Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review: An exhilarating blast of dumb
At a Glance
Imagine a giant, roughly 200 ft. tall robot shoots a barrage of missiles at you. Do you:
a) Try to run away, but fail and die in a blazing inferno?
b) Wet your pants and cry?
c) Run towards the robot, using the missiles as platforms as you parkour your way through the air and chop the menacing machine in half with your sword?
If the prospect of Option C makes half of you want to bust out in incredulous laughter while the other half explodes in raucous applause, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance will be your type of game—if you can figure out how to control all the action, that is.
Holy dumb, Batman
To be clear: the above situation isn't some hard-earned, climactic encounter that caps off a dozen hours of middling third-person action. This is Revengeance's opening sequence—literally the first real encounter you have in the entire game.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is so silly—so downright insane—I can almost forgive its absurd title. Revengeance is capital-F fun, an exhilarating ride from start to finish.
The combat is really tight and—with the exception of some annoying boss encounters—well-balanced. Once you dig into Raiden's moves a bit more, there's a really rewarding game to be found. There's a surprising amount of depth in Revengeance—perhaps not as much as Devil May Cry, with its seamless weapon-swapping combat, but enough to keep things interesting. You just have to discover the depth for yourself. (Much more on that later.)
Parrying is especially satisfying, and there's a real sense of progress when you go from "Blade Wolf as boss fight" at the beginning of the game to effortlessly fighting multiple Blade Wolves at the same time later on. The addictive, combo-based swordplay oozes ridiculous style and insane violence in equal amounts.
And the story of Revengeance (and its protagonist, the metal-jawed Raiden) is as ludicrous as its fast-paced action. Revengeance's tale is as Metal Gear as it gets: The plot is borderline inscrutable, but has something to do with the military industrial complex and US military dominance... and TV news punditry
Imagine a world in which Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow are both superpowered cyborg ninjas who settle their differences with swords while screaming political rhetoric at each other. On the back of a moving train. And one of them inexplicably has a cyborg wolf as a pet. Oh, and it's probably raining. Yeah, it's like that.
Much like Asura's Wrath and last year's Devil May Cry reboot, Revengeance's story is pure "sit back and let the dumb wash over you" fun. And that's totally okay. It's the best summer blockbuster released this January—a quick, stupid blast of fun.
For wont of a tutorial, the cyborg was lost
If Revengeance has a major failing it's that it doesn't really want you to play. At least, that's the conclusion I drew after fighting the second boss for over half an hour, getting my curiously sculpted cyborg butt handed to me every time. The controls in Revengeance are nearly as inscrutable as the story. They're not hard, per se. The game just doesn't tell you anything.
Sure, sure, Metal Gear Rising fan—I hear you. "All the key bindings are in the help menu, idiot. You should've looked there!" And indeed I did, eventually. That's bad design in this day and age, though; the game does a poor job conveying important information to the player.
Let's return to parrying attacks as an example, because it's probably the single most important action in the entire game. Parrying is introduced in a short tutorial segment before the game starts, alongside a few other attack actions. In the tutorial, however, you perform it once and move on. (And I did it purely by accident!) Then you play the entire first level, full of fodder enemies and the aforementioned hulking, missile-slinging robot, without parrying once.
And then you hit the second boss, Blade Wolf—a cybernetic wolf with a chainsaw tail. Without parry, Blade Wolf is basically impossible. Even with your own cyborg-enhanced legs, Blade Wolf is so fast it's like Usain Bolt racing against a geriatric with a walker. I watched Raiden die over and over again, each time hearing my handler give the same pathetic cry. "Raiden, what happened? Raiden! Noooooooo!"
Eventually I turned to the collective power of the Internet. "Don't forget to parry," said the Internet. And I thought to myself, "Wait, I can parry?"
Another glaring example: By pulling the left trigger, Raiden triggers "Blade Mode"—time slows down, and Raiden can swing his sword more accurately. This allows Raiden to, for whatever reason, chop out people's spines and eat them to repair his own decrepit cyborg body.
But I didn't know until the final boss, that in Blade Mode the right analog stick controls the swing of the sword. Why did I find out during the final boss fight? Because for whatever reason, the game requires that you know this knowledge for the first time during that last encounter. It doesn't teach you that, though. I had to go to the Internet once again to figure out why the fight was seemingly impossible to beat.
It's this opaque design that grated on me more than anything else in Revengeance. New weapons, new moves, basics like locking onto enemies or simply creating a hard save—nothing crucial is explained in-game.
Heck, one of Raiden's optional (unlockable) moves is a dodging slash that's essential to multiple encounters, but the game doesn't even tell you to buy it.
The user experience nightmare is an utter shame considering how fun the core experience is. Did I mention this game is fun?
As for the quality of the PC port? It's...serviceable. Even decent. Revengeance features native gamepad support, thankfully, as I can't imagine playing this game with a mouse and keyboard. It's a bit light on graphics options, but everything looks a fair amount sharper than last year's console versions and I didn't have any problems with the framerate dipping.
Revengeance is exhilarating. It starts strong, it meanders through its silly plot strong, and it finishes—I dare say—even stronger. If you're the kind of person (like me) who leans into and even accepts dumb into your life, you won't go wrong with Revengeance. It's not a perfect game—far from it—but for a bit of weekend relaxation?
Well, let's just say you haven't lived until you've played an entire Metal Gear game as Raiden in a mariachi outfit. Just be ready to dive into control menus, forums, and YouTube videos to discover the full potential of its depth for yourself.