Sunday, February 24, 2013

Metal Gear Rising - Review

Back in 2009 Kojima announced a brand new entry in the Metal Gear Solid series; however unlike past Metal Gear Solid games, this one was going to be different! The game was going to be called "Metal Gear Solid: Rising," and it was going to focus on the main character from Metal Gear Solid 2 named Raiden. While Raiden was a normal human back in MGS2, he was also a pretty unpopular character, and became one of the most hated characters out there due to the trick Kojima pulled. You see, when Metal Gear Solid 2 was first coming out everyone was expecting to play as the main character named "Solid Snake;" however when people actually got they game they learned that it was all a lie. Snake was not the main character, a new guy named Raiden was in his place, and no one was happy.

Although Kojima "made up" with his fans by releasing Metal Gear Solid 3, the character of Raiden has always been one of them characters that a lot of people hold a grudge against; a lot of people can't forgive Kojima for the bait and switch trick he used, and a lot of people just didn't care for his character in general. Well when Metal Gear Solid 4 finally came around, Raiden made his return, and he was completely changed. Now as a cyborg ninja, Raiden took on the role of a sort of "action hero" and became a much darker character in general. Throughout the game you could see some pretty impressive action cutscenes with Raiden fighting giant mechs, and even his rival from MGS2, but unlike in Metal Gear Solid 2 he actually stayed as a supporting character. Not once did you play as Raiden, and not once did he really have any impact on MGS4's gameplay.... And that is why Metal Gear Rising was made.

When Kojima went to work on his next game project with his brand new team, he decided to give them the character of Raiden to work with. Apparently Kojima felt that his team wasn't quite up for Metal Gear Solid 5, and he wanted to give them a game they could create without him being there every step of the way. By giving them Raiden he felt that they would have much more freedom to do whatever they wanted, and he was also hoping to create a game that felt like Raiden's cutscenes in MGS4. Well, the truth is, this project flat out failed. According to Kojima his team was unable to mix Raiden's action gameplay with the stealth mechanics of Metal Gear Solid, and the project was called off. That is until Kojima contacted Platinum games to take over the project!

Metal Gear Rising is the final result of all the years of planning and working on Metal Gear Solid: Rising. The game's story was changed from taking place between MGS2 and 3 to taking place after MGS4, and it was changed from a stealth game into a pure action experience!  But, is this really a good thing? Is it okay for another company to develop a Metal Gear game? Is this game up to Platinum's action game standards? What about the story? Does it have that amazing Metal Gear Solid style of story telling? Well, how about we find out?

The Story of Rising:

Metal Gear Rising picks up four years after the end of Metal Gear Solid 4 and the fall of the Patriots. The Patriots were a series of AIs created to control the entire world, including the media and even the war economy. Back then everyone's bodies were filled with nanomachines, and the Patriots even controlled what guns and weapons each soldier could use. To put it simply, the world was completely controlled by the Patriots, and nothing would happen without them allowing it. Well, that system is no more, and the world is once again free of their control; however it seems that not everything is as peaceful as one might have opened. War is on the rise once again, soldiers and cops have begun using cyborg bodies to give themselves the edge on the battlefield, and PMCs are once again common.

At the start of Metal Gear Rising we learn that our hero Raiden is working for a PMC (Private Military Company) called "Maverick," and he has been tasked with protecting the president of Africa. Although protecting him should have been an easy job, especially for a cyborg, things quickly take a turn for the worst when another PMC attacks them. Although Raiden did the best he could to save the president, sadly he was killed, and Raiden ended up losing his arm and eye in the battle.

Jump ahead a few days and Raiden is once again back in action, but this time with a new goal. Armed with his newly upgraded cyborg body, Raiden heads to the small country of Abkhazia where the very same group that killed the president is leading a coup. Once again Raiden finds himself heading deep into the battle filed with hopes of both saving the small country, and with hopes of getting revenge.

Although Metal Gear Rising's story starts out following Raiden as he goes on jobs for Maverick, the plot soon takes an unexpected turn and focuses more on Raiden's dark side. Raiden has a very dark past as a child soldier, and throughout the game he will constantly be fighting with that "Jack the Ripper" locked away within himself. Really the plot is quite interesting, and chances are it will make you like Raiden more, but it isn't perfect.

