When it comes to the topic of video game directors and how projects are taken into motion there is no director that pops into my mind faster than Hideo Kojima. Otherwise, he is the man known for making the Metal Gear series what it is today. Well before Metal Gear Survive came into existence, we all tried to pretend it didn’t happen. Hideo Kojima is not only one of the most iconic video game directors of all time, but he is also one of the most respectable directors in the gaming landscape. His work began all the way back in 1987 when he helped with the development of the original Metal Gear on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The idea of a top-down stealth adventure wasn’t possible at the time and if so, it had poor execution, but two generations later the idea was more applicable with new hardware. The first PlayStation saw the release of Metal Gear Solid, the next step for the Metal Gear franchise. It was a game truly ahead of its time with top notch storytelling, consistent voice action, 3D rendered graphics and models, and stealthy gameplay that wouldn’t have been possible. Metal Gear Solid remains to be one of the best games of all time, and even though some aspects might be outdated it’s hard to ignore the areas it succeeded in. Each successor would improve upon the “tactical espionage” the franchise was known for in some manner or degree, and Metal Gear Solid would pave the way for other stealth games. Maybe even stealth entirely. Thief: The Dark Project, Deus Ex, Splinter Cell, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Dishonored, Hitman, and a few features in horror and open world games wouldn’t have been possible without Metal Gear Solid. It’s one of few golden record franchises out there like Dark Souls and Dishonored, and even if there is an entry that the fans loathe, we can all agree that it is still a good game.
Hideo Kojima is just a really good person, and I can see how much passion he put into directing each of his projects, so you can imagine how devastating it was when he was fired from Konami due to corporate indifferences. However, he went on to form an independent studio with his name in the title and started work on another project that captured the soul of Metal Gear Solid. Some people even theorized the game symbolized his departure from Konami. That game was Death Stranding which is a f*cking masterpiece and I’m willing to argue that hot take with other critics. Okay, we really need to calm down now. The Metal Gear Solid series and Death Stranding are brilliant games with deep storytelling and world building. They are not perfect video games, but if you were to pass these projects onto another director other than Hideo Kojima then sadly, they may not come close. Well, besides one. The big one. The one we’re touching upon today is very hard to believe that it’s part of the Metal Gear universe. Which is a little sad to say, because it is another work of brilliance. It showed that other game developers could take on Kojima’s crazily genius work and carry it out equally as him.
This may come as a shock to some of you readers, but what if I were to tell you about the most underrated entry in the Metal Gear franchise, which is also one of the few best action games ever made. Not in the sense of shooty action, but in the sense of a hack n’ slash title like Devil May Cry or God of War. This game began straight after the release of Metal Gear Solid 4 and was an idea that spent a long time stirring inside Kojima’s head. The idea was for a spin off set a few years after the events of the fourth game and follow one of the series’ previous protagonists. There would be high octane action, ridiculously over the top set pieces, and for the first time in history Kojima and his team would take on sword to sword combat. The problem was that Kojima didn’t really know how to handle sword combat. Maybe because he’s so used to programming stealth focused gameplay and buttery smooth gunplay. The project was postponed in 2009 as Kojima had the intention to come back later. Development then kicked back into action in 2011 as the direction would be passed onto another game studio. For the first time in franchise history, someone else besides Kojima was making a Metal Gear game. The chosen studio was surprisingly PlatinumGames who were an odd choice to make a Metal Gear game. If you don’t know who these talented lads are then let me give you a brief summary. They are a Japanese game studio that mainly incentivize high adrenaline action packed games. Their work includes Bayonetta, Vanquish, The Wonderful 101, Astral Chain, and one that I’m personally fond of is the critically acclaimed Nier: Automata. Which if you also don’t know is not only one of my top five action games ever made but has one of my favorite narratives in a video game. PlatinumGames is slowly starting to shape up to be one of my high-class studios for how they have set a gold standard for action-adventure games. They had a few downs across the years, but when they release something amazing you know you are in for a treat.
