Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review: ripped apart

Platinum Games, developer of cult action hits like Bayonetta and Vanquish, clearly have the chops to make a great action game. But, can they make a great game that lives up to the Metal Gear name? Not quite.

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There's few franchises that garner the same kind of respect Metal Gear does. Over its 25 year legacy, it's repeatedly defined landmark moments in gaming. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has a lot to live up to. Not only must it adhere to the same quality expected of the franchise, but it must make real what many fans have been waiting for: a game where you get to play as one of the series' deadly sword-wielding cyborg ninjas. Platinum Games, developer of cult action hits like Bayonetta and Vanquish, clearly have the chops to make a great action game. But, can they make a great game that lives up to the Metal Gear name? Almost, but not quite. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance does a lot right, enough so that any ardent Metal Gear fan should unquestionably play it. Although it may not be a stealth game like its predecessors, it still stays true to the core tenets of what makes a Metal Gear game. Fans curious about what happens after the fall of the Patriots in Metal Gear Solid 4 will lovingly watch Rising's many long-winded, heavy-handed cutscenes. Bosses will opine about war, violence, and morality. Allies and foes will take over your codec, explaining the rules of a world controlled by shadow organizations and PMCs. Taking the Metal Gear mantra to another level, Rising openly questions the necessity of violence and preaches against killing--right before handing you a sword to cruelly dismember your foes. While most of the game is centered around killing men, Rising actually offers numerous ways to avoid violence. There's a surprising amount of stealth gameplay here, letting you use cardboard boxes and magazines to move around enemies undetected. And while there are no puzzles in the game per se, there are numerous hostage situations that require a more delicate, intelligent approach. Finally, there are tons of collectibles to unlock and hidden areas to discover, encouraging exploration in what would otherwise be a relatively straightforward game. By Platinum's Atsushi Inaba's admission, the added gameplay options make the game less "dull." While the stealth gameplay and exploration bits are appreciated, they ultimately don't make up for Rising's unsatisfying swordplay. Although Raiden can expand his repertoire with new moves and secondary weapons, the swordplay is fixated on the parry mechanic. Raiden can't block, so he'll have to wait until the moment before an enemy attacks to strike and counter that attack. Parrying exposes the enemy for follow-up strikes, and can usually trigger "Blade Mode," which lets you aim your sword and hack away at body parts. That's not to say the parry system is mindless, as you'll have to learn different timing for every enemy and their assorted attacks. By landing a perfectly-timed counter, you'll be able to destroy an enemy shield, stun the enemy, or trigger an elaborate QTE sequence that ends in an automatic "Blade Mode" finale. Some parries will be countered by the enemy, forcing you to re-parry back-and-forth. However, the singular focus on parrying makes combat seem far less flexible than, say, Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, and discourages exploring Raiden's full assortment of moves. Oddly, the game actually hides many of Raiden's more advanced moves, tucking them away as unlockables. Even when a move is purchased, the game only lets you know about these moves by navigating many levels into the pause menu. This rather inelegant approach is repeated with the game's weapons system. There's no way to switch sub-weapons without having Raiden stand completely still and then opening a separate pause menu with the D-Pad. By relegating these features to menus, Rising once again discourages players from experimenting with the gameplay systems. Still, there are some truly spectacular set pieces. Your first fight against a Metal Gear is an absolute delight, as you ninja run away from laser blasts, whilst cutting away at a stories-tall mech. Fighting your first helicopter proves to be a joy. However, the game's camera regularly fails to keep up with the action--no matter how big or small the battle. In fact, the camera is easily the player's worst enemy. More often than not, you'll be swinging blindly at enemies that aren't on-screen. Even worse, given that the game is defined by parrying, you'll often be unable to tell when enemies are going to strike at you. Not only will you be constantly managing the camera with the right analog stick, but it will sometimes actively fight against your control. One time, as I was trying to sneak alongside a wall, the camera swung around, fixated on the wall. I tried swinging the camera back so I could see which way the enemy was looking, but to no avail. A few seconds later, I get spotted, and I start slashing away the enemy--never really knowing where he was. The game's camera can be so infuriating that I've been tempted multiple times to simply give up at the Game Over screen. This isn't an issue that pops up occasionally; it is a problem that plagues the experience from beginning to end--and only gets worse in boss fights. Thankfully, the game's plentiful checkpoints made it easy to jump back into the game. Many will undoubtedly complain about the game's length, with a campaign that clocks in under six hours. However, there's plenty of reason to replay missions, whether it's simply to get a better score, or to find all the hidden items scattered throughout the levels. There are even twenty additional VR missions that can be unlocked. However, the campaign may feel shorter than it actually is due to its odd pacing. The story takes its time building up its mystery--only to rush to a relatively abrupt finale.

