Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Xbox 360 Review
Before anything else, let’s get all of the ridiculous (fake) taglines out of the way in one go. Revengeance: “Because smashing together two synonyms makes total sense!” Revengeance: “Start out trying to avenge one thing, wind up avenging another.” Revengeance: “Because apparently Disney has ‘Revenge’ trademarked for video games.” Revengeance: “Because the original game was supposed to be an interquel.” Revengeance: “It’s Metal Gear, you’ll buy it anyway.” And finally, the tagline that’s actually in the manual in the front of the case: “Revenge with a vengeance.” No joke there. They might as well have called it “Metal Gear: With A Redundantly Worded Title”. Of course, Konami, PlatinumGames, and Kojima Productions seem to have only named it a Metal Gear game because of the universe in which it’s set.
When you think of the Metal Gear series, you tend to think of sneaking around, killing people, and hiding the bodies so that you’re never detected. Of course, as that was with Solid Snake and Big Boss, two wet-work intelligence operatives, that kind of went hand in hand with who they were. But since both of them are dead at the start of this game, the developers decided that instead of a stealth action game, they’d go for a straight-up action game. Don’t fret, you still take on psychotic breakaway groups that are basically war profiteers. You fight mechanical enemies. And as the game is called Metal Gear, you take on a few of those as well. However, you’re playing the game as Raiden, sword-wielding cybernetic ninja and former child soldier of doom. That doesn’t exactly leave a lot of room for sneaking about.
Of course, this is still the world of Metal Gear. As such, the game world happens to have quite a few private military contractors (PMCs). Raiden happens to be part of one of them called Maverick (as in the AGM-65 surface-to-air missile, most likely) which advertises itself as a private security firm. Apparently having helped bring peace to an unnamed African nation that was in a civil war, they now act as guards to top government officials until tensions can die down. Long story short, another PMC named Desperado attacks the capitol with a bunch of cyborg troops and a Metal Gear. Although Raiden manages to fight through all of this, Desperado still kills the country’s new Prime Minister and his guards. After a fight which you learn you can’t win – basically, the opponent has to beat you so you can get to a cut scene – Desperado leaves Raiden with a missing left arm and a damaged left eye. Obviously, you can’t have a protagonist for a Metal Gear game without giving him an eye patch.
Six months later, and Raiden now has an entirely cybernetic body, complete with a metal jaw, but has opted for a cloth strap instead of an eye patch to cover empty socket. The first real mission – apparently trying to stop a violent revolution fostered by PMCs and taking down a Metal Gear only counts as a prologue – has you going to Abkhazia (it’s a real place, technically a part of Georgia – the Asian one, not the US one) to try and stop, guess what, a revolution. After finding that Desperado is responsible for the whole thing, you have to fight your way through to an oil refinery that technically belongs to Russia, and of course, you get a boss battle. The fight winds up being the impetus for the rest of the game, as not only are you looking to take down Desperado, you’re trying to find – and destroy – who ultimately is bankrolling them. This leads you to Mexico, Denver, Colorado (Denver isn’t quite the Denver many people know, save for the fact that there is actually a Colfax Avenue in the game and the major freeways are still I-25 and I-70), and a military base somewhere (to say anymore would be to offer excessive spoilers). The final showdown really does feel like the major fight because of how many stages are involved, but even then, the game runs at a brisk pace and barely justifies the sticker price at a maximum story play time of maybe five or six hours (even accounting for cut scenes). Virtual Reality missions (basically specialized combat training) can extend your game time a bit, and they are essential if you wish to fully upgrade Raiden, but the main story is fairly quick.
Of course, throughout all of this, Raiden is trying to reconcile with his past. Sure, he has a wife and child – both safe in New Zealand, apparently, because being close to Mordor is better than being anywhere else. But he’s still got a past as a merciless killer, and his current line of work has him doing a lot of killing. Eventually, he finds that his cause requires death, and he allows himself to become Jack the Ripper for various reasons. You actually gain an ability called “Ripper Mode” during the game, wherein every attack you unleash is basically you going totally psychotic with every attack you unleash. The main antagonists are actually heavily involved in this, as you have to fight an AI that winds up becoming integral to the plot, as well as three cyborgs that seem to have a philosophical bent to their work for Desperado.
All of the interactions with these characters make Raiden further his soul searching. Of course, you can also do some further character development via conversations with fellow Maverick team mates. In later missions, you even meet up with Sunny, the genius child from Metal Gear Solid 4, because Raiden saved her so you have to include her in a game about Raiden wanting to save kids from becoming child soldiers like he did. There are also a few references to random franchises (including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action movies). It’s all bits and pieces of flavor that really make up for the fact that you don’t really get much in the way of play time unless you play through the game on all three difficulties and do all of the VR missions. Without them, the game would be far less enjoyable, because it wouldn’t have any light-hearted moments that let you take a break from being Killer Killington of Killarney (well, okay, he’s from Liberia, but it’s the only thing that could work).
As far as the controls go, it’s your basic action-style setup, where you have light and heavy attacks (with the heavy attack turning into an attack with any secondary melee weapon you equip), as well as certain projectiles available (grenades and missile launchers, unfortunately, because apparently guns are useless against cyborgs anyway). There is also a manual sword mode, where you can use the regular attack buttons for horizontal or vertical slices, or control the exact direction with the secondary joystick. The camera controls are a little clunky, especially since there’s no lock-on option (an odd oversight, considering that you’re playing as a guy that can get a visual overlay for anything). While you can sneak around in certain objects, it’s almost impossible to avoid combat (in some cases, your actual objective is to go on a killing spree), so the flavor of it is somewhat pointless.
With this being M-rated, the combat has no small amount of gore, with Raiden needing to sever limbs from certain troops in order to get special information, or to rip out organs so that he can recover health himself. Combined with the fact that you can just dismember enemies or bifurcate their bodies because you feel like it, and this game has enough viscera to make you think that they originally wanted to make a game about surgery. (Well, maybe not, considering what the Grey’s Anatomy game wound up being). On the plus side, it’s relatively anatomically correct, and you do get bonus points for doing specific types of dismemberments, so it’s not just really violent for the sake of having it in there. You get rewarded for it!
Ultimately, while this only works as a Metal Gear game because of the world in which it’s set, and the characters that are present, as a regular action game, this is quite the fun ride. Compared to other games in the genre, it’s one of the better ones. A tip of the hat goes to Konami, PlatinumGames, and Kojima Productions for making an entertaining game that leaves you wanting more.
+ A compelling story with plenty of flavor
+ Interactions that never seem like filler
+ A combat control style that’s fairly intuitive
+ Advancement of the playable character as the game progresses
+ True-to-life environments (where possible)
+ Great cut scenes
– Odd camera controls that lack a lock-on feature
– Not enough actual game time
– Diverges, genre-wise, from every other game in the franchise