It’s always big news when a storied franchise decides to release a game on a console different than what their history shows. Metal Gear Rising Revengeance is doing just that, but it’s hardly the first in the Metal Gear series to appear on the Xbox 360. It is, however the first to release concurrently on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, which is notable because it signifies Konami recognizing the importance of Microsoft’s console. Setting aside the simple significance of the release, the game itself is action-packed and holds some of the best combat sequences on the last few years. There are issues though, particularly the game suffers from relentless difficulty spikes and limited replayability.
Don’t feel obligated to have played the previous installments in the Metal Gear series because Revengeance does a wonderful job at giving new players enough groundwork to feel as if they’re aware of what’s happening in the universe. For those die hard fans who have a history though, there are plenty of references that you will pick up on. It seems that the developers at Platinum Games were also feeling quite nostalgic, as there are humorous quips, one-liners, and even achievements focused on gameplay elements of yore. For instance, during a particular sequence the protagonist, Raiden, picks up a cardboard box akin to the one used in previous titles to help avoid detection. In a moment of hilarity, one of Raiden’s team members asks what anyone would ever use a cardboard box for. It’s those tiny moments, those seemingly insignificant nods that make players aware that the developers are aware of the lore included in the series.
It’s strange then, that more stealth isn’t implemented in a game that has stealth roots. Instead, Raiden embarks on a mission that acts as a strange metaphor for the state of our current world. It seems that our futuristic government has opted to privatize much of the public security forces and in doing so, has allowed Steven Armstrong, the man contracted for this security, to rise to power within the United States government. World peace is hard on the profits of a war-mongerer though, and others band together to ensure that the U.S. is thrust into combat once again. Because of the story being heavily weighted towards combat, the action throughout the game is less focused on sneaking and more focused on slicing people’s limbs off. Indeed that’s literal, because the combat engine allows for precision slices with Raiden’s powerful sword, dismembering enemies and, during those moments you feel particularly twisted, potentially leaving enemies in dozens of pieces scattered throughout the battlefield. The surgeon-like slices will allow Raiden to replenish his life with “Zandatsu,” a mode that shows how to cut your enemies and then rip their spine out and absorb their essence.
Yeah, it’s awesome.
Beyond what is arguably the best combat of the year thus far, Raiden earns a score for each area and then an overall score for the level. That score can then be applied to particular powerups that you gather throughout each level. The effectiveness of your sword can be improved, new skills learned, and you’ll even inherit the weapons of foes you vanquish through boss battles, of which there are many, though with mixed results. The boss battles are of the typical breed, requiring you to recognize a particular pattern, then counter it at exact moments. The problem is that these battles, while visually pleasing, can see an abnormal difficulty spike compared to the level you just completed to get there. One saving grace is that the boss battles have checkpoints, but that just proves that the developers understand the difficulty themselves -- so why not remedy another way? Finish your opponent though and you’re given an amazing cut scene each and every time, though particularly gory.
Through collectibles players will earn VR missions, which are challenges that require a particular objective to finish, again earning the player a rank. This is really the only form of replayability that you’ll find unless you’re a hardcore Metal Gear Rising Revengeance fan and intend on defeating the game at higher difficulties. There are certainly optional missions throughout the game and even missions that allow for a fail-state and alternate route should Raiden not succeed at a particular objective, but the over-arcing story will remain largely the same. That’s not to say it’s boring or not enjoyable, but even dismemberment can get tedious time and time again.
Overall MGR:R is a fantastic installment into this storied franchise and will offer players, old or new, a wonderful experience through combat, story, and visual effects. Using a sword or other acquired weapon in lethal ways is pleasing and will make players feel nearly invincible. The boss fights, particularly the last in the game, leave a lot to be desired though. Overly complicated and frustrating even on easy, anybody playing through on the hardest difficulty, aptly named Revengeance, should be disciplined and ready for one of the hardest games in recent memory. On the easier settings though, the game is typically more forgiving and makes the 8-10 hour campaign worth seeing.
Overall score: 8 out of 10