Literary critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge once proposed that if authors impart “human interest and a semblance of truth” into an otherwise far-fetched story, readers could temporarily suspend disbelief. Over the years, this theory has been rigorously tested by Hollywood’s summer blockbusters, which have persistently attempt to outshine their seasonal completion. Occasionally, the aspiration to amaze with CGI-fueled spectacle gets out of hand, resulting in a third act that comes undone by widespread implausibility.
Likewise, recent Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 release, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance probably should unravel under the strain of its own outlandishness. Both Platinum Games and Kojima Productions are indebted to incredibility; the former best exemplified by Bayonetta’s assaults with shape-shifting hair and feet-mounted firearms, the later with Solid Snake’s renowned ability to hide under a cardboard box. With both studios in concise collaboration, the world of Revengeance is teeming with madcap moments. From using katanas to chisel away at incoming streams of machine gun fire, slicing through stout military hardware like it was sponge cake, and even scampering across missile salvos, the title is saturated with lunatic absurdity. Yet, instead of prohibiting players from becoming engaged, the ridiculousness is counterbalanced with a nearly non-stop mixture of engaging mechanics and a profundity of programming polish. Likely, gamers will be too high off the fumes emitted by the title’s high-octane rush to ponder just how far-fetched the damn thing is.
Smartly, Revengeance doesn’t commence with its armadas of animalistic mechs or vertical sprints down the sides of high rises (those will come soon enough) Rather, the game’s introduction is grounded in geopolitical tension as the game’s protagonist, Raiden, guards an African dignitary lauded for facilitating peace throughout the once-unstable region. As the game’s portmanteau suggests, the motorcade is ambushed by a private military company concerned with a potential loss of incentive, pushing Raiden into merciless action. Less convoluted that the rest of the Metal Gear series, Revengeance quickly launches into near-farcicality, flinging caricatured bosses, a liberal amount of satire, and dialog drenched in military lingo at players. That said, protracted codec conversations have been largely abbreviated, replaced with banter as Raiden takes a brief stroll through an adversary-free environment.
In execution, condensing conversations proves to be a deft decision. Pontification about the nature of war would have been largely incongruent with Metal Gear Rising’s emphasis on mellifluous, adrenaline-fueled action. Wisely, the title tweaks hack-and slash convention by omitting a block button, encouraging players to parry strikes with a combination of the light attack button and a push on the left stick which matches to the direction of the imminent blow. With the flurry of activity across the title’s fisticuffs, Revengeance wisely foreshadows enemy strikes with ribbons of vibrant color. Yet, even with this tell-tale indicator, players may feel a bit ill prepared to tackle the game’s grunts and Gears. A short VR training session divulges the rudiments of combat, but tutelage proves to be no match for experience.
At first, ill-timed parries result in a quick deflection, merely pushing Raiden out of peril. However, stick with Revengeance’s combat system and possibilities swell. Nailing the beat of a parry creates an opening ideal for a punishing counterattack. From there, Raiden has access to a pleasing selection of combos, using light and heavy attacks to juggle, lift, and pummel opponents in submission.
Gratifyingly, foes don’t wait around to be dispatched, displaying a survivalist mindset as they flank, doggedly pursue, and simultaneously wallop on players. As such, Revengeance’s combat has an undeniable cadence, where players will deliver unrelenting offensive furies, each maneuver seamlessly blending into the next, resulting in a Zen-like brawling experience. Of course, a single kick or rocket shell can quickly stymie Raiden’s momentum, forcing player’s to relocate their groove. The sole blemish on the fluidity of combat occurs when changing weapons; switching to procured swords, sai, and staffs and well as secondaries such as grenades and rocket launchers upset Revengeance’s rhythms.
During encounters, a press of the left bumper thrusts Raiden into Blade Mode, which allows for even greater devastation, as time is slowed to a crawl. Once activated, players can use a combination of buttons and the right thumbstick to carve opponents into tiny splinters- as the game gives a real-time, on-screen tally of the number of fragments created. To prohibit players from relying on the technique too much, Blade Mode is tied to a gauge, which gradually refills over time, or is quickly replenished by slaying foes.
Engaging Blade Mode with a full meter activates Revengeance’s Zandatsu, which highlights the inherent weaknesses in foes. With this mode activated, a prompt encourages Raiden to hack toward a specific part of the body, and a subsequent button press allows the cybernetic ninja to tear and crush an opponent’s spinal repair unit. While it might sound like a cheesy animation culled from Mortal Kombat’s playbook, in execution the maneuver remains satisfying through the game’s nine hour duration.
Although showcasing viscera seems a long way off from Kojima Productions’ oeuvre, Revengeance does offer a few concessions to fans of “tactical espionage action”. Beyond a homage to Solid Snake’s cardboard hideaway, sections in each of the game’s levels permit skulking about- allowing players to thin out the ranks foes by remaining out of their line of sight. Impressively, the mechanic doesn’t feel shoehorned in, and is discretionary- allowing MGS’s trademark klaxon to be recast as a wild battle cry. The sole weakness in Revengeance’s cybernetic armor can be found in the game’s camera, which can track single foes, but can become disoriented when multiple opponents are on-screen.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demonstrates why converting video games into Hollywood blockbusters can be so difficult. Watching the combination of realpolitik posturing, electrified-blade wielding ninjas, and a cybernetic companion wolf would likely make for a preposterous movie. Yet by keeping the brains and hands stimulated by a relentless onslaught of enemies, the burden of believability is lessened, allowing players to enjoy an amazingly engrossing thrill ride. Coupled with a healthy number of methods to augment Raiden- as well as collectables and VR missions, Revengeance is a requisite experience for action aficionados.