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PlayStation 3 Review: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

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Sometimes being tied to a franchise isn’t a good thing, especially when the franchise has been put out several incredibly great games in a row.  People begin to have expectations, they begin to believe they know what the game should be about and have trouble when the game doesn’t necessarily follow their beliefs.

Critics aren’t immune to these problems and preconceived notions, as much as we may wish we were.  Take Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (and ignore its mouthful of a title), both in terms of story and gameplay the game has a whole lot to live up to following the four home console Metal Gear Solid games which preceded it.  Revengeance may take place in the same world and may have Raiden as its central character but it feels as though it may have done better outside the franchise rather than as a part of it. 

It is an exceptionally good title, but comparisons don’t help it.  Those games are “tactical espionage action”  Revengeance is an out-and-out action title and anyone expecting something different (an expectation that is not unfair) is going to be sorely disappointed.

The story takes place within the same world and is an outgrowth of what we’ve already seen occur as a result of Solid Snake (and Raiden) doing his thing, but there is no reason it necessarily has to be a part of it.  In fact, all that would have to happen to make Revengeance an entirely separate game is to not use acronyms like PMCs and not refer to The Patriots (or any sons thereof) and generally not wink at Solid fans.  In brief (because I hate spoiling the plot of any game), you’re going to go and hunt down some terrorists who are doing pretty nefarious things.

In terms of gameplay, there really isn’t much here that follows from any of the solid titles.  So much of those games made the player concerned with sneaking, and that is far less at play here.  Guards do still become alerted to your presence in the same way they did previously (question marks and exclamation points above their heads), but it feels less important if much of the time there’s no reason to sneak (stealth kills of strong enemies are still pretty cool however). 

Why is there no reason to sneak?  Because Raiden is a cyborg ninja with a sword, a high-frequency katana blade in fact.  You don’t need to know that it’s called a high-frequency katana blade though, all you need to know is that Raiden is a cyborg ninja with a sword.  Therefore, you don’t sneak, you make a mad dash at a pack of enemies and swing your sword like there’s no tomorrow.  You may even decide to slide into your enemies to knock them over.  As for those stealth kills, you can do them but they generally involve walking (a slight push on the left analog stick) whereas running (a firm push on the left analog stick) will alert enemies to your presence.  It makes it far easier to hack and slash with frenetically fun combo action.  I kind of hate to draw the comparison (I’m totally going to do it anyway), but fighting here is like fighting in the new DmC: Devil may Cry – there’s a lot you can do, there are a myriad of ways to take down an opponent, and nearly all of them lack subtlety. 

Well, they do except for Blade Mode, and even there “subtlety” may not be right, “preciseness” may be better.  Push a button and you enter Blade Mode, offering you a close-up way of attacking (see: removing) specific bits of your enemy (you can get upgrades by slicing off pieces here and there and regain health too).  What you can’t do is walk while in the mode, so until you get good you’re going to find yourself a half a katana strike away from actually being able to hit your foe, moving the analog stick you think might have you traverse that half step and messing up your already all-too-often wrong camera angle.

In point of fact, the camera angles here feel wrong on a regular basis, and even locking onto opponents isn’t enough to always fix their feel.  However, do lock onto your opponents, because if you don’t you’re regularly going to be seeing the exact wrong thing because this is a fast game and people move quickly.

Perhaps that is the best way to describe Revengeance – fast.  It is a quick title in which everything happens fast… except for the repeated calls from your team which stop the action (and where you often learn that you need to do things like move forward and attack). 

Moving along at a breakneck pace, this next statement may sound odd, but Revengeance is a thing of beauty, particularly the visuals associated with the combat.  There is a certain glee that the game takes with how blood spurts and how Raiden gets knocked back and just why you need to pull out cyborg spines.  Not all of it is very Metal Gear Solid, but it is very well done.

Things only go badly in Revengeance, as has been noted, when the game slows down.  It isn’t just the info provided by your team as you go out to attack the terrorists who took out the African dictator you were protecting.  No, the game’s quicktime events also suck the fun out of the title.  It is the sort of thing that feels more forgivable here as they are nearly as fast as the game itself, but I still find myself with an aversion to the on-screen prompts.

As for Boss Battles—because what would Metal Gear be without them—well, here again we’re left with the issue of them not being bad but not really living up to the ones that we’ve seen in the Metal Gear Solid titles.  There is nothing quite so clever nor quite so sneaky here as what we’ve seen in the past and if the game didn’t continually remind us this is a Metal Gear title the boss fights may be more enjoyable.

Let us close with one bit of advice – practice.  Executing combos, hacking off bits of your enemy, parrying, and doing just about everything that the game asks you to do in order to utilize Raiden to his fullest takes effort, lots and lots of effort.  The effort though is well worth the reward, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an exceptionally fun game, but it still may leave you wishing it was a Solid title instead of a solid one.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language. This game can also be found on Xbox 360

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.