The Metal Gear franchise has had a place in my heart for a long time. Back when I was young and naive and still purchased all of my games based on how cool the box art looked, I picked up Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater because there was an explosion and a burly man with a gun on the box art and I was 7. Now that I’ve matured and had a chance to play the other games in the series, I have mentally prepared myself for whatever Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has to throw at me. The latest installment in the Metal Gear series has again supplanted Raiden as the main character, this time fully embracing his cyborg ninja persona from Metal Gear Solid 4 with an entirely new cast of antagonists and supporting characters. The gameplay has also taken a complete turnaround into a hack-and-slash action game with the driving mechanic being the ability to slow down time and slash any target at any angle any number of times, and if you’re thinking that this sounds friggin’ awesome, that’s because it pretty much is. So the game opens as Raiden is now employed by a PMC and is charge of providing similar cyborg ninja training to some generic African nation in order to promote peace. But his work is sabotaged by a rival PMC promoting war in order to stimulate business. They assassinate the president and make a fool out of Raiden, resulting in a touching bit of characterization. Its unfortunate the decent characterization has to end there, but that’s a much bigger issue which we’ll get to later. So Raiden returns seeking revenge...eance with a brand new cyborg ninja body. This is the point where the story kind of breaks down, unfortunately. After a pretty straightforward attempt stop a coup (simultaneously setting the record for the shortest time between the introduction of an antagonist and them being killed off) the game just continues introducing new plot elements in order to keep the game going. I can’t call it padding because all of the new plot points are still interesting and fun to play, but it just can’t keep a consistent tone. One moment we’re on wholesome, violent revenge, and next we’re harvesting organs and brainwashing and assassinating the president. The game continues to throw out moral standpoint after moral standpoint without enlightening the player on the subject. Simply saying you have an effective message in your game does not make it actually effective. Speaking of saying, Revengenengeance continues the time-honored Metal Gear tradition of having some of the silliest writing I’ve ever heard. And to be honest, it’s quite endearing, and I actually found myself wholeheartedly laughing at much of the dialogue. It’s still unclear to me whether or not the game intended for it to be taken seriously, but if that was the case, it certainly failed. Examples include the taking a DOOMP conversation (no seriously) and a lengthy altercation on the subject of brains which essentially made me laugh until I puked, another random thing you can make Raiden do in this game. The thing that disappointed me most about Revengeance’s story is the utter disregard for characterization. Previous Metal Gear games have succeeded in making us sympathize with both the protagonists and the antagonists, but Revengeance fails on both levels. Raiden’s character developement is like a man gracefully hurdling over a wall only to run face-first into a different wall, but instead of backing up and trying again, he just continues running into the wall hoping that it will give in. This is particularly evident when Raiden undergoes some crazy philosophical flashback PTSD nonsense that was so poorly executed, it made me want to throw down the controller and say, “Raiden! Stop character developing! It’s too late!” What makes this even more depressing is the fact that I want to like all of these characters, even Raiden. All of the characters of both sides of the ethical spectrum have unique and interesting personalities. It’s just that they apply them in uninteresting ways. Your friendly racial stereotypes at HQ only serve to question Raiden’s actions and the villains are too busy trying to give Raiden a Philosophy lecture to have anything worthwhile to say. These bosses’ speeches attempt to convey some deep message, but they just get tedious when all of them have essentially the same thing to say. The gameplay, being completely revamped from the ground up, is undoubtedly the highlight of the game. It focuses on hack-and-slash action similar to Platinum Games’ other title, Bayonetta. But with only one heavy attack and one light attack, there’s a lot less freedom for insane combos as there are with other games of the genre. Surprisingly, for being such a dialogue-heavy game, it’s very reluctant to tell you how the parry works. And what makes this even more inconvenient is that the parry is literally your only means of defense, and its near impossible to tell which attacks you can and cannot parry without resorting to trial and error. While the first three or four chapters can be completed pretty easily without it, the later boss fights will make mincemeat out of you if you haven’t gotten it down. Speaking of mincemeat, the combat is also quite unbalanced at time. Many enemies have ranged attacks that can’t be parried and a lot have unblockable stun lock attacks that force you to insipidly wiggle the analog stick back and forth, essentially like putting your thumb on a grindstone. I can’t tell you how many times I would break the stunlock of one enemy, only to immediately be stunlocked by another enemy, sometimes even the same enemy! One of the boss fights in particular made me nearly explode due to a seemingly infinite sequence of stunlocks. At least all the other boss fights give you the option of slicing the bad guy into a million tiny slices once you beat them (except for that guy again who literally just falls to pieces once you beat him) and it feels incredible. The blade mode aspect in general is a ton of fun and is worked excellently into the combat. After doing enough damage to an enemy you’re given the option to either hack them mercilessly into pieces, or aim precisely at the full restores they all store in their chest cavities. But, wail on them for a little more and you can activate one of Raiden’s “Zandatsu” finishers, which are, again, totally awesome. Sometimes though, the game forces you to be stealthy, which is a kick to the balls when it comes to the pacing of the game. The stealth works fine, but the combat is really fun now, and attempting to subtract the highlight of the game for the sole purpose of recognizing the core gameplay of the rest of the series is just foolish. Overall, I feel that this game had a lot of misplaced potential. The combat was crying out for a dodge function that it didn’t have. The parkour-style Ninja Run mechanic would work insanely well for freerunning movement if it weren’t almost entirely on-rails. The camera was insane, the story was unfocused, and little to no effort was put into character development. These are simply minor issues, as the combat is awesome, the boss fights are awesome (mostly), and the majority of things that you can do in this game are just awesome. Hurling a Metal Gear RAY 30 feet in the air and running up the side of it simultaneously slicing it into pancakes is just one of the many frickin’ sweet things you can do in the success that is Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, DownPlay Reviews Next Week on DownPlay Reviews: ???