In Metal Gear Solid 2, gamers were presented with a bait and switch. They thought they were going to play Solid Snake, and ended up stuck with a whiney unknown character named Raiden. Many years went by before Kojima’s strange obsession with the character resurfaced in Metal Gear Solid 4. In that time Raiden had become a lot more interesting – as well as transforming into a cyborg ninja. The problem with MGS4 was that all the amazing things that Raiden pulled off happened during cut scenes. If you take the new, cooler blade wielding Raiden and add in the ability to actually control him while he is pulling off super-human ninja moves, then you have Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
“Power fantasy” it putting it mildly when you think about how you play Rising. There are some half-hearted stealth sequences, but there is nothing stopping you from plowing right through the middle of said sequences with sword flailing. PlatinumGames, masters of the action game, developed Rising and their fingerprints are all over the title. To parry, Raiden makes an attack towards his enemy, Rising’s version of cover is the ninja run, which makes Raiden invulnerable to enemy bullets – Raiden dashes around automatically cutting bullets out of the air with his sword.
The only time the action slows down is when Raiden enters “blade mode”. If he has enough fuel cells, Raiden can slow down time to a crawl, and freely swing his sword with the right analog stick, or line up horizontal and vertical slices which are then enacted with your controller’s face buttons. Stunned or vulnerable enemies will literally be sliced into smaller and smaller pieces. Raiden’s cyborg vision allows him to see a red box on defeated enemies while in blade mode. Slice through that and he can perform a “Zandatsu”, which exposes the enemy cyborg’s chewy center and allows Raiden to rip out what looks like a glowing blue spine. The maneuver completely refills Raiden’s health and fuel cells, making the Zandatsu the lynchpin of successful combat, especially since entering blade mode quickly drains Raiden’s fuel cells. Lesser enemies quickly start to look like ambulatory health packs.
Don’t take this to mean that Rising is a walk in the park. Even lesser enemies can quickly put Raiden on his back if he isn’t careful. Bosses and mini-bosses often have armor or even limbs that have to be cut off in blade mode before they can be properly zandatsued.
The narrative in Rising is erratic at best. At times it is silly or cheesy but self-aware and other times (especially in the last chapter), it is atrociously heavy-handed with the message it is trying to deliver. I did find myself enjoying some of the back and forth with Raiden’s pet cyborg wolf, but boy, some of the codec dialogs were brutal to sit through. Especially considering Rising is a relatively short experience.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is at its best when Raiden is dashing from enemy to enemy, cutting them into little teeny bits. The action hardly ever takes a breather, and the end result is a very fun experience.
This review is based on a retail copy of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance for the Xbox 360 provided by Konami. It is also available on the PS3.