VR Missions can be unlocked by finding terminals in the game

While there are plenty of things to admire about Metal Gear Rising, from its over-the-top boss fights to its surprisingly amusing dialogue (Wolf is easily the best character), it falls short of what many expect from a Metal Gear and Platinum game. This is easily the most unpolished in the Metal Gear series, with lackluster graphics, and some questionable design choices. It's far from Platinum's best as well, with their other titles sporting more satisfying combat and more fanciful set pieces. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a deeply flawed game that manages to nonetheless be likeable. It even has its moments of brilliance. However, Metal Gear fans are likely to get more out of the experience, if only for the narrative and multiple callbacks to previous games. Newcomers will probably be less charmed, and more prone to seeing the game's many shortcomings. Metal Gear Rising is, at the very least, a novel first collaboration between Kojima Productions and Platinum Games, one we'd like to see continued and refined. (A rerevengeance, perhaps?)
This Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review was based on retail PS3 code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox 360.
From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 19, 2013 12:00 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review: ripped apart.

    Platinum Games, developer of cult action hits like Bayonetta and Vanquish, clearly have the chops to make a great action game. But, can they make a great game that lives up to the Metal Gear name? Not quite.

    • reply
      February 19, 2013 12:19 AM

      This is the second person I've seen that said it only took them less than six hours. I guess I was taking my time then, because my first run through was closer to seven hours.

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        February 19, 2013 12:24 AM

        I'm judging the play time based on the game clock, which I don't think counts for any of the cutscenes or replayed sections. I have absolutely no complaint about the game length.

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          February 19, 2013 12:43 AM

          Yeah, the game clock is certainly way off the mark. It also possibly factors in the VR missions, though I'm not 100% sure.

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            February 19, 2013 12:46 AM

            Also, forgot to mention that the other person I saw mention the short time actually said that included the cutscenes and necessary codec calls in their run through on Normal. Hence my surprise that I apparently took as long as I did.

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              February 19, 2013 3:34 AM

              The creators stated that the game clock does not include cutscenes and also only takes your best completion times, hence if you played a section more than once it'll only count your fastest play through for a section.

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        February 19, 2013 3:40 AM

        I get the impression reviewers want to pump through the games just to get another one off the list :/

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          February 19, 2013 4:06 AM

          I know it seems shitty, but at the same time... they don't exactly have all of the time in the world. I can't imagine that the companies that pay for this site pay him a lot of money for his time to write an article, so he probably has to do quite a few just to make a living.

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          February 19, 2013 7:49 AM

          It's true that we have a lot of games to play, but we try to be selective about what we review. For Rising, i played through the entire campaign on Normal, a bit on Hard, and played a few of the VR Missions. Hope that gives you some context!

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      February 19, 2013 4:20 AM

      "Raiden can't block" ? I haven't played the game, or even the demo, but many videos including the trailer posted here look like there is plenty of blocking. The timing doesn't look like a parry, unless the window is VERY long >2 seconds on the parry.

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        February 19, 2013 4:36 AM

        Its ridiculously long, but that's the normal parry.

        The window for perfect parry that puts you in a position to counter attack is alot tighter.

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          February 19, 2013 10:16 AM

          That sounds almost like how in Bayonetta, if you dodge at the last possible moment, you go into Witch Time.

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        February 19, 2013 7:49 AM

        Perhaps that should be rephrased as "can't block, in the way you normally do in these games." You can block, but it's all based on your attack.

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          February 21, 2013 5:56 AM

          I think you got it right. I'm pretty sure Doktor even says specifically "Since you can't block...." as he's introducing the parry system in the tutorial.

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      February 19, 2013 12:56 PM

      i am pretty disappointed with it overall, and the demo i really enjoyed.

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        February 19, 2013 7:48 PM

        That's weird, because it plays just like the demo but now you have the full game. I'm having a blast with it personally.