Truthfully, if you're hoping for a game with ten or more hours of cutscenes like in past Metal Gear games, you're going to be a bit disappointed. Metal Gear Rising is an action game, and its main focus is in fact on that; the action! Although the game does have quite a few long cutscenes near the start and ends of chapters, they are no where near the length of the cutscenes from the MGS series, and there aren't nearly as many. A lot of chapters actually end, and then the next thing you'll know Raiden will be in a completely new location without showing any kind of transition cutscene. While this really isn't an issue, if you were a fan of the briefings in Metal Gear Solid 4, you might be a little bit disappointed about this as well.

Other than that the story in Metal Gear Rising is actually pretty nice, and I thought it really added to Raiden's character. Mix in a few well hidden cameos to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles second movie from the early 90s, and Zone of the Enders, and you've got a solid story mixed with some nice nostalgia from the past!

The Gameplay of Rising:

As I said before, MGR is an action game and not a stealth game like the Metal Gear Solid games; however that doesn't mean it is your standard action game, and it also doesn't mean that it is ALL action! The thing is, Metal Gear Rising actually mixes key elements of the Metal Gear Solid games with elements from action games, while also adding in some twists of its own. The game actually has quite a few systems in place, and it is really up to the player if they decide to make full use of them or not. So anyway, let me break down what makes Metal Gear Rising, Metal Gear Rising.

Action and Combos -

On the surface MGR plays a lot like your standard action game. Each level in the game follows a linear path, but at the same time there are hidden areas for you to explore. Sometimes you'll find doors you'll be able to open which may lead to a hidden part of the level, other times you'll find hidden paths that'll lead you to item boxes and upgrades, and you might even come across some extra bosses or enemies from time to time as well. This is the standard formula for most action games, and it is a formula that has always worked well. The game keeps you going in the right direction, but it also gives you enough reason to explore every inch of the area around you.

Also just like in most action games, Metal Gear Rising features a wide range of combos and attacks for you to unleash on your enemy! Every single enemy in the game has their own unique fighting style, and as you fight them you will slowly start to learn what combos and attacks worth the best against them. Metal Gear Rising uses a standard two button combo system (one button for your fast attacks and one for your strong attacks), and by mixing them up as you press different directions on the analog stick will cause Raiden to preform a wide range of combos and attacks. Really it's a lot to remember, but once you master it, it is actually quite satisfying! Add in the fact that there are quite a few side weapons to use besides Raiden's sword, and you'll find yourself engaging in some deep combat!

Really the only problem you might have with the gameplay of MGR is the fact that you'll want to compare it to OTHER games you've played (specifically another game that features a ninja). Rising doesn't use a guard or dodge system like most action games, and because of that you actually have to learn how to parry, and jump out of the way of incoming attacks. If you're used to action games that don't require dead on timing, this may take quite some time to get used to.

Zandatsu -

Although sword play is quite common in action games such as this, Metal Gear Rising does something a little more unique with it! The Zan-datsu system (meaning "Cut and Take") is a core feature in Rising, and it is one that you must learn to master if you hope to make it through the game! As you deal damage to your enemies a bar under your health bar will build up, and once it is full you can enter a special state that slows down time, and allows you to take full control over your blade. By using the left and right analog sticks to aim, you can actually freely aim and cut ANYTHING in ANY direction possible! This becomes a very important system, and can actually be used in many different ways.

First of all, the world around you can actually be cut into pieces and destroyed! You can cut the supports on a bridge at an angle to cause the bridge to collapse (killing everyone standing on top of it), you can stab through a wall to sneak attack a poor unsuspecting cyborg, you can cut open doors and gates to make your own entrance, or you can even just cut everything up you see just for the heck of it! Really it is a very fun system to play around with, and seeing that kind of freedom in a game like this is quite refreshing! Even so, the "take" aspect is what's really the most important thing here.

When you attack enemies with your standard combos in Rising, parts of them will actually begin to glow blue! These glowing blue parts are parts that can actually be cut off of the enemy, and that can be used in many different ways! You can cut the arms off of enemies to prevent them from attacking, cut their legs off to prevent them from moving (without killing them), and you can sometimes even just remove their weapons and let them go! On the other hand, you can cut through the glowing red part of their body, rip out their guts, and use it to recharge your life and energy. Yep, you read that right. The Cut and Take of Zandatsu is actually you cutting enemies bodies open, ripping out their robotic insides, and using it to recharge your health!

Sometimes boss battles will also trigger a special Zandatsu mode as well, but for the most part you'll be using it of your own free will!

