Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a ridiculous game. If you consider the title you’ll know this immediately. The story ranges from campy to totally absurd, the cutscenes and set pieces are both stunning and outlandish, and at times Raiden is simply a walking, slicing stereotype of a conflicted man. The thing is, Revengeance is extremely entertaining and enjoyable.
In Revengeance Kojima and Platinum Games shines the entire spotlight on Raiden, the boyish main character of Metal Gear Solid 2. Set in 2018, four years after we last saw Snake in Sons of the Patriots, Revengeance tells a story of orchestrated warfare, political corruption, and personal conflict. We find Raiden under the employment of Maverick Security, a PMC organization, using his cybernetic enhancements and skills for security and protection purposes. The world is in a precarious state and the constant threat of political assassinations, government overthrows, and full scale global warfare gives Raiden a purpose. War has become the new economy, and PMC’s exist either to protect the peace or are contracted to upset the balance.
Of course things go wrong, and Revengeance has Raiden thrown into the midst of a huge conspiracy and has him traveling around the globe in an attempt to comprehend what this conspiracy actually is, and to do what he can to stop the domino effect of violence that has begun. The story is weird. Very weird. As Raiden moves from Mexico to the US and beyond, things just get stranger and stranger. The plot does keep the player invested in the game, but less because it’s actually compelling and more because it’s so outlandish you’ll want to see what happens next.
Underlying all this is Raiden’s inner conflict. As the game progresses, some insight is given into Raiden’s childhood as a trained solider. He’s more man than machine, but he’s a cyborg burdened with angst and constantly questioning just what he is exactly. He wonders whether he’s simply a literal killing machine, or if he’s a protector of the weak. Has he retained enough humanity and compassion to be a hero, as opposed to, say, a drone programmed for violence? Revengeance lays this on pretty thick, and while it’s an interesting concept, it’s not that well executed, and it’s difficult to really care either way.
The gameplay is where Revengeance truly shines. The game is clearly very Metal Gear in so many ways in terms of story and veneer, but the combat is extremely reflective of Platinum games, the developer of spastic titles like Bayonetta and Vanquish. Basically, Revengeance ditches the “Tactical Espionage Action” for, well, just action.
The combat is mostly sword-based, and Raiden’s moves are split into a combination of light and heavy attacks, which become more complex as you progress and unlock upgrades. The electrified katana sparks as it cuts through both foes and a variety of inanimate objects, always at a frenetic pace. Pieces of enemy cyborgs constantly fly through the blood-streaked air during battle, adding an overwhelming sense of chaos to each encounter.
The combat is extremely fast and fluid, and Raiden truly does resemble an overpowered ninja and an army of one. Other weapons and tactical equipment, such as various grenades and secondary weapons, become available as you make your way through the game, but the fighting centers around swordplay. The style of combat is extremely offensive, and while there is a parry and eventually a dodge, Revengeance emphasizes taking the direct approach over the methodical.
When the first trailer for the game premiered back in 2010, back when it was still called Metal Gear Solid: Rising, there was footage that showed Raiden carefully slicing both enemies and other objects such as a car and a watermelon. Thankfully, Platinum has retained this mechanic in Revengeance, dubbing it Blade Mode. Blade Mode serves a number of purposes. For one, it slows down the combat for a couple seconds, allowing Raiden to pick and choose how and where to cut opponents. It also adds a sense of precision and control to the combat, giving the player the ability to make much more deliberate moves.
Blade Mode is not only a unique feature, it’s a necessary one. Raiden has both a health bar and fuel cell bar. Once the fuel cell bar is at capacity and Blade Mode is activated, weakened enemies can be cut open at a specific part of their bodies. If a successful precision-slash is executed, Raiden can reach in, snatch out a chunk of their cybernetic innards, and restore his health and fuel cells.
Revengeance calls this the zandatsu move, and it’s exhilarating each time you successfully pull it off. The move requires timing, precision, and attention to detail, which is probably why it’s so satisfying to execute. It may sound like it could grow old after the first dozen times, but surprisingly enough it doesn’t, and the zandatsu move retains its thrill the whole way through. There’s also something very interesting about the way the zandatsu forces the player to be proactive and aggressive in order to maintain and restore their health.
Standard combat is punctuated with over-the-top set pieces that make some of the more ridiculous moments of Resident Evil 6 seem tame. Suddenly Raiden may be dashing up (or down) crumbling buildings or hopping along flying missiles. Yes, these sequences are ludicrous, but they’re also intense, creative, and simply fun. The handful of boss battles in Revengeance are equally over-the-top and unique, and the bosses themselves are more than bizarre enough to be part of a Metal Gear game.
However, Revengeance isn’t perfect. Though the settings are varied, they aren’t particularly interesting and for the most part you’ll find yourself more dazzled by the sight of combat than the surrounding environment. The camera can also be a little difficult to maneuver in more claustrophobic spaces, especially when Raiden is running at full speed or during certain boss battles.
The game also doesn’t do the best job of explaining things to you. Scattered throughout each level are various collectibles and secrets, some of which are shout-outs to previous Metal Gear games, but Revengence never really clues you in on their existence. The same can be said for some of the moves, including the zandatsu move. None of this is enough to ruin the game, but it does dull the experience at times.
Overall, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a solid game. The blend of some of the trademark elements of the Metal Gear franchise, such as multi-layered and complex storytelling, and the tight combat mechanics of a Platinum title, works surprisingly well. Revengeance is bizarre enough to warrant the Metal Gear label, while also managing to be distinct and exciting enough to not feel like a throwaway spin-off.