Deliberately, I put myself off playing Metal Gear Rising for as long as I could. However, having recently gone back and replayed Guns of the Patriots, I felt compelled to carry on exploring the series and one of its most divisive characters.
In truth, I never really had much of a bone to pick with Raiden. Sure, I may have only been in my early teens when I first grappled with Metal Gear Solid 2 but it never irked me. Although I did miss playing as Snake and tuning in to the gravelly tones of David Hayter (curse you Sutherland!) it was great viewing the character from an alternate perspective.
Without treading into spoiler territory, Raiden made more than just an idle cameo in Metal Gear Solid 4. As those who have played the game will know, Hideo Kojima essentially rebuilt the character into what they perceived as the ultimate badass: the cyborg ninja reborn. I won’t lie, when Raiden resurfaced during the game’s second chapter, I was more than awestruck, mainly thanks to an unforgettable fight scene. More character-centric set pieces would follow, however, pushing the protagonist to his absolute limit.
When I heard that Hideo Kojima intended on making a sequel to Guns of the Patriots with Raiden at its helm, I was in two minds. As I continued to replay the game, the character became more and more manufactured, hollowed out and with no real substance.
This cynicism would reach new heights after hearing that Kojima canned the game only for developer Platinum to be brought on board to revive it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually quite partial to the studio’s over-the-top approach to the action genre. However, I just couldn’t see them delivering the same level of finesse and attention to detail fans had come to expect from the series.
In part, I was wrong to have such assumptions. If there was one thing that really stood when playing Revengeance it was, of course, the combat mechanics. In true Platinum Games style, it feels mindless and chaotic, at least for a layman. However, after getting to grips with the systems and mechanics, it all made sense. The block/counter system may have been awkwardly implemented but aside from that Revengeance served up a frenetic exhibit of swordplay that no doubt matched fans’ expectations of Raiden in his new cyborg state.
Apart from basic light and heavy attacks, the game went that one step further with its unique Blade Mode or “Zandatsu” mechanic. This allowed players to slow time and using the analog stick to perfectly aim blade strokes in any given direction. What’s more is that these blows could cut through anything, whether that be the flesh of a watermelon or steel plating of walking tank. As soon as the game allowed me to, I ran over the nearest piece of scenery and began shopping away, splitting trees in two before turning my blade on a nearby market stall.
My issues with Revengeance are ones that are only likely shared with other Metal Gear purists. We rarely use the term auteur when it comes to video games yet the word perfectly describes Hideo Kojima. His obsessive attention to detail, perfectly-pitched throwbacks and those bizarre one-off moments are what makes Metal Gear so unique.
Therefore, when playing Rising, there was a void; a sense of detachment from the rest of the series. This also permeated into the game’s narrative and approach to character-building. No matter how hard Platinum tried to link Revengeance with Metal Gear Solid, it seemed superfluous. Limited to the occasional mention of SOP, Big Boss, or The Patriots.
Towards the middle of the game there were moments in which genuine connections could be defined and this is where Revengeance thrived the most. However, this brief hurrah was muffled by the game’s bizarre and, quite frankly dumb, ending.
Still, Metal Gear Rising is a game I would happily recommend. If looking for a solid action game or just an extension to the Metal Gear universe, it serves as more than serviceable. It’s just a shame that Kojima and the core team didn’t persevere with the project while it was still in their hands.