Safe in New Zealand: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Review

Within the confines of virtual reality, how does Revengeance stack up?

Under virtual conditions, how does the PC version of Revengeance stack up?

It’s always something of a novelty when hack and slashers come to PC. Though PC gamers have recently been treated to Darksiders 1 and 2, perhaps the biggest hack and slash game ported to PC was as far back as 2008 in the form of Devil May Cry 4. Following on from the abysmal PC port of Devil May Cry 3, 4 turned out to be an excellent port; described by some publications as even being the definitive version of the game. Thus it would be a little strange to see such a niche hack and slasher as Revengeance on PC—if it did not have Metal Gear in its full title. Despite Revengeance’s automatic novelty factor for being a hack and slasher on PC, with Devil May Cry 4 and Darksiders 1 and 2 still in relatively recent memory, it has a great deal to live up to in terms of port quality. Luckily the quality of the port is high—teething problems aside. Low settings not only hit 60 FPS with ease on antiquated hardware (and high on modern), but the lowest graphical settings are still clear and vibrant—important for a game that requires great visual concentration on the part of the player.

The graphical options are varied enough that one can find a good balance between frame rate and visual flair if hardware requires, and if not then the frame rate only ever drops when the player attacks—always a drop of 15 FPS when otherwise hitting 60. It’s an odd FPS quirk, but one that has little effect on the gameplay due to how the defensive side of combat functions, and its reasonably rare occurrence. On two occasions, playing with a CPU that did not meet minimum requirements, Revengeance did fizzle down to an unplayable frame rate, but after restarting the encounter I could never reproduce these highly rare catastrophes.

Although it is possible to play with a mouse and keyboard, there is full 360 controller support (and thus, with a little outside help, the options are limitless), and so the keyboard and mouse support is little more than a nice bonus. Another nice bonus is the DLC: all included, which is the icing on the cake of an excellent port, with the promise of further support for other problems that might pop up; given how the teething problems have been swiftly addressed.

Which could all amount to nothing, if the game itself isn’t any good. Well, is it? Why not check out Gareth Newnham’s review of the console version of Revengeance for comparison; or read on to find out.

GEEET into it

Into the rabbit hole we ninja run.

I love Metal Gear Solid 2. I loved Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2. Not only was he a great change of pace from Snake, he was also a great mix of melodrama and comedy. As amusing as Snake’s smoking and pornographic browsing was, it couldn’t quite compare to a naked Raiden desperately trying to protect his modesty in the face of mortal danger. In Metal Gear Solid 4, in response to Western criticism, this highly amusing character was turned into a badarse.

One could still amply make out his body through his metal bondage suit, but no longer did he have any pretence of modesty: his body flexible and supple; bending and twisting sensually as he absolutely massacred metal monstrosities and waxed philosophical about the nature of war during homoerotic swordfights. All these great spectacles were played out as visually arresting cutscenes. And how could such ridiculous, sinewy animation possibly become gameplay? Certainly Kojima couldn’t have made it into reality—but Kojima isn’t Platinum Games.

The beginning of Revengeance pits Raiden against but a few lowly cyborgs who can be easily dismembered in wonderfully gratuitous slow motion—a change of pace which not only helps to give combat an immediately engaging cadence, but also to completely exaggerate the fast pace of the battles; moving from slow motion to 60 FPS on speed. Despite this tutorial of an opening, very little is taught about how to actually play properly—that can only be learnt through experience or VR Training; many missions of which must be unlocked in the main campaign. It’s a limp and almost unnecessary immediate opening, but it’s barely a few minutes later that Raiden is suddenly set upon by a Metal Gear Ray—the first taste of what Revengeance is all about. After defeating the Metal Gear Ray in a relatively traditional boss battle, intense, exhilarating QTEs follow—and they are just the beginning.

Post-QTEs the boss battle moves to another location (the chase scene played out with player input, not simply in the form of a dramatic cutscene), and Raiden must not only dodge melee attacks, but also cut missiles out of the air as they are shot at his metallic, yet vulnerable body; while also avoiding bombs and finding the time to actually damage the Metal Gear Ray. Phew! Thus the opening boss battle makes use not only of the beginning skirmish’s skill set which merely required standard combat principles for success, but also the tactile, satisfying QTEs; followed by gameplay styles that are completely separate from the standard battles: platforming-like attack wave dodging and the missile slashing. Most of these motifs are repeated in latter boss battles, which makes Metal Gear Ray a perfect example of the complexity of most of the best bosses—right at the very beginning of the game!

High heels have never been more hardcore. Okay, I haven't played Bayonetta...

The most hardcore high heels since Bayonetta.

Slow motion slashing? Hit left shift or the left trigger on your controller of choice, and the camera zooms in to Raiden’s back to take on the perspective of a third person shooter. From this angle the player can manually slash Raiden’s sword with the analogue stick, or slash it vertically or horizontally by pressing a button. Although this attack does not deal a great amount of damage under normal circumstances, when certain parts of powerful enemies are sufficiently damaged and glow blue, then they can simply be sliced off—not necessarily destroying the enemy, but greatly damaging and disabling it. For example, if one cuts the legs off an enemy, then they will no longer be able to walk; even if they can still shoot or slash at Raiden.

But, more importantly, entering this state (Blade Mode), also allows one to perform a Zandatsu: a special move that is only available at certain times during combat depending on the enemy in question. To perform the Zandatsu one must manually slash the weak point of the enemy, then rip out their spine or other vital mechanised organ—not only instantly killing the enemy in question, but also completely refilling Raiden’s health and fuel cells. A supply of fuel cells are required to enter Blade Mode, and the quickest way to refuel them is through this powerful move; though simply attacking enemies slowly builds them up again as well.

