Snake? Snake?! Snaaaaaaaaaaake! ... Sorry, not this time. There was a bit of pandemonium back when Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was first revealed. Known as Metal Gear Solid: Rising at the time, the title alone created a decent amount of confusion throughout gamers and hardcore fans of the series. Though it was plainly obvious by the teasers that it wouldn't star series veteran Solid Snake, gamers began to assume that it would handle like any other Metal Gear Solid game.
After having to make a hard decision, the game was all but scrapped by Konami and placed in the hands of Platinum Games, developer of titles such as Bayonetta, Mad World and Vanquish to name a few. With a shift in development and direction, as well as a change to the game's title, gamers knew that this was just the first of many changes to come. With the combined forces of Konami and Platinum Games, it seemed like a match made in heaven, but now that the game is released, is it what you expected?
First and foremost, yes, the story in Rising is canon, meaning it ties in with the rest of the Metal Gear Solid series. At first, Rising was meant to be prequel and serve as a backstory as to how Raiden came to be a cyborg, but insufficient ideas forced Konami to scrap the idea. Now taking place four years after Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Rising puts you in the role of Raiden, who made his debut in Metal Gear Solid 2 as it's main protagonist and aided Snake in Guns of the Patriots as a newly enhanced cyborg.
Attempting to avoid direct combat situations and to help support his family, Raiden has been contracted by a PMC (Private Military Group) group: Maverick Security Consulting, Inc. The game starts off with Raiden deployed to Africa and assigned with the protection of a VIP. Immediately after, the convoy is attacked by a rival PMC group, Desperado Enforcement LLC, led by the cyborg ninja Samuel Rodriguez, who has a much cooler codename: Jetstream. Long story short, Raiden is left defeated and heavily damaged at the hands of Jetstream, but is later reconstructed with a new body, new goal and a heart filled with (re)vengeance.
I'll be honest, the story in the Metal Gear Solid games were always ... a little confusing to say the least. With Konami in charge of the story, it surprising that Metal Gear Rising was easier to understand and follow this time around, even if it sounded like it was just slapped together at the last minute. Oddly enough I found myself tolerating the story largely due to the fact that it was over the top and wasn't trying too hard to be serious.
It seems like no matter how many times you make it clear that this is not a Metal Gear Solid game, people will still believe it to be just that. The gameplay in Rising is more focused on heavy action at all times, although the option to approach missions in pure stealth is also given. If you're like me you'll mostly be approaching every encounter guns blazing... or with your sword in hand. The combat boils down to two attacks, light and heavy. As you might expect, you can mix and match these to perform a variety of combos, it's really the meat and potatoes in the Rising gameplay stew.
But where the game really gets creative and crazy is with free blade mode; which utilizes the right stick for more precise cutting, which takes some getting used to, or the attack buttons for just senseless slicing. Weakening enemies to a certain point triggers blade mode opportunities, where you can hack away at body parts or aim for the targeted area that allows Raiden to rip out and absorb cyborg spines which replenish your health and blade mode meter (Zandatsu). You'll also use blade mode to cripple larger cyborg enemies and machines, such as the Gekkos you might remember from Guns of the Patriots. Should you tire of cutting enemies into hundreds of pieces, large amounts of the environment can also be hacked away - bringing about my obsession to cut up every car I came in contact with. Rising runs at a surprising 60 FPS, which just makes the action look and feel even more amazing. However, there were some occasions when the frame rate would drop whenever I would cut apart larger building structures, but not enough to really consider a nuisance.
The combat feels so satisfying, there was never a point during my time with Rising that I felt like encounters became repetitive or I didn't feel like a badass running around cutting everything to pieces. One of the issues I had and is quite common for games of this genre: the camera. For the most part the camera serves it's purpose well, except when you're placed into smaller rooms and enemies knock you back against the walls and cause the camera to shift in all crazy directions. Some slight issues also occur during some of the boss fights, where the action is so fast that you have to constantly keep the camera focused on everything that is going on. The parry system which serves as the games only means of defense also takes some getting used to as it relies heavily on precise timing, but it also makes the game quite challenging.
The entire enemy roster consists of various cyborg soldier and futuristic unmanned machines. There's plenty of variety during encounters that each feels different than the other. From your regular soldiers with guns/rocket launchers to larger ape-like enemies who lunge and drop kick you, each looks just as well done as the next. The bosses and Raiden in particular look absolutely amazing, and the actual fights were just so phenomenal, it definitely sets the bar for over the top design.
Voice acting is always something you expect to be mediocre at best when it comes to games of this genre, especially if the story itself leaves little to be desired. While not the best you'll hear, Rising does a decent job with the voice acting, as there are tons of dialogue throughout the game; whether in the amazingly well done cinematics or during the famous codec conversations. There was however one character that I felt was just so out of place and ridiculous, George... you'll know what I mean when you get to him.There's a fair amount of cheesy corny one liners and puns here and there but it's all done for the sake of comedic relief.
The star of the audio category would have to be the soundtrack, it's fits the theme of Rising so well, but was unsure if I would like when I first heard samples of during initial teasers and trailers. Catchy rock and metal tunes pump out during enemy encounters, with the boss battle tracks being the more memorable ones. It ranks as one of my favorite soundtracks to an action game, right next to DmC.
On normal difficulty I was able to complete Rising in about 7 hours with some exploration done, so it's a shame that the action came to a stop relatively quick. Most of the replayability will be done redoing missions on higher difficulties and completing a number VR missions you unlock during the story, which were found in previous Metal Gear Solid games. Aside from that there isn't much to be done after the games completion. There are no actual collectibles to be found, but there are several enemies hidden in boxes throughout levels which is pretty neat and a fun tribute to what Snake is famous for in Metal Gear Solid.
I thoroughly enjoyed my (short) time with Rising and was left wanting more. Amazing combat, memorable boss battles and catchy tunes, as well as silly humor that you would come to expect from a Metal Gear game, it's easy to recommend Rising to anyone who is a fan of the series as well as newcomers who are interested in a solid action game. Though it might not be worth the price of admission, it's definitely worth checking out.
This review was based on a retail copy of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance for the Xbox 360 provided by Konami.