Metal Gear Rising is not your typical Metal Gear game but is instead on a whole other level. While Metal Gear has always been a stealth genre, Rising goes in a new direction of insane character action and awesome hack and slash gameplay. Raiden is not the same character as Snake anymore. His days of sneaking have been long gone since Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty and now, after Metal Gear Solid 4, Raiden is a sword swinging cybernetic ninja with the power of Platinum Games on his side, and they sure brought the power!
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance went through a strange cycle where it was announced and then unannounced and then re-announced with a new subtitle and developer. Development moved from Kojima’s studio to Platinum Games which was a very curious announcement but seemed like a match made in heaven. Platinum Games is known for their crazy bombastic games, having made Vanquish and Bayonetta. While Rising is a little more tame than their previous titles, as the Metal Gear franchise is more grounded in reality, make no mistake that this game is full of the insane action you'd expect from Platinum Games. And it’s damn fun!
The story picks up after Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots and Raiden is working for a PMC to raise money for his family when the President he was supposed to protect is kidnapped and murdered by other cyborgs (it seems as though almost everyone in this game is now a cyborg). In fact, parts of the story reminds me of Deus Ex in that sense but I digress. Raiden decides to go after these other cyborg warriors and proceeds to hunt them down one by one. The story becomes personal for Raiden as it soon revolves around the transformation of children into child cyborg soldiers which, given his past, is something Raiden can relate to.
What is surprising are the amount of references to the events of MGS4 with mentions of The Patriots and Sons of the Patriots. There's also a cameo by a character from the Metal Gear series which came off a little too Final Fantasy for my tastes but it was nice to see some series continuity that I actually wasn’t expecting. One of my favorite characters in the game however is Raiden’s companion Wolf, a cyborg dog that becomes your ally after fighting him as a boss. Raiden and Wolf have some amazing banter back and forth sometimes, making for some legitimate humor.
The real thing to talk about here is the gameplay: it’s some of the most fun hack and slash action I have ever played. It’s crazy to think we had a very similar game come out less than a month ago with DMC: Devil May Cry but I have to throw my lot in with Rising. While DMC was a fantastic game, Rising brings a whole new set of cards to the table.
This game feels very much like most other games in the genre. You'll fight swarms of guys in locked off battle arenas (that are actually contextualized) using quick and heavy attacks along with secondary weapons that can be unlocked to replace your heavy attack which are a lot of fun to use. The juiciest new feature is the blade mode. It is awesome! When you hold the L1 button, Raiden goes into slow motion and from that point on you can go crazy with the right thumbstick to slice enemies into about a thousand pieces, or you can methodically aim and press the square button for precision strikes. Either way it is the most fun I have ever had with a sword in any game. When fighting stronger foes you'll have to weaken them before you can use this mode to slice off their limbs. The more damage inflicted, specific parts will weaken and turn blue indicating when you can use the blade mode to finish them off. This feature revolutionizes action games of this genre and I hope Platinum Games releases some endless challenge rooms as DLC because I just want to cut up guys over and over.
There is also an upgrade mechanic. You can upgrade your character, weapons, or skills to make combat easier and even more insane from when you started out. The more stylish your kills are, the more points you get so it works best to maximize your combos. And when I say this game has style just know that I mean it almost makes Devil May Cry look like child’s play. You'll earn additional points by slicing off and collecting the arms of specific enemies. Locate marks on certain enemies to slice them open and hit action button to rip out their mechanical spine for extra health, energy and points. The action in this game is intense, addicting and some of the best I have played in this genre. Whether you’re fighting the standard ninja enemies or the Gekkos from MGS 4, you'll want to mix up your moves which keeps combat fresh. The one thing the game is missing is a proper dodge button and it suffers a little without it. Instead you'll use a counter that works pretty well when mastered making a dodge function not matter anymore.
There are a few collectibles in the game, the most notable are small computer terminals that unlock VR missions that feel more like challenge rooms than the traditional missions from previous Metal Gear games. They are fun to play through but if you wouldn’t be missing much if skipped. However, it’s the closest you can get to just having fun with the combat without playing through the story.
This game’s framrate is amazing, which was one of the things Kojima required when he handed off development of the game, but I must say that I expected the graphics to look a little nicer. Don’t get me wrong, the game still looks great and the pre-rendered cutscenes are beautiful but it just isn’t as smooth as you expect from a game tied to the Kojima and Metal Gear names. There are plenty of long cutscenes but the run time ended short of five hours for me. You'll get plenty of Metal Gear style dialogues but nothing as long winded as the previous games. While the game still feels like it fits within the MGS universe Platinum puts their own spin on things so you'll get a weird mix of tones from time to time but overall the experience stays enjoyable.
Rising opens big and only intensifies from there. The action is amazing and the game is a pure toy box for the slicing mechanic and that is just fine for me. The story is relatively believable within the crazy world of MGS and that might really be it’s only downfall with Platinum Games feeling a little held back by the restrictions of the real world. But they still managed to put out a game with their own stylish flair and as a result, the game is just so much fun to play. The game isn't perfect, with minor issues over the game's short length and occasionally touchy environment interaction, yet this is an easy game to recommend for anyone who loves Metal Gear and a good hack and slash experience.