Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review

Metal Gear Rising Got Right

+ Hectic action

+ The precision promised by motion controls with a normal controller

+ As much fun as any other Metal Gear

Metal Gear Rising Got Wrong

– Unexplained controls can be frustrating

– Quitting to play VR tutorials ruins the flow

– Some camera issues

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is oozing with Japanese flair. From a ridiculous name, to perfect hair and an electrifying soundtrack during laughably exaggerated boss battles, this is Metal Gear. But at the same time, it’s not.

Playing as cyborg ninja Raiden, MGR: Revengeance is a hectic sword-wielding action game with a strong emphasis on its revolutionary slicing mechanics. There are secondary firearms, but little-to-no reason to make them a regular part of your arsenal when they pale in comparison to the badass ninja katana. The cardboard box makes an appearance, but sneaking around is rarely the preferable option. Incoming calls even poke fun at Raiden’s lack of covert stealth considering the series’ prestigious history; at least, I think that’s what was happening  —  maybe I was just rubbish at sneaking around.

Rising doesn’t take itself too seriously, and should be treated as such. Its version of 2018 is full of bleeding cyborgs and a criminal underbelly harvesting children’s brains to fuel an army of robotic soldiers. Meanwhile, the protagonist is a former feared child soldier known as Jack the Ripper and seriously struggling to keep his emotions in check.

Combat is the crux of the Revengeance experience and largely handled using one button (unless you’re determined to hit the combos). The primary focus is on the position of the control sticks.

Blade Mode offers the precise motion control promised, but never delivered, using a standard controller.

In standard play, two face buttons are used to dish out light and heavy attacks. On Xbox 360, ‘X’ is also used to parry or counterattack, when timed perfectly. It’s the most difficulty skill to learn, but crucial to success.

To parry, the left stick needs to be pushed towards an opponent simultaneously with the ‘X’ button every time they’re about to attack. The tutorial does a rash job of explaining the need to continuously move the control stick towards your opponent; don’t keep holding it in their direction hoping for the best. It won’t go well.

Lock-on also evaded me (RB on 360) until I was 70 percent done, and completely turned the tables on my woeful combat record, but doesn’t solve all of the swinging camera issues — I probably wouldn’t have finished the last level without it.

Initially, it feels needlessly convoluted, which only exacerbates the rage resulting from inconclusive explanations. If you’re struggling, the easy mode includes an assist that removes the need to use the control stick to parry — but that diminishes Rising’s charm and dilutes it into yet another hack ‘n slash affair: nothing like the normal or hard experiences.

Unlockable virtual reality tutorial missions are also there to purify your skill-set, but the lengthy chapters are counter-intuitive to quitting to go to a training zone. It breaks up the otherwise relentless flow of hectic action, and the average player won’t bother to try them until after finishing the very game they’re designed to teach about.

Once you buy into the concept — and master parrying — early frustrations wash away and Revengeance bursts out of its shell as the hectic, but surprisingly deep, action game it is.

Blade Mode is Raiden’s point of difference. By holding down the left bumper to enter a slow motion bullet time, the right analogue stick can be used to control the direction of Raiden’s vicious strikes. Opponents can be finished in one foul swoop, chopped into hundreds of tiny pieces, or have a single layer of metal shaved off their mechanical arms. Blade Mode offers the precise motion control promised, but never delivered, using a standard controller.

As exhilarating as Blade Mode is, Raiden would be far too overpowered if he had infinite access to a sword that can casually pass through menacing cyborgs. The specialised skill is restricted by the Blade Meter, which is filled by carrying out more conventional attacks and literally ripping out cyborg spins through perfect timing, which also replenishes Raiden’s health supply.

The core gameplay starts to run together at times, but it’s invigorated by a consistent flow of exhilarating boss battles, each more daunting than the last. Excellent pacing, specifically in the boss fights, ensures a challenge from the first foe to moments before the credits roll, but those in the early levels are mere pawns protecting the sheer devastation that is to follow.

With so many boss fights — seriously, Revengeance is 30 percent menacing boss — development must have flirted with running stale, but it doesn’t show the slightest sign of growing tired. Once you’ve mastered the intrinsic control scheme, it’s an intoxicating six hour adventure (playing on normal difficulty) designed to fill a boring Sunday afternoon in need of a hullabaloo.

Replay value is ramped up by the prospect of reliving the Revengeance with added difficulty and blasting through the slew of unlockable VR missions. Experimenting with these between instigating a more demanding playthrough will hone your ninja skills, as they put Raiden’s cyborg body to the test with a mix of combat and stealth based challenges.

The Japanese panache trickles through all facets of Metal Gear Rising’s design, from the character’s appearance to their interesting choice in style and precise movements. However, it’s at its most prevalent with the energetic soundtrack. The backing music is a consistent blast, especially during each of the major boss fights, where it resonates as a Japanese action game. While not quite as spectacular (or central to the gameplay), it’s almost up there with the majestic tunes of The World Ends With You.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is my favourite Metal Gear game this generation. It isn’t as memorable and won’t garner the reputation of some of the all time classics Konami’s marquee franchise has thrown up, but it offers just as much fun throughout its non-stop six hour action romp. It’s not without its problems, and the controls take a lot of practice, but that’s mostly because they do something genuinely different. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance does Japanese action games and the Metal Gear series a great justice.

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