In an impressive show of style and technical brilliance, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance takes a turn for the brutal and rarely looks back.

The Good

  • The fast-paced combat excites your reflexes
  • Depth and accessibility coexist in harmony
  • Decimating environments is a guilty pleasure that never gets old
  • Raiden’s intriguing personal story justifies his return to the spotlight.

The Bad

  • Occasional camera issues can be distracting
  • Most environmental palettes lack variety
  • The predictably political plot fails to excite.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance sees the cybernetically enhanced Raiden severing his ties to the stealthy gameplay of old, charging headlong behind enemy lines with a fresh pack of batteries and a thirsty blade by his side. His newfound lust for battle fits nicely into the quirky Metal Gear universe, thanks to the persistence of the Sons of the Patriots plotline and other carefully laid traces of time-honored traditions. Still, despite these ties to the past, Revengeance is ultimately a departure from the old way of doing things. Almost every scenario demands conflict rather than silent infiltration, and instead of conforming to his environment, Raiden can transform it in a matter of seconds.

  • Comment on this video
  • Watch this video in High Def

Four years after the conclusion of Metal Gear Solid 4, Raiden’s cyborg-strength is under the employ of a private security firm hired to protect a peaceful and influential African prime minister. His convoy is intercepted by two cyborgs representing the disruptive Desperado Enforcement, and they quickly make a mess of things by kidnapping their target, disabling Raiden, and slipping away unharmed. Not one to stand idly by, Raiden pursues his assailants after receiving the latest cybernetic upgrades from his comrades at Maverick Consulting.

It’s a brief yet satisfying ride through a fast-paced action game, and dozens of unlockable rewards continually entice you back into the fray. With its addictive combat and killer sense of style, it’s unfortunate that the simplicity of Revengeance’s underlying story fails to hit many high marks. Outside of a few memorable antagonists (Sam, for instance, is a sadistic delight), you won’t walk away with fond memories of the overall plot, but Raiden’s personal transformation reaches an atypical and invigorating conclusion. He’s perfect for the role of the antihero, and through his transformation, Revengeance emerges as a fantastic action game set in the Metal Gear universe.

Goodnight, sweet prince.

Goodnight, sweet prince.

Raiden faces hundreds of cyborg soldiers and biomechanical contraptions while searching for the Desperado elites, and despite a mostly mundane selection of environments, the excitement of taking on sword-wielding, rocket-launching foot soldiers holds your attention from the very start. Enemies don’t waste time during battle, and though Raiden’s no slouch, it will take considerable practice to completely realize the potential of his various attacks. He’s fully capable of bolting through a crowd without taking a scratch, but he’s bound to falter in the hands of a novice. Yet regardless of your initial skill level, Revengeance is an accessible action game that emphasizes entertainment without overshadowing the importance of depth and nuance.

Beyond the flow of combos and timely parries, Raiden can enter a heightened state of awareness known as blade mode by siphoning electrolytes from his enemies. You can choreograph precise slices that tear through weakened objects and enemies with as much accuracy or desperation as you desire. Tapping light and heavy attack buttons unleashes a flurry of horizontal and vertical slices, with the right analog stick dictating controlled cuts along a projected vector.

Hitting an enemy’s sweet spot, indicated by a pink icon, initiates Raiden’s Zandatsu technique. Reaching into his opponent’s torso, he tears out the spine-like repair unit, crushing it in the palm of his hand with a push of a button. It not only replenishes his health and electrolyte reserves, but it pronounces his deep-seated ferocity.

Performing the Zandatsu doesn’t require a lot of effort on your part, but if your initial trajectory isn’t quite on point, small adjustments with the left analog stick may be required. It’s usually a simple procedure, but some boss battles require you to find the right pitch and angle under considerable pressure, and it can be a bit of a headache, and frankly a bore, to attempt these same sequences over and over again if you should fail. Such precise demands slow down the pace of combat, one of the game’s strongest characteristics.

Raiden's augmented mode unveils hidden enemies and objects.

Raiden’s augmented mode unveils hidden enemies and objects.

The merits of speed wouldn’t shine if it weren’t for the game’s consistent frame rate. Outside of loading sequence stutters, Revengeance almost never skips a beat. Deforming models in direct relation to your strikes calls for heavy calculations on the fly, and it’s nothing short of a technical marvel that the game’s high frame rate doesn’t choke in the process. Raiden can capably whittle his way through most objects, from chain-link fences to armored plated tanks, but your happy-go-lucky slicing eventually collides with the cold reality that not everything is destructible. You can thank Revengeance’s linear design for these boundaries, but the limitations are only a minor distraction from the enjoyment of decimating foe and prop alike.

Precisely controlling Raiden’s katana plays an important role when attempting to remove individual limbs, an optional yet rewarding tactic. Reducing your enemies to limbless worms renders them disabled, potentially allowing for a no-kill playthrough (with a few scripted exceptions). More importantly, 30 specific enemies possess valuable stores of data in their left hands. For every 10 of these hands that you acquire, a powerful new upgrade appears in Raiden’s customization menu. It’s a task easier said than done; weakening and cutting off a specific limb from a specific enemy can be frustrating when you’re surrounded by a half dozen others. You may find yourself resetting to the last checkpoint to take another crack at the challenge, but the payoff is worth it in the end.

In an impressive show of style and technical brilliance, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance takes a turn for the brutal and rarely looks back.

By Peter Brown