It seems essential to establish with gamers and non-gamers unfamiliar to the Metal Gear universe; that this shit is absolutely batshit crazy and has slowly gotten more and more insane over the years. Having said that, Metal Gear games have really made this lunacy their own, and it has become a staple of the series to present players with obnoxiously long (but very beautiful and captivating) cut scenes, convoluted, awkward and at times nonsensical dialogue, and “try hard cool” characters whom will stop at nothing to be the kind of heavy metal badasses you’d expect them to be from the get go. Amazingly, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (I demand that this word be put into the dictionary right now) pulls this off with a spectacular amount of style and finesse; providing players with a very different Metal Gear experience within the familiar, exaggerated version of modern war of Hideo Kojima’s design.
It becomes obvious very early on in MGR that this game is trying extremely hard to be “cool”. We are re-introduced to Raiden, the infamous protagonist from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001) as he bodyguards an African Prime Minister. Clad in a stylish suit, riding in a limousine, subtle hints at Raiden’s cybernetic characteristics litter the opening sequence. Raiden’s client refers to him as “Mr Lightning-bolt”, this conversation also introduces Raiden’s deadly sword as it rests in a case below his seat. Then the shit hits the proverbial fan; it does this quite dramatically and unashamedly brutally. I’ll leave the plot details out, but let’s just say Raiden is presented with a real gosh dang mess and is forced to clean up this mess with his “tool of justice”. Thankfully, the game’s trying to come across as cool works, and playing as Raiden does actually feel cool because of this. Most other characters are pulled off just as successfully (except for one glaring exception), and players will find themselves absorbed in the obviously corny, but massively enjoyable sense of Japanese stylishness.
As aforementioned, MGR is not your typical Metal Gear game in terms of game play. It feels unfair to label MGR a “Hack ‘n Slash” title, because it feels so much more elegant than that. All of the hacking and slashing in the game flows beautifully, and relies heavily on skill and timing in order to successfully produce the ninja-like results expected of players. This kind of game play is extremely rewarding and little else feels cooler than using quick swordplay to defeat a barrage of enemies against the odds. This level of badassery is hardly spoon-fed to players however, primarily through the lack of any specific block button. Instead of simply blocking and countering attacks, players have to employ the, difficult to master, parry system, in which you must pay very close attention to your enemies movements and attacks in order to put to good use. It’s not all about parrying attacks though, when Raiden builds up enough electrolytes, he can engage “blade mode”, a slowed down version of reality in which he can (quite literally) slice and dice his enemies into hundreds of pieces. Just in case you were wondering, yes, Raiden can do this to more than just enemies, and yes, it really is that fun.
Combat in MGR really thrives the most in what has always been an integral part of Metal Gear games: Boss Fights. The boss fights in this game are almost all spectacular bouts, that are both challenging and stunning to take part in. A mixture of employing ordinary sword skills and well placed quick-time events, accompanied by an often powerfully metal score, makes boss fights in this game feel like they genuinely do matter. Awesome is a word overused in games criticism; but how else am I supposed to describe running vertically down a clock tower, dodging missiles and plasma rays whilst wielding an enormous blade.
Metal Gear games have, since Metal Gear Solid (1998), been pioneering in terms of cinematic gaming experiences. Over the years this has developed into an often very deep and philosophical exploration of human nature (in the context of conflict) through dialogue, at least for video games. Sometimes though, these philosophical discussions can become obnoxious and lost within their own characters’ logic; Metal Gear Rising takes this cooky over analysis aspect of the games to the next level. Without spoiling too much of the game’s ending and story, the game attempts to express a mixture of different political agendas, representing the different perspectives and intentions of leaders and soldiers; and in attempting to do so (at least narratively) falls flat on its face right before the end, when it begins to take itself too seriously…or not…it becomes very difficult to tell. That’s not to say the game is too long either, as with far too many releases today, a couple more hours of game play would not have gone amiss in MGR.
Awkwardly forced political narrative aside, Metal Gear Rising is one of the coolest hack ‘n slash titles to be released for this generation, and its unique blade mechanics make for painfully stylish game play. It really isn’t necessary for players to have any familiarity with the Metal Gear universe in order to just pick up Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (dat word), unsheathe their High Frequency Blade (as cool as it sounds), and have a quick go at being a badass ninja cyborg. An ostentatious, lightning fast and incredibly cool effort.