Whatever you’re expecting from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – stop it, stop it right now!  This is not and I repeat, not going to feel like your everyday Metal Gear game.  If you’re expecting to jump into MGR:R having just completed the recently released HD collection of the previous Metal Gears then you are in the wrong neighbourhood my friend.  Whilst Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has some of the standard hallmarks of its previous brothers and sisters – be warned, it is a very different animal indeed.

To start things off – you play as Raiden – you remember him, the gutsy young rookie from Metal Gear Solid 2 – trained solely from VR simulations who later discovered he was raised as a child soldier with the ominous nickname “Jack the Ripper” for his fondness for death and aptitude for killing.  Yeah, him.  Set four years after the events of Guns of the Patriots, Raiden has found himself in the employment of a Private Military Company called Maverick Enterprises essentially offering security to those who can offer the money so he can save for a better life for his wife and child and that’s basically all I’m going to tell you about the story as I’m not going to usher in any major spoilers so I’ll move onto some juicy details about the gameplay.

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From such humble beginnings, Raiden!

Whatever you think you know about playing Metal Gear games, forget it – whatever tricks you’ve picked up during your stay on Shadow Moses Island – they won’t save you here.  MGR:R is not a stealth game by nature, not by a long shot.  You’re looking at the screenshots in this review and these are the screenshots of a born and bred action title, think Devil May Cry on steroids and you’re close.  It is, without a shadow of a doubt, the furthest from the ‘core’ Metal Gear series as you can get; there are moments which remind you of the series, when enemies spot you and the tell-tale “!” appear above their head and the inclusion of the cardboard box disguise but these all feel more like a nod to the fans rather than them carrying their usual significance.

Alert Mode now merely prompts the start of the evisceration party rather than indicating that you have somehow failed in your covert mission to sneak through enemies troops.  You are no longer a lone, dyed in the wool soldier who is the country’s last stand against impossible odds and tyrannical dictatorship.  No, you’re Raiden – Jack the Ripper – walking death blender with an irrepressible habit of accidentally cutting buildings in half as you ninja your way through different landscapes and stages.  With this focus on action however, some of the weighty importance of the previous games seems to been liberally taken for granted and this point is best illustrated in your second fight in the game where you single handedly slice up a Metal Gear.

Yes, unfortunately not unlike its protagonist at times – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance can sometimes have a horrible identity crisis and try to force you to remember that you are actually playing a Metal Gear game instead of this fast paced action title based on the Metal Gear franchise – after piling on enough slash-happy scenes which sees Raiden depopulating most of the local area the game take a horrible U-turn and fills the first third of the campaign with enough forced stealth sequences to make you want to rip your own eyes out.  After introducing us to one of the most destructive forces in the Metal Gear universe – one we’ve wanted to control since first meeting Grey Fox – it forces us to sheath our near-insta-kill sword and cybernetically enhanced body and tip-toe around our enemies in the dark because (and I’m not joking about this reason) our night vision will fail us if we attack anything – this is not good pacing, it’s frustrating – imagine you had just been given the keys to your very own Metal Gear but told before you could go and level buildings and run amok in downtown New York you had to co-star in a terrible Transformers sequel!  Fortunately in a spoilerific cutscene these stealth sequences appear to end but that isn’t going to make them any more fun on the harder difficulties.

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Energy can also be recovered by removing electrolytes from enemies using QTE’s during battle

Speaking of harder difficulties – the trademark leap from Easy to Hard in Metal Gear Rising Revengeance is phenomenal!  I’m not claiming to be an expert gamer by any stretch of the imagination but Hard Mode (and I assume any mode unlocked thereafter as I’ve not completed Hard Mode yet) is probably not the mode you want to jump into straight away.  Conversely, Easy Mode seems to hold your hand a bit too much, auto blocking and assisted combos end up feeling a bit like those gutter-guards in ten-pin bowling – nobody really minds you using them but that strike you just scored doesn’t taste as sweet because of them.

I said “Devil May Cry on steroids” earlier in this review and that’s a pretty good way to think about the controls for MGR:R too.  Unfortunately there are no small movements with Raiden – in a slightly Hollywood cliché he only seems to have two speeds – full speed and dead.  Even moments like trying to climb stairs can be difficult if you are using the Ninja Run button (Right Trigger on 360) as Raiden tries to mount any near platform or obstacle during this mode.  Couple this with the sometimes erratic camera controls and you can find yourself facing a nearby wall before you know it.

After each mission, chapter or set piece encounter you are awarded a grade for your combat – the highest being “S” and with that you are awarded points which you will spend on upgrades later – in between missions you also have the opportunity to upgrade Raidens inventory and purchase additional skills, you can also upgrade additional secondary weapons which you have collected from previous defeated bosses – another mechanic which feels borrowed but whatever Platinum Games, let’s move on…

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The game is stuffed full of visually stunning moments like this

So you can upgrade Raidens trademark High Frequency sword, his maximum health and energy levels (used for some special attacks) as well as purchasing different skills for each of his weapons, you also have the chance to change Raidens appearance and whilst some of the changes are purely cosmetic (and ultimately useless) some of the can prove pretty cool and can have different effects.

Because I’m a keen admirer of a good video game soundtrack  I’d like to take a moment to mention the soundtrack in Metal Gear Rising – with the usual orchestra of typically grandiose Metal Gear music we also have a new mixture of electro-techno boss music which changes depending on the amount of health the boss has remaining.  Usually this is set into three stages of health – the final one usually incorporating lyrics – it’s a small feature but one which particularly like and think it’s a very nice touch.

Overall then, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a wonderful experiment with the Metal Gear franchise – one that not only looks great in gameplay but one in which the combat handles expertly well.  It carries a handful of trademark Metal Gear-isms like convoluted political intrigue, a merry band of super engineered psychopaths to act as bosses and a main character which whilst always playing second fiddle to the almighty Solid is still a tolerable character with some believable personal issues (as believable as the Metal Gear series gets, anyway)  I still can’t shake the feeling that too many traits have been borrowed from franchises like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta (the latter also from Platinum Games) and that if this were any other franchise it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable but the Metal Gear series has been surprising people since 1987 and has earned a lot of trust and respect in that time.  This is a safe and effective formula for any action game and whilst not being perfectly ‘in tune’ with the other titles in the Metal Gear series it’s a very competent stand alone title.

Review Score : [starreview tpl=16]

Title : Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Format : XBox 360

Developer : Platinum Games

Publisher : Konami

Release Date : NA: 19th Feb 2013 – EU 22 Feb 2013

[starreviewmulti id=1 tpl=20]

Konami provided SlimGamer.com with a retail copy of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance for reviewing purposesSome of the staff here at Slimgamer recently sat down for the first edition of Slimgamer Theatre – in our first episode we look at the first 30 minutes of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and talk about it – to watch it please follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1l_PjF9l-i8