Fans of the Metal Gear Solid series may be a little put off at first by Metal Gear Rising: Revengence. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots already departed from the stealth game-play slightly but it was still a mainstay of the game. The same cannot be said for Rising however, which attempts to you stealth as little as possible. Players can still hide in cardboard boxes and drum cans and perform sneak attacks but the penalties for being caught seem much less dire. Unlike Solid Snake, Ninja Raiden is much more capable of eliminating large groups of enemies. That is, once you figure out how to actually play the game.
Metal Gear Rising is a fun game. There are elements of both Devil May Cry and Batman: Arkham City in the game-play but the player is basically let to figure out the finer controls by themselves. Even the tutorial doesn’t address certain actions such as how to parry. The tutorial will tell you how to parry, i.e. tapping square and flicking the directional control towards your enemy. What the tutorial fails to explain is when you should perform this action. During the Bladewolf battle, I found myself attempting to parry the attacks by using the stated controls before and during attacks. The trick is actually to parry the instance that a red glow emits from the enemy.
That’s the problem. The game doesn’t explain how to perform the simplest actions. It makes sense for the player to be given the freedom to figure out how to do some of the upgraded and special attacks but for the basics like parrying and the health replenishing zandatsu there really should be a more in-depth explanation. The zandatsu is one of the most important aspects to game-play and I only really finally got it after about forty minutes of playing. For a technique that important, the game should take the time to at least adequately explain how to perform it.
Oh, the other hand, the controls themselves can seem quite fiddly. The button that parries is the same button that performs a light attack. It’s very easy for the Raiden to perform an attack right at the enemy if you miss-time the parry. And the window for blocking can be fairly narrow and it is especially difficult during fights with large groups. You might succeed in blocking one but another is likely to whack you from behind when you’re not looking. Another problem in the combat system is also the number of quick time events involved in taking out enemies. For the common soldiers, they’ll die with a few strong attacks but the larger enemies always require some kind of quick time attack to weaken or destroy them completely. It changes the pace of the combat a little too much. The best technique in the game is to simply ninja run rings around the enemies, perform a slide attack and then enter blade mode whist sliding to land more hits. That technique has yet to fail me, although some enemies do require a little more work than others.
Part of what does make the game fun though is the variety of enemies. There are standard soldiers, and there are captain level soldiers, soldiers with wings, armoured soldiers with hammers that could rival Thor, miniature metal gears, large ape like cyborgs and the GRADs, which are rather like smaller versions of Shagohod tank with an added shield. It’s perhaps a little uncreative for the developers to introduce enemies like the Bladewolf and the GRAD in boss battles before allowing you to battle smaller versions in the actual game. But the variety of enemies allows for a more interesting level because it creates a distinction between the game areas and it doesn’t feel like I’m just cutting my way through legions of faceless mooks, which the older Metal Gear Solid games could be accused off.
Of course, if you’re playing a Konami game and especially one in the Metal Gear series then part of the appeal is likely the story. Traditionally any story that focused on Raiden over Solid Snake didn’t enrapture fans quite as avidly. For Rising, however, Raiden takes yet another level in badass from his appearance in Metal Gear Solid 4. He still looks rather feminine but he’s no longer quite as whiney as he was in previous games and it’s interesting to see him more in the loop for once. For most of Metal Gear Solid 2, Raiden ran about acting as a pawn for the Patriots and not really having any idea of the larger scheme of things. A similar parallel could be made to Snake in Metal Gear Solid but at least in that game the reveal was only that Snake hadn’t been fully informed of the situation. In MGS2, not only was Raiden not fully informed but he had been completely manipulated throughout his backstory for the purpose of the game’s events. In Rising, Raiden investigates the dealings of Desperado, a private military company still operational after the events of MGS4.
The storyline is certainly interesting and keeps the player invested for the most part but it felt as though Raiden lost a lot of what made him sympathetic when he gave in to his Ripper counterpart and accepted his past as a child soldier. It makes him more dangerous but it also seems to undo a lot of the character development from MGS2. Part of the reason for that might be lazy writing but it’s probably also connected to the busy development that Rising had. The project was cancelled and remodelled and at one point focused on Raiden’s actions during Metal Gear Solid 4, rather than afterwards. It also once had the tag line ‘Lightning Bolt Action’ and was significantly more stealth orientated. Most of those concepts fell by the wayside, as did the attention to Raiden’s development in the previous games it would appear.
If you’re looking for a fun, story-driven game then Metal Gear Rising: Revengence should certainly be given a chance. The combat system is nowhere near as fluid or tactical as Devil May Cry or Batman: Arkham games and the story lacks the same emotional weight as Hideo Kojima’s other games in Metal Gear series but it is by no means a bad game. It’s entertaining and once you know how, the game-play is very cool. So forget your preconceptions about Raiden and give Rising a chance.