The storied past of Metal Gear is one of conspiracy, governmental abuse and deep thought out characters as well as plots. The series itself has spawned the covert ops style of gaming that many of us have enjoyed over the years. One of the most well known characters of gaming, Solid Snake, has been a mainstay in the series since its early days on Nintendo and now the torch is being passed. Raiden has been handed it and is running in with swords swinging. As we learned from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Raiden has a new cybernetically enhanced body and is now a cyborg as has become the norm in private military companies, otherwise known as PMCs. Fast forward 4 years from the end of MGS4 and we are in a world where the Patriots no longer hold any control, where PMCs have become a viable business and where cyborgs and cybernetic enhancements are commonplace. Does Metal Gear Rising stack up next to its long line of predecessors? Does it hold up as far as action or strategy games go? Here is your review.
Since the Patriots fell it has left a hole that is being filled by various PMCs as well as other enterprises. Enter Raiden who is part of Maverick Security PMC. A company that has strayed from being in the middle of wars to instead providing security for VIPs. Raiden is protecting Prime Minister N’Mani of an uspecified African country when their convoy gets ambushed by 2 men representing Desparado PMC, a PMC that has become synonymous with terrorist actions. Their leader, Sundowner, takes N’Mani leaving Raiden to fight his way to find him. Everything spirals out of control and Raiden is left for dead, but is saved by Maverick Security.
The story itself is in true Kojima form handling a interesting, realistic and delicate issue like the ones of private military companies, world markets, governments and namely, the United States government. It brings together subtle humor as well as some real life humor (think putting a USB into your computer… you will lol when you see it) in a well represented tumultuous present day climate with a futuristic spin to it. The focus on our world political climate makes a lot of sense, and with references to terrorist acts as well as war profiteering it hits home a lot as well. Raiden is a moral person, but also has his personal demons. If you remember from MGS4 he has an alter ego, one known as Jack the Ripper, a vicious psychotic killing machine. This persona is one that Raiden attempts to steer clear of because of the ramifications Jack causes. It gives you that mix of hero and anti-hero, the kind of mix that makes you sympathize yet fear the power Raiden possess. The turns throughout the story give you a deeper perspective on Raiden and on the world at large. It is a sort of bloody symphony, one that you engage in and feel connected to strangely.
For those who feared where Metal Gear Rising was going to go with its story, there is no worry. This story is fascinating and sticks to the model MGS created. It involves war, politics, profiteering and conspiracy. It gives you everything you want and more. Throughout the story you learn and become part of this vast network where the strong prey on the weak, where money matters more than blood, where those with money abuse those without it and so on. You become connected because for the most part, this game is set in a closed off reality, one that we would never see if it truly was happening.
Story Grade: A
What most feared from this new installment of the Metal Gear franchise is the deviation from its tradition roots as a stealth game built around tactics and staying hidden instead of fighting all out. The best thing about Metal Gear Rising is it doesn’t really deviate from that concept, it just allows you to choose how you handle nearly every situation. Want to go stealth and remain unseen? Go for it. Want to come out sword swinging, heads flying, limbs falling? Hell yeah, do it. It offers you the chance to choose how you handle everything. Sometimes staying stealthy will be more beneficial in making a level easier with less enemies because of less alerts. The harder the difficulty the better ally that stealth becomes. It is much easier to take out an enemy from behind with your sword than it is to go all frontal assault on them when you are over matched by multiple UGs and/or soldiers. It is nice that you can use optional secondary weapons that you collect through the game. You can also use rocket launchers, grenades and hide in boxes as well as oil drums. Yes, you can hide still. Rejoice!
It does however, take some time to get to used to the style that this game promotes. The sword play and Zandatsu free cutting modes give a new take on 3rd person slashers, but give a new life to the Metal Gear world. If you remember, MGS4 had like… 50 hours of CGI cut scenes in it to explain the essential end of Solid Snake and to explain his origins. In previous titles you always felt at a disadvantage, but that is always the point of stealth and tactical based games, to make you feel like timing and patience are everything. With Raiden in Metal Gear Rising, you feel powerful. You feel like you can take on full sized UGs as well as any super soldier thrown your way.
