After the final boss lay dead before my feet, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment that no videogame has ever given me before. My hands were gripping the controller so tight that there was actually some pain in my fingers – a reminder of the well-timed parries and attacks that made my time with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance a success.
This is not the stealth-action game that fans of the series are used to; instead Rising is a fast-paced, sword-slashing actioner from beginning to end, one that is more of a parody of the Metal Gear franchise than a legitimate entry. Yet, as one of the biggest fans of Metal Gear on the planet, I absolutely loved it.
Metal Gear Rising is a ridiculous game – and it knows it. In fact that’s part of its appeal. The franchise is no stranger to unusual characters, but Rising takes them to an all-new level. I thought when I met my talking A.I. dog companion that it couldn’t get any weirder – but I was wrong.
You will meet bizarre villains along the way, and you’ll carve them all into pieces after some of the craziest battles you’ll ever see. There is something about ripping off the leg of a giant robot and smashing the metal monster over the head with its own limb that just forces you to have fun.
Rising takes the most unbelievable parts of Metal Gear–like cyborg soldiers and nanomachines that regenerate limbs–and takes them to a point that gives new meaning to the phrase awesomely-bad. Players take control of the cyborg-ninja, Raiden, who is on a mission to rescue slave children from an evil corporation who is using their body parts to make other cyborgs. It is a tongue-in-cheek plot that serves to push things forward nicely, with a tone that’s self-aware of how ridiculous this premise really sounds.
Aside from some small stealth areas, gameplay typically follows a simple pattern: you’ll enter a series of small areas, kill all the enemies, then fight a boss at the end of the stage. The action will occasionally be interrupted with codec calls and some cinematics, but even those often contain QTE sequences to keep the player engaged.
It may sound like this formula would become repetitive, but it never does. This is due in part to the fact that you can’t just button-mash your way through combat. Your mind will always be in the game. Staying alive will require you to parry at the perfect moment, and cut health from your enemy before their body falls to the ground. The controls are tight and responsive, meaning most of your failure will come from lack of skill.
Other than cyborgs, robot apes, and police, the main enemy for Raiden is the game’s camera. You will absolutely take some unnecessary hits from swords you can’t see, and more than once you’ll fail to be sneak by an enemy thanks to the camera’s obsession with centering itself in awkward positions. The wonky camera may be evidence of the flawed game that Kojima Studios cancelled before passing development to Platinum Games. For something that requires such precision in order to play effectively, being unable to see an enemy attack really throws a wrench into the otherwise graceful motion of the skirmishes.
The good news is that Rising excels in just about every other technical area. It is shocking that Raiden moves so quickly, yet there is never any slowdown, screen tearing, or significant loss to visual detail at any point, even when enemies flood the screen.
When slowing down time to carve apart enemies, there’s actually something strangely beautiful about the violence. You’re an artist who wields a blade with graceful precision in spite of the chaotic pace of the world around you. There is little about the gore that seems shocking or distasteful; instead it all adds to the almost poetic flow of combat.
The more damage you cause, the more astonishing the visuals become, as sparks, blood, and pieces of metal-enhanced flesh each add a new color to your canvas. This is an awesome looking game, and the slick graphics are backed up with energetic music that keeps your excitement level amped during long stretches or boss battles.