Dead On –
Metal Gear Rising has had a rough development cycle. Starting in-house, Kojima Productions was having difficulty locking down the overall design of Raiden’s first solo adventure so instead passed off development responsibilities to the action fanatics at Platinum Games of Madworld, Vanquish, and Bayonetta fame. The end result is not a typical tactical stealth espionage action Metal Gear title but is highly enjoyable, full of satisfying cut throat action, and finally gives Raiden his time to shine.
Rising is a third person action game but is unlike any other Metal Gear title before it; do not expect to find and secure a wealth of firearms and items, knock enemies out with tranq darts, or hear Snake’s rough voice. Instead, players control Raiden, a cyborg outfitted with a high frequency katana that can cut through most objects like a hot knife through butter. This new Metal Gear title also takes place after the conclusion of Metal Gear Solid 4. Without giving away spoilers, the story is a little ridiculous even for Metal Gear standards but it actually coincidences with the over-the-top amount of action: let’s just say hijacked brains, samurai, sombreros, and talking dogs all are key elements to the story. And yes, longer cut scenes make a return. Luckily, they can be paused or bypassed altogether if you choose.
The main gimmick behind Rising comes from Raiden’s sword play. Instead of merely button mashing through throngs of mindless drones, Raiden must slice open his enemies and steal their power (sort of like MegaMan). You see, Raiden is a cyborg and must constantly refuel his cybernetic body by absorbing the electrolytes that are spilled from vanquished enemies. By holding down the left shoulder button the player enters Blade Mode, a regenerating time slowing feature that puts the player in direct and precise control of Raiden’s blade similar to Max Payne’s bullet time. Here, specific sword swipes can be used to sever specific body parts via analog stick flicks. For example, if most enemies are sliced through the heart area, Raiden can then have access to their energy to refuel. Or, if left hands are removed, the player is rewarded with more BP (Battle Points) which are used to unlock new in-game content such as energy bonuses or new combat moves. The most important aspect to point out with this Blade Mode system is that everything gets cut in the exact spot where the sword is swung. This powerful game engine is unlike any other and is really something that needs to be experienced by any action fan. The game even keeps track of the number of segments you create when using Blade Mode. In summary, it is very cool.
Rising’s combat has a bit of a learning curve particularly with Blade Mode and blocking. Luckily, the opening stage acts as both a tutorial but also grabs the player’s attention with a memorable and cinematic boss battle. VR Missions can be accessed at any time during the main campaign via the pause or main menu if the player needs dedicated space to play around with the unique control and gameplay elements.
I first experienced Rising by playing the demo that was included in the Zone of the Enders HD Collection. During this demo, I had some difficulty with the Blade Mode controls and how the game handles blocking – you don’t just simply hold down a block button but instead must hit the light attack button in the direction of your attacker. This blocking system requires skill and can be difficulty especially when fighting a group of enemies at once. Because of my experience playing the demo, I first played through Rising on the Easy difficulty setting and took me about 6 hours to complete, not including listening to most of the optional codec conversations. Once the game is completed, the player has the option to start again with a different difficulty setting or can play any specific level to unlock more features or for Trophy/Achievement hunting. Point being, Rising is a challenging game; you cannot expect to button mash your way through the campaign as even a common enemy can make your codec crew screaming “Raidennnnnnn!”
Once the campaign has been completed, the player has the option to complete several VR Missions, similar to the VR Missions with the original Metal Gear Solid or the Substance version of MGS2. These extra missions do give the game additional legs but all are basically tests in player tenacity as most revolve around trial and error or honing a specific skill. Some will enjoy it whereas others will dread it. Unfortunately, high scores are restrained to local leaderboards which makes striving for that high score a little less worthwhile. Also, most VR Missions are unlocked by finding hidden items within the main campaign. These hidden extras found within each level encourages subtle exploration and other Metal Gear-isms also return like finding posters of bikini wearing Asian woman. And as an additional note, extra VR Missions have been announced for the PS3 version as DLC.
