Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Xbox 360) Review

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a game that was close to never seeing the light of day.  Initially titled Metal Gear Solid: Rising, it started out as a title solely developed by Kojima Productions set to take place between the events of Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4; however, the young team struggled with the concept of the free blade and the game faced cancellation.  Platinum Games, best known for critically acclaimed games such as Bayonetta and Vanquish, was approached to add their action game expertise and they took control of development, making some very drastic changes.  “Revengeance” is quite a strange word and it stems from Kojima Productions wanting to get revenge, and some vengeance, on a title that they failed to complete on their own.  Their collaboration with Platinum should be commended as this highly anticipated title is something pretty spectacular.

The main character in Revengeance is Raiden, who was first introduced in Metal Gear Solid 2, and he played a major role in the events of Metal Gear Solid 4 giving us a glimpse of how bad ass he could be, which provided much inspiration for this game.  One of three people in the Medal Gear series given the designation of Ninja Cyborg, he wields a powerful high frequency blade as his primary weapon and is virtually unstoppable.  He’s swift, elegant, and deadly while also being somewhat effeminate and viewed by many Metal Gear fans as being whiny and childish.  In Revengeance he has “manned up” so to speak, no longer in the shadow of Snake, truly deserving of the spotlight.

Taking place four years after Sons of the Patriots, Raiden, his wife and son safe in New Zealand, finds himself employed with Maverick PMC, consulting and providing protection to VIP’s in a war torn African country.  When we meet him for the first time in Revengeance he is escorting the prime minister, when all of a sudden things take a dire turn.  The motorcade they are travelling in is overwhelmed by a cyborg by the name of Jetstream Sam, a member of the terrorist association Desperado PMC, and Raiden springs into action to defend the VIP.  Despite his best efforts, the president is assassinated and Raiden is gravely injured and left for dead after a vicious beating from Sam.

Thanks to a Maverick scientist, Raiden is revived, equipped with a new cyborg suit, a sexy eye patch, and revenge on his mind.  He seeks out the Desperado PMC from the sewers of Mexico, the streets of Denver to rural Pakistan.  While on his mission of revenge he uncovers Operation Tecumseh, which is a plan for a terrorist attack that would rival 9-11.  Adding more to this dastardly event is the fact that this plot includes plans to harvest organs and experiment with children, turning them into murderous cyborgs.  As a former child soldier from Liberia, it strikes a chord in Raiden and he is determined to rescue the children from such a fate.  He struggles with coming to terms with his past, and his enemies prey on this internal conflict.  During the game you’ll see two sides of Raiden, one who strives to protect the weak and innocent and the “Jack the Ripper” persona, murderous, blood thirsty and extremely dangerous.

Other members of Maverick assist Raiden through Codec, and a great deal of the plot is told through these conversations.  The team includes Boris, the Russian mission controller, data analyst Courtney, military strategist Kevin, and mad scientist, Doktor.  Quite a likeable group of characters, with a young Guyanese boy named George, and the computer prodigy Sunny from Metal Gear Solid 4 rounding out the cast.

The combat in Revengeance is rather complex.  The first missions will familiarize you with the basic moves such as strong and weak attacks, which can be strung together into combos, as well as the Ninja run, in which Raiden effortlessly dashes through obstacles and gives him immunity to bullets.  With each strike your energy bar (fuel cell meter) increases and once it is full it allows Raiden to access Blade Mode, best described as bullet time, in which he can precisely administer strikes to his foe.  I struggled at times with this, as manoeuvring the right analog stick to get the exact angle could prove to be a bit difficult.  Once you get the hang of it though Blade Mode can be used to tactically disable an enemy by lopping off a limb, removing a shield, or slicing them into tiny little pieces.  This is also quite handy for demolishing the environment (pretty much everything is destructible!), hitting incoming missiles, or even destroying helicopters.  Raiden’s fuel cell meter can also be refilled by harvesting energy, or electrolytes, from other cyborgs by using the cut and take mechanic Zan Datzu.  There is a brief period before an enemy falls in which this can be performed, via a brief Quick Time Event (QTE), and Raiden rips out a glowing blue spine like organ from the body.  It’s very gruesome, but extremely satisfying.

All these moves will only take you so far.  Much like other games in this genre, parrying is something that is essential to master to ensure your survival.  Directing your parry along with a weak attack will result in a strong counter attack, that is as long as your enemy doesn’t counter back, in which you will parry and counter again, quite often ending up in a vicious circle of parry/counter until someone falters.  There is definitely a step learning curve, and the game is unforgivingly difficult at times, even on the Normal difficulty.  In many ways some will get this parry system while others won’t, but that does not stop anyone from enjoying this game.  Thankfully, for those new to the genre, or those who wish to simply enjoy the story, Easy mode offers parry assistance, auto directing the parry for you.  Outside of this Easy mode the challenging, rage inducing, controller throwing gameplay is truly part of the fun when playing a title such as this, and I encourage veteran players to start at a higher difficulty level.  I should also note that there are a number of tutorials in the Codec menu in which you can practice these skills.

