Platinum Games — formerly Capcom's Clover Studio — has found itself in an unenviable position: It's a victim of its own success. As Clover, it developed some of the most innovative and critically acclaimed games of the last console generation, such as Viewtiful Joe and Okami. As Platinum Games, pretty much everything that it releases is compared, fairly or otherwise, to its magnum opus, Bayonetta, one of the greatest 3-D action games ever made.
Roughly two years ago, Hideo Kojima approached Platinum Games for assistance in the creation of a 3-D action game starring Metal Gear Solid's futuristic cyborg ninja, Raiden. The world expected a reskinned Bayonetta/Devil May Cry with a Metal Gear motif. Fortunately for the world, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the closest Platinum has come to recapturing Bayonetta's glory, while maintaining its own identity.
Revengeance's story takes place after Metal Gear Solid 4. With the fall of the Patriots, what little military order had been established has been scattered to the wind. Values clash between the concepts of overall peace and the war economy in which private military corporations thrive. Desperado Enforcement, LLC is one of the PMCs that love the old ways, and it has a surprising amount of cybernetic resources to make that happen. Therefore, it's up to Raiden and the rest of Maverick Security Consulting to make sure that Desperado doesn't get its way.
This mission involves Raiden traveling the world, infiltrating Desperado's places of occupation, and taking out its generals, all while wielding a high-frequency blade that cuts through nearly anything. Want to cut trees or cars into tiny pieces, or bring down entire bridges? You can, and it's even a valid battle tactic. Being able to "cut what you will" is one of this game's four mechanical tenets, the second being Blade mode, the prerequisite Platinum Games "slow down time while you're being awesome" feature. In Blade mode, you're able to slice targets to ribbons in dramatic slow-motion by hitting the controller's face buttons, or you can use the right analog stick to perform bullet-time amputations to disable enemy attack options or collect bonuses.
Blade mode leads straight into the third key mechanic, featured heavily in the game's advertising. The culmination of Revengeance's cutting ideals is zandatsu, or the "stab-and-grab." Weaken enemies with enough strikes, and you can go into Blade mode, where you can slash the opponent's cyborg spine and grab it out of them. Doing so nets point bonuses for rank and full recharge of health and Blade mode energy. This turns 95% of the enemies in the game into walking health packs, but given the hyper-offensive nature of this game, you'll need as many as you can to stay alive.
The final mechanic essential to keeping Raiden alive is the block/parry. By flicking the left stick and pressing the Square button, you deflect enemy melee attacks, which are noted by on-screen red gleams. (Every incoming attack, whether it's ranged, melee or grapple, has "tells" via a lighted signal — a testament to design.) Miss the timing, and you'll perform a block, which isn't too bad. Deflect at the exact moment of attack, and you'll parry it, automatically slashing through the opponent's offensive and gaining a pre-emptive striking position while often stunning the enemy. Think of it as Soul Calibur's Guard Impact system translated to an open game. In higher difficulties, where attacks come at you from all angles — even off-screen — the parry is essential for survival.
All of the above is what Platinum brings to the table, but it's important to note the Kojima Productions contributions as well. The Metal Gear side of things is well represented, with hundreds of optionally accessible Codec conversations that do everything from reference old Metal Gear games to explain what has happened since Sons of the Patriots. They also provide philosophical banter on a variety of subjects ranging from free will to transhumanism. Your plucky support group at Maverick is a fun, lovable bunch, but the story surrounding Raiden's mission is both grim and ridiculous. Without giving away too much, a colorful group of evil generals has been harvesting the brains of children, and trying to stop them causes Raiden to backslide into a homicidal killer. Revengeance continues the proud tradition of cheesy, heavy-handed narratives, but at least it provides good excuses to slice up everyone you see.
Aside from long-winded conversations and cinematic flair, Metal Gear is best known for stealth, which this game delivers on a surprising level. It's possible to sneak by enemy placements by utilizing your minimap and enhanced vision powers, and if you put your mind to it, you can stealthily kill enemies throughout most of the entire game. There are even "no-kill" bonuses for cutting away an enemy's limbs. The game is very flexible in that you can attempt to sneak by anyone (except for bosses) or rush through everything like the titular lightning bolt, striking fast and hard, and leaving no trace. There's a nice touch thrown in midway through the game by way of a set piece that's reminiscent of the first level of awesome PSX gem, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins. This is a now-rare case of arcade-style design and cinematic gaming working to create something greater.
Even with so much going for it, arguably the best part of Revengeance is that it has tons of replay value. Platinum Games appears to have learned from the sparsely furnished Vanquish: The game is set up for multiple playthroughs across five increasingly punishing difficulty levels, but it contains a few dozen VR missions that take weeks to master and extend the game's life. The game not only promises pain; mastery of its mechanics net you a bevy of unlocks in the form of new modifiers, moves, suits and weapons. In addition, the weapons acquired by defeating the bosses make the game radically different. Of note is Dystopia, a set of electromagnetic sai that act like Nero's grappling arm from Devil May Cry 4, but with an added enemy-stunning mechanic that will make you cackle with glee as you zip around like the Bionic Commando.
This game nails the Metal Gear aesthetic as well, at least if you're nostalgic for MGS1 and MGS2's gray corridors and MGS4's sandy environments. There are a couple of stages that look quite nice, such as Denver or the sunset road where you fight one of the game's penultimate foes, but otherwise, the trappings are there so you have places to fight. However, the somewhat simple environments serve as stages for some of the best-looking player-empowering set pieces in the genre, where Raiden can run down crumbling buildings, jump across streams of missiles, and just look really cool at a smooth 60 frames per second.
The soundtrack is also nothing short of amazing, and it completely fits the action. Over-the-top techno-metal is the order of the day, with surprisingly inoffensive sprinkles of dubstep. The game sometimes switches up things by facing bosses with their own personalities. Fighting Mistral, for example, sees a switch to hard piano notes, and Sundowner's theme is pure and total rock music. The soundtrack is dynamic, shifting between different parts of the song and different verses depending on alert status or phases of boss fights.
As is with all video games, not all is perfect in Revengeance-land. Due to the title's faster-than-usual development schedule, there are a decent amount of issues. The first and largest issue is the camera, which is sub-par even by 3-D action game standards. The ability to adjust its sensitivity is a welcome surprise, as is the lock-on mechanic, but both are needed to make the game playable since so many enemies are too fast for it. On harder difficulties, it gets worse, and if not for the colored lights telling you where attacks were coming from, this game would be impossible with the existing camera placements. The second is the pacing — on your first time through the campaign, you really can see where corners might have been cut. Chapters become shorter, and the conflicts ramp up at an accelerated rate as things rocket to their conclusion.
Finally, there are bugs that happen at the most hilarious of times. The game behaves when it comes to the scrape of your blade against the opposition, but I've made more than one enemy and even a boss inexplicably hover in mid-air for a few seconds. There are also item and currency-duping bugs, and stutters happen during dynamic loading sequences in the middle of stages. None of these issues break the game or even get in the way of it (except for the camera, which is very good at getting in the way), but they're glaringlyeasy to spot and mar the overall presentation enough to chip away at some of the game's score.
At the end of the day, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance's greatest accomplishment is that that it assures the world that Platinum's bag of tricks is deeper than anyone thought. This game provides a fresh take on the stylish/character action genre, and it comes off as a high-tier entry in the Metal Gear series. People new to both concepts will find a nice, forgiving yet deep action game that doesn't have too much series baggage. Fans of one or the other would do well to broaden their horizons and give this one a chance. Finally, if you're a fan of both, you will be in heaven as you cut all that you see to shreds.
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