Garden

Review – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Developed by:  Platinum Games
Published by:  Konami
Released: 2013 (2014 on PC and Mac OX)
Platforms:  MacOSX, PC/Steam (Played), Xbox 360, Playstation 3

There were aspects of the late 80’s and early 90’s cartoons that annoyed my juvenile 10 year old self.  Why did Wolverine only hack up robots and not the clearly more important  human/mutant leaders?  Why did Batman deliver the Joker to police instead of just snapping his neck and saving Gotham years of trouble?  Why didn’t the Ninja Turtles hack off Shredder’s head and mount it as a warning for the foot clan?

The watershed obviously; kids programs couldn’t very well be displaying violence, otherwise immoral tyrants and dictators would be threatening, as opposed to bumbling idiots they apparently are in real life.

Those that grew up during this era can re-experience the magic of their Saturday morning adventures, but FAR removed from the parent friendly restrictions of day time television.

‘Captain Planet’ comes to mind, as Metal Gear Rising also features a multi-cultural group of friends  revolving around a central hero.  Raidan, an ex-child soldier, fights evil through sword dismemberments, mutilations and vicious spine removal.

The game maintains a straight face throughout it’s over the top action, violence and cheesiness – and the end result is glorious.

metalgear fight 2

Metal Gear Rising takes place in the same world as the Metal Gear Solid series (though is a contained story) and as such shares a familiar aesthetic and setting – a near future inhabited by sleek cyborgs, colossal robots, ninjas, high tech gadgets and weapons that are just grounded enough to remain in the boundaries of suspended belief.  The graphics match this aesthetic, are of high fidelity and are gorgeous to behold.

I Cut you

Combat is very much the spectacle, though basic at its core.  Melee consists of light and heavy attacks and ‘Blade Mode’.   Attacks will  look and behave differently depending on the enemy, and even though the on-screen dance is mostly button mashing, it is always energetic and never boring.  Tactics will vary for each enemy type; flying enemies require mid-air sword fighting, others are vulnerable to sliding attacks.  Others may require skilful dodging or use of your sword to deflect projectiles.

Raiden’s sword can also be used to slice objects and enemies at the exact angle in which it is aimed via ‘Blade mode’.  Most enemies are vulnerable to these precision attacks, allowing Raiden to cut them into pieces.  The goal is to hit the target in a specific place to trigger the finishing move – removing and destroying the targets spine to restore health and energy.

‘Blade Mode’ is a mostly gimmick, the space in which you can make the critical strike is indicated with a medium sized hit box, and not incredibly difficult to hit.  If pinpoint precision was required then it would be very tedious process.  Overall it’s simply a fancy mechanic that looks better than its usefulness.

takedown

There are various secondary weapons and item, such as rocket launchers, grenades, boxes for hiding and distraction devices.  These are rarely needed for progression and the sword will usually be the weapon of choice.

Engaging in sword play and successfully performing finishers can result in moments of giddy satisfaction and feelings of skill.  Especially with more unique enemies.  If you can pull off a precision hit on a flying enemy for example, Raiden will balance on its wings, rip it’s spine from its neck, triple flip to the ground and crush it with one hand.

The music is shamelessly cheesy, with some of the more intense fights playing music that I can only describe as Japanese Pop Metal.  It keeps up with the fast paced tempo of battle and fits perfectly with the tone of the rest of the game.

Story

The plot, (which I swear is true) involves Raiden and his security organisation trying to prevent a Private Military Company (called Desperado) from kidnapping homeless children and harvesting their brains.  You battle the PMC’s cyborg army – from its henchmen to its elite leaders, in an attempt to stop their plans and eventually expose the politician (of course) that is master-minding the effort.

I mentioned the multi-cultural aspect of Raiden’s team earlier because their diversity is so amplified that it’s bordering on racism.

Boris the mission commander, is a square jawed Russian that speaks with a thick accent and regularly says ‘Da!’  Kevin is a muscular African American with Braids and what appears to be Kanye West glasses around his neck.  Courtney is a bespectacled, intellectual blonde whose blouse buttons are at risk of taking an eye out due to the pressure exerted on them from the bust they are trying to contain.  Finally there is the German doctor and scientist with the oddly round head and is referred to as ‘Doktor’

kevincodex

As a young white Irishman, each character hits at least one personal insecurity of mine; however,  I genuinely warmed up to each of them.  They are ostensibly stereotypical, but throughout every conversation each member displays their own unique personalities, interests and humour.  They are well voiced and expressive enough that I eventually warmed to them and considered them teammates, and not soulless talking heads for which lazier games would settle.  Conversations can get quite philosophical and drag on at times, but overall the uniqueness and characterisation of the supporting cast make for a richer game world.

You’ll Never Defeat me!!!

Conversely, the antagonists could easily be plucked from the aforementioned cartoons.  For example, one of the antagonists, ‘Sundowner’ – leader of the evil PMC – explains his motives by declaring that all this peace is ‘bad for business!’  Bosses are colourfully diverse, with their own unique weapons and styles.  They taunt and move in overly expressive theatrical ways.  In spite of this, they still have menacing aspects to their design which portray a definite sense of danger and brutality.