The development for the next Metal Gear game continued and during a Microsoft conference they announced the new project to be titled Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. This was both a highly anticipated game and controversial, because of how different it was. The final product came out in 2013 and expectations for disappointment were subverted. This was an amazing game, and you can see what would get carried over to PlatinumGames’ future work. It took me a really long time to get to this game, because at first, I was really skeptical. A nice lass highly recommended the game to me and I’m so glad I listened to her. This may be one of my new favorite action games and this review is supposed to convince you to play it. Today we’ll be talking about why I loved Metal Gear Rising and why it deserves your attention.
The game takes place four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4. An old aged Solid Snake took down an organization known as The Patriots, who ran an overly corrupt war economy that exploited political topics and the systems within. Snake now rests peacefully as the man he was cloned after, Big Boss who we may know from Metal Gear Solid V, was put to rest himself. The fear of everlasting war is now over. Wait a minute. This game doesn’t follow the continuation of Snake’s story now that he may possibly be dead due to age. We follow the role of Raiden who was the protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2 and is one of Solid Snake’s close friends. He was taken as a child and through hardcore training he learned to become a highly skilled soldier. Even at a young age you could probably see the man slaughtering men while dual wielding two automatic machine guns at once. That didn’t really happen, but it’s something cool to imagine right now. From what I can presume, during the events of the fourth game he faced massive injuries and a majority of his body had been replaced with cybernetic enhancements. Deus Ex styled I like to call it.
After the complete obliteration of The Patriots several Private Military Companies, otherwise known as PMCs, went out on their own and began developing new tech to help with any future disasters or acts of terrorism. With next generation possibilities they began working on cybernetic super soldiers capable of withstanding large explosions, numerous bullets, natural disasters, and all around being very hard to kill with standard means. Raiden works for one of the many PMCs out there known as Maverick. A small group of people who keep a close eye on world conflicts and try to maintain peace at all costs. One of Raiden’s most recent missions followed him gossiping with Africa’s current prime minister, N’Mani. The man is kind and wishes to protect Africa from any outside forces. They are being driven through the streets as a crowd cheers for the prime minister, and luckily, they seem to be protected by several heavily armed vehicles. The conversation then goes awry when the patrol is attacked by what seems to be a cybernetic terrorist group. Blowing up each vehicle and slicing each soldier up like their chopping vegetables with one of them fancy Japanese made kitchen knives. The car containing the prime minister and Raiden tries to drive away at full speed, but they are then stopped by the terrorist group.
The terrorist group is known as Desperado, a rogue PMC whose goals are to start another war and continue the war economy that existed when the Patriots were around. Their leader Sundowner kidnaps the prime minister which forces Raiden to chase after them. Raiden breaks away from his suit and tie, and from there we get to see the robotic warrior he has become. To be honest with you it was f*cking awesome. Raiden dices his way through the Desperado forces and catches a train the prime minister is being held on. Raiden catches up with Sundowner, but he is too late as Sundowner guts out N’Mani and his comrade Jetstream Sam pop ups to fight Raiden aboard the train. Sam and Raiden engage in an epic duel atop the train, and unfortunately Raiden is on the losing side as Sam manages to cut off his left arm and one of his eyes. Sam is ready to kill Raiden, but luckily Raiden’s allies show up to chase Sam and Sundowner away. A few months pass and a future war is on the horizon. Across the globe people are questioning what happened to N’Mani, and whether it was really a terrorist made by another surrounding country rather than a secret organization.
Maverick plans to expose Desperado and the acts they have committed by tracing down where they are going next. Raiden is given a new arm and mask that allows him to trace enemy movements. This is where we see him gear up, jet towards a new location, and prepare to fight new unknown evils. It’s up to Raiden to save the world again. Just like his old pal Solid Snake. He will learn the true horror that lies behind the scenes, what cybernetic enhancements really mean for mankind, and the line that divides man from machine. A true hero from a mindless killer.
