Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was a very brave move. Previous entries in the Metal Gear series had almost entirely focussed on stealth and movie-length cutscenes, while Revengeance has a more action-based approach, with Raiden literally chopping through hordes of enemies with his signature sword. The cutscenes, too, are much shorter (yet still a decent length), though ultimately feel a bit thin in comparison to previous entries.
Now that the dust has settled, I can’t quite tell whether this bold new take on the Metal Gear franchise was wholly necessary – did it rise to the heights of the Metal Gear Solid games, or should we all be hurriedly trying to forget about this Raiden-centric game?
It’s no Metal Gear Solid 4, that’s for sure. The reason for that is, well, because of MGS4, which wrapped everything up nicely in a nanomachine-shaped bubble, leaving very few plot threads hanging and requiring an almost forced return to the battlefield for Raiden in Rising. This game didn’t need to happen in terms of the story, though ultimately the new plot points (and characters) still stand up alongside the rest of the Metal Gear series.
The game’s a bit shorter overall too, but that’s good in that it doesn’t outstay its welcome while still not feeling as though it’s over abruptly – there’s plenty of content here and it’s all very awesome. It all comes together in a suitably Metal Gear way at the end, matching some of the previous titles at points with talk of La Li Lu Le Lo and plenty of other references.
That’s not to say that it only succeeds when referencing Metal Gear Solid; new characters such as Jetstream Sam and Sundowner have their own ideals which feel like a breath of fresh air yet still somehow familiar.
That’s just the story, though. I’m still not a huge fan of stealth games (although it works when the game is solely focused on it) and I much prefer the hack and slash genre that Rising falls into. The gameplay is where the game really stands out, with a finely tuned combat system and the fantastic blade mode, which slows down time allowing Raiden to chop his enemies into hundreds of pieces.
And then there’s the boss battles, which blow Metal Gear Solid’s (which are still very good) out of the water. The first, just five minutes into the game, pits Raiden one-on-one against a Metal Gear Ray, and even though we’ve trodden similar ground in MGS2 this feels much more epic, as do many of the other battles, even when they’re just simple sword duels. It feels as though you’re playing the bits that you would have been watching in MGS4, and Rising has to be applauded for that.
The decision to tie L1 to the free blade model was a great one; it’s a much better execution than the blade in MGS2 and reflects the way Raiden has evolved into a brilliant character who can stand on his own two cybernetic feet.
It’s still tactical, too – you can choose to sneak past enemies and everyone’s favourite carboard box, although lampshaded at first, works a treat. There’s also Raiden’s ability to chop up enemies with blade mode in order to reach their cyborg core to refill his health. This is a very important mechanic and one which makes the blade mode a very significant tactical element rather than a fun bonus.
Solid definitely has better, established characters spanning decades and – let’s face it – a far better plot, but Rising isn’t about that, it’s about feeling awesome while cutting up enemies with the soundtrack blasting away in the background and it absolutely succeeds in that regard.
It’s arcadey like any cyborg Raiden game should be, it’s as crazy as Psycho Mantis and it’s as fun as games can get.
Rising also excels in avoiding the frustration factor. While battles can become annoying, the game does nothing but spur you on to try again, unlike Solid, which – at least in my experience – soon becomes annoying after you’ve failed to sneak past the enemies several times without progress.
So, yes, Rising wasn’t really necessary, though I’m extremely glad it exists; it’s still a worthy entry into the series and a spin-off done right. While the plot threads might not excite as much as Solid’s did, the characters are still very unique and Raiden’s post-MGS4 character gets some much needed exposition, even if bringing him back in such a way does cheapen the ending of the previous title.
Brave, bold and utterly sublime – Rising is exactly what a spin-off should be.