Nobody Does Action Like Platinum Games
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance has an interesting development cycle, originally developed by Konami, the game was designed to give what many players had been asking for since the first Metal Gear Solid game, the chance to play as a bad ass ninja. Unfortunately somewhere along the way the team wasn’t able to see out it’s vision, they had the cutting mechanic in place but no one really knew how to make a game out of it. Metal Gear Solid Rising was quietly cancelled until Hideo Kojima decided to offer the game to Platinum Games, one of the smartest decisions seen in recent times.
The Platinum Games version of Metal Gear Rising is perhaps not one for fans of the series, whilst the cancelled Konami version seemed like a spin off title within the Metal Gear universe, Platinum Games’ take on it is pretty much an action title that happens to star Raiden. Nothing about MGR feels all that connected to past games but it’s okay, MGR is it’s own beast and isn’t afraid to admit it. Die hard fans may cry foul but what Platinum Games have achieved here is quiet impressive though slightly rough around the edges at times.
Normally I’m not one to start off with the visuals but in MGR it’s pretty much the first thing you notice, MGR runs at 60FPS with very minimal stutters. It feels like an extremely long time since I’ve played a title that actually gave a damn about the importance of performance instead of something that looks amazing but runs like a slideshow. Equally impressive is the animation, simply watching MGR can be quiet a treat as Raiden slices through his enemies with plenty of visual flair. It’s a very clean and crisp looking title, it’s exactly what this type of genre demands.
Not everything in MGR is perfect, due to the 60FPS target there are areas where the team has had to cut back (no pun intended) in order to achieve it’s target framerate. Lighting in MGR is pretty basic and bland, likewise the environments look very lacklustre and very “32-bit era” in terms of it’s geometry design. The difference between cut-scenes and gameplay can be rather jarring at times with the former clearly looking like a top tier title but given that the game is aiming for 60FPS, it’s a perfectly acceptable sacrifice for the greater good so to speak.
The most exciting part of MGR isn’t it’s visuals, it’s the gameplay as for the first time we finally get the chance to live out all the great action that was previously relegated to cut-scenes in the past. I’m going to tell you straight away, MGR isn’t Ninja Gaiden nor is it Bayonetta as the game isn’t very as in depth as those two. At the same time the game isn’t as basic as Anarchy Reigns but instead MGR falls somewhere in the middle.
Depth is sometimes an overrated elements of these types of games, what good is it have a massive moves list when all that really matters is the initial attack? After that the enemy is free to be combo’d to death but even so, MGR could use a little more variety in it’s combat than it currently offers. There is an upgrade system in place which allows players to power up Raiden’s sword and purchase new moves using the battle points collected along the way. Until you purchase some of these moves, MGR can be rather basic with not much variety to each battle. An evasive move that allows Raiden to leap out of the way can be rather useful and should of been a standard in the combat and not as an upgrade purchase.
In MGR the combat can take a little getting used to, Raiden isn’t quiet as capable Ninja Gaiden’s Ryu but masks it well it’s cutting mechanic. The main selling point of the game is that players can cut just about anything however they want and as many times as they want essentially. Holding the left trigger sends the game into slow motion and the camera pans behind Raiden, from here on players are able to flick the right analog stick in any direction to see Raiden mimic that motion on screen. It actually ends up being loads of fun and is used fantastically during boss battles, there’s a meter bar on screen that stops players from abusing this mechanic to break the game.
Speaking of breaking, I’m not sure what Platinum Games were smoking when they came up with the parry system. In MGR Raiden isn’t capable of blocking, an evasive maneuver isn’t even available initially so the only form of defence comes from the parry system. It takes a little getting used to but eventually becomes second nature, it’s a simple flicking of the analog stick towards the enemy with a tap of the attack button. The major problem is that the timing of the parry is far to generous, perform a parry and for a second Raiden will deflect just about any attack, a second may not seem like a long time but but in a game involving fighting it’s an eternity. At some point Konami or Platinum Games need to issue an update that greatly reduces the timing window required to perform a parry because in it’s current state it basically breaks the game’s challenge.
If I had to pick a highlight for MGR it would easily be the boss battles, unfortunately there isn’t as many as I would of liked but what’s here is generally fantastic. The minute to minute action of MGR is a little lacking due to the combat system not being as varied as I would of liked but during the boss battles none of this is evident. Boss battles always offer up something unique and none can be defeated simply by mashing on the attack buttons, it’s a lot of fun from a gameplay point of view but also by the sheer spectacle of it all. There’s plenty of “holy shit, is this happening” moments followed by “damn, that was AWESOME” as you sit there with a grin on your face over what you just saw.
I’m going to be very careful with this next part as I don’t wish to spoil the game for anyone but MGR features one of the best final boss battles I’ve encountered in years. I’ve grown sick and tired of crappy final boss battles, it’s almost like a tradition that the last boss won’t be as cool as something earlier in the game but MGR avoids that problem. The final boss in MGR kicked the SHIT out of me numerous times, I got my ass handed to me for the next two hours. What’s great is that it’s exactly what a final battle should be, I want to get beaten so hard to the point where I want to break the controller in anger because when I do finally defeat the final boss, the sense of reward and accomplishment is so much greater.
Despite what you’ve heard, MGR isn’t a 5 hour game but instead something closer to 7-8 hours as the game does not track game time during failed runs. It also does not keep track of cut-scene length, when the final screen shows you 5 hours it’s actually keeping track of the “perfect run” with no deaths. With that said, MGR isn’t a long game even at 7-8 hours and although there are VR missions to keep you busy, it’s hard to recommend MGR as a full priced retail title. There’s plenty of mindless fun to be hard in MGR and I would rather have a game be short than overstay it’s welcome but MGR could of been a little longer, if only to squeeze in a few more boss battles.
I almost forgot about the sound design but it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly when talking about a Platinum Games title. Sound effects are what they are, there’s nothing amazing happening here and I would of liked a few more “ZING” moments during battles but it’s okay in it’s current state. The soundtrack on the other hand is pretty good, Platinum Games sure do know what types of tracks to get you pumped during a boss battle, the one that plays during the last battle definitely got me going. This isn’t some boring track “designed to set the mood”, this is some hype madness that gets your blood rushing.
Traditionally voice acting has always been a strong point for the Metal Gear series but in MGR it’s not quiet up to the usual standards. Quinton Flynn who has been the voice of Raiden since Metal Gear Solid 2 is back although this time in a more “Christian Bale” performance, Raiden sometimes sounds like he is trying too hard to be pissed off and edgy. The other characters you meet along the way are generally okay, one or two have accents that sometimes end up feeling more racist than faithful. Overall the voice acting isn’t on par with what we’ve seen from the series in the past but it isn’t bad and more than gets the job done.
When it’s all said and done, MGR isn’t the home hit run that some were hoping for but at the same time it can be a lot of fun along the way. What MGR does well is build a fantastic base for a future MGR title to expand upon, a more varied combat system with greater depth would do wonders for the game. More boss battles in addition to a longer story mode with interesting environments would again excel the game to something much more special.
Platinum Games has managed to get many things right the first time with MGR, it’s exciting to see the potential a sequel holds but we can’t argue with what we already have here. MGR features insane action that only the crazy guys over at Platinum Games could come up with and boss battle well worth experiencing. The short length of the game makes it hard to recommend as a full priced title even if these types of games are intended to be very re-playable. Wait for a price drop and come into MGR with an open mind. It may not get everything right but games are supposed to be entertaining and MGR understands that better than a lot of other “superior” titles on the market.