If nothing else, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance gets credit for knowing its audience. Within minutes of launching into the game's campaign, you're slicing through enemy soldiers and ripping into their spines, you're taking down giant mechs. You're getting help from a robotic dog and you're dodging missiles in a city that's been reduced to rubble. Rising is not the Metal Gear game you expect - it's a runaway train that's set to demolish everything in its wake and show you a good time; even at its own expense.
This being a Metal Gear game, the story is just about as off the wall and hard to follow as you'd expect; but let me do my best here. Picking up four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Gun's of the Patriots, Rising finds Raiden (the protagonist from Metal Gear Solid 2) hired by a private security firm to protect a powerful African Prime Minister. As you may expect, things go wrong when the Prime Minister's caravan is attacked by Desperado Enforcement and Raiden begins to hunt down his enemies with the newest upgrades in an effort to save the Prime Minister.
Admittedly, there's a lot more to it than that, and things start to get pretty heavy towards the game's second chapter. It's a strange tale of political backstabbing, corruption…and an AI dog (no, really). As silly as the plot may get at times, it's all part of the fun of a Metal Gear game, and though you're welcome to try to keep up, it's best to just sit back, appreciate the writing of Hideo Kojima and enjoy the ride.
Of course, the story isn't the real star of the show here, as the game's action-first mentality serves the fast paced nature extremely well. Raiden is armed with a cybernetic katana and puts it to good use slicing and dicing through soldiers with ease. It's quite satisfying to take out a herd of enemies as they surround you, and this symphony's crescendo is the moment that you reach into each enemy's chest and pull out their spine, recharging your own health. The action in Rising is fast and at times unforgiving but damn is it rewarding. Much of the game's combat stays the same throughout the experience, but it's so strong that it rarely grows old.
At the core of Rising's combat is the blade mode mechanic, which slows down time and allows you to freely slice and dice with your katana using either the thumbsticks or the light and heavy attack buttons. Yes, it's like bullet time with a sword, but it's incredibly visceral and helpful against some of the game's bigger enemies that it still feels remarkably new. You can trigger blade mode yourself, or the game initiates specific sequences, but it can be frustrating when it triggers itself a second too late - and you're stuck slicing at open air while you take on damage.
That's the biggest catch with Rising, it's so focused on putting players in the center of the action as quickly as possible that it sometimes forgets the little (and some not so little) touches. The game's camera has a tendency to swing wildly around and get caught behind objects, making you stop what you're doing and reposition it. It's a quick fix, but as you could imagine, it gets old quick. The game also does a rather lackluster job at explaining anything other than the game's most basic mechanics to players. I often found myself in the middle of a battle and performing an awesome move and would have to figure out just how in the hell I did it.
The game also features “ninja run,” which allows Raiden to effortlessly run over and around the environment. The allure of this mode is clear - it puts gamers back into the action quicker and since it also serves as a blocking and parrying mechanic, it allows players to focus on offense, clearly the game's strong suite. It can't be denied though that ninja run allows the game to be played almost too easily. When using the mechanic, I often felt like I was playing an endless runner like Temple Run instead of a Metal Gear game.
Throughout the entire experience, Rising has an unmistakable old-school feeling going for it, and the game's boss battles are a huge part of that. The boss battles have you fighting everything from Desperado leaders to giant mechs and they're tough, but using video game logic and memorizing patterns combined with quick reactions will result in satisfying victories that you'll want to play over and over. One of the game's earliest boss fights is actually one of my favorite moments of the game; it was exhilarating to take down the giant mech in front of me as the heavy metal music played. The game succeeds at making the players feel like an ultimate badass.
Unfortunately, Rising is a short experience compared to similar action games. Clocking in at just over five hours, I couldn't help but feel like the game was rushing to its conclusion and could have used a bit more development. There are added VR missions to supplement the campaign, but they fail in comparison to the scale of the campaign. Luckily, the game's large amount of upgrades, power-ups and collectibles are more than enough reason to jump back in.
More often than not, there's a ton of stuff happening on the screen at the same time in Rising, but to the developer's credit, the game does a great job handling these moments remarkably well. There was a bit of slowdown here and there, but nothing bad enough to stop my enjoyment. A lot of the game's textures, especially those in the game's backgrounds and environments look the same, and often don't measure up to those in the rest of the game.
You've never played a game quite like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and that's a good thing. The game's three year journey has created a remarkably fun and engaging experience - even if it's not as polished as it could have been. Metal Gear's action-happy cousin is a bloody and visceral experience that you won't soon forget.