PlatinumGames seem to have developed a knack for kicking-off the year in a good fashion. Bayonetta and Vanquish were both offered as early highlights of their respective year and already 2013 has played host to Anarchy Reigns. Now, before the muddle of March is upon us, the incorrigible studio is at it once again, with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance proving to be all that we’d hoped for, and much more besides.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a step aside from the hugely popular Metal Gear Solid series, both in terms of gameplay and story. While undoubtedly part of the Metal Gear canon, this is a new breed of videogame, one on which PlatinumGames excels. A match made in heaven it would seem, and while many had found themselves disappointed with the lead casting of Raiden back in 2001, in 2013 there could be no better hero for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
Set in the near future, Raiden is part of a private military company (PMC) that is currently responsible for the safety of the African Prime Minister, a respect politician that is noted for having brought peace the country. However, there are rival PMCs that aren’t too pleased with this situation, having benefited greatly from the strain put on the global economy during war times. Employing cyborg technology to undermine Raiden’s protection service and kidnap the Prime Minister, it’s not long before we see things taking a turn for the worse, and this is only the start. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance expands on Raiden’s backstory significantly, offering the overblown science-fiction machismo that Metal Gear is known and loved for throughout it’s many characters, plot twists and screen-filling boss fights.
The latter of those aspects is something which Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance does very well. Appearing in all shapes and sizes, the boss characters are never dull and the knowledge of who the next adversary is given to the player early n in each level is enough to pull you through. Their multi-tiered instances are a familiar yet welcoming design template and given that they will regularly push against the limit of your combat skills thus far, it’s never a simple case of parry-hit-parry.
That being said, parrying is the most important technique to master early on. This is the limit of your abilities throughout the videogame: if you are able to get the timing close enough to save your skin once, chances are you’ll do it again. Failure to do so will often leave you open to a world of hurt – not just the blow you attempted to defend yourself against – making Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s combat system one that is more reliant on perception and execution than memorising button combinations for elaborate combos.
The typical normal and heavy blows allow for a limited but comfortable amount of variety from standing, running, sprinting and air assaults, but not anywhere near the comprehensiveness of DmC: Devil May Cry. However, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance pushes against this expectation with a number of time-sensitive contextual attacks. Varying depending on the enemy type (and often passing through two or three sequential stages), these attacks see time slow down significantly and the camera angle focuses on the enemy as opposed to Raiden after an initial prompt (typically a press of the Y and B buttons). Doing great amounts of damage, the player is able to perform a finisher using the now infamous Blade Mode – an intense moment of action where the player takes direct control over the angle and direction of Raiden’s sword slashes – wherein hitting the highlighted sweet spot will gift substantial rewards in the form of a health recharge and the collection of addition Battle Points (BP).
BP is used to upgrade Raiden’s abilities, purchase extra health and new manoeuvres. However, these new additions seem to have relatively little effect on ten way the videogame is played (aside from the new weapons that can be purchased) either on the combat structure or speed and impact. There are also a number of flaws elsewhere in the presentation, such as the considerable amount of slowdown when using the manual Blade Mode when there either a screen full of enemies or a lot of chopped up pieces of them. The camera is not as well engineered as that of DmC: Devil May Cry, falling foul to the same off-screen charge attacks that Ninja Gaiden II did back in 2006, and the obvious moral-dilemma-that-never-was should surely have been addressed prior to print.
The visual quality of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is of a very high standard throughout. Though it couldn’t be considered one of the finest presentations on current-generation systems it is the best Metal Gear has ever looked. The character models are noticeably superior for their animation as opposed to their texture and build quality, though the dismemberment that can be attained through the Ninja Blade mode is viscerally pleasing, and while the environments occasionally lack detail they are never anything less than in-keeping with the franchise’s fiction. The occasional gag is welcome, particularly the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reference, and the soundtrack can’t quite compete with the metal rhapsody of DmC: Devil May Cry, but it comes as close as you possibly can without become an imitator.
Passed from pillar-to-post, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s legacy will be one of grand tales of far too much money changes hands and the ultimate win by the fandom of the developers at PlatinumGames. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is every bit the Metal Gear action experience is should be and yet still feels like it has the PlatinumGames stamp on it. The increasingly lengthy levels, complex assortment of attacks and the breaks that come upon dangerous strikes gave all become telltales of the widely respected Japanese development studio, while the convoluted plot, faux morally upstanding science-fiction and eccentric mecha design are all part of the Metal Gear fiction. This is ‘Platinum does Metal Gear’ in design and delivery, and you couldn’t really ask for more.