Classic stealth series sinks under new developer

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Switch from guns to swords doesn't cut it in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

I knew this re-imagining of the Metal Gear series wasn’t going to see the return of the raspy renegade, Solid Snake. I also knew that the new developer, Platinum Games, was trading guns and explosives for katanas and melee action. What I didn’t know was the disappearance of Snake would also mark the end of the stealthy tension and personal plotlines that made the series great. It may be more intense and action-focused on its surface, but underneath, the Metal Gear series has lost much of its subtle beauty.

Though fonts, interface, and sounds pay homage to the original series, it’s not enough to steer away from the painful writing and at times weak presentation. Even the often intense action and epic boss battles can’t save the fact that any fan of the series will find Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance disappointing on a number of levels.

The presentation stays true to much of the series, with Raiden looking impressive and over-the-top machine-boss battles exquisitely crafted. Once that’s taken away, though, the rest of the game is mediocre at best, especially by today’s standards. You won’t find the beautifully crafted set pieces of Devil May Cry – settings in Revengeance lack the worn-in look of a more realistic setting. You won’t find the rich character designs of Max Payne – secondary characters look more 2009 than 2013 in their plastic expressions and design.

This is not a game for story or character, nor is it a game with snappy dialogue and laugh-out-loud moments of witty writing. This is hardly the comparably intellectual, emotional journey of Solid Snake, peeling back layers of insidious personal and political drama. Raiden seems more like a supercharged puppet with one mission: seek and destroy. Even the moments of personal revelation in the game, where Raiden realizes that he may be the embodiment of the very evil he is trying to destroy, is flicked aside, and any chance for tact or precision in the plot is lost.

The same goes for the game’s combat. With each battle you’re scored on your overall speed, damage taken and use of combos. This yields points that can be spent on weapon and skill upgrades. While a nice addition, it feels less ingenious and more like Platinum Games trying to snag a slice of the Devil May Cry pie. Tragically, with the new “Blade Mode”, not only can you eviscerate your enemies, but you can actually slow down time and hack them into hundreds of bits (literally – there’s even an on-screen count). Plus, you’ll get a series-deprecating bonus if you slice a certain spot on your enemy and rip out his spine.

This style of gameplay works great for games like God of War, but when the name on the box is Metal Gear, players expect a little more panache. If we want blood, we’ll play God of War. If we want eviscerating combos, we’ll play Devil May Cry. With a name like Metal Gear, the developer had a responsibility to the overall style of play. As soon as Platinum Games traded guns for swords, the motivation for stealth was lost. Previous Metal Gear games promoted stealth to reserve ammunition for boss battles. In Revengeance, it’s blood or nothing.

Throughout, the few merits of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, are marred by an equally tragic disappointment. The exquisite soundtrack during regular gameplay is juxtaposed with ravenous speed-metal during battles. The new developments in combat and presentation ultimately reveal a sub-par visual execution in its broader context. Even the return of series hallmarks, such as the cardboard box as a stealthy camouflage option, simply serve to remind fans of what the series has lost in its attempt to “revengeance” itself.

When he’s not teaching high school, St. Albert Catholic High School alumnus Derek Mitchell can be found attached to a video game console.

Review

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Stars: 3/5
Rating: M (extreme violence, blood, language)
Platforms: PlayStation 360, Xbox 360

+ pays homage to series hallmarks
+ intense boss battles; exquisite soundtrack
- excessive blood and violence
- slice counter? Really?
- degrading loss of series-defining stealth

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