Metal Gear Rising is a really nice showcase of what PlatinumGames can achieve with time and effort. Now let me get this out of the way before we continue talking about how this game works. If you are expecting some resemblance to the formula Metal Gear Solid is renowned for then you are going to be disappointed. Why would you have that mindset though? Why would you think that type of question when PlatinumGames are the guys who made this, and you already know the type of stuff they make. You should be expecting the thrilling action of Bayonetta or Vanquish, and that is exactly what they delivered. Metal Gear Rising has the tropes you would see from PlatinumGames and some elements I witnessed would be carried onto future work.
It plays as you should expect. Linear sets up levels with several enemy encounters that you have to dispatch using whatever methods you can think of. That method being to slice and dice them to an inhumane point where the game is processing more than thirty individual pieces of their body at once. You can really tell the developers spent a lot of time with the game’s engine, because there are a lot of objects that can be cut into numerous pieces. Sometimes a metal door or gate will be blocking your way and the only way through is to cut it up. Combat plays out like a majority of PlatinumGames’ titles. There is a light attack which is good for dealing damage in quick succession, and there is a heavy attack which is much slower but deals more damage and is capable of breaking an enemies’ guard with ease. You can run around the environment freely to avoid attacks and if you are being gunned down then you can press the attack button while running to deflect bullets.
Running isn’t always an option and sadly this game doesn’t have a dodge button. I don’t know why it doesn’t have a dodge button, but for some reason there isn’t. The game encourages the player to take on foes head on and fight them with nothing more than pure aggression. Hit them even when they are defending from your attacks, and when they try to go in and attack you then deflect. The way deflecting works in Metal Gear Rising doesn’t work the same way as other action games with deflecting as well. It’s not Sekiro, Ghost of Tsushima, or Furi where deflecting is designated to its own button and all you have to do is time your deflect right before they hit you. Deflecting is designated to the same button the light attack button is, and you are supposed to hold down the button while flicking the left joystick towards the direction an attack is coming from. You can’t just hold down the attack button or point towards the direction an attack is coming from. You have to flick and press the button down again each time. This may get annoying really quickly with how it controls and believe me it pissed me off the first few minutes of the game, but once you get how it works battles begin to transition to a rhythmic flow. Learning when to bash the enemy about and pay attention to their attacks.
The more you attack enemies and deal physical damage the more you build up an energy meter. This energy meter can be activated to enter Blade Mode which slows time down to a crawl and allows Raiden to unleash a flurry of blows. It can also be used to angle your blows allowing you to make precise cuts. If you hit an enemy enough then you’ll stun them, and this is the perfect time to enter Blade Mode. You can cut off limbs of their body or cut their literal torso in half to reveal blue glowing spines. You can then go in to grab that spine and release the liquid it contains. The liquid will then restore you to maximum health and replenish your energy meter fully. I like this system. It encourages the player to fight no matter what and that by killing enemies they can gain easy health refills. By being good at the game’s combat they can survive longer. It’s like Doom or Control where killing enemies drops health picks, so standing still is never an option. Some tanky enemies later on like the heavy armored soldiers will require you to nail away until some bits of their armor chip off, and rather than slice away it would be the best to just chop off their limb and weaken them. That way they do not have access to the highly powered weapon they are using, or you can then open them up for a killing blow. There are also mechanized enemies or machinery with high health pools, can maneuver around in different ways, and attacks that must be blocked with perfect timing. However, the way they must be weakened is similar to human enemies and sometimes a button prompt may appear that allows you to hurl yourself around them and cut up their weak spot using Blade Mode.
There are sidearms you can pick up while venturing through levels and they offer ways to break through enemy armor or make the game easier. Missile launchers, homing missiles, grenades, electro grenades, and revive items. You can only carry five of each item and any additional pickups will be converted into BP. What is BP? These are the points you rack up for completing missions, chaining combos during fights, or collecting those additional items. BP can be spent in a shop to unlock upgrades and equipment for Raiden. New attack and deflect performances, increases in his maximum health and energy, side weapons like dual machetes or a kunai, blade upgrades, alternate skins that don’t really do much, and much more.
