Originally published on GameInformer.com February 12, 2013, at 8:00 PM.
Selected for Blog Herding -- The Best Blogs of the Community, 2/21/13.
3,726 views as of June 4, 2018.
Update 6/4/18: Select screenshots from this pictorial appear at bottom.
Imagine a David Lynch anime film of a Tom Clancy script based on a Philip K. Dick adaptation of Wagner's Gotterdammerung and you begin to understand the Metal Gear franchise. I know, I had you at Lynch. In the case of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the action gameplay rises to meet the over the top narrative in ways that entertain and inspire.
Of course, judging a game based on an early build demo is akin to clairvoyance, especially when a title has had as troubled a production as Revengeance. But Platinum Games does appear to have capably reworked Kojima Productions' stealth gameplay, a mainstay of Metal Gear Solid titles, into a suitably raucous sword swinging bar fight of a video game.
(Note that the following might include demo gameplay spoilers, though I don't go too deep into the plot, probably because I can't -- it is MGS after all.)
The series' VR training mode makes it's return and this time helps acquaint gamers with the new swordplay. Blade Mode allows directional slashes to be setup, however, subtle adjustments to the analog sticks means they are infrequently carried out. Hopefully this is a case of practice makes perfect but, truth be told, I didn't once use this during the demo.
The reason I never accessed Blade Mode during combat was that regular face button attacks proved reliable for dispatching foes (also, the tutorial prompts never introduced this option during the demo). That said, I understand it functions as a kind of meter-influenced bullet time that allows for strategic hits on opponents and no doubt would be integral to one's melee options.
Blade Mode did enable me to dispatch this cardboard foe (above), though all other hostages did not emerge unscathed. I can say that the various objects throughout the VR levels, including indistinct cars, columns, crates and boxes, provided a fun sandbox for practicing one's swordplay as all could be sliced and diced at will, and is a worthy harbinger of gameplay to follow.
The cyborg ninja Raiden at the heart of Revengeance's story is a warrior employed by a private military company that is at odds with other such entities a few years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The demo does not develop his character, though he should be familiar to fans of the series and certainly sports an amusing edgy attitude.
His design is well conceived and befitting of such a character though reminiscent of other similar figures such as Major Motoko Kusanagi of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and without her trademark acrobatic mobility. But as an established character in the Metal Gear universe no doubt Raiden will appeal to gamers who have followed his exploits.
The first area is a coastal setting that seemingly serves as a transitional location with little to do. But in a game as interactive as Revengeance, looks can be deceiving. In fact, even this otherwise benign environment serves as a playground for your devastating swordplay, and kept me entertained for much longer than it had any right to.
Structures that resemble the concrete foundation for piers might as well have been butter when sliced through by Raiden's formidable blade. The most fun can be had leaping and repeatedly hacking away in mid-air at the stone columns and, yes, I did say fun. The devastation you can wreak with every swing is an awesome sight and sound.
That said, this early build is not flawless in its execution as debris can obscure your character, collision detection is inconsistent and at times Raiden appears to fall through objects that I had sliced but still appear intact. For me, it's a small quibble as such glitches can be excused in a demo and did not detract from the joy of causing extreme mayhem.
Indeed, undermining the columns holding up walkways or ceilings will collapse that area of the structure. This will prove helpful later on as there is similar architecture found elsewhere, including during firefights where such strategic targeting can eliminate foes underneath. Just be sure to get out of the way before bringing the world down upon the heads of your enemies.
My biggest pet peeve about the swordplay has to do with the aftermath of your carnage. In a practice not uncommon to action games, debris left behind will disappear, though in Revengeance it seems to stick around for even less time than most similar titles. In that sense, I guess it keeps the action moving as you can't loiter and admire the fruits of your labor.
This is what was left of the beach after all was said and done. Compare with the previous screenshot from the same vantage point, and you'll appreciate how much of the environment is interactive. The first time through, in fact, I was having so much fun I realized only afterward that I'd destroyed the one means I had of progressing to street level LOL.
Regarding the presentation, Platinum Games has crafted a unique, detailed setting that is a joy to explore. Level design is creative, textures in general are fairly well detailed, the color palette is somewhat muted overall but still provides a nice range, and particle effects are impressive and colorful and actually stand out against the more muted backgrounds.
Animations are generally fluid and help to show off character movements and combat. Sounds are appropriate, the score unobtrusive, and dialog and voice acting is appropriately quirky, humorous and even campy at times. Cutscenes show off the same narrative flair the series is known for, and with production values that are top quality.
