GAMING REVIEW: 'Metal Gear' changed but mostly for the better
Title: “Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance”
Format: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Kojima Productions/Platinum Games
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
What is it?
A gaming stalwart taken in a new direction. The "Metal Gear" series is best known for being all about stealth and tactical espionage, but “Revengeance” takes the franchise in a new direction. Action is the name of the game now as co-developer Platinum Games (“Bayonetta,” “Vanquish”) leaves its mark on creator Hideo Kojima’s well-known series. Long time "Metal Gear" second banana Raiden, first seen in “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty,” is the central character in “Revengeance.” The sword carrying cyborg slices and dices his way through a futuristic world filled with evil private military companies bent on world domination.
Not your daddy’s "Metal Gear." One of my all time favorite games is “Metal Gear Solid” on the original PlayStation. I’ve followed the series through its many sequels and prequels and the first thing that popped into my head as I started playing this game was “This isn’t 'Metal Gear.'” With all its frenetic katana wielding, “Revengeance” felt more like a “Soul Calibur” title than "Metal Gear," at least initially. Thankfully any doubts about this game were quickly tossed aside once I jumped into “Revengeacce’s” fulfilling combat. Raiden’s moves are ridiculously fun to pull off and the sparse use of quick time events perfectly tempers the action. The combat doesn’t give off a Metal Gear vibe but it sure is rewarding.
But it certainly IS a "Metal Gear" game. Everything that Metal Gear fans love from the series is in place in “Revengeance.” Soliton radar? Check. Plot-filling codec conversations? Check. VR missions? Check. Overly long, dramatic cut scenes with egomaniacal bosses? Check. A politically convoluted, yet interesting plot? You better believe it. Gamers can even hide in boxes just like they could in previous "Metal Gear" games. I was surprised by how much I missed that. While Solid Snake and Big Boss are no longer central to the action, there are plenty of classic "Metal Gear" elements in “Revengeance” for die hard fans to appreciate and new fans to enjoy.
Steep learning curve. When I first powered up “Revengeance,” playing as Raiden made me feel like I was Sonic the Hedgehog with a sword. I’d zip around and chop things to pieces but I really had no idea what I was doing. VR missions give you some clues on how to properly use your cyborg body but they only provide the basics. The most useful missions only unlock as you progress through the game. It took about two hours for me to feel truly comfortable controlling Raiden, which was throw-my-controller-at-the-wall infuriating.
Minor annoyances. “Revengance” has some issues that make combat harder than it needs to be. Battles are full of jumping and running yet there is no dodge button, just a block move that works only half the time. Compounding the difficulty is the wonky camera, which would frequently block my opponent or leave me facing a wall. And why do I have to wiggle the left stick when I’m stunned? What is this, 1985? Don’t mix new school gameplay with 1980s fighting contrivances.
As I was playing through this game I got the feeling that this is exactly what creator Hideo Kojima has always envisioned for his beloved franchise. It has so many elements he’s hinted at for years but has never put together in one title, until now. This isn’t the stealthy game I grew up with but with its frenzied action, over-the-top villains and tongue-in-cheek humor, “Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance” is a solid addition to a long and storied franchise.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones