Monday, February 25, 2013

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance - Lightning Bolt Action

In case you haven't been keeping up with this blog, I've recently become a huge fan of the Metal Gear franchise. The series has been able to demonstrate truly masterful storytelling ability and have stealth-based gameplay that only seems to get better and better with time. While I had known of the legacy and impact of this series on gaming culture overall, to the point where it made a sort of cameo appearance in Wreck-It Ralph, this recent exposure has gotten me hooked on trying to explore as much I can of this series. This led me to be even more excited about the two announced Metal Gear projects, the upcoming Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and the recently released Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the subject of this review. Having begun life as Metal Gear Solid: Rising, the project was to be a balance of stealth and action, but Kojima Productions could not get the original vision to work the way they wished. To alleviate this, the project was handed over to Platinum Games, who is perhaps best known for creating the action game Bayonetta, itself a product of the original creator of Devil May Cry. As a result, we now have a game that's attempting a blend of Metal Gear's storytelling, Kojima Productions' original ideas and Platinum Games' brand of style-based gameplay. So now, you may be asking, does it work? I would say: Yes, yes it does.

For curious readers, here's the logo for the original project.

Spoiler Note: Before I continue, I must warn you. Due to the placement of the game within the Metal Gear timeline, there will be unmarked spoilers regarding the premise. I'll try to keep spoilers from the game proper to a minimum, but keep in mind that I won't be using white text due to its nature.

It is four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Since the fall of the Sons of the Patriots System, the world has mostly recovered from the war economy and is rebuilding toward a more peaceful state. In an unknown African country, Raiden, who now works for the PMC Maverick, is acting as a VIP guard for Prime Minister N'Mani. Everything goes smoothly until a group of cyborgs from Desperado Enforecement LLC. show up with the intent of kidnapping the Prime Minister. Though they succeed, Raiden follows after their leader, Sundowner, and arrives at a train. There, N'Mani is offed and a mysterious man named Samuel Rodrigues, aka Jetstream Sam, fights Raiden as the train passes through a tunnel, the end result being the latter's loss of both his left eye and arm. Before Raiden can be killed however, the train leaves the tunnel and Maverick arrives to provide assistance, forcing Desperado to leave. Three weeks later, Raiden is supplied with a brand new and improved body and deployed by Maverick to Abkhazia to prevent Desperado from leading a military coup against its government. As the mission continues, Raiden soon finds himself as part of something far bigger than anyone could have realized, as well as his past coming back to haunt him.

Raiden, somehow even more badass than last time.

What follows is actually pretty well-written. It's not on the exact same level as some other Metal Gear titles, but the string of events still suit the universe well. Having Raiden confront his past as a child soldier nicknamed "Jack the Ripper" was interesting, as we get a look into his past and just what effect that has on him in the present day (2018 in-game). There are still some good twists and discussions on the theme of revenge, as well as tackling the subject of child soldiers in general, mainly how wrong it is, and just what benefits certain entities that deploy such soldiers see out of it. I also like how it tackled the issue of the war economy from Guns of the Patriots and just what it meant for the world when it ended, like the fact that there are some people like Desperado Enforcement LLC. who enjoy the business end of an endless war. The rhetoric given by the final boss on this subject is also worth listening to, as it is a perfect example of just how extreme people can become about their ideals and what they'll do to accomplish them, even if it means dooming the entire world. Within all of this, I also felt that Raiden's character was fleshed out pretty well. His goals and motivations made sense to me and, for the most part, his character is consistent with his portrayal in Guns of the Patriots. I know that some may disagree, but it is, in my opinion, a story that wouldn't feel out of place in the Metal Gear franchise.

If there's anything wrong with the story however, it would be how much sense it makes in the long run. Players will still be able to follow what happens just by watching the cut scenes and listening to mandatory codec calls, but that only gets you part of the story. If you really want all of the details, you're going to have to make a lot of codec calls yourself while playing, since it's an action game and having any more cut scenes would only really get in the way. By listening to these codec conversations, you'll better understand where everyone is and what's been going on in the world for the last four years. Even if you just want to constantly cut people up, I would encourage you to make as many codec calls as possible until they begin to recycle, then do it again in any area you could possibly hear more info.

There's also the fact that Metal Gear Rising makes plenty of nods and call backs to previous games in the franchise, so anyone starting out with this game will be a little confused as to what people are actually talking about. To remedy this, for those who actually care about story in a video game, I would suggest waiting on this game and first playing, on PS3, Metal Gear Solid off of PSN, the PS3 version of the HD Collection and then Metal Gear Solid 4; you could also just play Metal Gear Solid 4 and read the downloadable Metal Gear Solid 4 Database into oblivion. If you don't really care about the story though and just want to slice soldiers into little pieces, then you can get along just fine, but you'll miss on a pretty good action game story.

Jetstream Sam: Raiden's main rival.

As this is an action game however, there's one of the most important aspects that needs to be discussed: gameplay, more specifically combat. There's the standard light and heavy attack buttons, complete with special moves that can be acquired through spending BP earned by doing certain actions. Combat is fast, fluid and fun, but there's one mechanic that makes it all worth it: dynamic cutting. While it seems that some observant gamers have pointed out the Afro Samurai video game possessing a similar mechanic, it should be noted that not only does Metal Gear Rising use this mechanic, it improves upon it dramatically. Wherever Raiden cuts on an object, that object will be cut in that exact direction and respond with the perfect physics to match. This is taken one step further with the Blade Mode mechanic, which slows down time and allows control over the precise angle that an object can be cut, especially against enemies. Blade Mode is most useful with the Zandatsu technique, which allows Raiden to slice an enemy at a specific point on their body to grab a fuel cell and replenish his health and fuel cell gauges, the latter of which is required for Blade Mode to work to the fullest. I absolutely love this ability, as it's something people have probably been waiting decades for a game to finally do. To see it in reality is simply miraculous and I honestly can't get enough of it.

