Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has seen a relatively long development history. When it was originally announced in 2009, it was being developed by Kojima Productions, helmed by the man behind the Metal Gear series himself, Hideo Kojima.
Unfortunately, the game got canceled by Kojima, because he and his team couldn’t find a way to base an entire game on the free slicing mechanic. It was only late 2011 when the game got picked back up for development, when Kojima passed the title off to Platinum Games.
Considering its estranged history, it’s amazing that the game turned out so well. Generally, when a game has this long and complicated of a history, it’s usually a mired mess that would have been better off canceled. Luckily, for us, that is not the case for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Though, it does explain a few things about the game.
The most notable of which, length. Running at around four to five hours, the game is sitting on the shorter side of what we’ve come to expect from similar forms of entertainment. It can run a bit longer provided you sit through all the codec conversations; something I’d recommend against given how boring the codec characters are.
What the game lacks in length, it more than makes up for with a crazy-whirlwind of a story line, the likes of which only Hideo Kojima could have conjured. Dark, bold, and willing to go places that most others wouldn’t dare to. The story was always at its best in these moments, but never seemed to really commit to them.
There was always an odd attempt at humor or humanity in a world where such themes felt alien. While it wasn’t the greatest thing ever written, the story was entertaining and interesting, all the way through. I mean, any story that involves Sam, a Spanish cyborg Samurai with a high-frequency katana sheathed in a rocket-propelled scabbard, is at the very least, a spectacle to behold.
Another thing I liked about the story was how as it progressed, the events that occurred took a noticeable emotional toll on Raiden. I really appreciated how Quinton Flynn, the voice actor of Raiden, started to subtly change his voice and performance until they exploded during the crescendo.
Metal Gear Rising gets a lot right with its gameplay design, but unfortunately fumbles with the execution. Raiden is indeed a cyborg ninja wielding a weapon that rivals a Lightsaber in power and functionality.
When activating ninja run, you’ll automatically deflect bullets, navigate the terrain, and even jump from missile to missile on your way to cutting a helicopter in half. While all of this looks awesome, it doesn’t feel awesome to play, because it’s all being done for you. You’re not executing precise commands with strict timing, you’re holding a button and watching Raiden do the work for you.
Ironically the game’s free slicing mechanics have the same problems, but in reverse. Even though you’re free to cut wherever and whenever you like, the game simply doesn’t really allow you to do that; or perhaps more accurately, it doesn’t allow you to feel awesome while doing it.
Going crazy and ferociously chopping away at every inch of a giant robot killing machine is going to be your first instinct, given the lightning fast pace of the game. Unfortunately, this will frequently result in the destruction of said robot’s power supply. A power supply which you will need to fuel your energy bar, allowing more free-form-fileting, and which restores your health bar, allowing you to, well, you know – not die.
This would be a fine mechanic, if it wasn’t for the criminally small hitbox that you have to precisely hit, swinging from a specific direction. Failure to do so in your first few swings (sometimes not even that, depending on where you slice) could very easily result in destroying the power supply.
The level of accuracy required to consistently pull this maneuver off, is only attainable by those who have the disciplined mind of a Zen Master, which seemed at odds with how fast the game played outside of free slicing mode.
This was most prevalent to me whenever I was at low health, my heart beating at full force, my fingers managing to perfectly chain a combo attack breaking the target’s armor off, effectively leaving them vulnerable to free slice mode; only to repeatedly miss the hitbox for the power supply by a couple of millimeters with every slash, because I carried that frantic energy level over to the free slice mode.
Outside of free slice mode, I felt as if the combat was, for the most part, really well done. Whenever something was going to attack you, there would be a red flash from their optics, which would allow you to either dodge the attack, or prep your parry. As a counter attack fiend, I totally loved this because parrying usually opened the target up to being cut in half by free slice mode, which always looked cool.
Sometimes, because of the pacing of the combat, I noticed that the camera couldn’t always keep up with where the action was at. Even when I would try to compensate by manually controlling the camera I would often find myself unable to view where attacks where coming from, making it hard to know how to respond. Furthermore, because the game was so fast, it was relatively easy to obtain really cool looking, super high combo chains.
My only complaint about that, though, was that these combo chains had to be bought, and ended up being completely useless in just about every Boss fight. The problem being that, that was money I hadn’t been spending on boosting my health bar up, which I hadn’t needed to do for the other parts of the game, considering that every enemy I fought was basically a walking health potion that I simply had to cut open.
During boss fights there was rarely a way to restore health, and when a Boss fight consisted of multiple stages, every mistake I made was sorely felt; mistakes made because I tried to pull off a long combo chain, only to get stuck in a long animation where I couldn’t dodge or parry a boss attack.
Performance wise, the game ran well considering how chaotic it is, but I suspect that it had to take some hard texture hits in order to pull this off. While Raiden and his enemies always looked great, the world around him usually suffered graphically, which created an odd contrast.
The world that the characters inhabit is just as important as the characters that inhabit it, creating such a graphical disparity between the two can certainly be disconcerting. Though, to be fair, during the combat you’ll be more than distracted by Raiden’s super fast, super fluid attacks.
The controls for Metal Gear Rising is one of its strong suits. Free slicing simply feels great and is super responsive, once you get the hang of it. The way the controls are set up, makes it incredibly easy to combo attacks.
Unfortunately, this has one minor set back, and that’s that there is no dedicated parry button, and the input for parrying doesn’t seem to mesh with certain combos. As a result, one might find themselves trying to parry, and instead locking into an animation for another move, entirely. Which is pretty much the moment you least wish to be stuck in place, completely defenseless.
When it comes down to it, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the epitome of an ‘Okay’ game. There’s nothing seriously wrong with it, nor is there anything particularly spectacular about it. If you get it, it’s unlikely that you’ll regret it, but it’s not a game you’ll be playing for very long.
You’ll easily get through the main campaign, and might play around in the VR missions for a bit longer. I’d probably pick the game up once it goes on sale and the Jetstream Sam DLC comes out, so that you can use the money you saved, to play as the coolest character in the entire game.
The free slicing mode creates a stark contrast between the rest of the gameplay, and as a result can often be more frustrating to use, than fun.
The game looks okay, but when you compare it to others in the genre, you’ll notice that it’s lacking.
The voice acting ranged anywhere from unbearable, to notable. The music and sound effects, however, were generic and not very noticeable.
I found the social commentary and deeper questions about war and what makes us human to be interesting, but it’s hard to get attached to the humanity of characters when they’re nothing but robots and cyborgs.
There isn’t a lot of game here, and nearly no reason to go back.
Indeed, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is truly the epitome of an ‘Okay’ game. There’s nothing going against it to detract from the experience, but nor is there really anything going for it, either.