The Metal Gear franchise is one of the most iconic series in video games in the eyes of gamers and fans. The games created a new genre, introduced the recognizable and popular character (Solid Snake), and showed that video games story and cutscenes can be just as cinematic as the movies. The series has enjoyed continued success when development is overseen by Hideo Kojima and his production studio Kojima Productions.
Now what if Metal Gear was handed over to another developer and starred a new hero instead of Snake?
When it was revealed that the next entry into the Metal Gear franchise on home consoles was Metal Gear Rising: Revengance (at the time Metal Gear Solid Rising: Vengeance) and that it would be later to be revealed as Raiden, fans went into frenzy. They even got more riled up when Kojima said that development would be done by Bayonetta and Mad World developer Platinum Games. This was definitely a bold move, but was it a bad call?
Lighting Bolt Action Tale - Revengance takes place four years after the events of MGS4. The Patriots have been overthrown. With SOP (Sons of the Patriots) system disabled, and the war economy started to come to a stop, Raiden has joined up with the private military company (PMC), Maverick, to provide security detail and training. During a routine guard mission in an unnamed African country following a civil war, Raiden and his client, the prime minister of the country, are attack by Desperado LLC, a rival PMC. A rather bulky and large cyborg kidnaps the PM and Raiden gives chase. After displacing a squad of enemy cyborgs and chopping Metal Gear Ray down to size, Raiden reaches the rouge cyborg and one of his comrades named Sam on a cargo train. But it is too late as the first cyborg kills the PM and Raiden engages Sam, and is overpowered, losing his eye and his left arm in the process.
Three weeks later, Desperado LLC are preparing a coup d’état in the former USSR country of Abkhazia. Raiden, now refitted in a new state of the art cybernetic ninja body, plans to get down to the bottom of Desperado’s plans and get revenge on Sam, now known a Jetstream Sam, a title he earned after maiming Raiden. What Raiden doesn’t know is that he is about to go down a path of cover ups and conspiracies that reveal plans to restart the war economy. The story isn’t like previous games where the characters talk about ideals and philosophy and it’s not trying to be. It’s all pure action driven as Raiden pushes himself to “stop those who do evil and prey on the weak”, as he puts it. We even get to know more about Raiden’s past and how he comes to terms with it by accepting it.
Graphics/Character Models Look Great - The graphics and the character models of both Raiden and his enemies, look really awesome. If you thought Raiden looked badass in MGS4 wait until you see his new cyber ninja suit. Everything looks very metallic and smooth with sharp edges that could possibly cut if touched. Enemy cyborgs also have a pretty futuristic look to them that change in each area of the game. The bosses are also some of the most unique looking things every designed in the Metal Gear franchise. In their staff notes, Platinum Games explain that each of bosses was inspired by different East Asian motifs. I can see where they were going with the designs and I really can appreciate that they can take inspiration from different aspects of a culture and put them in a game.
Blade Mode - A major gameplay feature that was heavily promoted was Raiden’s Blade Mode. Blade Mode allows him to take more precise slices and cuts when the L1 button is held down. As soon as Raiden gets his new cyborg body, Blade Mode gets upgraded with Zandantsu. Zandantsu slows down time for even greater precision slices and cuts to enemies. This is most useful when needing to gather enemy nano regen cells to fully heal up. Though when Raiden uses Zandantsu, the energy that slows down time is lost and he reverts back to regular speed. To regain back this energy, all Raiden has to do is just continue to attack his enemies and his High Frequency blade will absorb their energy. Most importantly, it just looks awesome in motion. Seeing enemies falling into pieces after using Zandantsu is really satisfying and never gets old.
Multiple nods/references to previous games - To the dedicated Metal Gear fan, Revengance is full of nods and references to past games and events. For example, the events of MGS4 are often referenced, as well as certain phrases from MGS 2 & 3. Another example of a nod to past games is when it’s revealed that Mistral was a member of the French Foreign Legion. Raiden asked if she was the first woman to join, to which Kev replies that during WWII a woman joined with the Legion, which happened to be The Boss. There are many more of these small nods to the franchise and I’m glad that Platinum Games decided to add them in to pay tribute.
