When word first broke about Konami and Platinum Games teaming up to produce an action-oriented entry in the Metal Gear franchise, video game fans across the world were interested. Thanks to the efforts of Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear Solid had become a premier series for Konami, and Platinum had made quite a name for itself with action titles like Bayonetta. Alas, the final product, while enjoyable, is more style than substance.
The first thing you realize when playing Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is that it looks good. As far as graphics are concerned, Revengeance knocks it out of the park, with visual effects and cinema scenes that look stunning. If Revengeance were a film, it would be a summer blockbuster directed by either Michael Bay or J.J. Abrams.
Unfortunately, the flash and shine only go so far. For a game to be truly engaging, the underlying mechanics have to be sound. Part of the reason why games like Bayonetta or Street Fighter III: Third Strike stand the test of time is the level of depth in the combat. When the AI is challenging, options are many, and the situation is fluid. Combat can play out in any number of ways. Success offers a sense of satisfaction because you've overcome an obstacle by reacting to it and outsmarting it. That's not the case in Revengeance.
For better or worse, Revengeance's combat system is focused on the game's parry mechanic. When an enemy's eye flashes red, that's your sign to parry. Do it at the right time (the window is fairly long), and you deflect the attack, taking no damage. You have to direct the parry at the enemy by pushing the analog stick at him, but otherwise, it's more or less automatic. Every so often, parry attempts fail (resulting in Raiden dashing toward the enemy instead of parrying), but there didn't seem to be any specific reason for that to happen.
Mastering the parry makes most of the early game fairly straightforward since you can repel nearly any standard attack. As a result, the combat in Revengeance often boils down to parry, parry, attack, parry, attack, and win.
Going up against bigger foes (and bosses) does add another layer to combat: the Quick Time Event (QTE). Yes, the QTE is here in abundance. You'll see them when fighting larger foes, as well as when sneaking up on an opponent for a stealth kill or when doing a spine rip on a cyborg.
In order to encourage aggressive play, Revengeance makes your primary enemy double as a source of health. Once your foe has been weakened, you can switch into "blade mode" and finish off a cyborg with a targeted strike. You then yank out your victim's spine and suck up the juice to restore health and energy. Raiden is basically a high-tech vampire.
The spine-yanking isn't the only area in which Revengeance earns its "M" rating. The game shows off copious amounts of blood (sometimes in slow motion) just because it can. We're no strangers to gore, but the blood in Revengeance seems to be there just for shock value. It's not particularly stylistic and doesn't add anything to the experience. If you're going to go over-the-top like Quentin Tarantino, you have to have a reason. If not, it just looks like a feeble attempt to dress up something that is lacking.
While the repetitive combat is disappointing, it isn't Revengeance's worst flaw. That falls to the camera system. This is a game that puts a premium on speed and reaction time, so when you're spending precious moments fighting the camera, it quickly becomes an exercise in frustration. The camera doesn't always play nicely in tight spaces or near walls. One example is getting stuck on a wall, making it impossible to turn to the side and see an attacking opponent. Another example is the camera refusing to stay to the side of Raiden, instead forcing itself behind him. The latter occurrence makes navigating tripwires more of a chore than it needs to be.
In addition to the main game, Revengeance also features a series of VR Missions, just like previous Metal Gear Solid titles. The VR Missions offer up bonus challenges as well as providing the game tutorials. The tutorials are more or less required, as the game manual is nothing more than legal text and an image of an Xbox 360 controller with button callouts.
Be aware, if you are playing the North American version of Revengeance on the Xbox 360, the VR Missions on the disc are all you're going to get. Konami recently announced a VR Mission DLC pack that adds 30 new missions, but in North America, that DLC will be exclusive to the PlayStation 3. This restriction shouldn't impact players outside of North America.
When Revengeance is firing on all cylinders, it is a sight to behold. Watching Raiden tear through enemies while a dynamic speed metal soundtrack plays in the background is undeniably impressive. After spending an extended amount of time with the game, though, it becomes obvious that beauty is only skin-deep. Revengeance is more impressive to watch than it is to play, and it's certainly no Bayonetta.
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