At the end of every mission there is a boss who is the ultimate test between the player and progression. They have numerous attacks, traits, abilities that can nail away at your health, and may take multiple attempts to get it right. They are where the difficulty curves the most, but much like any game with good memorable bosses once you master a fight it becomes really rewarding and satisfying. The boss fights are ridiculously crazy, and this is when the cinematography shines best. Besides that, there isn’t much else I can say about the gameplay. There are terminals scattered across missions and destroying them unlocks VR missions, which are optional trials the player can complete for rewards. It’s just another day that may lead to war and you are the only one who can stop it. Like a bolt of lightning from the sky you will strike them down.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is one of those games I enjoyed more than I really should have. It feels like something my brain would have dreamt of during middle school. When I would get my work done early, stare out of the window into the bright blue sky, and daydream several crazy ideas in my head. This is exactly what I wanted all these years and maybe a little bit more. Let’s address what I liked most about this game, because it’s much easier to talk about the good stuff before we move onto all the bad stuff. These aren’t major game breakers but are things that could be improved.
The story is really mundane and bat sh*t crazy. There are a lot of moments that drive the action sequences off the rails and decide to do trick flips while toppling over. When a character gives a speech or motivation it may be dragged out longer than you think, and some of the themes this game handles are going to feel really odd at first. There are people who are going to say this game is compelling for the political topics, and there are going to be people who say this game is stupid but awesome. I think it succeeds in both areas and does a fantastic job at it. The writing for the Metal Gear games and along with Death Stranding have dived into some interesting territories and the more I listen to what they are talking about the more I realize some of these ideas can connect with real world issues. That may sound really stupid, especially since this is coming from a guy who thinks Hollow Knight is genius with philosophy but hear me out. Metal Gear Solid 2 explored the idea of the media or news networks manipulating the truth and trying to find ways to overshadow it. The protagonists had to expose the truth about the Metal Gears, otherwise giant robots built for war, and what world armies were planning to do with them. Death Stranding focused on a country divided by a mysterious unseeable force that could kill a single person easily, and you had to connect said country using an online network allowing the exchange of ideas and knowledge. I played Death Stranding right before the pandemic kicked in last year and I realized how I could somewhat connect the game to the real world.
Metal Gear Rising explores the theme of exploitation and how groups with higher power will find a way to make the most of a dire situation. The politics and the economics that can be used during the events of a war. The depth of this game goes beyond how it tries to connect to real world topics. The characters all by themselves are interesting and Raiden was someone I could understand. That’s right. I found a way to like someone who does nothing but runs around and cuts guys up into piles of flesh. He fights to protect the world, those aren’t strong enough, and the individuals he would call his family. The writing was great and during moments where it got ridiculous, I said, “Yeah. That seems about right for PlatinumGames and Kojima”.
Now the second part deals with the game being both stupid and awesome. There are games like Doom Eternal or Devil May Cry 5 that aim to be stupid as possible, but if you have the balls to pull every scene off perfectly then the players will stop caring and enjoy thew game for what it is. Comedic stupid action. I thought the combat was good enough. There’s a lot of components that make it work and satisfying to play, but there are a few rough edges they could fix to make it better. Which we’ll touch on in a few minutes.
The soundtrack is an absolute slap, and it may be one of my new favorite video game soundtracks. Not a single song felt bad and during boss themes with lyrics my ears were banging back and forth. It may be in my top ten list now for soundtracks. The game takes around five to seven hours to beat depending on your skill level which I think is a perfect runtime for a game like this. I can see why this ticked people off back in 2013 as they must have paid sixty dollars for it, but these days the game is much cheaper and from what you get it’s extremely worth it. Plus, do you really want to hack n’ slash for twenty hours straight? That sounds really repetitive.
Now it is time to move onto the bad stuff. I don’t like that there isn’t a dodge button or even the ability to sidestep, because other titles by PlatinumGames like Bayonetta and Nier: Automata give you this option. Even if the developers decided to give you an extremely short ranged sidestep, I would still accept it. The way parrying is controlled and activated feels really awkward. Sometimes it doesn’t register at all, and it gets a little frustrating later on against really aggressive enemies. The developers should have added the option to make parrying its own separate button.
Now my last complaint is about the boss's consistency. Now let me get this straight into your head. The bosses in this game a