Platform Reviewed: X-Box 360 / Price: £34.99 / Time Played: 15 hours
I have a confession. I don’t like Raiden.
This stems back to Metal Gear Solid 2, when he was whinging and whining and really oddly clingy. He seemed a really rubbish secret agent; his build was lithe and fragile, as if he could be snapped in two at any moment, his personality was very un-likeable and then you got to the joyous occasion that we got to see Raiden pretty much stark-naked, because obviously Hideo Kojima and his development studios have some unanswered sexual desires going on. I really didn’t like Raiden. I still don’t. But fortunately, the all-new Raiden in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has a lot more positive qualities to offset his more pertinent character flaws.
Right from the off, there’s no mistaking this as another Platinum Games-developed brawler. Metal Gear: Revengeance is perhaps the best Metal Gear game I’ve ever played, but that might be because it’s one of the least Metal Gear-like games I’ve ever played. There has been some crossover from Metal Gear Solid 2, with sinister AI programs and a general opinion that the bad guys want to control the population to make profit, not because they like them, but it’s certainly only a seasoning because the bulk of the game plays like a blend of Bayonetta, Afro Samurai and Ninja Gaiden. Long, linear areas with a few hidden secrets and upgrades scattered about but for the most part, it’s very urbanised and very rigid. The scenery isn’t the real bulk of what makes Revengeance so good though; it’s just scenery.
Part of what makes Revengeance likeable is the story. Raiden has moved up from sulky emo-teenager to actual security specialist, and his speciality is cybernetic enhancement technology. Right from the start, he’s in South Africa with a new president, who hails Raiden and his methods as having brought peace and prosperity to the region. Within a few short years, the state has become stable, profitable and crime rates are way down. Of course, Raiden is philosophical about the whole deal – which kind of sucks when the President is kidnapped, chased down through a very smartly done and ultimately showy tutorial stage, and murdered by agents of a rival security firm who state that for them, the peace that has come with stability is (a) not fun and (b) not making them any money. So to make money selling weaponised cybernetics to the populous, they murder the president and Raiden loses a bit more than his cool. Namely, his arm and eye. Harsh. But it sets the scene.
From there, the plot is very Metal Gear; a bit long-winded with more twists and turns than the old Nürburgring, dealing with the morality of war and the nature of free will and the human soul, as well as whether we have any choice in our actions. Actually, this is where I really began to enjoy the game on a more intellectual level; there’s a moment when Raiden is forced to hear the thoughts of those that he is killing, of people who came to America seeking jobs to feed their families, or because they were kidnapped and forced into this, wired and unwilling participants in the grand scheme of things. Giving your cannon-fodder thoughts of this nature is quite novel and brilliantly executed; no longer just faceless NPCs. As they attack Raiden, does he have any choice but to defend himself? What is choice and free will when it can be so easily manipulated?
There are also wonderful moments in the boss-fights as well when they die, their circuits do something which is akin to what happened in Doctor Who’s “Silence In The Library”, wherein their cybernetic pathways ‘ghost’ and they give an eloquent, but troubled, final speech. It’s a hauntingly beautiful and unusually simple idea that many games would use in a throwaway fashion, like Assassin’s Creed tended to do in its big assassination moments, but here it’s got substance and a real sense of belonging. It adds to the character and adds to the overall haunting absence of humanity until it really counts; when someone is dying, and facing their own mortality.
All of this would count for nothing if the combat system wasn’t up to scratch though. And this is Platinum Games, so what did you expect? For them to mess it up? Not a chance! The surprising thing about Revengeance is not that the combat is tactile, decent and interesting – but rather, that it’s really cleverly engineered to be simple to use and master. You have horizontal and vertical attacks, press X and the direction of an incoming attack to parry it, hold positional direction and an attack button to dodge, roll or manoeuvre in that direction, hold shoulder button to go into focus mode and slice things up your own way. The game is very eager to let you experiment with this though, and offers up some truly stylish scenes that take very little effort on the part of the player but are still notably satisfying. Hardened fans of the genre will dismiss Revengeance as “simplistic”, and in points it really is – I was getting B’s, A’s and S-ranks without much in the way of effort at all, but at the same time, not everyone wants to learn a complicated battle system. Revengeance manages to make the most from its limited structure, and it feels for the most part satisfying and enjoyable throughout.
That’s not to say this game is brilliant. It really is a Metal Gear game, and that much becomes apparent very quickly.