There can be a clash of tone at times;  one moment a boss is portrayed as almost comically flamboyant and the next they are committing brutal murder.

The protagonist Raiden, is a heavily augmented cyborg.  His passion for justice is…worrisome.  He wields his sword for justice and for those that cannot defend themselves!  He fights for all that is good and true!  And while reading that, picture a power ranger posing in karate positions and whooshing a sword around for effect, because that is pretty much what Raiden looks like.

monsoonsam

For all of Raiden’s wholesome rhetoric and just crusade, he is pretty much a combination of the 4 Horsemen.  An absolute killing machine that makes mince meat of everything he encounters.  It is established early on that the enemy cyborgs are sentient beings, humans that willingly signed up and

have emotions (not unlike Raiden), of which Raiden acknowledges – but still merrily separates their souls from their bodies.  Even after mass slaughtering a group of soldiers he will break into a speech about fighting for freedom and peace, something that would be offensively hypocritical if it weren’t so bloody funny.

It’s as if he is desperately protecting his image.  About halfway through the game Raiden needs bring up his darker past to find the strength and ruthlessness needed to overcome ‘Monsoon’, another member of Desperado.  Raiden then becomes moody, aggressive and adopts a grizzled batman voice.  Up until this point Raiden spoke similar to a prepubescent boy.  During his ‘dark’ phase he sounds like a prepubescent boy trying to sound angry.  This was as silly as it was completely unnecessary, Raiden has killed literally everything that has challenged him to that point, he’s already scary enough.

This all may sound completely ridiculous and it pretty much is, but combined with the rest of the games ‘go all out’ attitude it gives Raiden an adorable (albeit psychotic) charm.

mistralpose

Round 1,638…Fight!

My primary criticism is tricky do describe because it was a source of great frustration, but also determination and intense satisfaction.

I am of course talking about the boss fights – some of which are incredibly challenging.  Most require precise execution, and mistakes will result in a beating of almost palpable severity.  Most bosses need to be attacked in a specific way,  some need to be stunned or disarmed before proper damage can be delivered.

On many occasions the strategy required were very difficult to intuit, almost unfairly so, and was a regular source of frustration.  For example, on some boss encounters there are small symbols indicating an opportunity to use Blade mode, but these are never necessary in any non-boss encounter, so it is not obvious as to what it was trying to hint (i.e. go into Blade Mode).  It took many deaths before I figured this out.

Another example was the the Monsoon encounter.  During one phase he can dodge almost all attacks.  A well time parry can break this phase, but it takes a lot of time (and damage) for the opportunity to become present.  After many deaths I researched the tactics online and discovered that the phase could be broken by using an E.M.P grenade to stun the boss, then strike in blade mode.

sonarmode
Every single fight to that point could be completed without grenades –  there was so little need for grenades that I forgot I even had them.  Had there been a regular enemy or scenario that required grenades before reaching the boss, then the revelation may have been quicker, preventing multiple deaths and extreme frustration.

The parry skill is another frustration point on bosses.  Many of boss encounters require reflexive use of the parry skill – however, parrying is rarely required outside of these fights.  I found myself trying to develop the skill in the boss fight itself, resulting in many more deaths.

Before you argue, the training missions available are no excuse for any of the above, bosses should test the skills you’ve learned up to that point
through story play.  Entering VR Training involved exiting the story mode, which was a jarring break to the flow of the game so I avoided it.

Once you figure out the tactics, the next step is to perfect their execution.  Timing blade mode, parry, jumps, dodges, and when to use secondary weapons, requires patience and concentration.  It is vital to invest in each fight and pay close attention to the physical movements of the boss.

I often considered giving up, but no matter how many times I died, or how any times I wanted to fling the controller, I reloaded to try again.  After every death I thought of a different approach to the fight, a different move, or tactic, or developed better timing.  I was frustrated, but my determination grew as every defeat had been a bit closer to victory, the next time could be it.

sundownerpose

The final boss is probably the best example of this.  Definitely the most difficult to figure out and execute, I died over and over again but improved on each attempt.  Landing the killing blow was one of the most relieving and satisfying moments I’ve had playing a game.  A feeling that may not have been so intense had I not spent so much time perfecting the dance of the encounter.

Conclusion

Metal Gear Rising is not a very long game, 10-12 hours on my playthrough; but it is an intense,  fun engaging experience.  I recommend it to almost anybody.  The difficulty and effort required for the boss fights may put some off, as at times they are not pleasant.  They are however designed to at least be fair, though sometimes it may not seem like it.

MGR does nothing unless it can be done excessively.  The primary villains are so evil its silly, the violence is childishly over the top, and the action is fast and intense, with the boss fights being as rewarding as they are frustrating.  All of this comes together to create a fun game with its own fantastic, cartoonish charm.