Sponsored By: Ccesarano
Time spent wondering WTF: 97 minutes
Percentage of that time that involved actual gameplay: 65
This is my second foray into the wide world of Metal Gear.
Metal Gear Review
I'm starting to suspect that, perhaps, Hideo Kojima does not have the strongest relationship with subtlety. Like, maybe the two are not on a first name basis, is all I'm saying. Maybe they work in the same building and nod at each other on the elevator. It's possible Kojima even says “ お は よ う” as they pass.
After playing Revengeance, though, I'm inclined to doubt it. Nobody with a passing acquaintance with subtlety would write dialog like this. Every character is a gigantic, one-note archetype. Every utterance is a massive hammer driving home the game’s message, which I think is “War is bad, but wanton killing is okay if the person doing it has really cool hair and doesn't seem to be enjoying himself. Too much. Okay, maybe a little, but we're still frowning on it, ok?”
Fortunately, the dialog and cutscenes only seem to take up about 35% of the time spent in-game, and they tend to bunch up after large checkpoints, which means I can leave them running while I make my kids breakfast and not miss anything important.
In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance you step into the shiny, high-heeled shoes of Raiden. I'm sure that means something to people more steeped in Metal Lore Solid, but to me it just means I'm a one-eyed cyborg (cyberclops?) using an electric sword to hack other cyborgs into bite-sized pieces so I can eat them to replenish my electrolytes.
That may sound odd to you, but I just finished watching a tv show about a teenaged girl who fights sentient articles of clothing with a giant pair of scissors. Anime is something of an acquired taste, but once you're used to, it your powers of disbelief can be suspended by reinforced steel cables, and you'll accept any number of things as totally reasonable.
Like the fact that a mercenary company has enough money to develop ninja power armor but the only thing it can do for a damaged eye is hang a strip of gray cloth over it. Anime!
Or how the giant robots moo like distressed cows. Anime!
Or that the first boss is a talking dog with a chainsaw in its tail. Anime!
But enough about the thematic idiosyncrasies. If those were going to make or break the game for you, chances are you'd already know it. The gameplay, when the cutscenes are all said and done, is the milkshake that brings the boys to the yard.
And the gameplay in Revengeance is pretty neat. It's a character-action game, like Devil May Cry, except that rather than giving your character a sidearm that is useless*, they don’t give you a sidearm at all. Instead you get a sword that can cut through almost anything. This opens up some nifty gameplay elements, such as Blade Mode, which allows you to use the right analog stick to cut in any direction you like, as if this were a Wii game.
Here’s where Kojima’s characteristically obsessive commitment to an idea pays off. Anything you can cut with the sword developes a fissure exactly along the path the blade took. Cut a crate with the vertical strike, you get two half-crates split vertically in exactly the place you hit it.
There’s reams of fun to be had with this feature once you master counters, which allow you to slow time and literally hack an enemy to bits with any combination of slashes you want. Cut the enemy to pieces. Cut the pieces of the enemy that flew off into smaller pieces.
I’m probably droning on about it a bit because it’s so well done. I’d love to see something like this done using a motion controller in VR. For any developers reading, here’s a freebie from me to you: If you’re going to make a Bushido Blade VR translation, this is the tech to do it with. Imagine hacking your enemies to bits with real-time cutting physics. It won’t be enough to get me to buy a VR headset again, but other people will sure like it.
Blade Mode shenanigans aside, the rest of the game is a fairly standard, if well crafted, action game. You run from encounter to encounter, hacking, slashing and parrying when you can to run up your combo multiplier in the hopes of achieving the elusive S ranking (for killing with maximum style). Where the game is successful is that it keeps as much of that action in the player’s control as possible. There are a few quick-time events here and there, but they’re mainly execution moves that pop while you’re manually slicing, dicing and julienning your enemies. So far the cutscenes have remained cutscenes, and the game has remained game. Can’t ask for much more than that, except for maybe a slightly higher game-to-cutscene ratio.
Oh who am I kidding. This is a Kojima joint. I’m lucky there’s gameplay at all!
Will I keep playing?
Well, it’s no Wolverine, but since I can’t get Wolverine for the PC anymore it’s a pretty good facsimile. You’ve got a gruff protagonist with fabulous hair and a penchant for slicing things into small pieces, but who isn’t above picking up a missile launcher and blowing things up once in a while.
I finished Wolverine; I may finish this one. It’s certainly scratching that combo-meter itch for me.
Is it the Devil Daggers of character action?
Aside from a few poorly explained features, it’s not terribly difficult. The problem is the poorly explained features are very poorly explained. Take the counter ability, for example.
If I were to say “press light attack while moving the left stick in the direction of the enemy attack,” do I mean pressing the joystick in the direction of the enemy attacking you or in the direction of the sword slash the enemy is attacking you with? Once you figure it out, congratulations! You can now counter.
Also, boss fights are annoying because it’s never clear to me when an attack might be effective. Sometimes I’ll be hacking away to no avail, and other times I’ll find that if I had only kept on the offensive, the boss’ shield would have broken and I could have gotten a few good licks in before they summoned another swarm of low-level chaff to distract me.
On the whole, though, I have to say this game is not a Devil Daggers equivalent. It’s a game about story, first and foremost, and it wants you to consume that story. That end isn’t furthered by making you start over a thousand times, so checkpoints are frequent and generous. Enemy encounters are tuned to make you break a little bit of a sweat while still making you feel like a badass, which is the perfect place for an enemy encounter to be. Boss fights are, well, boss fights. There is no known technology that makes a boss fight in 3D space enjoyable, but a game like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has to have boss fights because that’s what character action games do.
One out of three isn’t bad, in this case, so that’s the score I’ll give it. One out of three devil daggers.
*Full disclosure: I’ve only played Devil May Cry 4. It’s possible other games in the series give you a weapon that shoots something with more stopping power than a marshmallow, but I wouldn’t know.