Before Minecraft, before Devil May Cry, before Hitman or Skyrim or Mass Effect or any of those iconic or just plain exciting games that I’ve spent hundreds of hours of my life playing, way back in 1998 there was a game that came out, and a subsequent series that captured my imagination and my interest in a way no other has before, or for that matter probably since, and that was Metal Gear Solid. I know well and understand to an extent the complaints people have with the series and me and various people have sat down and discussed them at length. This is a series of games that, while trying to incorporate excitement and fun for the player have a deep, deep, involving and intricate backstory that players must understand to fully appreciate them.
The series may be a stealth ‘em up in nature but it does more than that, trying to educate the player on political and philosophical themes, usually in the form of wordy and lengthy cutscenes that people may not have the time or inclination to sit through, and that’s fair enough. If that’s not for you then I’m not going to sit here and tell you that clearly you’re wrong and the games are awesome, that’s your choice, but this is the Metal Gear I’ve loved for a long time. And when I saw the latest title in the form of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, I panicked.
I realised that Cyborg Ninja’s are possibly the coolest thing in the world but such a large departure from the themes and gameplay that I’d so long enjoyed was a truly worrying thing. I did my research, I watched every pre-release video, I played the demo, but my fear didn’t subside. The only thing was, this was still a Metal Gear game, and regardless of my doubt it had to be bought anyway. Needless to say that my fear was all for naught, because Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is one of the most fun games I have played in years.
Metal Gear Rising takes place four years after the events of MGS4 and the insurrection led by Liquid Ocelot. Raiden now works for a PMC by the name of Maverick Enterprises, training armies and protecting VIP’s as a way of raising money for his family. Along the way Raiden comes into conflict with members of Desperado Enterprises, a rival PMC connected to terrorist attacks, in particular a splinter group going by the name of “Winds of Destruction”, who serve as the main antagonists of the game.
Throughout the game you will find out more information into the backhistory of Raiden and his dark inner psyche that manifests itself as “Jack the Ripper”, a nickname he acquired as a child soldier in Liberia.
Compared with other titles in the Metal Gear Saga Revengeance has made a noticeable change in direction in terms of story. While in others the story took the forefront in comparison to gameplay (some may argue this, but count how many hours the cut scenes clocked in), it’s been relegated more to the sidelines, letting Raiden’s badassery and swordplay to be the focal point.
Speaking of which, the biggest and most overwhelming change of pace for the series is the gameplay. While Metal Gear Rising has been noted to take place outside of the main storyline of the series (while remaining canon), Platinum Games and Konami have made this truly evident from changing the slow and stealthy sneaking pace of the MGS series. Taking the idea of Raiden’s incredible action scenes in Metal Gear Solid 4, Hideo Kojima took a simple idea, that he wanted people to play a game like those scenes, and make it a reality. Basing the swordplay on the zandatsu philosophy, or “cut and take”, and the history of awesome cyborg ninja’s in the Metal Gear series, players are given the freedom to run headlong into battles, high-frequency blade drawn, and literally slice the hell out of any living thing with precise and prideful accuracy. Not only can players gracefully parry more or less every attack from enemies (given that the player has the skill, obviously), and string together elegant and exciting combos, but players can also use the Blade Mode system to slow down gameplay, accurately slicing off enemy arms, legs, tops of skulls, or simply slicing them right down the centre and taking their energy sources, giving yourself an extra boost of health when necessary. You’re able to use other weapons such as rocket launchers and grenades, and even weapons taken from fallen enemies, but honestly I spent much of the game with my high-frequency blade in hand, and all I felt was a gut feeling that this is how I should be playing it, samurai style.
As a series staple the game gives you various boss battles to play through, and generally stays in keeping with the Metal Gear style. You come up against a group of advanced enemies, in this case you take down Desperado one by one, and while the bosses aren’t as supernatural or unusual as previous entries they stay more in keeping with the games aesthetics. I’m not going to spoil anything for anyone, but all I will say is that the epic sword fight to the death with Desperado’s Samuel was one of the most gratifying, exhilarating, and flat-out tough as hell fights I have encountered in gaming.
One thing I can heavily critique the game for though is the choice of music throughout. While Metal Gear Solid as a series generally had a soundtrack that would for the exact right reasons, at the exact right times tug at the heartstrings in a way I have never found before, I found the choice for Metal Gear Rising to be nothing more than grating. I understand that people may enjoy it, and different strokes for different folks and all that, but at the same time listening to the same monotonous metal riff over and over just really started to grind my gears. At the same time the dialogue, while not a hugely important part of the game in comparison to the awesome action left a lot to be desired, and Quinton Flynn’s Raiden was less emotive and more whingy, instead of him meaning to sound like a bloodthirsty murderer, especially after his ‘Jack the Ripper’ character turn he comes off more laughable than terrifying. At the same time graphically the game is a work of art, the level of design is astonishing, and Platinum do a wonderful job of creating an intricate and polished world that you’ll love tearing apart.
I’ve been a huge fan of hack and slash action games for a long time, I grew up on Golden Axe and seeing that transform into intricate games that I’ve adored along the lines of Bayonetta have been a dream come true. I always thought the genre reached its pinnacle with Devil May Cry 3, and since then that has only been replaced by my love of the reboot, DmC. And while I can’t say Metal Gear Rising will have the same level of longevity for me that DmC does, I can say that it is easily as good, and the level of technical ingenuity that have come from Platinum Games and Konami is a truly wonderful thing. In taking a series of games that have long been considered slow, stealthy and tactical in nature and turning it into a truly magnificent action game is something I didn’t think possible, but it’s happened.
Raiden is the perfect basis for a different genre of Metal Gear, and with Rising I hope very much to see at least one sequel, because one Metal Gear Rising just isn’t enough. Although when you get to that final boss I can promise you you’ll be screaming at the television. A lot.
Challenge of the NoBots
Jul 10th, 2014 0There's a moment in Transformers: Age of Extinction where an old cinema owner (Richard Riehle, who briefly played Buffy's doomed first watcher Merrick on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1998, fact fans) laments the films of today, because they're all tired sequels and reboots. It's supposed to be knowing joke…