Platinum Games knew what they were getting into when they took Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance onto their shoulders, having previously developed the wildly underrated Bayonetta. However, while the latter is a solid action game in its own right, the Metal Gear series is known for its extensive social and political commentary. Could a developer with an admittedly impressive history tackle the Metal Gear name while keeping their trademark combat mechanics intact? For the most part, yes. Their result is a tightly packed action game that retains all of the strong narrative points of its parent coupled with a mainline injection of adrenaline.
In the near future, countries contract out their defense to Private Military Corporations (PMCs). No customer goes unserved, as they say, and PMCs take it upon themselves to wreak the most amount of havoc in as little time as possible. One such corporation, Maverick, still believes in loyalty and justice. Raiden, the cyborg ninja that made everyone ask, “Where’s Snake?!” back in 2001, returns as the protagonist. Armed with the ability to swat away bullets while running really fast and cut through enemies like a hot knife through butter, he delivers his justice swiftly and without mercy.
Before discussing the combat, I feel like I should go ahead and get this out of the way: there is not a dedicated dodge button in this game – your only defensive tactic is parrying. Once you’re able to get the hang of that, though, the combat starts to feel much more fluid rather than jerky. The highlight of the whole system is known as “Blade Mode.” After dealing enough damage to an enemy to charge up your Blade Meter and trigger the Zandatsu system, you can hold down one of the shoulder buttons to slow down time and make the perfect cuts. You may feel silly swinging the right stick this way and that, but that’s the beauty of it: in a game where combat akin to dancing, the final act of eviscerating your foes has a bit of poetry to it.
There is a noticeable problem with inconsistency, however, and some parts feel a tad cheap as a result. You could find yourself fighting five identical enemies, yet one of them will knock you flat on your ass while another will barely interrupt your swings. This happen so frequently, in fact, that you may find yourself restarting at a recent checkpoint simply because you were knocked down and couldn’t get up in time to defend yourself. For a cyborg ninja, Raiden sure doesn’t move like one at times. The addition of a support weapon system is another confusing aspect. Had there not been a boss fight where a support weapon was absolutely required, I could have gone through the entire game oblivious to its existence. Sure, being able to hold a rocket launcher in one hand and a sword in the other sounds cool on paper, but the five (FIVE!) seconds that it takes to put it away once you’re finished firing leaves Raiden completely vulnerable. In a game where everything else flows so well, it’s hard to see the reasoning behind the system.
Though it elicits the intended emotional responses during key parts, the story as a whole is a bit convoluted. It’s not difficult to understand the breadth of what’s going on, but there are several points throughout where references are made to previous games in the series, leaving first-time players scratching their heads. The ability to pick up data packets is helpful, but, again, removes the player from the action in a jarring way. The characters are voiced well enough, and the moral plight with which Raiden is faced is easy enough to relate to in an every-day sense.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a marked departure from the series’s trademark stealth adventures, but that isn’t a bad thing. There’s enough meat in the story to keep the first play-through interesting, and the VR missions that you can unlock along the way add a huge amount of replay time. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction, especially if Raiden is going on another adventure in the near future.