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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Graphics: 8
Gameplay: 8.5
Sound: 7.9
Control: 8.3
Replay Value: 8
Rating: 8.2

When people say “stealth isn’t fun,” I can only conclude that they want something like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. And you know, despite the judgmental subjectivity of the aforementioned statement, there are indeed many different kinds of fun to be had in the realm of interactive entertainment. Some of it includes patience, timing, observation, tact, and strategy. Then there are other examples that hearken back to the golden age of gaming, where we faced down legions of foes that would irrationally fall beneath the ungodly power of our hero. Such is this combined effort from Kojima and Platinum.

Perhaps it’s true that graphically, this game won’t be winning any awards. And maybe it’s also true that given the ridiculously high bar the Metal Gear Solid franchise has set in regards to visuals, long-time fans might be disappointed. That being said, the graphical presentation in Revengeance is really quite impressive. The special effects are slick and awesomely implemented and the general palette is clean, smooth and refined (totally sick frame rate, by the way). The environments can seem a tad repetitive and even bland, but there’s no denying that the character and enemy design just screams Kojima: Futuristic, outlandish, and above all, singular.

On a technical level, the audio is a nice complement to the graphics. It functions at a similarly high level, as the effects match the visual flashes in terms of crispness and impact, and the driving soundtrack always fits the relentless action. Unfortunately, the voice performances aren’t quite up to par, which has been a common complaint of mine in regards to Japanese productions this generation. Still, there are some competent voices in this game and I don’t want to gloss over their quality. It’s just that one senses a lack of professionally honed actors for some of the minor roles. As for the rest, the audio – effects and score included – is great; it kicks ass and takes names, much like Raiden himself.

After Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Raiden was hired by a private security form to oversee the protection of an African Prime Minister. But as you might expect, it isn’t long before an intervening force snatches the Prime Minister away, and it’s up to Raiden to get him back. The force in question is known as the Desperado Enforcement and after obtaining the latest cybernetic upgrade from his buddies at Maverick Consulting, the iconic ninja sets off to retrieve his charge. The story has promise but sadly, it sort of falls flat as it immediately takes a back seat to the gameplay.

But then again, such a focus isn’t a bad thing. Most gamers know precisely what to expect from Raiden’s gung-ho adventure, and despite the fact that the stealth meter actually makes an appearance, its significance is greatly downplayed. This is an all-out action extravaganza with a whole lot of slashing and copious amounts of fantastically awesome style. The frame rate, as mentioned above, is excellent and never lets you down. The combat is fast, tight, challenging while still remaining accessible, and even downright addicting. Raiden’s enemies are crazy cyborg foot soldiers and other enhanced bad-ass villains, so his work is cut out for him.

“Cut” is the operative word in that previous sentence, by the way. This is because Raiden’s ridiculous power results in a slash-fest the likes of which you have never seen. You will start by dispatching marauding foes with relative ease, until the difficulty ramps up and you’re forced to discover more of Raiden’s inherent potential. The good news is that there’s a little something for everyone: If you’re simply seeking flashy entertainment with a fair amount of that legendary Kojima style and panache, Platinum’s rock solid and always engaging combat will keep you immersed. If you want something beyond flash, you can look a little deeper and find Raiden’s more complex skills, which are mighty impressive.

Raiden is a fighting machine (almost literally). He uses an enhanced awareness known as “Blade Mode” after draining electrolytes from his enemies, and he can pinpoint parts of objects and foes with his far-reaching katana. There are light and heavy attacks with which to experiment, and the right analog stick controls cuts along a certain sphere of vision. Enemies have weak spots, which Raiden takes full advantage of by activating his unparalleled Zandatsu skill. This is when he tears out a hapless opponent’s repair unit, crushes it in his hand, and as a result, this replenishes health and amps up his rage. This is an uber-cool feature but it has its drawbacks.

For instance, exploiting the weak spot on bosses can be an issue. You have to angle the analog exactly correctly to grab the repair unit, and you’re often left at the mercy of a very powerful enemy if you screw it up. Therefore, you may have to make multiple attempts, which infringes on both your enjoyment and the flow of the game. As for other slicing mechanics, you can dismember foes leaving them almost completely defenseless. Fun, but not perfectly orchestrated. The camera, which is somewhat erratic throughout, can cause problems, especially in tight areas, and this could generate much frustration and irritation on the part of the player.

Thing is, you really want to try to master that unique slicing technique. There are thirty enemies that hold valuable data in their biomechanical bodies and for every ten you nab, you earn a new upgrade for Raiden. So if you want to fully unlock your powerful hero’s capability, you really can’t miss those specially equipped opponents. However, due to some mechanical difficulties, this objective can really give you a headache. As precision and timing are essential elements here, you have to continue to practice and battle a slightly wonky camera. But if you stick to it, you’ll get better and better with time, and your deadly effectiveness will increase.

And besides, the entertainment value is super high. There’s just something so freakin’ satisfying about slicing and dicing ‘til your heart’s content. The boss encounters – despite the aforementioned issue – are bound to test your ability, and victory always brings a significant sense of accomplishment. Raiden is also a surprisingly effective main character, even if the main plot doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Don’t think he’s just a mindless warrior; he goes through a lot of emotional upheaval in Revengeance and even better, that directly effects his performance on the battlefield. Overall, the speed, design, style, and stability of the gameplay will draw you in. Personally, I love feeling crazy powerful.

If you’re having some difficulty getting used to the flow of combat, you can always hone your skills in the VR missions, but for the most part, practice makes perfect. And for all you MGS followers who are skeptical about this spinoff, I should add that you can dispatch enemies silently. That’s part of the reason the stealth meter exists, after all. Still, this game is obviously designed to be an in-your-face brawler, with a nod to both depth and accessibility. In many ways, it reminded me of DmC: Devil May Cry, in that just about anyone can find enjoyment in the gameplay; both hardcore and casual gamers shouldn't find much to complain about.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a visceral action spectacle that puts the emphasis squarely on the well constructed gameplay. You’ll never get tired of slashing and cutting and as you get more accustomed to the speed and style, you’ll become even more deadly. The story is a bit of a disappointment (despite Raiden’s personal angle), the camera really can be a detriment, and some boss fights can be a little trying. But the end result is a flashy, highly stylized production that puts the term “fun factor” in the spotlight and lets it shine. And yes, one can easily sense the Kojima team’s contribution, and the marriage of Platinum’s gameplay quality and Kojima’s design and lore is truly compelling.

The Good: Fantastic design and style. Good effects and soundtrack. Great combat that is both challenging and accessible. Slicing mechanics never get old. Tight, responsive control. Raiden has some depth as a protagonist. Very well paced.

The Bad: Camera definitely gets in the way. Main storyline is a bit of a letdown. Can feel a little repetitive. Boss fights can prove tedious at times.

The Ugly: “You know what? Now I don’t want your damn special freakin’ data. Now I just want you to die.”

2/19/2013   Ben Dutka