It's weird how Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is so utterly flawed, yet, as a game, it was so much more rewarding than Bioshock Infinite. In fact, why are people still arguing that Bioshock Infinite will be crowned game of the year? The Last of Us and Beyond Two Souls haven't even come out yet.
OK, ok, enough of that... MGR, as I'll call it from now on, is a game that I was stupid enough to play the entire way through on Hard difficulty the first time round. Why...why did I do that? The golden rule of any Metal Gear game is to never play through on Hard the first time (unless you really know what you're doing) and it's not like I started off on Hard in the previous Platinum Games product: Bayonetta. I suppose being a fan of both Bayonetta and the Metal Gear Franchise just made something in my head go 'You know you want to'. And, my God, it was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. I spent at least 10 hours on the final boss! Saying that though...I can understand why certain gamers always go straight for the Hard difficulty: it forces you to properly observe and understand your opponent, it forces you to strategise and think, and the defeat and completion is always so much more rewarding...
Plus, there has to be something I enjoy in the game if I've downloaded the DLC, in which I can play as Jetstream Sam and Blade Wolf.
So, my own personal interaction with the game out of the way, I think I'll just lay down what I liked and didn't like about MGR. I liked the music, although I found having songs in use to be a bit cheesy at first, but then I noticed certain lyrics timed with certain events and the soundtrack grew on me. I liked the level design and pretty graphics, very few glitches too. (Denver is my favourite level.) Also, the menus and pop-up graphics are all very reminiscent of any Metal Gear Solid entry. I was also impressed with the amount of research done into organised crime, geographical regions and cultures, although I'm wondering why the characters of Armstrong and Sundowner were blatant satirical representations of the cruder of the American stereotypes out there. The game isn't being obviously anti-American, as there are plenty of American characters that go against the stereotype, but I did get the feeling that the developers had way more fun creating punching-bags that the player would relish ripping to shreds as opposed to complex, developed, and even sympathetic bosses and enemies. This was sort of done when creating the characters Mistral, Monsoon and Jetstream Sam, but it was more implied than properly explained. Even when I knew the back-stories of these characters, I still found myself listing the gaps in my knowledge. I also found it weird that the age-old Metal Gear tradition of having a support character going "Raiden? Raiden? RAAAIDEEEEN!" whenever you got killed was featured, but the well-known Game Over tune wasn't.
In terms of gameplay, I find it much more of a mixed bag. I hate that automatic targeting or lock-on isn't featured and that the camera is not very good at following Raiden and making it clear where the enemies were, in fact, the camera was often stuck behind an opaque object during a boss battle. Bayonetta didn't have this problem, but when moving Raiden around I was manually moving the camera so much, what the hell happened guys? Now I did like that in certain areas you could sneak past the enemies, in fact I wish 1 or 2 more such areas could have been included. And I have to admit, Raiden is very responsive to the controls and slashing people to bits is a ton of fun. But he does not have a dodge button; again Bayonetta did. Raiden himself is also strangely slow and stiff; again, Bayonetta was fast and fluid. OK, that's the last Bayonetta comparison, I promise. Comparing Raiden to...Raiden, I couldn't help but feel that gameplay Raiden's abilities are heavily restricted compared to cut scene Raiden or MGS4 Raiden. Half the time I was playing I thought things like: 'Shouldn't he be able to run up walls?' 'Shouldn't he be able to catch/deflect throwing knives?' 'Shouldn't he be able to noose a cable round that MG Gekko and yank it to the side?' 'Why can't he just knock out those enemies he doesn't want to kill by shooting electric volts through his High Frequency Blade like he did in MGS2? Or like what Olga did to him in MGS2?'
I have to say, being a serious MGS fan did have this game play against me sometimes. It's like, the developers did their best to research as much as possible...and then dropped the ball on Metal Gear continuity. Not all the time, just on little things here and there, but things I had noticed nonetheless. For instance, why is Raiden's blood now red? In MGS4, it was made clear that his blood had been completely replaced with nanobot-filled white plasma, as part of the process for turning him into a cyborg. Then there's the example of his sword's and his abilities that I've described above. And why, at the beginning of the game, was he so willing to wait for Boris' order to act instead of reacting himself? That's not the Raiden that had emerged in MGS4!
