assured that this review is not biased because of my personal feelings toward Revengeance. It's the entire thing that disappointed me.
Man, I really take a long time to get to the actual pros and cons section when reviewing games. I'll really think about fixing that just as soon as I tell you about how I felt when I had first heard about Metal Gear Rising (before the word "revengeance" was invented). I was excited! It looked exactly like what it should have been: a Metal Gear game where you finally play as a ninja. But then something happened with development and Platinum Games was brought in to take over the project. I had utmost faith in Platinum after MadWorld made it to my top 5 favorite games list and after realizing that they could make a game where I could play as a character that I absolutely loathed and still have fun. I was actually talking about Bayonetta in that last line, if I was too vague. Unfortunately, Platinum just made Revengeance into another flashy action game without any real depth.
Story-wise it doesn't stray too far from the familiar; it's all based around war, taking place after MGS4. This time around it is a lot more based upon real life events which oddly enough doesn't make it any less dull. The original Metal Gear story arc was a very confusing one. There were so many twists, turns and false ending sequences that if you weren't truly invested it would just come across as nonsense. It was smart nonsense though. Every variable was explained and every event stemmed from a previous entry in the series. Saying it was just intelligent doesn't do it justice. Revengeance's story legitimately feels like a spin-off that doesn't need to exist. It really makes you wonder what it would have been like had it taken place between MGS2 and MGS4 like it was originally intended. Nevertheless, the story suffers for it.
It certainly is a fast game though! The combat is so quick and gruesome that until you notice the problems later on, it really controls the way a cyborg ninja should. It's a button masher, but a button masher with an impressive amount of different moves. So while it may feel like you're pressing the same buttons over and over again, the gameplay looks as fluid and smooth as one could ever hope. The inclusion of "blade mode" has to be one of the coolest additions to an action game in recent years as well. It allows you to cut enemies or objects with deadly precision resulting in some interesting and pleasantly unpleasant dismemberment. It can be difficult to aim at times but is immensely satisfying when pulled off. Nearly everything in Revengeance's environments can be sliced up by Raiden's sword. As juvenile as it sounds, some of the funnest moments I've had while playing Revengeance were running around and cutting up everything in sight. It is this reason that it's probably a good thing that I don't have a sword that can easily cut through concrete. Or any sword for that matter. One last thing I should mention about the whole cutting aspect of Revengeance is how realistic and downright impressive the cut physics are portrayed. Since you can cut in any desired direction in blade mode, it's incredibly fascinating to look at how many different angled triangles you can make while slashing up an enemies body. This was easily my favorite part of the game.
But where blade mode takes action gameplay to an intricate and creative level, the rest of the gameplay throws it way back to the stone age. Without question, the main component of gameplay that I can't seem to wrap my head around is the block/parry system. Both are executed by pressing the light attack button in combination with the direction of the attacker (the parry is achieved by waiting longer to block). This ridiculous system would be at least tolerable if it weren't for the other two components that make the game increasingly frustrating: the uncooperative camera and lack of a dodge button. For some asinine reason the camera can't seem to get enough of Raiden and thus focuses mostly on him during hectic battles. This may not seem too bad but let me give you an example. During one segment of the game I was engaged in a battle with one (just ONE) larger sized enemy near a corner. Because the camera would only focus on Raiden instead of the enemy (this happens in larger areas too) I could not see the flash prompt on the enemy that lets you know when to block, so I was knocked down. As soon as I was knocked down, the camera immediately faced Raiden's body lying on the floor. After getting up I didn't have time to fix the camera before the enemy knocked me down in the exact same fashion. This continued to happen far longer than I care to remember. It is situations like these that a dodge function is needed and the absence of one is very noticeable. It leaves a giant void in the combat.
It pains me to continue but that isn't where the flaws end. Most of the alt-weapons obtained throughout the story are forgettable and the weapon/item equip menu is so slow and irritating that I rarely used sub-weapons (rocket launchers, grenades, etc.) at all. One other complaint I have is during some of the action-packed chase sequences, there is so much going on that there is no clear path to where you should be running. Many times you just end up dying and you don't really know why. That brings me to "The Bridge of Death" (or "The Bridge of Fail" if you prefer). This is a chase sequence very early on in the game where you are being chased by choppers while crossing a crumbling bridge. The objective is pretty simple: run. Wrong! Not simple. I died at least 30 times on the exact same part for no apparent reason. My frustration led me to the internet to try and figure it out. That bridge is something of a phenomenon being that many people just ran across it no problem. Others-- like myself-- died repeatedly on the exact same part then inexplicably passed it while doing absolutely nothing different. I mention it here because that is a huge bug that should not have been left in the final game. No patch has been issued for it nor do I think there ever will be one. Be warned, if you die at least 3 times in a row during that segment and you don't know why, I recommend turning off the game and trying later before you smash your TV.
The voice overs are some of the worst this generation has seen. Raiden's in particular is truly difficult to sit through. Throughout most of the game he can't decide on which personality he likes best so he switches voices every other scene. The most hilarious though is one of the younger characters. The kid who is supposed to be no older than 13 or 14 is clearly voiced by a grown man with little attempt to hide it. The same character also has one of the most unintentionally racist accents I've ever heard. I'm still surprised just thinking about it. As for the music, I have one thing and one thing only to say about it: if you don't like power metal then prepare to be very disappointed. The only redeeming quality about the sound in Revengeance is the familiar roar of Gekkos just before they attack.
What more can I say about Revengeance? There are some entertaining throwbacks to previous Metal Gears. The graphics are good despite the uninteresting level design. The boss battles can be infuriating as well. I can write an entire page on how unfairly difficult the final boss battle is. That fight alone encompasses every combat flaw within the game, effectively making it the most difficult boss battle I've ever encountered in an action game this generation.
I'm certain many action gamers will have a blast with Revengeance because where this game shines, it shines bright. I think only hardcore Metal Gear fans will be truly disappointed that this moderate hack-n-slash title is all that's left of our beloved cyborg ninja. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance instills a pain that even Gray Fox wouldn't enjoy.
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Too bad there is a dodge move. It's called Defensive Offense, you have to purchase it, I've used it hundreds of times...