The Metal Gear series has contained some of the most memorable boss battles in the history of gaming. Unfortunately, Rising’s boss battles are not at the same caliber as previous titles although are still worthy for an action game. Instead of learning the background of each villain and how they were transformed with super human powers, they game just basically says “here is a team of bad guys, just fight them, don’t worry about their story.” While this might not be very Metal Gear-ish, this still fits within the high action of Rising. Trying to stay away from spoilers, the final boss battle is over-the-top ridiculous and actually is reminiscent of something out of Asura’s Wrath as opposed to Metal Gear. The six hour quest might sound like a short game but the campaign concludes with a balanced sense of pacing; it ends before things start to feel repetitive.
Besides the average quality boss battles, there are a couple other tedious mistakes with the gameplay. First, there are a few places where Raiden can accidentally fall off a ledge and instantly die. For example, about half way through the game the player must carefully walk up a crane and then jump off to reach a distance rooftop; one small misstep and its game over as Raiden will plummet to the ground below. As cheap as this instant kill is, it really just doesn’t make sense because a couple chapters later Raiden falls from a sky-high helicopter and lands without injury. Having Raiden fall from a building which yields instant death is a cheap gameplay tactic but at least there a decent excuse for the numerous invisible walls that guide the player through each liner level – an electromagnetic field prevents cyborgs from entering certain areas… at least they were creative about it.
Metal Gear Rising features an entirely new cast of characters. In fact, longtime fans might be a little disappointed as Sunny, the little girl from MGS4, is the only returning character. Raiden’s wife Rose, Raiden’s son, Snake, and Ocaton are mentioned very briefly if players are patient enough to listen through the hours of additional codec conversations.
The developers at Platinum Games know how to make an action game. They have put their signature touch into Metal Gear Rising while still retaining Metal Gear elements such as stealth kills, cinematic cut scenes, and an overarching plotline that questions humanity, morals, and ethics. When Kojima Production handed off the development of this game, Platinum pretty much threw away everything previously established and started fresh. They placed the story after the events of MGS4 instead of setting the game between MGS2 and MGS4. With this said, Raiden is already an established cyborg as opposed to experiencing Raiden’s cyborg origin story. Perhaps seeing exactly how Raiden saved Sunny from the Patriots will have to be reserved for a new game or maybe some future DLC.
I specifically played through the PS3 version of Rising. For the most part, the game runs smoothly but hiccups whenever a section of a level is completed and a score is tallied. This frame rate drop isn’t a game breaking flaw, however. Rising is also a great looking game. The story takes players through a string of unique environments from an enclosed sewer, to rooftops, a Japanese garden, to a military base. Everything looks gorgeously high def and detailed. The cut-n-take game engine is also impressive. Slicing enemies apart is immensely satisfying and visceral; parts even buckle and fall realistically via the Havok physics engine. The developers are also incredibly confident in their work as the opening title screen makes a lasting impression and drips with high presentation values.
The game’s soundtrack, which was entirely rewritten when development switched hands, fits the fast paced and violent atmosphere of the game. Even later levels features an epic score that sort of sounds like something out of Halo. Voice acting, as with all Metal Gear titles, is spot on and top tier. Even the characters that speak with Russian and German accents generate a high quality performance. Most of the story’s background details are explained via optional codec conversations so it is encouraged to call your support team from time to time. There is even a gold Trophy for listening to most of this optional content.
Metal Gear has always retained a very high level of detail, polish, and quality with Rising being no exception albeit being a completely different type of Metal Gear game, one based around action as opposed to stealth. Chopping enemies to bits using Blade Mode is one of the most satisfying gameplay experiences I have had in a long time and it managed to be enjoyable throughout the entire adventure; it is more enjoyable than the MotionPlus found in Skyward Sword or just mindlessly tapping an attack button, for example. Slicing off specific areas of your enemies is always entertaining and introduces new ways to interact with the environment. As fun and different as the gameplay is, there are still flaws like inconsistent platforming segments and sometimes cheap difficulty spikes. But action fans will undoubtedly find a weekend’s worth of high octane entertainment value playing through Raiden’s first solo game. Jack is back and he is probably here to stay.
Not As Good As: Snake Eater
Also Try: God of War Saga
Wait For It: Bayonetta 2
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