And that's not all the gripes I have with the gameplay. Now, I did like how smart the AI was, sometimes though, it was too smart. Say I was hiding in a corner, no one knew I was there, then I accidentally made a noise and the alarm went off, they instantly knew where I was hiding. How?!?!? I assumed it's something to do with the software and nanobots in their systems but still, it's very annoying. Also, I had to read the manual to find out basic controls, to find out I needed to keep my fuel cell count up, otherwise I couldn't go into blade mode, which meant I couldn't dismember limbs or rip out spines to replenish my health. That's seriously old school. But I find it weird I had to read the manual in a game set in the Metal Gear Universe! Where's my 20-minute long codec conversation describing almost every control in elaborate detail? Speaking of which, it was cool that they continued the tradition of the after-credits codec conversation, but where was my dramatically over-powering and satisfying 30+ minute long full motion video ending? It's weird the strange quirks you can miss in a game sometimes.
So now I get to the fun part: the story! ^^ He he! So this takes place after Metal Gear Solid 4 (obviously) and so the world we're in is free of The Patriots and their attempts to control what people knew, thought, and their manipulation of global politics and economy. We're in the year...um...they don't say. Judging by Sunny's age, at least 2019. We find that Jack/Raiden is now a member of a Private Military Company called Maverick, which specialises in training local security forces, which they have done in some country in Africa somewhere (it's kept vague). Throughout most of the game, I wondered who the hell Boris, Kevin and Courtney were (not that I disliked any of them, I enjoyed Raiden's interactions with them actually) and it turns out Boris was the one who had supported and guided Raiden to the Patriot facility, where he had rescued Sunny Gurlukovich back in 2009/10. Why they didn't reveal that until the final mission, I...whatever. So anyway, Raiden fails in his mission to protect the Prime Minister and it turns out there are people who want a war economy going (probably because they cannot find any other raison d' etre), so Raiden and pals do their best to stop the re-ignition of people's desires for war.
Now I really liked this. There was a lot of discussion and exploration of what the world after the defeat of the Patriots is like, it reveals that peace did not come immediately after all and there will always be crooked politicians, which is believable I suppose. It's also revealed that Metal Gears are still being developed, even if they no longer carry any nukes, and that cyborg technology has proliferated and become more commonplace. When it's there, better use it, right? Saying that though, I really don't like the way that the story writers made the plot so simplistic that Raiden is sometimes forced to be conveniently stupid in order to get the plot going. When Prime Minister Gmani got killed, I had thought up 2 ways Raiden could have prevented it. I also kept wondering just why he let his eye get slashed and his arm cut off. (Speaking of which, why didn't he replace his lost eye with a cybernetic one? And I mean before the end of the game?) Now the story and characters were supposed to show a contrast to Raiden, as they were all in similar situations but then there was an exploration as to why Raiden was able to demonstrate compassion and be a hero, as opposed to the others. While said others tried to drag him down with them. The story becomes bitter-sweet. When Raiden reveals that his statements about using his sword to protect the weak and so on really was just a lame reason why he fought, an excuse he had made up to justify being in combat, he completely loses his mind and reveals he loves killing and loves feeling pain on the battlefield. ...
This...this made me afraid of him, of playing as him. And when Raiden kills Armstrong at the end, Armstrong says Jack makes a worthy successor to his goal of creating a war-torn anarchy, because Raiden chose to act more like a vigilante and ignored the rules when he felt the need to. And then the ending implies that Jack chooses to do just that: become a complete vigilante and destroy all PMCs. Which is illogical! How are you supposed to provide for your wife and son if you act outside the law and earn no money doing so?
And then...there's the tonal shift. I'm not talking about the light-hearted banter between Raiden and the supporting characters, I'm talking about the stupid, silly, face-palm moments. Like Raiden trying too hard with his one-liners (he doesn't need them, he's badass enough), or Raiden becoming a cartoon character in the middle of his beat-down, or growing illogically angry when Blade Wolf wouldn't shake his hand. And why wouldn't Blade Wolf shake his hand? He clearly likes...or at least respects Raiden. And Blade Wolf! Darn I love Blade Wolf. The best conversations were with this robotic, talking wolf, a 3-year-old AI who thinks logically and makes so many astute observations of mankind, while at the same time not understanding emotions. He was fascinating. He was also a missed opportunity. I was waiting for that one mission when Raiden would summon him and Blade Wolf could come along and rip everybody apart! That would have been cool!
Overall, this is a good practice game for Platinum Games' first ever serious game (all their games before this have been comedic or silly in nature) and it must have been an interesting project for Kojima Productions, who have never had to outsource full development of a game to someone else before. I would like to see a sequel and I hope both sides have learnt lessons from the development process.
And for everyone reading this who has no clue about the Metal Gear (Solid) universe and who has been completely bamboozled by my wafflings in this post...I am so, truly sorry. If I had written this with the assumption of people not knowing anything about the franchise, my review here would have been 3 times as long!