There is a wide range of enemies in Revegeance for you to slice and dice your way through, from dwarf gekkos, Unmaned Gear’s, brutish Mastiffs, and even a Metal Gear RAY makes an appearance.  Boss battles are challenging, frustrating, over the top encounters staying very true to the Metal Gear trademark.  You’ll find yourself taking on the robotic dog LQ- 84i, aka Blade Wolf, with a terrifying howl and a horrific blade for a tail, as well as a trio of cyborgs working with Desperado PMC named the Winds of Destruction.  Mistral, a seductive female cyborg with her pole arm, L’Estrange, made of the limbs of dwarf gekkos, Monsoon, who segments his body to avoid blows from Raiden’s blade and uses magnetic force to throw vehicles, and Sundowner, with his explosive shield that will damage Raiden with each hit unless precisely sliced in the right spot, are other foes that you have to face.  Running down the side of a building, hopping along a path of missiles, flying on a winged cyborg through a path of falling buildings, each battle ends with a crazy, ridiculous QTE, which I must say I really didn’t care for, and found rather annoying at times.   Regardless, you will find yourself in many crazy scenarios indeed and it can get pretty intense.

Raiden has a number of weapons in his arsenal such as grenades, homing missiles, even 3D pictures used to distract the enemy.  And while the katana remains his primary weapon throughout the game, he does have access to unique secondary weapons that are obtained from a defeated boss.  Many of the weapons, repair packs, and collectables can be found in numerous loot boxes throughout the game.  There are also a number of hidden terminals that once discovered unlock one of the 20 VR missions. These, along with hidden objectives and some very interesting Easter eggs, can be found using the AR mode, which very much reminds me of Detective mode in Arkham Asylum/City.

With the completion of each combat scenario, boss fight, and chapter, you earn a score based on your performance and are awarded battle points.  These battle points can be used to purchase things from the Doktor, including aesthetic changes to Raiden’s armor, additional combos, skills or health upgrades.  As well, slicing off the left hand of certain cyborgs will also give your access to upgrades from the mad Doktor, who is collecting these for data.

While the fast paced action strays quite far from previous games in the series, there is still an element of stealth in Revengeance.  Raiden, using the Ninja Kill, can silently stalk his victim and with a stroke of his blade kill them from behind.  He can even use the recognizable Metal Gear cardboard box to sneak past his enemies, which fans of the series will appreciate.  If detected, the characteristic exclamation mark and alert noise from games of past will be heard, and an alert meter will countdown on screen preventing the opening of doors or other such actions.

The timed played clock is rather deceiving.  When I finished my first play through I was very shocked to find that the time played was just less than 5 hours.  It didn’t seem right as it felt as if I had spent that amount of time on the final boss alone!  Well much to my relief this was confirmed by producer Atsushi Inaba who has indicated that the final play time does not count the deaths (and I had many!) and failed attempts, nor does it count time spent in cutscenes.  I confirmed this, looking at my account on Raptr, I spent closer to 8 hours in game and that’s not including playing the VR missions.

Given some of the MGS games of past I understand that there may be a concern about the length of the cut scenes.  Thankfully, the lengthy scenes we remember from MGS4 are not an issue in Revengeance.  There are many, but the longest scene lasts no more than 10 minutes, and there is lots of action between them.  And while Platinum handled much of the gameplay development, it’s very clear that Kojima Productions had control of the script with moments of philosophical musings and political agendas mixed with just the right touch of comic relief, taking on a much lighter tone than previous games.  I especially enjoyed the interaction between Blade Wolf and Raiden as well as a particular scene in the Mexican sewers when he firsts meets George.

Fans will be pleased with the little details that make Revengeance a true Metal Gear game, from the sound of a phone call from Codec, the beeping sound when near death, and even the panicked cry when Raiden dies.  As well, I should note, Revengeance is part of the Metal Gear canon (timeline).  For those new to the series you can breathe a little easier knowing that you can easily jump right in and enjoy the game without having any previous knowledge of the Metal Gear Universe.

In a simple word Revengeance looks spectacular.  The characters and environments look absolutely stunning, cleverly designed and very detailed.  Watch as Raiden jumps, leaps and bears down on his enemy with his sword and you will understand what I mean.  I found that the game ran quite smoothly on the Xbox 360, although I did note a bit of a slow down at times during boss battles and combat where numerous enemies were involved.  Unfortunately there is a bid of bad here as the camera had a tendency to be a bit problematic, particularly in close quarters fighting and in the midst of some boss battles, often switching to a random angle.  You can fight through this so to speak, but given how polished everything else is I was a bit disappointed by this camera issue.

Revengeance, in my opinion, has one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in quite some time.  I really enjoyed the original heavy rock and dubstep tracks, especially during the boss fights, the beats frantically rising in the climatic moments in the battle, instrumental at first with a vocal track chiming in when the boss is near defeat.  It is quite appropriate considering the fast paced frantic action of the game.  I was especially fond of Mistral’s theme and thought that it was very well done.  As for the voice acting, the actors voice their characters with the conviction and style that Metal Gear fans know and have come to expect over the years.

I really enjoyed my time with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and I’m very much looking forward to playing through it a few more times.  If it weren’t for the occasional camera issue, a steep learning curve, and somewhat frustrating QTE’s, this game would be pretty much flawless.  That being said, it is an absolutely gorgeous title with a terrific soundtrack and just the right mix of Platinum Game’s frenetic, stylish action and Kojima Production’s fantastic storytelling, and when everything is combined it makes for a wild, over the top, exciting game that should not be missed.

The Good


The Bad