Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
What’s with the name of this game? Revenge and vengeance mean the same thing, so why make a portmanteau that doesn’t carry any new significance? Kojima probably just thought it sounded cool.
The Metal Gear Solid series is about stealthy levels, actiony puzzle boss fights, and unbelievably nonsensical plots. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance isn’t like that, though… it’s all puzzle fights and nonsensical plots! It reminds me of DmC Devil May Cry, a game that I found surprisingly enjoyable even though the entire internet told me it was unplayable corporate garbage. Both games are flashy hack-n-slashers with terrible writing, dorky-looking character designs, and big heaps of entertainment value.
The intro made me sit through no less than six corporate logos, all unskippable. I know that the game had a huge budget and they wanted to credit all the people who worked on it, but it’s still an annoyance. If I cared that much about what the recommended video card was, I’d look at the Wikipedia entry.
Revengeance’s first mission was a heap of QTE cutscene doggerel that I feared would constitute the whole game. It quickly improved, however; I tried mashing buttons against the Gekko robots soon after and got demolished. I was elated. Skill was confirmed as being at least somewhat necessary for this game. Not to imply that there’s an amazing amount of depth; almost all fights consist of taking slashes at enemies where you can get them and parrying their attacks to knock them off balance and get in some harder strikes.
Unfortunately, ripostes are too easy as they require only pounding the light attack button while pressing the direction the attack is coming from, which you’re probably doing all the time anyway. But there’s some skill involved; if you don’t time it right you’ll just get a basic block which leaves you no better off, and some heavy attacks can’t be blocked but only dodged. Each enemy has a different rhythm and skill set, and they won’t stop coming at you unless you hack through their core. Enemy soldiers can have no arms left and they’ll still kick you and distract you so their friends can get at you. It’s not the first game to do something like that but I love it whenever I see it.
Then there’s the slashing controls in the much-advertised “blade mode”. How it works is that you press a button and drain your super meter to take precise cuts at a nearby enemy. The purpose of this is to target specific weak points, kill weak enemies quickly, and finish off wounded ones for extra EXP/free heals and so they don’t do the paraplegic dance I mentioned in the previous paragraph. But it’s not as cool as it sounds; it’s so clunky to control that time has to slow down in order to give you your bearings and pick the right way to slash with the two thumbsticks. A mouse would be able to perform this action instantly but that’s not how the game works. And a lot of bosses will automatically parry your blade mode attacks and deal you some damage instead, forcing you to find another weakness to exploit.
There’s some stealth stuff if you really want to do it, but it’s rarely warranted. You can put on the obiquitous Metal Gear cardboard box and sneak up on the tougher enemies for a one-hit kill, but only in a couple areas where they aren’t immediately alerted to your presence. There are optional VR missions that add some variety and will definitely scratch any stealth-related rash that may be infesting you. They even give you EXP you can use in the main game. Also of annoyance is the QTE prompt that pops up when any enemy is at low health that pressures me for a quick “cinematic” kill. Just let me figure out how to beat them without the movie-imitating nonsense, please.
There’s boss fights. I freaking love the boss fights in the Metal Gear Solid series; they’re never what you expect. Your major opponents include an intelligent robot dog, a crazy woman who uses dozens of little helper robots (both to pester you and to cram into her suit for use as extra weapons), three different cocky cyborg assassins, and a pro wrestler United States Senator. All are so embarrassing to look at and listen to that they wouldn’t even qualify as X-Men villains, but none are straightforward or easy to beat, which makes me happier than a Jezebel.com writer blogging about rape. One of the cyborg ninjas is so slippery that he seems impossible; he can even split his body into multiple sections to avoid your blade mode strikes. Figuring out how to actually hurt him brough one of Revengeance‘s moments of pure elation at a puzzle solved.
Another complaint: Health packs make the game a matter of attrition, not necessarily skill. Sure, some enemies can deal 30-40% damage to you in one hit, but who cares when you can carry ten tubes of healing nanopaste that automatically restore you upon reaching zero health? They do make the game a bit too easy—especially since sometimes bosses will drop them mid-fight—but then again there’s a hard mode I have yet to attempt that’s probably more to my fancy.
Revengeance has some serious camera problems. The camera often flew into whatever direction it wanted, forcing me to take strikes from enemies that were off-screen. This succeeded in making me feel like someone who was punched into dizziness by big robots, but it failed to be a good game mechanic. Or maybe it was unintentional and the camera was just as bad as Ninja Gaiden‘s. The radar helps a little bit but why can’t I get a “press this to move the camera towards the boss/nearest enemy” button? Or a zoom-out feature so I can see more than one direction and more than a car length in any of those directions?
The story is ridiculous even by Metal Gear standards, and the final boss even moreso. Ostensibly it’s about the protagonist trying to save a facility full of cyborg brains from becoming child soldiers like he was combined with the guy trying to simultaneously deal with the ghosts of his past and touch into his youthful bloodlust in order to stop Senator Ultimate Warrior. Revengeance doesn’t know if it wants to be slick commentary on (relatively) recent real-life political events or a big dumb Saturday Morning cartoon about cyborg ninjas with lethargic nu-metal on top. There are multiple sections where Raiden struggles with the fact that many of the men he kills on his heroic quest are just clock-punchers who have families they love but still knowing that they work for a monstrous organization that has to be stopped for the greater good of humanity. Then there’s the scene where he goes into a sewer to save some kid from robots who resemble Mousers while the kid yells “Go ninja go ninja go!”
And the final series of boss fights needs no introduction if you’ve read anything about the game. Spoilers: It’s about a four hundred pound
steroid nanomachine popping politician who agrees that going to war and killing dudes is cool but wants to go about it a different fashion than what is currently occurring. Then he body slams you for half an hour. Early on in the game, Raiden’s voice takes on this irritating throaty thing throughout the game that’s probably intended to emulate Snake from the other games in the series, but it just came across as cheesy, which admittedly fits in with the unintentionally laughable mood of the game, though the script will fail to make you care about any of these dumb stereotypes.
Did I like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance? Sure. Every little instance of combat was enjoyable, and the boss fights in particular are as great as ever. The writing is obnoxious and the characters all have so much crap glued to their bodies that they look like they were designed by Tetsuya Nomura, but sub-par aesthetics do not prevent this (rather short, for Metal Gear) game from being a worthy albeit conventional hack-n-slash.