If you cut off part of a cactus and plant it in the ground, an entirely new cactus will grow. This is something I was skeptical about to begin with, but absolutely fascinated by when I found it to be true. It was with similar skepticism that I greeted the existence of Metal Gear Rising, a game that appeared to chop off a piece of the beloved Metal Gear Solid series and try to call it a whole new game. A horrible piece at that — the blonde, whinging, naked piece that has a girlfriend and feelings. But like my first cloned cactus, Revengeance is a whole new entity which is as good as the original in a whole new way. It’s even a little better in certain respects.
Revengeance is set in 2018, four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4 and the downfall of the artificial intelligences guiding world politics. Poster-child for awkward hero-replacement, Raiden — in his new cyborg ninja form — works for Maverick Security. He’s a metallic bodyguard for those who need more than muscle, but it all goes south quickly when a group called Desperado Enterprises swoops into an unnamed African nation, kills the prime minister and leaves Raiden bloodied and broken. With a brand new cyborg kit and vengeful, avenging revenge on his mind, he must track down and take down Desperado.
The requisite twists and turns of a Metal Gear story are present in one way or another, and while the story never reaches the insane heights of the main series’ hard-out madness, it does feel very much like part of the same universe. That’s surely in no small part thanks to the continued involvement of series creator Hideo Kojima, and fans will have plenty to enjoy about the narrative.
In fact, with the game’s stronger focus on action and with Platinum in charge, Rising probably fares better in the story stakes. Where Guns of the Patriots stretched conversations to breaking point and laboured over philosophical points, Rising fires its ideas and beliefs at you quickly and often, leading to an experience which feels more cohesive and well-paced overall. It even has some salient points to make about certain topics, something you might not expect from a game about cutting things in slow motion.
The cutting parts and the part cutting are rather important, nonetheless, and the game is a blazing wonder to behold in that department. Action occurs at a solid 60 frames per second throughout, and it comes through with pinpoint controls. Accordingly, Rising is incredibly difficult and actively demands the player learn all the different systems. At the start of the game you’ll have no trouble slicing through enemies with regular light and heavy attacks, but soon enough you’ll be up against foes that are much stronger than you and just as fast. A myriad of attacks will eventually be at your disposal, but the core of your technique will come down to parries and Blade Mode.
Parrying isn’t something I normally put a lot of thought into, mainly because I’m terrible at it; but many battles here are all but impossible if you can’t parry. Thankfully the theory, at least, is simple: push the stick in the direction of the enemy attack and hit the parry button. Timing is everything, and once I mastered it there was a genuine sense of accomplishment.
Blade Mode has always been Revengeance’s marketing headshot, selling people right from the moment Raiden was shown cutting watermelons in half. In battle it’s a constant companion; hold the trigger to slow time and then slash with the analog stick to cut in that direction. Very weak enemies will fall to this easily, but most need to be weakened in some way first, reserving Blade Mode for either a killing blow or the decisive cut which separates a cybernetic, gorilla-shaped death machine from his hulking robot arms. Blade Mode is also the key to performing Zandatsu, which is a fancy way of describing getting a perfect slice across an enemies repair unit (often also their spine) then ripping it out to absorb the gooey, life-restoring juices. Battles take on a balletic quality as you cut through the battlefield, moving fluidly from attack to defence and reaching into their broken bodies to steal their life force, only to spin around and fend off ten more attackers.
Finding weak points and changing your strategy is paramount, and Platinum have filled the game with a spectacular array of bad robots to take out your angsty frustrations on. There are simple humanoid enemies — cyborgs which begin with guns and eventually graduate to samurai swords and rocket launchers — as well as eight foot robotic dinosaurs, flying wing transports, helicopters and mallet-wielding tough guys. Familiar faces from Metal Gear Solid are present, such as the lady-legged Gekkos and creepy Tripods, and are integrated perfectly into the new environment and genre.
Bosses, often a highlight of the Metal Gear games, are an absolute treat. They may well be some of my favourite boss battles in gaming. The Winds of Destruction are all cyborgs with their own crazy power sets and specific weaknesses. One forms her armour and weapon out of discarded robot arms, while another is composed of a dozen smaller parts that can split at will. Each battle is fierce and unforgiving, but always amenable to considered strategy. More than once I was intensely frustrated with a battle, only to suddenly have a lightbulb and finish things the smart way. Most importantly, the bosses are entertaining from start to finish. They never resort to repetition or a brute force solution, and the final sequence of battles is one of the craziest things I’ve had the pleasure of playing through.
Aside from the satisfying (if somewhat short) campaign, there are plenty of unlockable bits and pieces to keep you playing. Different moves can be unlocked through the game, as can upgrades for your main blade and special weapons. Alternate suits can also be made available — even if the only important choice is the one that makes Raiden wear a sombrero. VR training missions can be unlocked by finding terminals through the story, and can thankfully be accessed at any time through the Codec menu without quitting the game itself. The Codec itself is worth a mention as well, as it’s a big step back up after MGS4’s rather paltry offering. You can communicate with all of the Maverick team at most points in the game, and they’ll have plenty to say. From the comforting German accent of your cybernetic doctor, to the clumsy data recorder, it’s rather nice to have a whole team backing you up and discussing random scientific and political issues.
Whether you play Revengeance because you’re a fan of the series, or because you want some cracking action gameplay, the game will not disappoint. The gameplay is just punishing enough to spur you to improve, and so much fun I didn’t want to put it down — even after repeated game over screens. It’s a spin-off title which is more than worthy of being considered part of the Metal Gear family, including just enough nods to the overall universe without sacrificing its own identity or alienating newcomers. If this is the standard, I certainly hope more Rising titles are coming in the future. 
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
Classification: R16 – Contains Violence