The only 2 issues I ever had with the gameplay were a camera that was at times stiff or forced me into bad perspectives and the free cutting mode using the right stick didn’t work too well. I often had issue with this when trying to stay in the shadows and be stealthy. When hiding in a box or oil drum you prefer to move both silently and quickly and the camera angle tends to be either your best friend or worst enemy. It too often made my life hell with switching the camera perspective on me. With the free cutting, you can still use your regular attack buttons (X and Y for 360), but it was made to be used with the right stick. It is clunky and rough to say the least. You really just view it as an option more than a necessity and find that using your regular attack commands is much more effective and fun.
All in all the gameplay is fantastic and offers a relatively rare play style. This definitely rivals DMC: Devil May Cry in the slash department, which if you read my review, was a great game. If this is the standard we can expect from Kojima and the Metal Gear franchise then count me in. I love the sword play and ability to use secondary weapons including rocket launchers. Being able to restore your health and energy by ripping out the power cores of your enemies gives it a sense of wanting you to win which is definitely important. Metal Gear Rising took a big chance here and flourished.
Gameplay Grade: A-
Another great addition is solid tracks during battle. A lot of good rock in the background gives fights an extra level of boost and get your adrenaline pumping. The sword slashes are awesome and you never tire of hearing it nor do you tire of hearing a UG explode after you decimate it. I loved Raiden’s voice throughout. It makes him seem human, but also a cold bastard that has an objective and is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish said objective. Just like previous Metal Gear titles, the voice acting overall is superb and doesn’t stick to a single geographical area with its characters. Every character is just a player in the large scale game that is being controlled from elsewhere. Just like the Patriots controlled most things, these characters understand their role and accept it. When they talk to you, it isn’t talking down for the most part, but giving you their perspective and in their particular dialects, I love it. The atmosphere brought about by the music, voices and explosions is a powerful one that you realize you don’t understand, but that the further you get into you begin to. While sound can be subtle, you find yourself paying attention to little things like noises and foot steps that can save your ass more than once.
Sound Grade: A-
The game looks really polished. From Raiden’s new sleek awesome look to all of the UGs you fight, everything is vibrant or rustic looking. When slicing and dicing it graphically shows you your slices and how you have cut both soldiers and UGs apart. Very awesome looking and makes the world a bit more realistic with soliders who will still try to attack you even when quite literally disarm them (tis but a flesh wound). When everything explodes it looks good, its fun to watch and an enjoyable view. Raiden’s sword, along with your other foes weapons, are sleek and look as high tech as you assume they are. Raiden’s armor is well defined and looks extremely detailed, which again is something you would assume taking place in this sort of future.
Visual Grade: A-
For a single play based game the replay value is pretty decent which is surprising. While the story itself is relatively short (10-20 hours depending on difficulty), it offers many VR missions that test your ability at all facets of the game. Also collecting important things throughout the game (ex: specific soldiers left hands that have data) unlocks more for you to do and use. You have a lot fo weapons as well as armor types to unlock and the game has a good enough storyline and fun enough gameplay that Metal Gear Rising is worth at least a second playthrough alone.
Metal Gear Rising is a change of pace from the previous stories, but a good change of pace. I thoroughly enjoyed the new combat system and the story keeps up with the times and the turmoil that we see in our 24 hour news cycle today. Metal Gear Rising gives way to Raiden to take over the franchise and to push forward his core beliefs and for us to leave behind the glory days of Solid Snake for now. Through fantastic writing and just as good graphics this game truly has lived up to the hype. The replay value is solid for an action game like MGR and the addition of the VR missions makes it even better because it expands from the storyline to test your skills and abilities. In the end, Metal Gear Rising is a success and more importantly, is fun. I enjoyed every minute of it, even the bosses that frustrated me, there was always a way to beat them. With several weapons to choose from and an array of secondary weapons to play with you will be able to pick and choose your strategy at will which is helpful for handling each unique situation that arises. This episode of Metal Gear has left me wanting more and in the end, that shows how good a game really is.
Overall Grade: A