Friday, May 30, 2014

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance DLC Story 02 - Blade Wolf

Spoiler Warning: Due to the nature of this DLC, there will be unmarked spoilers regarding the events of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. You have been warned.

Since I’ve reviewed the first DLC story for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Jetstream, it’s only natural that I look at the second one, Blade Wolf. Like the previous story, the idea behind Blade Wolf is that we get to know more about its title character, in this case what life was like for Blade Wolf, aka LQ-84i, before Raiden came along and freed him from Desperado. Once again, the reason I’m going over this now is because recently I discovered that it was made free (I slip up every so often when it comes to news about stuff). Blade Wolf runs into some of the same problems as Jetstream, in that a lot of it is recycled, however, it actually makes more of an effort to stand out from the main game.

Before the events of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Blade Wolf was a robotic canine with the name LQ-84i, suggesting that he had advanced AI compared to the other LQ-84 robots in the PMC. At the point in time the DLC takes place, he is to go on a mission with Khamsin (the desert storm, which continues Desprado’s wind-based naming convention), but Mistral wants to give LQ-84i VR training to not only prove that he is capable of the mission, but also to try and make him more subservient. As he goes through each training exercise however, LQ-84i wants to obtain something that he’s never had: freedom; he learns just how far he is willing to go to experience it for the first time.

He is also very capable of kicking ass.

The events of this DLC turned out to be better written than Jetstream, which is a huge step up in fleshing out a rather unique character. Blade Wolf’s backstory is easier to empathize with, since he is a thinking machine yet unable to know what certain concepts are like to his rather limited world. Mistral’s treatment of him is somewhat standard villain stuff, but when you see LQ-84i take control of his own life for the first time, and fight for it, it makes him a character worth rooting for, making you wonder if he’ll finally feel freedom and get to keep it. However, the main problem with the story is that Khamsin, the final boss, feels underdeveloped (although the Metal Gear Wiki seems to state otherwise). I hardly knew anything about him before, during or after the fight with him, but then again he’s not really the highlight of this DLC; he’s simply someone from Desperado forced to try and kill you. There’s indication that the story goes into the Abkhazian Coup from the beginning of the parent game, creating a much better transition than Jetstream, which simply ended with Sam suddenly in Abkhazia.

Once again, a lot of the Blade Wolf DLC is recycled from Raiden’s campaign. However there is a surprising amount of work put in an attempt to feel different. About half of the story is LQ-84i going through VR training, which allows for the opportunity to do more than just fuse a few levels together and shove as many enemies in it as possible. Indeed, the levels flow much like how a series of missions would and there is actually a very interesting 3D platforming segment at the end of the training that requires some different skills than slaughtering everyone in sight, although there is a lot of that. Blade Wolf has more of a stealth approach, granting bonuses for Hunt Kills, meaning you sneak up behind the enemy and dispatch them with a quick thrust of his chainsaw. It’s still very likely that you’ll get into combat, but the fact that you can approach a situation more than one way is a sign that they were sticking truer to how the main game worked. When you do get in a skirmish, it’s actually a bit fun. Controlling LQ-84i is more varied from Raiden due to the difference in body type and the sorts of attacks he was designed for. In times when the chainsaw isn’t in use, you can use heat knives as a sub-weapon, the only one in the DLC actually, which shows effort in staying true to the depiction of the character in the parent game. In general it was just very interesting to watch the animation and see just how much more unique of a character LQ-84i is from Raiden in every way.

During the final act of the campaign, you end up having to dispatch quite a few enemies via stealth or head-to-head combat, but unlike Jetstream there aren’t any recycled bosses. In fact, it’s a little refreshing that the final boss, Khamsin, is a very original sequence that takes skill and cunning to successfully get through in one piece. The fight is very well constructed and the only real shame is that you have to play through the entire DLC just to fight him again (also you can only fight him as LQ-84i).

Khamsin (right) is one of the most original things in the DLC.

Other high marks would be the voice acting and music. Mistral and Blade Wolf/LQ-84i show off how fitting the voice actors are for them and Khamsin has a pretty good performance behind him. I’ve always liked the music of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and continued to do so throughout Blade Wolf, including the DLC-exclusive tracks and remixes.

Blade Wolf is a bit of DLC definitely worth playing through. The way the story ties into the main game is interesting and Blade Wolf is an interesting character (especially one to base an entire campaign off of). Some things are the same from the parent game, but there is a lot more effort put into making the campaign feel very different, even if one section is just a mirror of what Raiden goes through, and overall it’s a very fun experience. Those who already have Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance are encouraged to try this out, especially if they felt burned by Jetstream, as this will almost certainly wash away the feeling of sameness from that campaign, In general, after playing through something that felt very much the same as its source, it felt really good to play something completely different.

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