Memorable bosses are one thing that Metal Gear has been known for, and Rising: Revengeance is no exception. Almost every level ends with a boss fight against one of the Winds of Destruction, a specialized group within Desperado whose members are all named after a type of wind that is also indicative of their nationality: Mistral, Monsoon and Sundowner. Each fight is tailor made to showcase their unique abilities and serves to not only display how ridiculously awesome the game can get, but also test the player's skill with Raiden's abilities. The fights can get very tense and thrilling, though Monsoon stands out for being rather annoyingly difficult on a first play through thanks to his spectacularly broken moves (he can stun you and then attack you while you're trying to break it, which can make you stunned again, allowing him to attack you in your stunned state to extend it, etc.).

Beating each boss will also net you a unique weapon, which can be equipped in addition to the High Frequency Blade Raiden starts out with. Another annoyance here though is that the newly equipped weapon will replace your heavy attack moves, which means you can't do everything you'd like to at once and will need to get used to whatever weapon you equip. For this reason, I did actually use the Pole Arm, gained by beating Mistral, to advance better through my first run and then abandoned it later on to test my skills with the sword alone. This felt better to me in the long run, so I'd suggest doing the same thing.

One unlucky soldier on the receiving end of a Zandatsu strike.
While action is the name of the game here, there's also still some of the signature stealth action the series is known for. It is possible to sneak past enemies with a cardboard box or drum can, or even sneak up behind them and perform a stealth kill so you can try and get fuel cells without anyone noticing. Keeping this element in helps the game retain the Metal Gear identity and presents a different route that players can take with completing missions, which also offers its own rewards. Variety can help a video game become all it can be, and in this game it certainly helps.

Also useful is Augment Mode, which rolls Thermal, Night Vision and Infrared Goggles all into one package. It's a little like the Detective Mode from the Arkham games, since it scans the environment and provides Raiden, and thus the player, with all kinds of useful information, most importantly the locations of items and objects that can be cut.

Graphically speaking, this is the Metal Gear franchise looking the best it ever has in the current generation. Everything feels more lifelike and seems to be a little more stylized without sacrificing the iconic look of Yoji Shinkawa's art style. Colors are also more vibrant than previous entries, with a great lighting system that helps the levels all look different from each other as well as realistic. While the level design is much more linear than the Solid titles, this doesn't really prevent the game from being any fun, as it's more about what awesome things happen along the way than anything else.

Augment Mode, a very useful tool in the game.

As for the music, I'd like to boldly declare that it is one of the best action game soundtracks I have heard in quite a while. There are a lot of vocal tracks during combat, which I feel was integrated really well, especially in regards to the boss fights, which seem to feature an instrumental until a certain phase causes the vocals to kick in. The songs not only have a great beat that goes well with the action, but the lyrics also match the situation perfectly by discussing the main ideas of each encounter. It is for this reason that the final boss music is actually one of my favorite boss tracks of all time and will be hard to top.

The game also features some pretty good voice acting, with solid performances that bring each character to life and display a good range of emotions. My one complaint in regards to this however would be the amount of f-bombs that are dropped. While I should clarify that it's nowhere near the same galaxy as, say, Bulletstorm, there is still a rather disproportionate amount compared to earlier entries. Guns of the Patriots introduced international fans to the first ever f-bomb in the franchise (there were two f-bombs if you lived in Japan), spoken by Laughing Octopus to induce shock in the player and show just how serious she was about killing Snake. Here though, they throw the word around more often to the point that it loses some of the impact it might have had, though I'll admit that it did help at least one speech out.

The world can offer enemies a very colorful death.

The only other thing that I can find wrong with this game would be the length. It is a bit too short, no doubt due in part to its troubled development. If the end result screen is any indication, it is possible to beat this game in six to seven hours, though I am aware that the game doesn't count retries in this score so make of that what you will, with further runs of the game allowing you to lower this time and beat it even faster (and improve your grade for a better overall score). I think that it could probably have gotten away with maybe a couple more levels to help it not feel so short and still not take away from the story.

As an action game, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is one of the best of its genre. As a Metal Gear game, it is an interesting genre shift that feels right at home. It manages to do a decent job combining the styles of Kojima Productions and Platinum games, with a fun combat system combined with a fascinating story that gives us some insight into the aftermath of the downfall of the Sons of the Patriots system. I highly recommend this to fans of the Metal Gear franchise, especially if they enjoy action games or are accepting of a genre shift that suits Raiden perfectly. As for action game fans in general and newcomers to Metal Gear, if you know nothing outside of Solid Snake, Cardboard Boxes and Giant Robots and you'd actually like to follow the story and not be confused, follow the advice I gave above in my story paragraph. It'll help you out immensely.

TL;DR: Go read this.

Grammar Note: In case you're wondering, "Revengeance" is indeed a real word. It is actually an archaic word, which was split off into "revenge" and "vengeance" since they mean basically the same thing. If my research is correct, the reason "Revengeance" is the subtitle is to show that the game is getting revenge at the failure of the previous incarnation, Metal Gear Solid: Rising. Now it makes more sense, doesn't it?

No comments:

Post a Comment