Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – Game Analysis and Review
By Patrick Newman
Developer: Platinum Games
Director: Kenji Saito
Producer: Atsushi Inaba
Writer: Etsu Tamari
Composer: Jamie Christopherson
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Genre: Action, hack and slash
I’ve always been of two minds about the Metal Gear franchise, which has been revered the world over for it’s intensely cinematic fusion of Japanese pop sensibilities and macho blockbusters from America (of course, series mascot Solid Snake was modeled after Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken, who himself modeled the performance on Eastwood’s Man with No Name). This is where we arrive at most contemporary gaming storytelling – so many narratives (and their characters) are shamelessly derived from better films, TV and even other games (then derived from the derivatives), but tweaked just enough to passably be marketed as a daringly “visionary” experience. With Revengeance, Kojima, as always, escapes these criticisms by the skin of his teeth by re-asserting his knack for creating powerful pop images that stick in the brain, despite his franchise’s liberal borrowing of Hong Kong cinema tropes and the macho jingoism of Hollywood action movies.
Though Revengeance’s players are immersed in a detailed world (despite some repetitive environments) with cool tech and epic battles that can be meted out in a variety of entertainingly destructive ways, series auteur Hideo Kojima can’t bear to restrain himself from halting the action dead in its tracks to pontificate about his endless, unwieldy, ludicrously complicated plot. The exposition, which is very much a part of the fabric of these games, is an aspect I’ve never made peace with after two decades of diligent attempts.
Even more so than in movies, games need to be propulsive experiences, constantly pushing the player forward to the next challenge, demanding participation. Exposition in any form stops a campaign’s building momentum dead in its tracks, and unless Kojima had the writing chops of a William Gibson or a Thomas Pynchon (He doesn’t), the mogul would be serving the franchise best by sticking to the sensual, visceral aspects of Revengeance, which are across-the-board fantastic. As always, he serves us a pound of steamed vegetables for every delectable morsel of filet mignon.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance begins with protagonist Raiden serving as uber-bodyguard to the prime minister of an unnamed country. Following a motorcade ambush that forces Raiden to break into a slow-motion, clothes shedding, rippling bio-mech muscle-exposing strut, he begins a journey of katana-assisted mayhem that traverses locales from Pakistan to Denver. In a class-less ripoff of The Matrix (continuing over from Sons of Liberty’s class-less Matrix ripoff in that game’s frustratingly complicated epilogue), the story eventually reveals that the villainous cyborgs of this game have been harvesting human children to be used as fodder for building more cyborgs. I’m telling you people, this series is deep.
On a visceral gut-level, however, Revengeance deserves credit where credit is due. Typical of a Platinum production, the action is fast-paced and over-the-top in a massively entertaining way, with style-over-substance being the guiding principle for the endless melees. Like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry before it, the approach to each of Revengeance’s battles (slash up a storm until an enemy makes an obvious telegraph of his next attack, block, then continue dicing) is relatively simplistic, but you could never guess from the flurry of astounding animation onscreen. As with the best of these third-person fighters, it takes little effort to make your onscreen hero look like a godly sensei. Button mashing can win the day more often than not, and that’s not always a bad thing.
The pacing is faster that one would expect from this series. If you make the wise decision to ignore the pointless comm. calls from Boris, Wolf, and Kevin that pipe in frequently to give the action “weight” and “subtext,” a smart player can then enjoy the many wonders of Revengeance’s unprecedented, precision sword fighting system. An over the shoulder POV can be engaged while wielding the weapon to perform a series of razor-sharp cuts, reducing most living objects to kibble if you so desire. The combat is fluid and exciting, and best of all it makes being a badass quasi-ninja seem easy.
After all is said and done, it’s the clashing of those contrasting sensibilities – the go-for-broke action insanity of Platinum’s earlier efforts with the more measured, elegant, and (let’s be honest) pretentious style of the earlier Metal Gear games produced under Kojima’s wings – that gives Revengeance its flavor. This game should be a must-buy for fans of fast-paced melee-combat and third person action, but those weary of cranky professor Kojima subjecting us to his latest thesis on “I Don’t Know What” might want to sit this one out.
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