The Metal Gear franchise defined the stealth genre and ushered in an era of games in which rushing into a situation guns blazing typically resulted in a quick death. Staying hidden was a key element of the game, until now. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance drops the majority of the stealth elements and infuses high-speed swordplay action with over-the-top set pieces. With Snake nowhere to be found, it’s Raiden who now carries on the fabled franchise.
Set after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, the world has evolved to where cybernetic enhancements dominate the military and the law is enforced by independently hired PMCs. Raiden is working for the PMC Maverick Enterprises, and while on a job he encounters rival PMC Desperado and uncovers their terrorist plans to send the world into a global war.
Whether it’s Grey Fox in the original Metal Gear Solid or Raiden himself in Metal Gear Solid 4, the cyborg ninja has always been a fan favorite to watch. Metal Gear Rising finally lets us become the ninja and dismember enemies limb by limb instead of sneaking around under a cardboard box, although you can do that too if you want.
Metal Gear Rising departs from the stealth norm and instead focuses on action-oriented gameplay. Raiden is equipped with a high-frequency blade capable of slicing through nearly any object or enemy. The newly introduced Blade Mode allows players to take direct control of the sword and “free slice” in any direction they choose while time slows down around them. While in this mode, Raiden can also perform a special zan-datsu attack where he slices an enemy in half and takes their electrolytes, replenishing his health and fuel cells in the process.
The combat is fluid and Raiden seamlessly transitions from one attack to another. It’s as much of a spectacle as it is a means to an end. Enemies range from small, grunt soldiers to massive Metal Gear walking tanks, and each type has their own flashy finisher move that Raiden can perform. If you ever wished you could control that Metal Gear Solid 4 cutscene between Raiden and Vamp, this is about as close as you’re going to get.
Chaining attacks together builds fuel cells which can then be used to unleash zan-datsu. One ability that’s crucial to master is parrying. There’s no block button so parrying incoming attacks is the only way for Raiden to defend himself. Plus, it opens enemies up to a counter attack.
At the end of sections in a level Raiden is given a ranking between D and S and awarded BP which can be used to purchase enhancements for his suit and weapons. Hacking and slashing will only get you so far. Mastering attacks and parrying counter attacks is the only way to achieve an S ranking so you better learn how enemies behave and their weaknesses.
Besides the high-frequency blade and the zan-datsu attack, there are various sub-weapons that can be acquired, either by finding them on the ground (grenades, rocket launchers, etc.) or by defeating bosses to obtain their weapon. Raiden can then customize his abilities and level up his attacks in-between stages or purchase new costumes using earned BP.
I was please to find out that Blade Mode isn’t as all-powerful as it was back when I played the demo at E3 2012. Enemies have to be beaten down a bit before you can chop them into itty-bitty pieces. There’s even a handy counter that displays how many “parts” an object/enemy is cut into, and while it has no influence on the game whatsoever, it’s an entertaining little extra.
The camera angles can be troublesome at times, centering focus on Raiden rather than the enemy you’re trying to slice up. It typically happens when in corners or when you’re trying to evade an enemy.
Metal Gear Rising’s story is much more streamlined, especially when compared to its predecessors. There are no hour long cutscenes or dialogue-heavy codec conversations that bog down the gameplay. It’s all about the action this time around.
Despite its toned-down story, though, Rising still acts as a social commentary about war, technology, and human emotions. There are also plenty of references to the Sons of the Patriots and even Sunny makes an appearance so the story still follows cannon. Raiden’s past as a child soldier is briefly touched upon, too, although I would have liked to see it explored more.
The main campaign is a little on the short side, clocking in at around seven hours. There are collectables that can be found in the game such as data storage units and hidden MiB agents (Men in Boxes). Specialty marked soldiers also store valuable data chips in their left hands that must be cut off in order to cash in on.
PS3 users are also treated to exclusive VR missions that must be found in the game first before they unlock, adding another reason to replay a given stage. Add higher difficulties and a title system like previous Metal Gear Solid titles and there’s reason enough to give Rising a second or even third playthrough.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is no Metal Gear Solid, and that’s a good thing. There are just enough elements from the series to make it feel familiar yet refreshingly new as well. Its focus on action rather than stealth fits Raiden like a glove, a robotic, blade-wielding glove.