- Developer Platinum Games
- Publisher - Konami
- Platforms - PlayStation 3 (tested), Xbox 360
- Release date - 22 February
- Price - TBC
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Platinum Games' influence is all over Revengeance. Comprised of the same limp action and knotted storytelling that mired Bayonetta in 2009, Metal Gear's latest is a humdrum hack and slasher with manga pretensions and dull swordplay. It's daft, it's flashy - a more cynical writer might call it "very Japanese." And despite epileptic levels of action and gloss, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance feels very empty.
You play series hate-magnet Raiden, who, four years after Metal Gear Solid 4, is working private security for the Prime Minister of a nameless African nation. Decked out in the latest cyborg armour, Raiden can pull off the kind of wuxia that would make Neo nervous, front-flipping over buildings, dodging bullets and cutting cars in half with his katana.
It's cool to watch in the game's tightly choreographed FMVs, but Raiden doesn't look so slick once you take control. Weak attacks are mapped to square, strong attacks to triangle and although mashing these together triggers some slick animation (the one where Raiden tucks the sword between his toes is particularly daffy fun) the in-game fighting never conveys the same grace or style as the scripted movies.
That's been the case with games for years, but the disparity in Revengeance feels particularly big. Sword-fighting is clunky and one note, with only an awkward parry system (move the left stick towards your enemy and tap square to block) and "Free Cut" mode to break up the basic attacks.
Free Cut is Revengeance's central gimmick, allowing players to, with a touch an L1, go into an over-the-shoulder view and move Raiden's blade in any direction he likes with the right analogue stick.
Chopping people up like this is delightfully gory, as arms, legs and entire mid-sections come off with single clean cuts; but it's cumbersome and heavy, fixing Raiden to the spot and screwing with your depth perception till you end up waggling rather than accurately slicing.
And it's never integrated into the battle scenes proper. As per Bayonetta or Sony's God of War, any particularly showy bit of sword kata in Revengeance is abbreviated into a quick-time event. An early example sees you mash triangle to run up a Metal Gear's arm then flicking the right stick to Free Cut its armour off in slow motion. Looking at the Raiden vs Vamp cutscenes that the Revengeance team had to go on, it's a marvel they managed to repackage that kind of thing into gameplay at all.
But it feels broad and sloppy, as you abortively pound buttons until a bad guy's health is low enough to trigger a cinematic climax.
The story, too, is badly directed and continues the Metal Gear tradition of making no sense in as many words as possible. Series helmer Hideo Kojima takes a back seat as executive producer, with writing duties this time assigned to Etsu Tamari, who previously worked on MGS4 and Peace Walker.
A stripped down, much less involved game compared to Kojima's botched epics, Revengeance does away with the heavy exposition and philosophical vaguery that bogged down other Metal Gears. But nevertheless, any script in which the line "you are full of surprises Mr Lighting Bolt" is met with "I could say the same about you Mr Prime Minister" isn't going to win any Writer's Guild awards any time soon.
But that isn't really Revengeance's purpose. It's a silly, exaggerated, Catherine Wheel of a game that makes no apologies for its pace and hyperbole. The control scheme and the action don't always come together to meet that end, and later, when the story gets bogged down in Raiden's - dun dun dun - troubled past, the strained melodrama is irksome. But if you can push past the icky combat and verbal clangers, there are some excellent moments in here.
The aforementioned scuffle with a Metal Gear Ray is really satisfying, especially for inveterate MGS players who have spent years being scared of that thing. Slicing its turrets off then grabbing it by the arm and literally throwing it down the street using Raiden's super strength is excellent payoff after years of boss battles, and a later fight with a helicopter, where you get in close and lop its rotor blades off one by one with Free Cut, is nicely done.
It looks and sounds gorgeous, too, with especial attention paid to blood and gore. The enemies are all half men, half robots which come apart and spray blood like Ian Holm in Alien, and there are some particularly lustrous moments during one-on-one sword fights where Raiden gets his cyborg arms cut off and shoots goopy, synthetic red out of his stump while fighting with the other hand. Juvenile stuff, but compared to the neutered violence of Platinum's other hack and slashers, Revengeance is delightfully messy.
Flaws and all
For every con in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, there's a pro. The story is flat and contrived, but at least eschews the breathy pretensions of earlier Gears. And despite the half-baked, rarely satisfying fighting scenes, the always resulting gore and occasional set-piece keep the action on its feet. It's OK, basically, and certainly a welcome tipple while people wait for whatever big thing Kojima Studios does next.
Big, bloody and occasionally a lot of fun, Revengeance does itself a favour by binning what typifies Metal Gear and sticking with its wacky pretensions flaws and all.
- Gameplay: 6/10 - Flashy and quick, but the control scheme and set-ups cramp your style
- Sound: 7/10 - Solid voice cast combined with thumping shout-metal in the fight scenes. The GECKO still sound frightening but a lot of the effects hardly register
- Graphics: 8/10 - Revengeance is a little rougher looking than other Metal Gears, but Yoji Shinkawa's aesthetic and a vibrant colour scheme really help
- Writing: 5/10 - Mostly bland, occasionally clunky. To his credit, Tamari bins a lot of the Kojima stuffiness
- Replay value: 7/10 - Extra difficulties, side missions and scoreboards mean there is a lot to come back to
- Overall: 7/10 - A neat, good-looking hack and slash game that doesn't quite come as advertised but is still gory fun
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