Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Comes Close To Great, Hampered By Wonky Controls

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I remember mentioning in a post a few weeks ago that I’d be writing about my endeavors with the recently released game Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, by Kojima Productions and Platinum Games. As my paternal/parental duties take precedent I barely have time to even warm up the ol’ PS3 let alone have the energy to concentrate playing the game when I have the chance. Having said that, I was actually lucky enough these past two weekends to squeeze in some playtime between my kid’s requisite bottle feedings, nap times, and occasional fussiness, thanks to my awesome Wife slash mother to the aforementioned rug rat. That, and posting via mobile app actually works for my blogging needs (feeding/burping baby while updating my posts). Hey, a brother’s gotta know how to multitask. Means more content at faster intervals to all you wonderful people! By the by, since I rarely get these precious nuggets of free time to absorb some gameplay, this will be a Staggered review of the game. In other words, you’ll get more information about my impressions as I chip away at it. Alright, let’s get to it.

So my initial impressions are as follows:

• Slick visuals, not uncommon for Platinum Games AAA titles. Reminiscent of MGS2:SOL and MGS4:GOTP. And at 60fps it’s buttery smooth.

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• The destructible elements are fun to slice up because you can just hack them to several pieces. Cars, trees, bridges, boxes, etc. Well, all except for that infernal acrobatic feline on the beach when beginning chapter two. That damned thing’s got better moves than Raiden!

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• Enemy AI seems decent enough when coming in teams of three or more enabling you to pull off seamless combination moves between them.

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Gameplay mechanics have about a 45° learning curve to overcome but once you know what you’re doing its not too bad. One cool aspect of mechanics is the Ninja Run. It not only let’s Raiden run faster and vault over objects parkour style it helps Raiden deflect oncoming gunfire from enemies. You really feel like a Cyborg Ninja!

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MGR:R doesn’t really go deep enough to explain some of the fighting elements further then a few icons and gamepad buttons on the screen hinting to you how to Parry attacks from oncoming enemies (L3 stick toward enemy + ▖). I actually had to refer to google for that information. For example, the game doesn’t explain that, depending on the button combo Timing you will either parry an attack or just straight up block it altogether. Too soon makes Raiden block. Too late results in Raiden taking damage. The initial goal is to time it correctly to parry because it leads to an extra hit, which has the possibility to render your enemy stunned/dizzy momentarily so you can sashay into Blade Mode and more precisely “cut at will.”

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Speaking of Blade Mode, that mechanic is actually the crown jewel of MGR:R. It’s what sets this game apart from all the other hack and slash games before it. Strictly speaking, without it this would just be DMC with an MGS character. Blade Mode lets Raiden/you cut-at-will (zandatsu) and concentrate on what and where to cut your enemy. The default button to enter Blade Mode is the L1 button on the PS3 version so it’s not unlike an FPS shooter where using the same button lets you precisely aim at an enemy. During this mode the R3 stick then becomes the camera control while L3 stick controls the manual cutting. Bullet time ensues while you slice and dice enemies in slow mo be it standing or upside down in mid air. Also keep in mind that the △ (strong) and ▖ (weak) buttons are the attack buttons. Once I go into Blade Mode I rarely do precise cutting because its easier and faster to use △ and ▖ as it takes energy from Raiden’s fuel cells to power BM in the first place. Once you see a red glowing box appear on an enemy you aim your blade to cut at that exact spot and a prompt shows up telling you to press the ○ button. Once pressed, a QuickTime Event (QTE) then takes place where you watch Raiden rip out a power unit that looks like a blue glowing spine to replenish his fuel cells at full charge.

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Once Raiden’s blade cut through an enemy you feel a sense of power and magnificence because it seems unstoppable. You can hear your enemy’s last cries of pain as he/she is obliterated by those lethal strikes. To see several pieces of objects and enemies being shredded is almost hypnotic. It’s just really fun and doesn’t seem to get old.

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But not to get caught up in the bells and whistles of this shiny new game there are gripes about it that I need to address. One of which is the camera system. Let’s take a quick trip back in time.

In past MG Solid titles its been a top-down experience ever since 1985 with the first 8-bit iterations, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for the MSX2 system. In those days game either had a side scrolling or top down perspective. Since the Solid games were based on Stealth and avoiding action, hiding in corners was easier given the fact that everything consisted of right angles.

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Once technology evolved to three-dimensional polygons Kojima then translated that same fixed camera ideal to Metal Gear Solid on the PSX and MGS2: Sons Of Liberty as well as MGS3: Snake Eater on the PS2. The Stealth aspect of the series also translated well to the newer consoles. This time around 3D polygon corners and objects were used as the cover system to avoid detection.

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It wasn’t until MGS3: Subsistence, the second edition to Snake Eater with extras, that the 3D free moving camera was implemented. This style of gameplay typical of western 3rd person perspective games changed the landscape of the series in one move. You weren’t relegated to a cumbersome and altogether outdated camera perspective. Snake had the freedom to move about, sneak and crawl, and aiming his gun was more natural, more organic. For those more partial to the arial view though, toggling the L3 stick brought you back and forth between 3D and top down sneaking in realtime. MGS4: Guns Of The Patriots followed suit, continuing this new tradition of western ideals nixing the top down view once and for all. Head shots, sniping, and even worm’s eye view, Solid Snake 3PS was in full effect, yo. Kojima even added a toggle to let the player walk around in FPS mode! Oh Kojima, you sly fox (amirite??).

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Fast track ourselves to the present and we go into the camera system that Platinum Games has built into MGR. Movement seems simple enough with the L3 stick while R3 stick moves the screen as per usual. This is where my gripe starts. As you run around the camera follows you so you’re constantly looking at Raiden’s back. There’s no such thing as Strafing in this game as before with MGS3:S and MGS4:GOTP, and even more recently, Peace Walker for the PSP. When this happens there are possible enemies ganging up on you but you won’t see then because they’re off screen. That really hampers gameplay quite a bit and Raiden ends up taking damage unnecessarily. What’s more, when in boss battles its easier to run into this issue. As you’re trying to position yourself for a decent strike you have to run to avoid attacks at times. Stupid things like random camera swiveling or being boxed into a corner because the camera likes to constantly be on Raiden’s ass makes for a sometimes frustrating experience. I have no idea why Platinum chose this type of camera. It makes no sense and is counterintuitive when the whole purpose of the game is to deal Offensive attacks. In order for that to happen you need to be in FULL control of what you see around you. Half the time you’ll be Defending yourself against attacks instead of serving them.

There IS one MGS game that comes to mind when bringing up this exact issue, and that is MGS: Portable Ops. In this game the camera also followed Snakes butt wherever he went so there was no definitive Full control of the environment. But the game was made for the PSP, a handheld that lacked a 2nd analog stick. I suppose in order to remedy the issue was to have that hand broken camera system. At least the game let you actually map your buttons in the options menu. After I finished MPO twice with default controls I tried customizing my 3rd playthrough with the MPW Shooter scheme, having my face buttons manipulate the camera but ultimately it felt awkward as the game wasn’t calibrated for such an updated setup.

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It took me some time to get accustomed to the MPO way of life but I got used to it over that time. Perhaps, given more time over these next few weeks the camera will grow on me. For now though, it remains a thorn in MGR’s side.

Overall the game is fun, with a storyline that is semi serious, yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’ve only finished the first chapter of the game but have already encountered some cool bosses. There’s more to explore and gain knowledge of, and I look forward to sharing with you guy and girls my experiences and meeting new characters and learning their backstory along the way. Updates forthcoming.

Stay tuned.

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