Xbox 360 review: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Set four years after Guns of the Patriots, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance puts cyborg ninja Raiden back into the spotlight. In the years following Liquid Ocelot’s insurrection, Raiden has joined a small militarized group that offers private security to individuals in the name of maintaining peace. But when that peace is threatened to be upset by a rival cyborg mercenary group known as Desperado, Raiden finds he must tap into his old violent nature to stop their plans to initiate another military conflict. It’s a far more simplistic premise than any other Metal Gear story, and as a result, lacks much of the bizarre humor and crazy plot threads woven into every other entry in the franchise.

The game plays out as the purset of Japanese action games, with emphasis on purchasing attack upgrades, stat and health boosts, and mastering the various subweapons collected from the major bosses. There’s a certain cool factor in seeing how the MGS world has progressed in the years following Guns of the Patriots, as cyborg implants are the norm for anyone employed by military or police forces, and Gekkos and their various offshoot mechs are the more compact commonplace equivalent to the older large Metal Gears. That said, the scale of a Metal Gear Ray is impressive within the game’s combat engine, whether Raiden is dashing circles around its legs in order to expose the inner frame, or he’s bolting vertically down a building in order to deliver the final blow.

The big gimmick at play in Revengenace is that of the ‘cut what you will’ mechanic. After building his attack meter high enough, Raiden can initiate a slow-mo blade mode, wherein he can slice and dice foes to bits. This is most frequently used when an enemy Gekko, helicopter, or some other enemy has reached a critical state and they begin flashing blue. Raiden needs only to slice through them once or twice to deal the necessary damage to either finish said enemy off or progress to the next stage of a multi-tiered fight, but there’s a strange satisfaction that comes from having your way with slinging the katana every which way and seeing the tiniest of metal bits come crashing to the ground. Also, most enemies have a glowing blue core bit that Raiden can remove, indicated by a golden box when he enters blade mode. Removing this core bit will not only re-energize Raiden’s attack meter, it will also restore his health, which is a unique a cleverly-designed system.

Aside from his electrically-charged Katana, Raiden can also collect RPGs, guided missile launchers, and various grenades, the usefulness of any being almost entirely nonexistent. The stealth element that was a staple of previous entries in the Metal Gear franchise returns, as Raiden can creep up behind foes and slice them apart without alerting other enemies in the area. This can be performed on virtually any foe, from grunt soldiers to more heavily armored bruisers, making it a useful option if Raiden’s health is low. However, given the wide-open design of nearly every level in the game, it also adds an extra degree of challenge, as enemies have a greater range of vision. Truthfully, the stealth kills feel as if they were added in primarily to pay tribute to the stealth action series that spawned Revengeance, as it is generally just as easy (and usually more enjoyable) to send Raiden right into the thick of it and take out foes while running circles around them.

Only a few of the boss characters are introduced early on in Revengeance, meaning that the moment you set foot into the arena where you are set to fight Monsoon, Mistral, or one of a number of mechanized foes, the cutscene that precedes the actual fight is the most you are ever going to get with regards to understanding them as characters. Oddly enough, the monologue Moonsoon delivers and the exchange Raiden has with Mistral paints these two as infinitely more interesting and complex individuals than Sundowner or Jetsream Sam. Considering that the latter two are among the first characters Raiden meets in the game, one would hope that their development would be on par with the former, if not better. Instead, Sundowner comes across as a hillbilly obsessed with war for no other reason than it provides him a job, and Jetstream Sam is a cyborg ninja thrown into the mix for the sake of having a cyborg ninja rival to Raiden.

The story also becomes clouded and detracts entirely from its initial goal of tracking down the organization responsible for the death of African Prime Minister N’Mani, to Raiden’s wish to dismantle an organization responsible for creating child soldiers just like him (a factory for which he just happens to stumble across during his second mission), and eventually spirals into a shallow, boring retread of the ‘Jack the Ripper’ persona that was explored in Sons of Liberty. For a game that dishes up so much potential and cool-factor during its first half, it really drops the ball during the second. Boss fights transition from exciting and just the right degree of challenge to frustratingly boring and sometimes feeling downright broken. Level design turns to the same gimmicks used early on, resulting in these losing their luster the second time around.

A few of the late-game boss fights are incredibly poor in design, not because they dish up a heaping challenge, but because they are fundamentally and mechanically illogical. One boss fight in particular requires Raiden to simply whittle away his foe’s health bar, with no refill or healing properties on part of the bad guy to worry about. While there are health capsules scattered about the arena, stepping too far outside of an undefined radius will result in your foe suddenly rushing Raiden with pinpoint accuracy, while staying too close puts Raiden at risk for being hit with an apparently un-dodgeable near-one-hit-K.O. It’s pretty standard procedure that if your character is in the air above an enemy or one-hundred and eighty degrees behind them, any forward attack from said enemy should not hit your character. Apparently, Platinum Games did not receive that memo.

It’s truly unfortunate that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance hits so many pitfalls and setbacks during its second act. For a game that spent many years in development and was so hellbent on pushing something wildly bold and different for the series, the first few hours are a phenomenal showing. It’s just that everything afterwards falls to pieces, leading those later hours to feel like an entirely different, half-assed version of MGR. The writing goes from being on par with a delightfully cheesy 80s/90s action flick to stupid and eye-rolling levels of bad. The gameplay similarly descends from an emphasis on fine-tuned and fast-paced action to a haphazard mess of explosions, lame retreads of enemy designs, and boss encounters that range from mildly poor to downright awful in their execution. At the very least, the game does provide a few cheap laughs by providing alternate costumes for Raiden like a poncho and sombrero combo.

My rating: 5.75 (out of 10)

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