As this generation has progressed there’s been a subtle shift in the difficulty of your average game to make them more accessible (read: easier) as videogames become more popular and thus open up to new sets of gamers. After all, if you’ve parted way with many notes worth of cash in return for the latest big release you want to be able to see the entire thing. The days of frustratingly difficult titles, more often than not due to their broken mechanics, are almost entirely in the past with challenging a far apter description of what even the most arduous of games.
This brings me onto Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been so stuck at in a game that I had to put down the controller and turn it off for fear of reacting out of character. Try after try I could not better a boss within the opening hour of the game. Why? Because a hugely important mechanic is fundamentally flawed.
In the opening few scenes you spend your time sitting through Kojima Productions tradition – i.e. lengthy yet engaging cutscenes – before being thrown into combat after a brief tutorial. Unlike the stealth-action Metal Gear Solid series, Revengeance is a hack ‘n’ slash game down to its core. There’s an ample amount of both hacking and slashing – with developers Platinum Games even allowing you to slice your lightning blade in any direction you please to cause some serious damage.
As a result, as with most in the genre, you spend a large proportion of your time chaining combos, utilising special attacks and weapons and smoothly integrating them with whichever defensive capabilities are on offer. It’s the latter aspect that Revengeance just doesn’t have even remotely right.
There is no block button, your only two defensive options are to run out-of-the-way or parry. The former is rather difficult whilst you’re mid-attack and often impossible depending on the foe (this is especially true against bosses); meanwhile, the implementation of parrying is so utterly infuriating it’s amazing it made it through testing without someone questioning why so many controllers were being destroyed in rage.
In order to successfully parry an opponent’s attack you have to press the light attack button and point the left analog stick in the direction of your foe. Now, whilst you’re usually given enough time to realise a sword is bearing down on you, in order to successfully parry you can’t be moving at all. This means that you cannot parry mid-attack or whilst closing the distance between you and an enemy. What this ultimately does is turn what is otherwise a hugely enjoyable combat experience into one where you constantly feel as though you’re fighting against the game itself.
With the need to parry an often occurrence, especially so during boss battles, it slows the high-octane combat to a dreary pace; but this can be a welcome as you fight against an insufferable camera which refuses to face the correct way and snaps to face a wall when pressed up against one on almost every occasion.
Unfortunately, there’s more to add to a list of disappointment. Difficulty spikes can make certain sections almost impassable, incessant QTEs that insist on breaking the left analog stick refuse to go away and the sluggishness to change and use secondary weapons makes most utterly pointless.
Then there’s the forced stealth sections. In what is obviously an attempt to stay true to the Metal Gear ways, box and all, Revengeance actively suggests that you sneak your way past guards or into secure locations; if you don’t one of the many uninspiring cast will make a sarcastic quip about how you claimed to be good at stealth. When an action-oriented hack ‘n’ slash title is recommending that I don’t engage and do what it’s supposed to be good at, it’s a grave worry – regardless of the fact that it then belittles you if you don’t abide.
If you can overlook this growing set of flaws then Revengeance does certainly have a strong offensive feature set. With your typical light and heavy attacks there’s plenty to of delicious eye candy to be had with some sumptuous animations and powerful blows. Combos can be chained and when you settle into your groove – mainly against the weaker opponents – it’s hugely satisfying; but none more so than Zan-Datsu kills, which are special that double up as a means to replenish your health and Blade Mode energy.
The latter of which is something of a conundrum. Switching to a different view, the free slicing mode allows you to slice and dice along a geometrical plane that allows you to, providing you have a full energy bar, slash through practically anything. You can either use a horizontal, vertical or custom angle to cut your foes into ribbons (and a counter of just how many parts that is into creates a self-imposed mini-game) but after the first few hours its appeal begins to waver quite swiftly.
Once things for sure though, the Metal Gear lore is as strong as ever and will act as a strong reason to play for any franchise fan. Set four years after the Guns of the Patriots in 2018, you play as protagonist/antagonist ninja cyborg Raiden – of Sons of Liberty fame – who works for the Colorado-based Maverick Security PMC tasked with protecting a VIP of an unknown African country on the brink of relapsing civil war. After things goes catastrophically wrong you receive a powerful cyborg upgrade before setting out on a mission of revenge and redemption against rival private military company Desperado Enterprises.
The characters could do with some work, as some are quite interesting but only appear briefly, whilst those around for the long haul are somewhat dull. Dialogue and scripting is equally polarising, including the more humorous bits that will either draw out an agreeing chuckle or fall flat on its face.
Where Revengeance is let down by its gameplay, the same cannot be said for both the auditory and visual delights on show. A pumping soundtrack accompanies the larger scaled fights in expert fashion, whilst, with a firm framerate and gorgeous anti-aliasing, the ocular impressions are wonderful. Environments could be a bit more exciting and colourful but it certainly has a Metal Gear vibe to it and looks consistently stunning.
It’s a real shame then that the core gameplay mechanics don’t match the brilliant presentation. There’s plenty to admire about Revengeance and Metal Gear lovers will get more than enough out of the plot, but too many faults hold it back from ever being really enjoyable. VR training missions and a customisation feature add a small amount of longevity but nothing in the region that Snake fans will be used to.
Kojima Productions found it difficult to form a game around the cutting mechanics and subsequently canned the game more than two years ago and it feels as though they were onto something. There’s no denying that Revengeance has ample amounts of polish and is neither particularly bug-ridden nor hindered by implementation; however, there are underlying design concepts that should have been addressed as they interfere with the entertaining aspects.