Combat is fluid and kinetic, with typically several foes engaged at once and melee combo strings available to help dispatch them. One face button controls wide attacks and another wields strong attacks. A parry option also is available, though I rarely if ever used it. I did, however, jump often either to strike when airborne or avoid attacks.
Truth be told, I played on easy difficulty (which should come as no surprise). That sufficed for me as I still took a beating but was never frustrated, as I've read can happen against later, stronger foes, I assume playing on the default normal difficulty. But for purposes of the demo/tutorial, chaining high and low, wide and strong attacks can rule the day.
Interior design is as evocative as exteriors and provides wonderful context and atmosphere for the action that transpires in the game. Oddly, not all similar objects are interactive. Some columns will collapse but not all. Certain crates will crumble but not others. That kind of inconsistency can prove frustrating, especially during combat, but is a relatively minor gripe.
Stealth still plays a role in Revengeance's gameplay, though it takes a backseat to the emphasis on action. But you can still sneak up on opponents and dispatch them with a vicious stealth kill. If you're seen, however, the usual alerts will play out and you'll either have to wait till they time out or commit to an offensive approach.
Augment mode is accessed via the up button on the directional keypad and allows Raiden to highlight the position of foes. This will enable one to choose a strategy for taking out adversaries on a given level. I'm sure it will come in handy, but for purposes of the demo, I only used it the one time I was prompted.
Items such as grenades can be found in certain containers located in various spots around a level. Slashing the container will open it, and automatically deposit it in your inventory. I believe the inventory can be accessed via the left or right buttons on the directional keypad, and will house both weapons and other items.
There does appear to be a variety of weapons at one's disposal for purposes of dispatching foes. Grenades, for instance, can be tossed with a guide to help aim one's throw. However, there's no need to use such munitions on lower level enemies. Wide and strong attacks are adept at taking out such opposition, at least early on.
Mechs, similar to those that appear in Guns of the Patriots, make their return and are no slouches. There will be options for eliminating their threat, such as using rocket launchers (finding them is a pretty good sign mechs are nearby!). But I mostly relied on aerial attacks to wear down their armor before finishing them off.
Thank goodness for nano-repair paste, the cybernetic bandaid of the future. As with other items, it can be found in certain crates and can restore health when one's clumsy tactics lower the health bar to 6.2% (above). When I'm not trying to take screenshots of the action, I actually perform a little better. But only a little.
I didn't even know high kicks were an option but I'm glad no attack is wasted. I guess that's one of the advantages of chaining melee combos between wide and strong attacks, though I suspect a roundhouse kick is less effective than slicing enemies with his concrete eating sword. But on balance this probably looks more graceful and, after all, image is everything.
Besides being prompted for stealth kills, gamers will see prompts for finishing moves when certain foes are debilitated. An effective move will cut to a kill cam to enjoy the achievement. Likewise, other prompts command gamers to shake the analog stick in order to escape a foe's advantage over you. Thankfully, I had not seen any actual quick time events.
Did I say image is everything? Despite technical glitches mentioned before, this early build generally was a solid spectacle that helped immerse one in the zany goings on. For Metal Gear fans, it's a familiar universe that at least shares the overall context as well as visual continuity with its predecessors. Whether the action will win over stealth fans is another issue.
Boss fights, if this one (above) is any indication, likewise will feature the kind of eccentric, memorable foes that are common to the series. A seemingly devious union of Transformer and HAL 9000, this nightmare of man's best friend leads to one of the more entertaining exchanges in the demo, as well as a fun battle.
The climactic fight is a kitchen sink affair, with everything experienced thus far thrown into the combat mix. The chainsaw-tailed adversary takes breathers every so often to allow his minions in the forms of foot soldiers and mechs to alternately take center stage during the prolonged battle. It's an enjoyable, if somewhat repetitive, affair that keeps gamers on their toes.
In the end, Raiden proves victorious to no one's surprise. But the journey is a truly rewarding one. Indeed, there are few demos that have a high entertainment value for me, and that convince me to consider buying a game I heretofore had little interest in. LEGO Star Wars and Just Cause 2 are ones that come to mind. Add Revengeance to that short list.
Honestly, the beach went a long way to selling me on this title. Something as simple as the way you can slice and dice objects in the environment, and feel like a superhero when doing it, is a fulfilling experience in and of itself. Place that gameplay in the Metal Gear universe, with its outlandish narrative, colorful adversaries and evocative setting and you have a winning combo.
In fact, that the demo can be so enjoyable despite glaring technical issues or regrettable design choices is testament to the ability of Platinum Games to deliver a fun exercise in action gameplay. That this is only an early build demo is encouraging and engenders hope that the studio has time to polish Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance into a real pearl.
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