Raiden Portrayed as a Tragic Hero - In MGS2, Raiden was portrayed, for a lack of a better phrase, as a whiney bitch. He was always questioning himself, complaining at the wrong times, and his background was never fully explained. In Revengance, Raiden has evolved from being a whiner to someone who has conviction and purpose. As the game progresses, it is discovered that Desperado is using child brains and making them in to killer cyborgs with the use of mind altering drugs and VR.
When Raiden sees this, though he doesn’t show any emotions, we can feel the pain he feels for them. For those who don’t know about Raiden’s history, he was once a child soldier during the Liberian Civil War. Since VR training didn’t exist when he was a child, Raiden was subjected to horrific training and torture methods used by George Sears aka Solidus Snake. With the advent of VR training and nano machines, the children can experience the same training without physical or mental limitations. This sends Raiden into a rage and causes him to vow to bring down Desperado, and to save the brains of the children so that they won’t turn to what Raiden was when he was a child.
Jamie Christopherson as the Composer - The Metal Gear franchise has pumped out some of the most iconic music in gaming. From the patriotic sounds of Sons of Liberty and the smooth jazz vibe of Snake Eater, to the sorrowful end theme for Peace Walker and the final days of Snake in Gun of the Patriots, composers Norihiko Hibino and Harry Gregson-Williams really know how to set the mood of the games with their music. Since Revengance is a spinoff of the main series and had a new hero, it was only proper to bring in a new composer so that it can have its own identity. Enter Jamie Christopherson.
Now before you go, “OMG NO MGS THEME?!?!? THIS GAME SUX!1!1!”, the music that Christopherson composed for Revengance, a mix of electronica and metal, actually fits the overall feel of the game. You have to remember that this isn’t tactical stealth action, this is Lightning Bolt Action. The gameplay is fast and action-filled so the music should reflex that which it does. During battle encounters, the music speeds up to jump start the player’s adrenaline as flashes of blue and orange sparks start to fly out as Raiden takes on the enemies. Each boss has their own unique themes with lyrics that relate to that particular boss battle. By having a new composer and soundtrack this helps to give the game its own identity.
Customizing Raiden with Different Firmware - Now that Raiden is a cyborg ninja, he can be customized with different firmware (aka upgrades) to suit the play style of gamers. Whether you want to be a machine of destruction or make it difficult for yourself the options are available to upgrade moves and combos with various equipped weapons or don’t to make the game harder for yourself. Speaking of weapons, they too can also be upgraded with different firmware that increases attack strength and energy absorption. This customization extends to boss weapons as well. While some players will like the challenge of going in as a stock Raiden, in order to get S rankings in some areas, having an over-powered Raiden is sometimes the best course.
High Frequency Replayability and Extras to Unlock - It’s not a Metal Gear game without having to unlock secrets and extra items to encourage people to replay the game over and over again. In addition to unlocking VR missions, there are titles that can be unlocked if certain conditions are met, such as beating the game under four hours without alerting patrols on hard. Clearing a number of VR missions and getting S rank on each one also leads to secret unlockable extras. Not to mention the trophies that are ripe for the earning. DLC VR missions are in the works as well, which will lead to a longer life span to the game.
Action Packed Boss Battles - Boss battles and Metal Gear go hand in hand just like how peanut butter goes great with jelly. Revengance continues this tradition with its own action flair, and my god they are over the top spectacular. The trailers that have been released don’t really do those sequences justice. As I mentioned before, the music really matches up well with the boss battle and adds an extra touch of heart-pounding to the moment. While I don’t want to spoil anyone’s experience when they finally get to play the game, one boss battle that I greatly enjoyed was the Metal Gear Ray boss battle that was revealed in a trailer a month back by Konami and Platinum. Again, the trailers do not convey the awesomeness of these epic battles; you need to pay it for yourself to understand.
