Metal Gear Rising is a great start of a different Metal Gear series that does its character much justice.
Raiden has always been a rather intriguing character. Having been introduced in Metal Gear Solid 2 as a young soldier with a rather turbulent, yet mysterious life he has managed to stir up a lot of controversy amongst the MGS loyalists who were so used to playing as the beloved Solid Snake over the years. That being said, I personally wasn't on this campaign of controversy with Raiden; I'll have to admit that MGS 2 is my personal favorite in the series. One can't deny that his introduction into the series was beginning the start of a new plot overlook in the MGS universe. Especially considering the many twists that MGS 2 took in its story. Having seen his many improvements in MGS 4, I must admit that I thought to myself, "Dude, I wished I could play as Raiden!"
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is this dream come true. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance continues this new take on the Metal Gear Solid franchise with Raiden to create a more action-oriented game. The result is an exciting, fresh inclusion in the series that manages to successfully retain the gameplay mechanics that fans have been used to over the years, but isn't without its share of flaws.
Taking place after the events of MGS 4: Guns of the Patriots, Raiden takes a job in the PMC Maverick Security to help support his family, whom are living in New Zealand and to be faithful to his personal oath to use his sword for justice. During an operation in Libya, Prime Minister N'Mani is captured and killed by members of a terrorist faction called "Desperado Enterprises" led by Sundowner and Armstrong. Learning of their intentions to revive war and their operations in Abkhazia and Guadalajara, Raiden is given a blast from the past upon discovering their intents to kidnap orphans and use their brains to transform them into child soldiers via VR training. Raiden then is tasked to dismantle "Desperado Enterprises" and rescue the orphans in an attempt to stop the use of VR training in crafting child soldiers.
Anyone who is familiar with Hideo Kojima's style of games knows that he is very heavy on exposition through the use of lengthy cutscenes to the point to where his games feel more like movies. Despite how great MGS 4 was that was one of the drawbacks to that game. There wasn't enough of a balance between gameplay and story. Metal Gear Rising does manage to make up for that flaw by providing enough of a balance between the two. While there still are codec conversations and cutscenes within the levels the player is given more of a chance to fully explore the levels and be in control of the game.
The style of Metal Gear Rising is more cartoonish and eclectic than the predecessors. While the Metal Gear series is no stranger to quirkiness and having villains with their own supernatural abilities, a lot of the villains in this game feel more like Power Rangers/ Super Sentai influenced characters that have their own complex agendas. Not to say it's a bad thing, but it is a departure from the more complex characters that traditional fans have been used to. The story doesn't take itself as seriously as the previous installments and does provide more insight on Raiden as well as the events of MGS 2 and 4. Sadly, the story is not as deep as the original games and this does make way for some underwhelming character involvement.
When talking about the technical aspects of the Metal Gear franchise, one can't help but acknowledge how many levels each game has pushed its console's capacity. Metal Gear Rising is no exception to this. The character designs and animations are wonderfully done and move much more fluidly than in the previous installments. Being more campy than the previous installments, there's much more facial animations with the characters and even more personality with each character. This is both a good and bad thing. It's good that we get more personality with each character, but a bad thing for the traditionalists who are more used to the psychological complexity with each character.
The voice acting is also nicely done. Quinton Flynn reprises his role as Raiden and does a great job at giving Raiden an all-new persona. All of the other voice actors do great in their roles. Metal Gear has always had much script-work done in its conception. All of the characters are given various scripts within each different scenario. Hence, making for some interesting, yet sometimes humorous interactions. Due to Metal Gear Rising not having much character involvement, I found the codec conversations rather boring. The music is also very well done and does get more engaging during certain parts of the game.
The gameplay of Metal Gear Rising is where the game might get a little controversial. As was said earlier, Metal Gear Rising is a much more action-oriented installment. Having been developed by Platinum Games, anyone who has played Vanquish and Bayonetta would have to expect as much from such a company behind both projects. The combat system plays much like Bayonetta, but the pacing and quick time events play like Vanquish. Raiden has many weapons in his disposal that are split into different categories: Main Weapon, Sub-Weapon, and Secondary Weapon. Each tool is acquired in the course of the game and when a boss is defeated. Upon completing a level and defeating enemies, the player will gain battle points that are used to upgrade Raiden, his weapons, or purchase new outfits and items.
There are several unique things about this game. For instance, there are fully destructible environments in this game. Destroying these obstacles can also grant BP and provide a sense of strategy during combat. What Red Faction did for First Person Shooters, Metal Gear Rising does the same for hack and slash games. Another great addition for this game is the blade mode. Blade mode is activated with the L1 trigger and slows down images allowing for swifter cutting. During this mode, the player has full control over what gets cut and how it gets cut. Not only can the Triangle and Square buttons cut vertically and horizontally, but also the use of the right analog stick can allow more flexible blade movements. There are certain moments during the game where the player is required to activate this mode to slice through obstacles, or align the blade line with an appearing reticule during the more context sensitive moments. Along with these moments, one also has the Zandatsu finishing moves where one cuts an enemy in correlation to the reticule and extracts electrolytes from the target with a press of the Circle button. The electrolytes can help replenish Raiden's health and focus meters. If the focus meter is full and glows red the player can activate Ripper Mode with L3+R3. R1 can activate Raiden's Ninja Run that not only allows him to move at a fast pace, but also negotiate obstacles and deflect incoming bullets.
Unlike most hack and slash games, Metal Gear Rising does not rely on a linear combo system. This isn't one of those games that have an enormous chart that shows the player what buttons to press, when to press them, or how in order to pull off certain abilities. This is a game that prompts the player to use his/her imagination in using the Triangle and Square combo buttons to string together the techniques of the main and secondary weapons. This makes the combat very fluid and satisfying.
Although, there isn't just hacking and slashing in this game, there is some shooting and sneaking involved as well. The guns have been limited to homing missile launchers and rocket launchers. There are some elements in the game that recommend the player to man a machine gun and blast enemies that appear. The stealth elements of this game allow the player to take cover behind obstacles and take cover in a cardboard box while moving past the patrolling guards. One can also perform Ninja Kills from behind an enemy or above the target with a press of the Circle button. There is no wall hugging or crouching feature in this game. One has to monitor the character's surroundings with the AR vision while behind obstacles and move in accordance to the guards' patrolling patterns. This diversity does help to vary the choices one has in how they want to play the level.
There are some problems with this game. The lack of an aiming feature during melee combat to and having to manually point the left analog stick in the direction of an impending attack while simultaneously pressing Square to block takes some getting used to. Most of the quick time events are well done but I really did not like the ones that required the fast movement of the left analog stick to either break Raiden out of a daze or get out of an enemies bind. I personally didn't find it fully responsive and was inconsistent in terms of difficulty. The camera can also be rather wonky and whenever the action heats up it can be difficult to tell where enemies can be attacking. I do also wished that there were more variety in the guns.
Metal Gear Rising is a great start of a different Metal Gear series that does its character much justice. Despite its faults and the fact that the single player only spans seven missions, Metal Gear Rising does have many unlockable VR missions that help to add to the replay value. Platinum Games consider themselves the gods of the action genre and that they and Japan in general most certainly are.