Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Demo Impressions

TheGameFanatics got its hands on the recently released Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo and had several thoughts to share regarding MGRR’s departure from the Solid series, gameplay tweaks, and full product potential.

I am completely new to the Metal Gear franchise; it’s tough when you’re an Xbox fanboy. But heed my words, gamers: You don’t have to know anything about Snake, Raiden, or anything in the Metal Gear universe to jump into Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Heck, you don’t have to know anything about stealth action gaming, as Revengeance‘s action-oriented romp is as up-front and sleek as Snake’s mullet. If you’ve played titles such as Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, or even Konami‘s Zone of the Enders, then you’ll feel right at home with Revengeance.

Pick up and Play

We’re just two weeks away from Revengeance‘s release, but we’re more than four years removed from Guns of the Patriots. MGRR centers around Raiden post-Patriots but doesn’t overwhelm us with back story. In short, a military company known as Desperado has gone rogue and begun terrorizing the globe, and, in the demo, Raiden is transported to a fictional African nation to begin his campaign and take down the faction’s leader, Samuel Rodriguez. Raiden has been recently modified by a German scientist and, as a return of favor, sets out to retrieve samples of Desperado’s cyborg infantry life sources — what would be considered their hearts. You learn a little about Desperado and some of Raiden’s supporting cast through a few cutscenes, but I won’t reveal anything here. In short, you get an adequate sense of the story and its surrounding cast, and it works fairly well — especially for a franchise spinoff.

So how does Raiden show off his new abilities? With a quick blade and a little flair to boot. Following the action genre formula, players hack and slash with two buttons — a quick attack button and a more powerful attack button. The two-button monotony breaks up with Blade Mode, a slowed-down right analog stick-mashing affair. In Blade Mode, Raiden is essentially invincible and can pull off a variety of finishing moves, but Konami’s gameplay addition isn’t perfect. From what I noticed, the Blade Mode gauge fills up very quickly, so essentially every opponent can be taken out with it. The other thing that irks me is that your rapid use of the right analog stick doesn’t quite translate into a smooth action sequence on the screen. Blade Mode takes a more precise motion than preferred, but it’s still a great way to finish off a foe.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Going in for the kill with Blade Mode.

Along the way, Raiden picks up a few secondary weapons and abilities. In the demo, players get a chance to fire a rocket launcher and chuck a couple of grenades, but these seem gimmicky in the confines of a 20 minute gameplay sample. Though new to the series, I wish there could be a heavier stealth element. It’s a little puzzling that Raiden does not have a duck-and-move animation to occasionally sneak up on enemies. Second, at least according to the level design, there aren’t many opportunistic moments to execute a stealth kill; you don’t get the feeling of sneaking around in the middle of a battlefield. When you pull off such a kill, time slows down and blood fills the screen, but it gets old fast since there’s only one animation for each enemy variety.

Lookin Good

MGRR‘s presentation is all around slick. As expected, there’s a heavy Japanese element of stylization over level design and animations over weapon upgrades. Above all else, there’s a heavy emphasis on Raiden’s animations, which is fitting given that, despite its hack-and-slash simplicity, the gameplay centers around combos and executing the coolest-looking kills possible. Environments are at their best when outside. The level of texture and color palette are significantly richer than the brief moments spent indoors. Some of the shadows add a little pizazz when Raiden move quickly into an offensive position, too.

Aside from the visual presentation, Konami has rethought a couple of action gameplay elements. One tweak I prefer over other action games is the combat rating system. Unlike most action games that grade you at the end of a level, Revengeance grades you at the end of each major combat scene. In the demo, there are three or four gradings, so you get a better sense of how well you’re mastering the gameplay versus having to wait until the end of each level. I was pleasantly surprised with the game’s targeting system, too. It’s very fluid in that, when you press the switch target button, your combat never seems interrupted by having to turn the camera frenetically to counter an enemy attack.

Mechs that Go Moo?

These pros aside, there are a couple of small downfalls that I’ve seen in Revengeance so far. First of all, there is no animation for when Raiden runs straight into a wall…he just keeps running. Second, the jump function does not enable to wall-run and climb up ledges, leaving you to hold the sprint button and run directly at the wall. These are just minor gripes, but they show that the Japanese action genre might not be as evolved as it should be.

Metal Gear Solid Rising
Some things don’t quite add up in Revengeance, such as these mechs.

Though it was just a demo, I only encountered a couple of enemy varieties. Infantry foes will either strike from a distance with firearms such as sniper rifles and rocket launchers, or they will meet you hand-to-hand with blades of their own. The other enemies I encountered were these two-legged mini-mechs that resembled AT-ST walkers from Star Wars. Perhaps there’s some sort of back story to this, but I have yet to understand why these behemoths moo like cows. However, as a lot of you know, the Metal Gear franchise is all about the bosses.

At the end of the demo, Raiden is confronted by an AI canine-robot beast called LQ-84i but also known as Wolf. The showdown between the swift adversaries is a back-and-forth game of cat and mouse. I found myself constantly on the run from Wolf’s well-ranged attacks, and when closing in for a couple hacks and slashes, Wolf backed away and started charging up for its next attack. In between the battle, Wolf backs out and calls on infantry and walkers to wear Raiden down; while breaking up Wolf’s repetitive attacks, it doesn’t add much of a challenge, so I didn’t find this particularly amusing. However, the overall boss fight is satisfying and a good preview of what’s to come in other levels.

Metal Gear Rising
AH!! Take my money, just leave me alone!

Worth My Wallet?

Being a new type of game for the franchise, it’s difficult for Konami to win its entire Metal Gear fan base over. But perhaps the more interesting question is, will Revengeance win Konami a new audience of gamers?

There’s no doubt that, at its core, Revengeance will be a good game. It’s a stylish, crisp, bloody, definitely fun departure from the same year-round blockbusters and downloadable side-scrollers that plug up our pipeline. The questions that pop in my head through the demo: Will it get too old too quickly? Can gamers old and new to the franchise get into the story line? Perhaps most importantly, what happens after I’ve completed the campaign?

Just two weeks away, Konami has thought about and addressed these questions behind closed doors, so we can only hope that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a product that reflects Konami‘s nurturing of the franchise and realization that it can bring its universe to more gamers in a different package.

Image credits to onlysp.com, siliconera.com, and giantbomb.com.

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