Metal Gear Rising Review: Not Your Daddy’s Metal Gear Game

Reviews for Metal Gear Rising have been kind of all over the place.  Some people loved it, some people didn’t, and all too often many people flip back and forth between both at the same time.  I wasn’t exactly sure which side I’d fall on.  As has been made clear on the site in the past, I’m a very big Metal Gear solid fan, and have played/own every MG/MGS game that’s been put out there (even the rare and hard to find ones).  I was worried that my fanboy pride of Metal Gear and this game’s vastly different approach to the gameplay would put me off of it.  Fortunately that’s not the case.

Despite the fact that this is a full on balls to the wall action game, as opposed to the stealth the series is known for, the developers have done a great job of still making it feel like a Metal Gear game.  It had the same feel, tone, and over the top ridiculousness that fans have come to expect, but it also introduces new tropes of it’s own as well. 

All told, this is probably the most accessible Metal Gear game of them all in terms of new players.  Metal Gear stories can get convoluted quickly and since they all tie in together, it can be difficult to keep up with at times.  Rising doesn’t have this problem.  While it makes references to events from the previous games (and a few character cameos), on the whole it carves it’s own story without feeling like you’ve had to play everything else beforehand.  I know some fans/reviewers have had issue with this, and I can see why.  Rising is lacking when it comes to answering questions posed by previous storlines (i.e. what’s going on with Snake? Why is Raiden a Cyborg killer again?).  While it talks about events from the past, it doesn’t shed any illumination on them either.  For fans eager to see what happens next, it can kind of be frustrating.

Overall I didn’t mind so much.  If you approach it as a fun little ‘side story’ (which the developers have made mention of before) then it won’t bother you.  It makes it easy for newcomers to the Metal Gear series to get in, which is what I think they were going for.  This isn’t Metal Gear SOlid V.  It doesn’t necessarily have to answer those questions.  Would it have been nice?  Sure, but I feel there’s enough fan service for diehard MGS fans in this game that it doesn’t have to go into more detail. 

Gameplay

Enough about story, let’s talk about some gameplay.  This is probably where Rising shines brightest.  The game is just damn fun to play.  In fact, on my second play-through I skipped all the cutscenes and had just as much fun.  The fighting in the game feels fluid and does a great job at making you feel and look like a badass throughout the entire adventure.  Animations look amazing and the flow of combat is so smooth that at times I was frustrated because the enemies stopped coming!

One of the things I loved, but is getting some hate online is the game’s parry system.  Metal Gear Rising doesn’t feature a dedicated ‘block’ button that you can hit and block enemy attacks.  Instead it’s more an issue of timing.  Gamers have to hit the light attack button while moving the directional stick at the same time, at the right moment in order to block an incoming attack.  It sounds way harder than it actually is, but even so, it is a skill that requires some practice to get down. 

To be honest, I absolutely love the parry system.  While it’s a little more difficult to get the hang of than a block button would be, once I got the hang of it, I realized just how amazing it is.  For me, the parry system felt smooth and a natural progression of the combat system.  As fluid as the combat is in the game, dedicating a controller button to ‘block’ feels like it would take away from the overall flow of the fighting.  Since parrying is part of your attack sequence, the combat never stalls and can continue at the same frantic pace.  This is important, considering how your success in combat really depends on your ability to string combos together and maintain the flow of motion. 

Blade mode is THE feature the game was essentially built on and it is about as fun as you think.  I will say that more than anything though, the free-blade aiming system was the hardest for me to get the hang of.  When you enter blade mode you can hit your attack buttons to do sideways or downward cuts, but you can also take control of the direction of the blade by using the right analog stick.  The problem I had was that all too often, when I got the blade lined up, I twitched funny and it sent the whole thing in the wrong direction.  Towards the end of the game where precision is a must in some boss battles, this became agonisingly frustrating.  I wouldn’t necessarily count this against the game because more than likely it’s an error on my part, but when blade mode works…it works and is incredibly fun.

If there are any gripes to be had in the gameplay it’s the lack of clear instruction.  While the game gives you a tutorial at the start the outlines the basics of the fight mechanics, as you learn more and more moves and combos it kind of leaves you on your own to discover those tutorials.  I know a lot of reviewers had trouble figuring things out, but it’s not because there aren’t any tutorials in the game.  They’re just hidden away in the most inconvenient of places.  The tutorials do exist and can be helpful, but getting to them is what’s tripping people up.  Thoroughly explore your start button menu and you’ll find them.