The great power of the Zandatsu means that—once one has learnt the key to invincibility: blocking, parrying and dodging—combat against the garden variety enemies between boss battles can sometimes devolve into little more than carefully timing Zandatsus, dodges, parries, blocks and a few vanilla combos just to show off. Thankfully this is exhilarating in and of itself, and for much of Revengeance the cadence achieved by the powerful interplay between dodges, parries, blocks, Zandatsus and combos gives even the simple battles a powerfully addictive quality. However, towards the end of the game as one becomes more powerful, settings are repeated and complex boss battles are scarce. The ease with which one can lay waste to one’s adversaries does begin to grate—even if chasing S rankings on hard. Though, the two unlockable harder difficulties successfully alleviate this mid to late-section grating by confronting the player with enough tougher enemies that anything less than concentrated perfection on the part of the player means instant death, and thus intensity never drops.

Parrying is performed by aiming towards the enemy, and hitting the attack button. The player must parry at the very last second of an incoming attack or the attack will simply be blocked with no riposte. However, for simple blocking, the leniency is so great that one can all but spam attack and the direction of the enemy, and never get hit—even during boss battles; but this is not in any way a bad thing. Raiden’s health is relatively low—less so with a full inventory of repair nanopastes, just remember to equip them!—and the bosses are massive slash sponges. The onus is entirely on the player to wreak as much havoc as possible, and because getting hit is always within the player’s complete control (with a high margin of error) it means that even in the longest of boss battles, failure at the last moment is only a fleeting frustration that helps to complement the extreme satisfaction upon subsequent victory.

Some of the latter bosses require slightly more exact timing to block; their red glow lasting all but several seconds of duration before their attack, meaning that if one tries to block them instantly, Raiden is no longer in the block stance when the actual attack is unleashed. But if one repeatedly performs a block, then there’s still enough time to perform a second block at the last second by default—just missing the balance that would have made blocking possible to fail. But not all attacks are blockable: when enemies glow yellow instead of red, then they must be dodged; and on very hard or higher, the amount of incoming attacks requires careful timing. Dodge requires slightly better timing than blocking though, much like blocking, it’s possible to simply spam it but for when facing ranged, directional attacks that run the risk of being dodged directly into! But it cannot be overstated just how tactilely enjoyable blocking is: adding the simple flick of the thumb stick towards the enemy as a necessary action adds so much more tangibility to the motion that it feels so satisfying no matter how easy it is to pull off. And, as Raiden dodges, it’s possible to get in a sneaky slash as the enemy flails past in their failed attack; which is just as tactilely effective as the blocking and parrying. Shot at? Simply ninja run away!

Cutting off cyborg hands is a nifty way to make a profit.

Cutting off cyborg hands is a nifty way to make a profit.

Adding further depth to the combat are the secondary weapons such as rocket launchers and grenades, and the incredibly simple, yet surprisingly satisfying stealth system. Not only is hiding in a cardboard box all the more amusing in the context of Revengeance, but sneaking right past enemies and killing no one, or stabbing them in the back with a gruesomely enjoyable animation, is just as effective and challenging as going on a massacre (well, almost). And what better time to gruesomely rip out someone’s spine than after stabbing them sneakily in the back? Making full use of a ninja’s abilities, death from above also functions much the same as the stealth mechanic and thus, during one particular level, Tenchu has never been so fun.

The final piece in the puzzle is the upgrade system: Raiden’s health, costume, weapons and fuel cells can all be upgraded; whether through using BP (which one gains from chips hidden throughout the levels, and combat as well) or by finding Endurance items hidden in the levels. It motivates one to do better in combat more than the scoring system otherwise would have: better combos, more extravagant kills, smarter stealth, and stronger aggression all mean more BP and thus stronger weapons; a tougher Raiden; and even a sombrero hat and poncho.

If the middle to the end of Revengeance does not live up to the rest of the game on anything below very hard, then the finale more than makes up for any momentum that was lost during the garishly repeated environments and far too many rudimentary battles against run of the mill cyborgs and mini-bosses which are by this stage little more than cannon fodder to the experienced player. The sequence of boss battles that lead up to the credits are a great test of all of the skills that the player has learned thus far, while also requiring great stamina and endurance. Challenging waves of attacks must be avoided over several individual battles, while combos, Zandatsus, and expert dodging and slashing must be performed in perfect synergy with parrying and blocking—showing that so long as enemy and battle designs make full use of the relatively simple and exceptionally executed mechanics, that Revengeance is truly something very special indeed. And by then the low, somewhat close camera ceases to annoy; besides, the red flash of attacking enemies or bosses off screen is now easy enough to be dealt with by the well trained eye as well.

If the incredible combat of the finale was not enough, the hilarious storytelling (which comes across as a very deliberate parody of its own source material) reaches its ultimate zenith as well: a cheek bursting duologue spat from the tongues of a bent politician athlete who runs the gamut of conspiracy theories on US foreign policy to Ayn Rand, and Raiden who responds to this very Metal Gear-like (minus any sense of subtly or good taste) conspiracy theorising with grizzly, hammy one liners. Despite the deliberate absurdity of its delivery, it’s a far deeper rumination on Ayn Rand than Ken Levine managed to bash together with his false gravitas.

And at one stage there’s a bastardised boss battle theme that is almost a mixture of dub-step and heavy metal. Nothing (but for those few lacklustre levels)—not even good taste—ever gets in the way of the bombastic and absurd vision that is Platinum Games’ Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Revengeance is very special indeed thanks to this one eyed, obsessive dedication. Here’s hoping Metal Gear Solid 5 lands in Platinum’s lap as well.

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