Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the latest game in the long standing Metal Gear series, and while it doesn’t share the “Solid” moniker, the standard for top notch cutscenes, voice over, and gameplay can all be found here. This latest entry however is not developed by the Kojima Productions team, but by independent developer Platinum Games. Metal Gear Solid Rising (later changed to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance) was announced at 2009 and afterward sank into the shadows for years until it reemerged at the VGAs in 2011.

It came to light later that the game had been in development hell at the hands of Kojima Productions, who weren’t sure how to turn their “Cut and Take” mechanic into a proper action game. Instead, Hideo Kojima contacted Platinum Games (makers of critically acclaimed action games Bayonetta, and Vanquish) to see if they were interested in working on the title. How could they refuse the chance to work on a series as highly regarded as Metal Gear Solid? They couldn’t and as it turns out, it was a perfect fit.

Unlike other titles in the Metal Gear Solid series, Metal Gear Rising does not focus on stealth/shooting gameplay as its foundation. Instead, this game is part of the character action genre made popular by games such as Onimusha, God of War, and Devil May Cry. It serves as the second game in the series to feature the divisive character Raiden. It is easy to see why Platinum was a great fit for this game, and you can even see a bit of their heritage bleeding into the game. For instance the game features quick-time events from time to time during the action a la Bayonetta or Vanquish. These effects are not overdone, and usually serve as finishers for boss fights or large enemy encounters.

The gameplay on the surface follows the traditional X/Square button for light attack and Y/Triangle button for heavy attack formula but as you progress the Y/Triangle button is substituted for alternate weapons picked up from boss encounters. This is pretty standard for action games these days, but the game layers it’s other unique systems on top of this base, for instance, “Blade mode”. Blade mode is introduced to you very early in the game, and its importance is emphasized if you play the tutorial. Essentially it allows you to press LB/L1 to slow down time and use the right stick to move your sword to slash in any direction. This allows for accurate cutting and dismemberment of your enemies, which leads me to the next, and ultimately best, system in the game: ZANDATSU.

ZANDATSU translates to “Cut and Take” in English. When you activate blade mode, there are certain points on an enemy you can slash to expose an electrolyte filled cyber-spine. When exposed you can press the B/Circle button to take it and refill your health and blade mode gauge. This mechanic is not only essential to your survival, but also very satisfying to pull off.

Another integral mechanic is the parry system, which, unfortunately, the game explains very poorly. Even worse, it’s required that you learn it in order to complete the game on anything higher than “Easy” difficulty (Which parries for you in most cases). Unlike most action games, Metal Gear Rising has an unconventional dodge, so the game expects you to parry an attack that comes your way and if the timing is right, counter it. This blade-to-blade form of offensive defense is one of the most brilliant gameplay mechanics despite its failure to adequately teach it.

It’s hard to explain how it works through text, but I’ll try anyway. When an enemy is about to attack, it’s telegraphed by a red cross appearing at their eye level. When this happens, you must press the left stick in the direction of the enemy while also pressing the X/Square button. Raiden has a very large window to do this on the Normal and Hard difficulties, while the timing is a lot stricter on the remaining Very Hard and Revengeance difficulties. Alternatively, if you’re able to pull this off at the very last millisecond of the counter window, Raiden will automatically counter the enemy and in most cases trigger a blade mode event to eventually pull off the ZANDATSU move.

The game also features a lot of sub weapons and alternate weapons with their own abilities to try during combat and mix things up. Ultimately they are all overshadowed by the game’s reliance on your main blade, but some can be very useful on certain enemy types.

The boss encounters are a shining point of Revengeance. Each one is very well set up featuring great set-pieces and innovative combat mechanics you need to use to defeat each one. The game even starts off with a bang by having Raiden fight a Metal Gear model RAY in the very first level. This instantly got me hooked and I was more than ready to see what else the game had in store. One particular fight in the game is a smaller scale blade to blade fight in the style of a samurai movie. This proved to be equally as thrilling, if not more so, than the first level’s boss.

Metal Gear Rising: Revenveance takes place 4 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4 and the world is very different. The game seems to go out of its way however not to mention characters that were once staples of the Metal Gear series, including fan favorite Solid Snake. This is okay and it is understanding as Raiden is very much the main focus of this game. If you’re a fan of Metal Gear Solid’s sometimes longwinded exposition through cutscenes and Codec conversations, you won’t be disappointed here. While there aren’t 8 hours’ worth of cutscenes like Metal Gear Solid 4, there are plenty to watch in between boss encounters and missions as well as the optional Codec sequences with your support team. It’s abundantly clear that Kojima Productions penned the story and choreographed the pre-rendered sequences in the game and it’s amazing that the game is so fluid between the gameplay and the cutscenes even though separate teams worked on them.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance proved itself worthy of the Metal Gear name and is a worthy entry into Platinum Games’ lexicon. If you like fast paced action games with a focus on deep mechanics and replayability, this is the game for you regardless of whether this is your first Metal Gear game or you’re a series veteran.

Final Score – 9/10

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