You, the player, can actually pull off some of those insane and over the top moves that were only seen in cutscenes before. To say it's awesome that the player can finally do this sort of thing, might be selling it a bit short at times.
First off, a bit of background on the game. Originally revealed as Metal Gear Solid: Rising, many fans began to get the wrong impression about the game. They saw that it was focused on playing as Raiden and began to get flashbacks to the Metal Gear Solid 2 surprise bomb that was dropped on them a quarter of the way into the game. This is not a Metal Gear "Solid" game and the change of name to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance reflects this. Yes, the game still takes place in the universe created in the Metal Gear Solid series, but that is almost where the parallels stop between this and a "Solid" title.
Rising features the high-octane gameplay that Platinum Games does best. Who else out there is qualified enough to develop a title that features acrobatics, intense combo oriented combat, over the top boss fights, and contain a story that is just pure Hideo Kojima? Sure, Kojima Productions had a huge hand in this, but the gameplay is Platinum Games through and through. Known best for their Bayonetta franchise and even Mad World, Platinum Games is no stranger to developing quality action titles. You get the intense, over the top, brutal gameplay from Platinum and the crazy, politically charged story that Kojima is known for. The result is just as you would expect.
Within the first ten minutes of the game, Raiden is already busy taking on a Metal Gear Ray. Yes, in the first ten minutes. Maybe the craziest part here, is that for as blown away as you will be at this fight, it pales in comparison to later boss fights and encounters. It merely serves as a sampler for what is to come. Fights range from the simple infantry fodder, to more sophisticated cyborgs, to powerful cyborg ninjas with unique abilities, to helicopters, to ... well, I wouldn't want to reveal too much here.
Everyone is taken out through a series of combos executed with a blend of weak attacks, strong attacks, jumping attacks, and item usage. While there are items in the game such as RPGs and homing missiles, you will more often than not simply take on the variety of foes using your trusty HF Blade. More sophisticated gameplay mechanics show up when you realize that entirely new abilities are at your disposal when running, jumping, or parrying. New abilities can also be unlocked throughout the course of the game.
Character upgrades are certainly a key part to Metal Gear Rising. Earn battle points by slicing and dicing your foes as quickly and efficiently as possible and you will earn more points. Slice objects, perform certain actions, and do pretty much anything and you earn even more points. The better you are, the more points you earn. Simple, right? Those points are then spent at the character customization screen which can be accessed at any point, though typically at the end of each major game section. These points allow you to upgrade or purchase new abilities, more health, alternate outfits, and upgrades to your weapons.
With the basics of the game in mind, what is it about Metal Gear Rising that sets it apart from the other "want to be a ninja" games out there? The game calls it ZanDatsu. I call it "let's slice the ever living hell out of everything nearby." ZanDatsu is activated with the pull of a trigger. In this mode, time slows and Raiden can slice in any direction you move the right analog stick. It lasts for as long as you want or until the special fuel cell bar runs out. In this mode, you can precisely cut foes and objects exactly where you want. This comes in handy when taking on larger foes by offering the opportunity to slice off their limbs, their head, slice them down the middle, slice from head to toe, slice their lower torso off, or all of the above.
One very important part of ZanDatsu is that when enemies are weakened enough to be killed by it, a special target box appears. Slicing through this box will expose the enemy's electrolyte filled spine that Raiden can grab, smash, and absorb for his own use. This move refills his health and charges up his fuel cells, which lead to even more ZanDatsu usage. Essentially, you will get to a point where you can chain brutal executions together for some rather impressive combos. You've heard of a ballet of bullets? Well, this is a ballet of body parts. The way lower torsos sometimes remaining standing or stumbling around after their upper torso was separated is simultaneously morbid and amusing all at the same time.
Don't fret too much. ZanDatsu cannot be used all the time and it certainly isn't game breaking. Some enemies cannot be sliced up into little chunks until they have taken a significant amount of damage from other moves. This mechanic not only applies to entire enemies but also to individual limbs. Once a limb or enemy is weakened enough to be sliced off, it will glow blue. Simply get near enough to the enemy, activate the ZanDatsu mode and have at it.
Even beyond this absurdly fun ZanDatsu mode are context sensitive quick time events. During the heat of the battle, there will occasionally be button prompts that pop up on the screen. Correctly hitting these will trigger various assassination kills on your target, which usually ends in ZanDatsu in order to deliver the final blows and collect the electrolytes. There are other sequences in the game that make use of these quick time events, though they aren't particularly difficult and fit in well where normal actions would otherwise be a bit too tame. Stealth does still come into play, if you opt to go that route. Some segments of the game lend itself quite nicely to stealthy making your way through a level by hiding under a box. If hiding isn't your style, you can still quietly sneak up behind enemies and stab them in the back for an instant kill. Not every section provides you with these diverse gameplay opportunities, but it's nice that the option is sometimes there at all.
Sneaking is helped along by Raiden's special Augmented view mode. Tap up on the d-pad and an augmented view of the environment shows up. It will highlight items, display enemies in a red glow, and give every breakable object a light blue glow. This mode cannot be active while running or attacking, so you will want to ensure you scoped things out ahead of time before entering into a battle. A nice added touch here is that Raiden's visor will actually move into position in front of his eyes when the mode is activated.
In thinking back on the game's story, it is right up there with the crazy plots from previous games in the Metal Gear franchise. There is a lot of questioning of morals and questioning of reason sprinkled throughout the game, but the overall story seems fairly straight forward. Raiden is smack dab in the middle of a plot by a rival PMC group, the Desperado Enterprises, who are hell bent on reigniting a global war in order to fuel the war economy. The group largely consists of cyborgs that possess unique and powerful abilities similar to Raiden. It's all led by a character that shall remain a mystery, unless I ruin some very key plot points for you. Let's just say that there are brains, Gekko of all shapes and sizes, cyborgs, over the top bosses, a renewed "war on terror", and one very emotionally conflicted Raiden. I appreciate the steps the writers went through to ensure that a moral questioning of right and wrong brought a significant gameplay mechanic to light without being too ham-fisted.
Each section of the story is broken up into various case files that you can later return to in order to earn a better score and more battle points. These sections take place over a variety of locations, which include Denver, Pakistan, and other locales. Each location features a wide array of visual differences, all of which looked fantastic. Even if there were any graphical oddities, you probably won't have much time to notice them given the fast-paced nature of the game. Unfortunately, there were some framerate issues that popped up every once in a while. These seemed to only happen when there were large scale battles taking place with a lot of visual flare flying around the screen, or while Raiden was chopping up objects into hundreds of pieces. Installing the game to the Xbox 360's hard drive did alleviate some of these issues, but the drop in framerate was still quite apparent in a few instances.
The game itself should take you around six to nine hours to complete on your first play through on normal difficulty. This includes time spent in both the gameplay sections, the in-game and pre-rendered cutscenes, and the mandatory codec calls. There are optional codec calls you can make to your team, but they are not necessary. They do, however, provide some additional background to the story and the events that just took place in the game. There are also various items, a variety of collectables, concept art unlocks, and upgrades hidden throughout each of the game's areas that can be discovered. One such example are posters of Asian female models hidden behind yellow caution tape. There are other amusing nods to past games in the franchise, nods to Asian culture, and some hidden surprises that are just simply there to lighten the mood a bit.
It is possible to do a speed run of the game as each cutscene can be skipped and you can fast-forward through most codec calls. Given how the game rewards you with a better score based on how fast you get through a battle sequence, this should definitely be on a speed runner's watch list. Gameplay segments alone probably account for about 70% of the total game, with the remaining 30% going towards the game's cut-scenes and cinematics. It's just a shame that the overall game feels so short because at the end I still had a bit of a want for things to slice and dice.
Sadly, not everything is coming up roses in Rising. The camera can sometimes work against you during the heat of the battle. Yes, there is a lock on mechanic, but even then the camera can sometimes align so that you cannot clearly see what's happening in front of you. The camera really tends to become an issue following an execution move, where it isn't always in the best possible position. It can unfortunately lead to some unforeseen consequences. The camera and general busy nature of the on screen action also sometimes meant that you cannot always clearly see where your ZanDatsu slices will land. This may result in Raiden slicing everything but what he actually meant to. Thankfully, there are ways to extend the timer on the ZanDatsu mode, so this really becomes less of an issue later on in the game.
I also found that while performing Raiden's Ninja Dash run ability that he sometimes did not want to cooperate. He would sometimes not properly leap up onto platforms, prompting a few repeated tries before he finally got it. The controls also sometimes felt a bit sluggish to respond, especially following the spine breaking animation that Raiden performs after a successful ZanDatsu grab. This may have been my jumping the gun slightly on button presses, so I won't hold it against the game too much. The way Raiden parries incoming attacks can be downright frustrating at times. It requires very precise timing on your part. Too quick or too late and chances are good that you will be hit. It is a game mechanic that I never fully got the hang of even after having completed the game.
One other issue I had was the fact that while a majority of the game felt like a decent enough challenge on the normal mode, some of the later boss fights became frustratingly difficult. You may feel like a badass for most of the game but these fights will do a quick job of humbling you to the point you may just need to walk away and come back to it later on. That said, the boss fights are still an engaging part of the game and they are a decent blend of patterns and somewhat randomized AI work that keeps things from being a matter of simple pattern recognition.
Now, I've said a lot about the game mechanics, the plot, the visuals, and all of the other basics that make up a game. The only thing that's left is whether or not the game is fun. It is. Fortunately, the feeling of being this ultimate ninja shines brightly throughout Metal Gear Rising. There is no greater feeling than when you enter ZanDatsu, slice through three foes all at once, prompting Raiden to leap into the air, rip out their spines, and absorb their energy before the meat chunks that were their body ever hit the ground.
For those looking for a bit more action, the game does include a number of unlockable VR Missions. This mode will put your skills to the ultimate test through a variety of challenges. These typically involve Raiden clearing a scenario as fast and as efficiently as possible. While possible to do early on, some of these missions will test every one of your abilities and should really be left for after you've beaten the game once.
Even with its flaws, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance lets you experience the thrill of being a ninja that many other games can't even come close to accomplishing. It's a fun, exhilarating ride that blends together the talents at Platinum Games with the mind of Hideo Kojima. Even those who may have disliked Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2 can't help but enjoy his character in Rising. He's older, more mature, and features a persona and voice acting that perfectly matches the multiple hells he's been through.
If you were not already considering picking up Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, you should definitely check it out. If nothing else, it should serve to get you even more excited for what the future of the franchise has in store for everyone.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance official website
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was provided to TGN for review purposes from Konami. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is rated M for Mature by the ESRB (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language).