Monday, 18 March 2013

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the oddly named title for this spin-off of the hugely popular Metal Gear Solid series.



Taking control of Raiden - the star of Metal Gear Solid 2 and all-round crazy cyborg ninja - instead of the familiar Solid Snake, you jump straight into an action-orientated adventure. It's quite a shock to the system, considering the usually stealthy emphasis that fans have grown accustomed to from a Metal Gear game.

During Revengeance you cut and slice your way through multiple UG's (unmanned gears, a type of AI-controlled robot) and other cyborgs out for your artificial blood.


Story

Revengeance is set four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4. By now, the Patriots system for global war control has been dismantled - thanks to Solid Snake and the anti-Metal Gear group philanthropy. It is the remnants of the paramilitary corporations - known as PMCs - which now pose the primary threat to world order in various hotspots around the globe.

Unable to find regular work after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, Raiden falls into working for one of these PMCs. He is part of a team, who are aptly named 'Maverick', who provide security for a newly-elected Prime Minister of a developing African nation, a man named N'Mani.

While under the protection of Maverick, N'Mani is kidnapped by a group of cyborg assassins who appear out of nowhere. Attacking the convoy, they manage to evade the attempts of Raiden to protect N'mani.

What follows is then a very odd - yet intense - plot involving the mass kidnap of children across developing nations to build an army of child soldiers. This mirrors the upbringing of Raiden himself, and there is a slightly eyebrow-raising critique attached of America's electoral process and monetary system - a critique that could only come from the mind of Japanese developer, Hideo Kojima.

Gameplay

Revengeance does make attempts to keep certain elements of the Metal Gear Solid series, for example the Soliton Radar and the alert system. Raiden is even able to make one-hit stealth kills using his high-frequency katana (that is, if you can manage to sneak up on an unsuspecting enemy).

However, it must be said, this one-hit stealth-kill addition feels like it was thrown in to appease fans of the older games, and being stealthy can feel like a chore, as most of the time you are spotted after getting the drop on an opponent and sticking him.

More often than not, the surrounding enemies turn around spontaneously and see the attack, or they simply hear the commotion and suddenly every guard in the area is on alert - forcing a restart if you're aiming to remain undetected, or forcing you into a much more entertaining all-out brawl with a swarm of enemies.

The Combat System in Revengeance is not the most in-depth, complex example of the genre. When you take into account that it's rubbing elbows with the recently released re-boot of Devil May Cry, and the most recent entry into the God of War series, and its apparent there’s a much more casual approach to combat.

What can't be denied is that the game definitely excites in the button-mashing department. Hitting the buttons like a maniac, while trying to balance attack commands and introduce a bit of skilful play to take on your foes is satisfying.

To stop the game being a bit too silly, though, the higher difficulty levels do severely restrict the ability to stumble through the game using this tactic and it is much more taxing to get out of sticky situations by simply whaling on the pad hoping for everything to be dead when you stop.

The combat initially begins with a simple two-button system compromised of light and heavy attacks that expand progressively through the game as you purchase new moves. Points are allocated based on how well you string your combos together along with other contributing factors, such as your parry rate, and ability to complete quick-time execution events that are possible after evading an attack. Throughout the game you will be able to unlock leg-sweeps, multiple quick stabs and launchers that really add a lot to the complexity of the combat.

At its best, the game has a real ebb and flow as you go from enemy to enemy, slicing them apart and pulling out their innards (which you can then use to regain your health and energy bar, allowing you to continue your rampage). It's a real power-fantasy, and you can't help but feel like a total bad ass after you rip through cyborg after cyborg, chopping them down into bits of fizzling metal.

The stand out feature of Revengeance is the self-titled 'Blade Mode' - a sort of matrix-like effect you enter after hitting the shoulder button. Blade Mode allows you to whip the right joystick around to cut 'freestyle', slicing and dicing enemies - and the environment - into hundreds of pieces. Your devastation is tracked by a little counter in the corner of your screen, and it's pretty empowering to see just how deadly your weapon is.

There are certain enemies that only be eviscerated in Blade Mode after a parry, setting up "Zandatsu" kills where you must guide the joystick through a highlighted red box on the opponent. This gives you access to their gooey cyborg-organs, which Raiden requires to regain health.

It's really satisfying, to the point that you might even start to question how much you really should be enjoying the horror you are causing. In fairness, the game does constantly remind you that you are facing cyborgs and not human beings, and therefore, it's okay to cut them up into tiny bits for pleasure, at least that’s what I kept telling myself.


Presentation

Revengeance is a pleasant looking game with a high frame rate during gameplay that only starts to chug after you have created thousands of parts from cutting everything apart.

The environments go from classical looking London-style cities to industrial factories, sewers and skyscrapers with office like interiors. There's a diverse set of areas to keep you interested, and you don't linger in one area too long, encouraging you to keep playing and not take a break.

Raiden himself looks downright mental - covered head to toe in cybernetic implants and gadgets. A far-cry from his appearance in MGS2 but, in my opinion, a welcome change from his whiny unlikeable demeanour from that game.

Most of the enemies in the game are generic cyborg bad guys that, while not looking awful, get tiresome to see after the thousandth time you have killed them.

The more challenging enemies, the UG's, are introduced in small mini-boss like encounters that teach you how to defeat them. They are almost always mechanical beasts and add a nice change of pace to the game showing up in greater numbers after you first meet them and have learned how they work. They range from the weird cow-like mooing gecko enemies from MGS4, to fast animalistic robot panthers complete with electric stun tails and claws. It's a real mish mash that adds to the over-the-top feel of the game as a whole.

Conclusion

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is nothing like the other games in the series, but I can't help recommending it to both fans of the franchise and new comers alike due to its simple fun slice-n-dice gameplay.

The plot can get a little existential and whacky, but this should be no surprise to anyone familiar with Metal Gear Solid. While the game can be rushed through in about seven hours, there is certainly an element of re-playability as you have the ability to take your shiny new toys you gathered through the game into a new play through. My score - 8/10.

Chris Heeley

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