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Replayability

I’m surprised at how high the replay factor on this game was.  Seriously, as soon as the credits stopped rolling and the final cutscene played through, I immediately went back to the beginning to start up another game.  I wanted to get back into the game that bad.  Part of this is the addicting combat mechanics.  It’s so fun to fight enemies and slice them up, that it’s hard to NOT go back and keep playing.

The other side of it are the plethora of extras throughout each level to collect.  There are hostages you can save, left hands to collect (seriously, some of the guards have data in their left hands that you’ve got to chop off and collect), there are extra VR missions to find, and several other things.  The game is riddled with Easter eggs and bonuses that give you reasons to go back through and play the game again and again. 

It’s very rare for me to play a video game again, even ones that I like.  I enjoy playing games for the story and once it’s over, I have a tough time going back into it.  So I consider it a high compliment that I managed to make it through two play throughs of Rising, and I still want to play some more of it.

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Not All Roses

No game is perfect, and that’s definitely the case with Metal Gear Rising.  The game has it’s fair share of problems and things I consider gripes.  The first one I already mentioned, and that has to do with the tutorial system.  While it’s there, it’s not as obvious as it should be.  The game features some hard points, and if you’re not up all the moves and stuff you can do, it can get frustrating fast. 

The main gripe I have with this game is it’s length.  It’s not a long game by any means, and I managed to do the first playthrough in about six hours, and the second time was even shorter than that.  When you’re plopping down $60 for a game, it’s kind of a bummer to be able to get through it in a single sitting (I’ve got a toddler so it was more than that, but other gamers could).  Even with the replayability factor, I feel like it should have been a longer game, especially considering the long development time this entry has had.  I won’t say I feel jipped, because I have had a lot of fun with this game but I was disappointed with how quickly the final credits started rolling.

Sometimes the pacing really seemed to get in the way of itself.  The game is built on high-intensity, frenetic action, but because of this, it’s harder to take certain things slowly.  As I mentioned, there are quite a few things to see and do (extras-wise) as you go through the level.  The problem is that in order to find them, you have to go off the beaten path, which typically slows down your run through the game.  This feels anathema to how you’re encouraged to play, and thus on my first time through, I missed damn near everything. 

There are other moments in the game where a slower approach is actually wiser and will result in fewer deaths, but it’s tough to slow down when you’ve been going 100 mph the rest of the time.  It’s not a huge issue, but it definitely made the pacing of the overall game seem a little wonky at times. 

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Tips For a Better Playthrough

Here are some handy tips to keep in mind while you’re playing through the game:

* Get very familiar/comfortable with your ‘parry’ ability.  While you can get through the first level (or two) with some button mashing, parrying and smart tactics are necessary for the last few bosses. 

* You can wield two weapons!  I didn’t realize this until I was almost done with the game.  When you do the customization (which is just upgrades) you can buy weapons that are built off of fallen foes and equip them as secondary weapons.  This makes life a lot easier.

* On that same note…Upgrade!  Take advantage of the upgrades available and upgrade your character.

* Get on the Codec.  Regular Metal Gear fans already know this, but the Codec (where you talk to people) is a valuable source of information.  If you only use it when they pop up with it or to save, you’re missing out on not only key backstory information but also tips and tutorials on how to improve your game.  While some of the conversations are long, they are interesting and worth it.  Take time out of all the killing to listen to your “co-workers”.

* No matter how big the enemy, you can still parry the attack.  I didn’t realize this until I tried it.  I should have, but considering a couple of the enemies you fight in this game are monstrously big, I thought that their blows would be unblockable (common sense would say so, anyway).  Then I remembered it’s a game and I can do anything.  Sure, you may take some damage, but not nearly as much if you just try to dodge and get hit anyway. 

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Overall

Metal Gear Rising is a fun little side story in the Metal Gear universe, and it’s important to think of it that way.  Don’t take it too seriously.  The fighting is addictive and makes up for the game’s shortcomings.  Even if you’re not a big Metal Gear fan, it’s a good point to jump on.  While you won’t understand all of the references, you won’t be at a total loss either and will find plenty to enjoy.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance gets a 8 out of 10

-Jordan