Back in 2009, Kojima Productions showed off the next game in the Metal Gear series, then called Metal Gear Solid Rising. The game starred Raiden and had a huge focus on free form sword control and being able to cut anything in the environment. After an extended period of silence and an apparent cancellation, the game resurfaced in late 2011 now being developed by Platinum Games, the studio behind Bayonetta and Vanquish, under the new title Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
If there is one thing the Metal Gear Series is most known for, it is definitely the often crazy story. The series is notorious for its complex plots and bizarre twists, but Metal Gear Rising has a much more focused narrative than something like Metal Gear Solid 4. The game is set several years after the events of MGS4, and Raiden is now working for a PMC organization (they prefer the term private security firm) called Maverick. The game deals a bit with the aftermath of the fall of SOP and the War Economy, but for the most part this is a stand alone, more personal story for Raiden.
As with past games in the series, the story is centered around the American Military, but from a decidedly different perspective than you’d find in the majority of modern military games. As you would expect given the history of the series, this game does not feature a mindless pro America good vs. evil plot, and it actually has something to say about the state of American politics and the role it plays in the world at large. I have a feeling some more conservative Americans may take offense to a lot about the story in the game, especially coming from a Japanese developer, but I found it a welcome change of pace from the bland modern military games that seem to have nothing to say aside from “terrorists are bad”.
Of course, this is a Metal Gear game, so while I commend its willingness to explore deeper territory than most games, it does so in a less than subtle way. The dialogue is mostly good, but expect a fair amount cheese and over the top characters. Some people may dismiss a lot of the game’s commentary because of the presence of some of the series’ goofier elements like giant mechs and indestructible cyborgs, but it definitely makes some interesting points regardless. While the political elements are interesting in the way they presented, they are only a small portion of the overall plot; the majority being a personal journey for Raiden after encountering something that forces him relive his past as a child soldier. The titular “Revengeance”, or revenge with a vengeance, is the jumping off point for the story after Raiden loses a fight (and the man he was supposed to be protecting) to a mysterious cyborg during the game’s opening sequence, but revenge quickly becomes an afterthought once Raiden finds out what is really going on.
If you come into this game expecting 90 minute cutscenes and endless amounts of exposition, you will be likely be surprised. The running time for the cutscenes is probably longer than average for the genre, but not by a wide margin, and overall you will be playing far more than you are watching. I’m sure this will be a good thing for some, and a disappointment for others, but either way it fits the game well. This story has a much faster pace than a typical Metal Gear game, and much of the exposition is limited to the optional codec conversations. However, this results in the majority of the supporting cast feeling a bit underdeveloped if you choose not to engage in these optional conversations, especially considering Raiden is the only preexisting character in the game outside of a brief late game cameo.
Overall I really enjoyed the story in Metal Gear Rising. It focuses on telling a stand alone story in the Metal Gear universe rather than relying too heavily on the established fiction, which is quite a departure from what we’ve seen from the series in recent installments. Having a familiarity with Raiden’s past will certainly make the story feel more meaningful, but really anyone can enjoy the game’s story. I really liked the direction they take Raiden as a character. Before playing it I was worried about this game destroying Raiden’s ending in MGS4, but as the game progresses you understand why Raiden turned back to fighting when he seemingly had everything he ever wanted. You get the feeling that Raiden will never really get past his child soldier upbringing, and settling down with his wife and son is just something he will never be satisfied with, which is sad for sure, but it makes sense given everything this character has been through.
While the story in Metal Gear Rising is undeniably a Metal Gear game, most of the other aspects of it are a big departure for the series. Anytime an entry in a long running series switches to an entirely different genre, you never really know how things are going to turn out. Developers run the risk of losing the core essence of the franchise or alienating their fans, but luckily I don’t see either of these doomsday scenarios applying to Metal Gear Rising. I think the best thing that happened with the development of this game was Kojima productions realizing that their expertise just didn’t line up with this type of game and deciding to hand development over to Platinum Games. The end result is Platinum once again showing why they are one of the best developers of fast paced melee focused third person action games.
If you’ve played games like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, you should feel pretty familiar with the basic design of the game. You move through linear levels fighting enemies and occasionally doing some platforming, but mostly you are fighting enemies. The game features a pretty good variety of enemy types, ranging from standard unarmored cyborgs to various types of unmanned robots. The standard enemy encounters are always fun and engaging, but the real highlight of the game is without a doubt the outstanding boss battles. The game has quite a lot of boss fights, and I found every one of the them to supremely enjoyable. No two boss fights feel the same, and each will require careful thinking along with skillful command of the game’s combat systems.
Leading up to the game’s release, there has a been a lot of talk about the game’s length, and rightfully so. By the end of the game, most players will have a number of around 5 hours in their play counter. Now, what this really amounts to is around 8-9 hours once you add up deaths and cutscenes. If you decide to watch all the optional codec conversations, a first playthrough of over 10 hours isn’t out of the question. Now, while this isn’t as dire as the 5 hour number being thrown around prior to the game’s release, it is still a tough sell for many players, especially given the lack of multiplayer. However, in addition to the three standard difficulty levels, there are two unlockable difficulties, which are more substantial than tweaked damage values. These two highest difficulty rearrange encounters by adding more enemies and changing the types of enemies that appear in specific encounters.
The game also has VR Missions, unlockable skins and upgrades for your abilities and weapons. Unfortunately, the VR Missions are locked away behind hidden collectables, much like the combat challenges from the Arkham Games. I didn’t like it in those games and I don’t like it here. I have no problem with the idea of collectables, but I am not in favor of hiding actual content behind them, especially in a game that isn’t particularly long to begin with. Also a bit disappointing is the lack of online leaderboards, which is especially weird given that the game scores you on every encounter. I am sure an achievement or trophy or just personal pride will be enough to get some players to go for all S ranks, but being able to compare your scores with friends would have been nice as well. Now, all this supplementary content may be enough to justify a full price purchase for many people, but for those who just want to experience the game and its story once, the 8-10 hours may simply not be enough; though I personally think the game is more than good enough to warrant a purchase.