200% health AND an exploding shield? You gotta be kidding me.
It was reported that the development of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was contentious, which isn't surprising given the way fans have gravitated to lofty expectations of a perfect blend of stealth and action. A cyborg ninja that can slice and dice, while still providing plenty of opportunity for the franchise's signature stealth?
It sounds too good to be true, and that's because it is. Of course, Platinum Games took on the project, saving it from cancelation and giving fans at least one look at what a post-MGS4 Raiden game might be like. In the end, is Revengeance a title fans and curios alike should play?
Raiden starts in Africa, escorting a president through newly peaceful territory. Kojima Productions puts the usual spin on government intrigue, high-flying ideals, and a wide world of "comical" commentary on race. A band of mercenaries calling themselves Desperado attack, kill the president, and leave Raiden for dead. Of course, being a cyborg, Raiden returns with a few upgrades, notably to his sword-swinging arm.
Players will find that they regain health and fuel for their high-speed chopping needs, so long as the sword keeps slicing and dicing other cyborgs. Excitedly bashing away at one enemy will trigger a Zandatsu opportunity.
That's your chance to cut your foes apart all while hoping to grab their luminescent, blue cyborg spines. That's the gooey center you want. Getting to that is all that matters and you'll do what it takes because that completely refills your health and energy, all so you can turn to the next enemy and start again.
As for the story, Desperado continues to do evil stuff, and Raiden pursues like the good boy scout he is. It doesn't take long for Raiden's split-personality to appear and with it, insane difficulty walls insurmountable to laypeople like myself. Raiden's not able to dodge at the start like many other action-game heroes, but he can parry. [There's an unlockable dodge mechanic, but the game isn't worth the investment to get to that point.] Unfortunately, to parry successfully in any difficulty above Easy, you also have to point the left analog stick in the appropriate direction. That's fine once you've memorized the attack animations in each level, but for a first playthrough, the parry system and lack of an all-purpose evasion move makes for stunted, fitful gameplay.
All of this comes to a head when players meet George, a Mexican orphan kidnapped and trafficked so that his organs could be harvested. Of course, Desperado only wants the children's brains for their own PMC uses. Remembering his past, Raiden pushes forward and chases the Desperado gang to Denver and onward around the globe.
I couldn't, though. Revengeance can border on masochistic, forcing players to question their dedication to this tightly dressed sword-swinger. After switching to Easy, the game bent to my will immediately, allowing Raiden to auto-parry whenever an unfriendly blade started its arc. So long as I mashed the attack button, Raiden would cover my ass.
It was disappointing, to say the least. I can imagine how it feels to parry successfully on normal or hard difficulty (glorious), but the rest of the game isn't entertaining enough for the commitment. New weapons unlock throughout the campaign, but there's little to no incentive to switch between them. What's more, Raiden cannot switch weapons while moving, so forget swapping the polearm for sais mid-fight. The camera can also get in the way, especially when Raiden is close to an enemy and when the camera is fighting against the sword controls with the left analog stick.
Every plot hole sprints in and awkwardly lands on its face thanks to the full acknowledgement of other characters. When Raiden starts fighting for his own ideals and not his contractor's, Raiden's boss Boris "officially condemns" him as "a pain in the ass hole."
In the end, Revengeance plainly represents the two competing ideals inherent in stealth and action games. A typical Platinum Games experience creates tension by overwhelming and throwing a ton of activity at the player. A typical Kojima game creates tension by forcing the player to fight the urge to move aggressively.
This conflict is no more apparent than in the stealth mechanics you're occasionally given the option of engaging in. Raiden moves like a nimble cyborg semi-truck. Turn on your visor and locate a red enemy. Lumber over and cautiously approach the enemy from behind or above. Press circle or B to see a fancy animation where you stab the poor bastards in your way. You have an even chance of goofily wandering in front of the cyborg before ultimately being successful or failing because the controls don't allow for precision.
As for replay, players can collect a million things and unlock VR missions, concept art, and more. Play through the game repeatedly and each time players will carry over stat increases and the like. Those increases might make the game easier on higher difficulties, but I didn't have the heart to try.
I love the gooey center of every cyborg PMC out there, but Revengeance fights the player every step of the way. What's more, reducing the difficulty ultimately boils down the combat to a button masher, leaving the experience hollow and draining all the same. Fans and masochists alike might find a lot to love, but even I can't stand the crunchy outside of a bug for the sweet gooey insides.