Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots brought together a great deal of the complicated and divergent stories given to us over the last two decades. It stitched everything together into a world where PMCs (Private Military Companies), cybernetics, and war are commonplace. The world slowly disconnected from the horrors of war as countless (but nameless) military contractors died instead of our sons and daughters. Through Snake’s efforts, the Sons of the Patriots are defeated which eventually gave room to the chaos of Private Military Companies struggling to fill the vacuum. Without the central power of the Patriots to control them, the the Private Military Companies have run wild.
Our story starts three years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4. Africa’s economic and political conditions have begun to improve which has the local war profiteers very unhappy. When a PMC named “Desperado Enforcers LLC” kidnaps the Prime Minister of Africa, things quickly spin out of control. Raiden, the cyborg/ninja from previous titles, now works for a PMC named Maverick Enterprises. His group was guarding the Prime Minister, and he just failed. The race is on to stop this rival PMC, uncover their true motivations, and ultimately exact his revenge. It’s time to jump back into the incredibly complicated, and now suddenly much faster, world of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
I FEEL ASLEEP! – Random guard
Raiden was not the most well-received character when he was introduced in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Immature, brash, and ultimately doing cartwheels while holding his junk, Raiden (real name Jack) was not a fan-favorite. In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots we see Raiden return, fully armored, dangerous, and powerful. Having grown up quite a bit since our last adventure with him at the helm, fans were far more receptive to his return. It wasn’t a surprise to see Kojima-san introduce him as the primary character of his own game. The original concept for Metal Gear Rising (before the subtitle) was focused entirely around the Japanese concept of zan-datsu. Zan-datsu literally translates to “cut and take” which team Kojima applied as cutting enemies and then taking their parts; essentially dismemberment. The demo at E3 2010 focused heavily on this concept, having Raiden slicing everything around him in half including cars, people, and watermelons. Well, sometimes concept just doesn’t translate to reality or fun (and in this case may get you censored in Japan) and the game was shelved. In early 2011 the reins were handed to Bayonetta-developer Platinum Games to breathe new life into the title.
Many games that switch development hands are less for it, but Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is clearly a tight collaboration between Kojima’s team and the team at Platinum. The story covers cybernetics and the privatization of war, certainly, but this title focuses more on Raiden. The cyberninja has dedicated his life to protecting the weak and innocent, but taking down the Desperado Enforcers will require him to walk a progressively darker path. He can save the lives of innocents, but can he save himself? I’ll let you find that out on your own.
That’s it, Snake. Hurt me more. Make me feel alive again. – Grey Fox
The game mechanics are a fairly large divergence from previous games. I myself have criticized the series for spending more time in cutscenes than in gameplay. There were multiple instances where I took but a few steps into an area only to be interrupted by a Codec call that lasted upwards of 30 minutes. It’s hard to call that ‘gameplay’. Kojima’s team realized this as well and wanted to make something more action oriented for this title. Their collaboration with Platinum has yielded exactly that, and while it doesn’t star Grey Fox as was originally intended, it actually works.
The zan-datsu mechanic is more simplified than the original demo would have suggested. Using the O and Triangle buttons, the game allows you to move very quickly and slash through enemies at will, but it’s when you engage the “Blade Mode” that things begin to look like the original intent. Blade Mode slows down everything around Raiden, highlighting enemy weaknesses and providing a solitary target that would instantly kill them. Cutting a weak spot will remove it, leaving an enemy without a leg or an arm, but using the thumbstick to aim and slicing the weak spot reticule will let Raiden reach into the enemy and remove their spine, computer, or whatever is appropriate, crushing it to refill his health to maximum.
It isn’t just soft and squishy things that Raiden can cut into literally hundreds of bits – nearly everything in the game is destructible. You could jump and cut a camera in half to ensure it doesn’t see you (!) and alert a cadre of enemies, but isn’t it more fun if you cut 4’ support pillar in half and let the whole column collapse while taking the camera with it? It’s not the only trick up Raiden’s sleeves either – sure it’s fun to jump off a roof and attack a helicopter, but it’s far more satisfying to run and jump across missiles it just launched to leap directly at it, destroying it in the process. I could explain further, but why don’t you watch the video below? It shows the first 45 minutes of the game in action.