A DULL BLADE
Bosses’ Backgrounds are Not Fleshed Out - The Metal Gear franchise is known for their weird, yet memorable bosses that all had deep backstories. Bosses like Psycho Mantis, Revolver Ocelot, Liquid Snake, The Boss, Vamp, Fortune, and even the “Beauty and the Beast” Unit all had memorable backgrounds/backstories about their pasts and how they came to be. My personal favorite backstory is Crying Wolf of the BB unit. Her story is really tragic and you kind of feel for her even though she’s now a vicious killer. The reason I bring this up is that the background/backstories of the bosses in Revengance are not really that memorable. Now you may be thinking, “Well this is a brand new game so it’s kind of understandable”.
MGS2 Sons of Liberty first came out on the PS2 in 2001. That’s 11 years ago and yet the background stories of the Dead Cell members are still fresh in my mind, even before the HD Collection was released. With the Winds of Destruction unit; which consists of Mistral, Monsoon, Jetstream Sam and leader of the PMC Desperado Sundowner, their backgrounds are not really fleshed out that well. Sure we learn that Mistral was also a former child soldier just like Raiden, and that she joined the French Foreign Legion to become a French citizen, but that’s it. We don’t even get to find out why they have their code names or how they even got them. All we know is that they are a PMC that profits off of war and that’s it. It’s a shame too since the character models are really good looking. It would have been interesting to hear how they became the way they are in their unique cyborg bodies.
Camera is Topsy Turvy at Times - When the free control camera was introduced in MGS3: Subsistence and implemented in MGS4, it was a game changer. No longer did you have to position Snake or MGS2 Raiden in a corner if you wanted to get a better view of the area. You also didn’t have to worry about patrols that are off camera that you couldn’t even see until they have already found you. Since Revengeance is an action game, it adopts the free control camera, but with some mixed results. The best part of the camera is being able to look around at the really great set pieces that the game takes place in. This also includes getting a close-up of Raiden and seeing how detailed his ninja exoskeleton is. Not to mention close-ups of the enemies when engaging in combat. Herein lies the mixed results. Sometimes when moving the camera to look around at your surroundings, it tends to fight back, especially when there are larger Unmanned Gears(UGs) such as Dwarf Gekkos or when a number of cyborg enemies surrounding Raiden.
In the case of Dwarf Gekkos, the things are such a bigger target compared to cyborg troops that Raiden automatically faces their direction when also trying to avoid fire from the enemy cyborgs. As for a group of cyborgs surrounding Raiden, the camera will face the one that is currently attacking. While this would be ideal for one on one engagement, not all cyborgs use swords. Others will use automatic rifles or RPGs to attack, which can make things a bit chaotic. This would make combat difficult, but due to Raiden being a cyborg ninja he is able to deflect the attack no matter what direction it is coming from. Just as long as the player is moves the left stick towards the attacker and presses X.
About a year or so ago, I remember reporting on a tweet that Kojima has put out stating that one his latest project is different from his regular work and might be the end of his stay in the gaming industry if things go wrong. That project I think he was referring to was Metal Gear Rising: Revengance. He was right about one thing though. Revengance was a completely different style of gaming that he is used to developing. He and Konami took a gamble and asked for Platinum Games to help out with the development of the game. That gamble paid off.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengance carves out its own identity into the franchise all the while staying in cannon with the previous games. The action is very well done, the music is action pack and the graphics/character models look amazing. Delving deeper into Raiden’s past was a great touch and portrayed him as a tragic hero. Its high replayability will let players earn enough battle points to unlock more firmware updates to customize Raiden and his weapons, and unlock extra items. The camera can get annoying at times, and the backstories of the bosses aren’t too deep, which is a shame since they have such great design.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengance is worthy of the Metal Gear name and if you decide to skip it just because it isn’t a “Kojima game” or it doesn’t have Snake as the main character, then you are missing out on a great action experience.
*This review was based on the PS3 version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.*