There are too many lengthy conversation pieces where nothing really happens. The camera can be a bit wonky and not having decent air attacks for the most part makes automated flying drone fights a bit of a pain in the ass at first. And there are moments when the game desperately wants to remind you of the Metal Gear Solid games and requires stealthy moments, but these are either very tacky and dull or, in some cases, pointless when you do need the fights they instigate in order to max out on your end-of-stage scores. When stealth is clunky and optional, with no penalties for it and you’re actively encouraged (save the odd snarky comment from base!) to go to town on these fights, the later additional layers of moral judgement and philosophical discussion are thrown into chaos but this isn’t always a bad thing; it’s just an obvious oversight for a game that revels in its violence and zany, crazy train of thought. And for all his improvements, I still don’t like Raiden. I can tolerate him this way, but I still don’t like him.
However, it’s pretty, accessible and enjoyable throughout. It feels like a proper game, rather than a spin-off, a really solid (groan!) foundation from which to build. Konami and Kojima’s insistence to bring in a developer to tune up their combat system to modern standards was a master stroke, and in the setting given Platinum Games do a Ninja Blade; epic sequences and stunts and crazy, silly moments which wouldn’t work on their own but in the context of the material supplied, not only make sense but put a big, wicked grin on your face. Everything else works; Metal Gear’s frankly insane approach to narrative and storytelling work more naturally here than they ever have in its stealth-genre offerings. The Gears themselves as well as all the cyborg enemies fit into the scheme of things and give a sense of scale.
It’s not always perfect; it tries so hard, so very hard indeed, but it just doesn’t quite have the charm of Bayonetta or Anarchy Reigns. But it’s likeable, lovable even, with an intellectual mind and a devious sense of humour throughout. The combat works and that’s all it needed to do – no, it’s not deep or complex but this isn’t a game where it needs to be. It’s a little higher in price than I’d ordinarily like – unfortunately for Revengeance, Anarchy Reigns happened and came out new on a budget, which adds another high benchmark it couldn’t quite reach. Everything is very nice. It’s also very safe. There’s no ambition in it. A lot of impressive stuff, but Ninja Blade at least had ambition. Revengeance feels too straight-laced in its most crazy, lunatic moments – it doesn’t revel in them nearly as much. Because the game is trying to be smart. It’s Hideo Kojima Productions. They are trying to make a point. Trying to pose a debate.
It’s this conflict which is ultimately its own downfall. Not a huge downfall, but one which ensures that very often it trips up over its shoelaces as the game slows down to talk and lecture at-length, or to let someone eulogise over themselves. It tries very hard to marry this simple, raw fast-paced combat with old-school Metal Gear tradition and the end result is certainly impressive, but you still see where the two were welded together. Not much attempt has been made to marry the two sides into one cohesive natural whole, and it just shows up throughout. It’s dual-personality just gets to you after a while.
But it’s still a very, very good game. Not perfect, not amazing, not even great. But a joyous, silly romp once more through the mind of Hideo Kojima and his team with less of the bitter aftertaste that you tend to get from the Metal Gear Solid games. There’s still a lingering aftertaste, but it’s not altogether unpleasant and it doesn’t make you gag. It just… is there. And that’s a bit of a shame, but this was to be expected.
Platinum Games did what they had to. Kojima Productions did what they wanted to.
The end result wasn’t ever going to be amazing and life-changing. But it still came out a hell of a lot better than expected. And I’d rather see them build on this than focus on another Metal Gear Solid.
It’s just… better.
- Platinum Games did a stonking job on the combat.
- A lot, LOT easier to get into than most games of this genre.
- Satisfying and silly.
- Plenty of good jokes to be found!
- Long, drawn-out talky scenes slow down the game.
- Air combat should have been addressed.
- Why put in stealth bits when you score people on their combat skills?
- Typical Metal Gear. Aim high, shoot low…
- Still not sold on Raiden.
- Is this really the right game to discuss the morality of murdering things?
- Still very rigid.
- If Top Gear can’t get away with a Mexican joke, why should Raiden?
OVERALL CONCLUSION – Ve vant those brainz, ya? (7/10)
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a likeable and enjoyable, if quite deeply flawed, title that just gets caught up too much in itself sometimes to move with any actual grace. It does far more right than it does wrong, however, and should – if Konami are willing to stick at this – provide a very firm base to build future instalments from. They just need to make sure that the Platinum Games bits and the Metal Gear bits in future blend more seamlessly. But at least the ghosting bits are really very very good and the acting well above par. ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION UBISOFT?!