As you can see, Raiden also has a bevy of subweapons and goodies he can collect in the field. Bonuses to BP, rockets, frag or EMP grenades, and other toys to take the fight to your enemies outside of his sword. Defeating certain boss characters will give you access to their weapons. In my experience, most are useful, some are just odd, but for me none were as satisfying as the katana. We will see how many players dabble outside of that sheath.
As you can see from the footage, stealth is nowhere near as paramount as it has been in previous titles. While you can sneak and get the drop on enemies, charging in and cutting down your enemies is as valid an option. Taking out UGs is certainly more difficult with this approach (It’s nice if you can take one out with stealth before you trigger everyone else), but with a little skill and the speed of your Ninja Dash, you can prevail. Alongside the changes to how you can approach combat, two other aspects that have transitioned in Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance; the visor and the cardboard box. As before, players can use a visor to spot their objectives, targets, and optional goodies in the world. Also as before, players can use a simple cardboard box to allow them to sneak past enemies if they aren’t looking. Depending on the mission it can make things much simpler as occasionally the odds are overwhelming if you come out of the shadows.
I never felt truly alive unless I was staring death in the face. – Solid Snake
It wouldn’t be a Metal Gear story if it made a lot of sense. Thankfully, the usual plot arcs apply, giving us odd monkey tie-ins, eye-rolling conflicted feelings for Raiden, revenge, strange toilet humor, and bizarre codenames. An example could be The Sears Program – a plot point about putting child brains into cyborgs. Perhaps it’s the fact that my family has been going to Sears Roebuck stores all my life, but I just got a vision of cheap housewares and clothes for robot children every time it was mentioned. I digress. The pursuit of the members of Desperado Enforcers LLC is considered to be an offshoot of the Metal Gear Solid series at large, but is also being considered canon. I’m sure there are people that will go through this whole timeline and will figure out the particulars of how it fits into the series. The setup for the story is presented in the very first level which you can see in the video above, but it gets a little more complicated as it goes along – as is tradition in the Metal Gear series. The nice part is that the team has managed to strike a good balance between cutscene and gameplay – it’s still a little more than most action titles but manages to keep the action moving forward for the duration of the game. Unfortunately that’s only about 5.5 hours of time (including cutscenes). Thankfully you can skip through the cinematics and talking sections, so if high-speed combat is what you crave, you can do exactly that.
The game is set up in a very similar vein as Bayonetta, giving players a score at the end of mission segments. You can see this in action in the video above, but long story short – you’ll get a grade like C, B, A, or S. (I never saw a score lower than those, but I suppose it’s possible) These are categorized by difficulty, time, how much you used zan-datsu, the longest combinations you pulled, the number of kills, and any bonuses to BP you’ve earned.
While the game is only 5.5 hours to beat, you can always go back and rerun sections to improve your score. Higher scores yield larger bonuses which allow you to purchase other upgrades for Raiden. You’ll also unlock and find VR missions to keep you busy beyond that 5.5 hours, but I’ll be honest – it is a bit light. You can unlock most but not all upgrades, but they aren’t all necessary to beat the game – your skill with the sword is more important. Future DLC is promised to be delivered courtesy of these VR missions, so I guess we’ll see how that goes.
Why didn’t you tell me you were the real Snake? – Raiden
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has had a bit of a storied history. Unlike some other recently released titles, the game has benefited from the extra time, care, and a fresh new perspective via Platinum Games. The game gives Metal Gear fans a new way to experience the complex (and sometimes odd) world of the series, and the cutting mechanic that Kojima’s team planned on bringing to the table works well. While there is talk about adding more VR missions to the game as DLC, the completion time is pretty short. The rating system does extend that a bit. The polish and the game experience overcomes its short playtime, but it’s disappointing to see AAA titles getting shorter and shorter. The great part is that every moment of the game is packed to the brim with high-speed fun. For true fans this title could be a no-brainer – it’s Metal Gear. More casual fans can rest easy that you really don’t have to know much about the series at all to enjoy this one. Both will have to weigh if that short of a run time warrants the cost.