Metal Gear Solid and Stealth Systems -

Even though this is an action game (and not part of the Metal Gear Solid series), it does retain some features from it. The game still has stealth, sub items, and a few other systems found in MGS as well. The game features a "sub item" menu which can be accessed by pressing left/right on the D-Pad, and it offers a wide verity of items for you to use. There are healing items which restore health and energy (which can also be set to auto heal you when your health hits 0), there's Metal Gear Solid styled items, there's sub weapons (which are weapons other than swords), and then there's your main weapon.

The Metal Gear Sold style items in this game, are items that you see in MGS. There's the box and barrels you can use to hide in, there's 3D models which replace the "adult book" from past games and is used to sidetrack guards, there's RPGs and Anti Air Missiles, and there's also grenades as well! These items can be found allover the game, and to pick them up all you have to do is run into them; however there is a limit to how many of each item you can hold, so any extra items will be turned into money instead.

By using these different items you can actually tackle different sections of the game in different ways. You can fight helicopter battles MGS style by shooting rockets at it, or you can hide in a box and sneak past guards as you kill them from behind; it really does help mix up the gameplay, and it allows Metal Gear Solid fans to at least hold onto something from the past.

Raiden's Upgrades:

Like in most action games, Metal Gear Rising also features an upgrade system which allows Raiden's skills and abilities to progress with the game. While at the start of the game you will be very limited on what you can upgrade, as you go through the story more options will become unlocked. With this upgrade system you can upgrade everything from Raiden's health, to the attack power of your weapons, to how much energy the weapons use, and even unlock special upgrades which change the way Raiden looks! By killing enemies in the game, scoring high ranks on the levels, and by picking up items you can gain points to spend. Although it is completely impossible to max everything out on a single playthrough, all of your unlocks do carry over into new game plus!

As of the time of this review there are currently only a handful of swords and skins for you to unlock, but this may not always be the case. Metal Gear Rising also uses DLC and more upgrades may be added into the game at a future date. (In fact if you preordered the game at a few select stores you could have actually gotten Gray Fox and his Fox Blade from Metal Gear Solid 1!)

The Codec:

In the Metal Gear series, the Codec used to play a major role. In the older games quite a few major scenes of the game were actually codec calls, and there were hundreds of extra calls you could see as well. By calling during bosses, calling after cutscenes, or by calling as you stood in specific areas you would trigger some unique chats which would greatly expand the story of the game; however that doesn't happen as much in the newer games. In games like MGS4 codec calls were very limited, and were mostly used during cutscenes. Although some fans may actually like this set up better, quite a lot of people actually missed the old call system, and apparently Platinum games realized it!

The Codec in Metal Gear Rising is just like the Codec that was used in the early Metal Gear Solid Games, and there are a LOT of calls to be heard! Now although these calls are not required to beat the game, I strongly recommend listening to every single one! They greatly added to the game's story, they feature a lot of character development, as well as a lot of back story and fan service. New calls normally open up after each check point or cutscene, and also during mini bosses, bosses, and when you come across new enemies. Each character has quite a lot to say, so you really have to keep calling them until they start to repeat an old message (if you don't then you'll actually miss out on quite a lot).

Besides being used for chats, the Codec also has a character that is used for saving your game also; however even this has been greatly improved upon over past games. In the past you would actually have to save your game if you wanted to talk to the character (players of MGS2 will remember how much of a pain it was calling Rose and saving just to hear her conversations with Raiden), but this time around you can actually hit "no" when you are asked if you want to save, and STILL hear the conversation! This was a very much needed improvement, and I can only hope that Kojima will realize this for future releases in the core Metal Gear Solid series!

VR Missions:

Ever since the VR bonus game that was released on the PlayStation One, Metal Gear games have always seemed to feature some kind of bonus mode, and this time around that comes in the form of VR missions! Now this isn't the first time these bonus missions were "VR" missions (in fact MGS2 also included VR missions, and even Assassin's Creed Brotherhood had them due to their partnership with Konami), but it is the first to feature them in a different way.

While in the past games (including AC Brotherhood) these missions were mostly stealth based, this time around they feature a wide range of missions including ones heavily based on combat! Each mission tests your skills, and they all have a high score for you to shoot for! If you're a fan of arcade styled games, the VR missions will most likely be something you'll be spending a lot of time on! Although you won't be able to play them from the very start...

To unlock VR Missions in Rising, you actually have to search the levels for hidden computers that contain them! Each computer contains a single VR mission, and there are normally a few hidden throughout each level. Although this style of unlocking missions is new to the Metal Gear series, it isn't new for Kojima. If you've ever played Kojima's other game "Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner," then I'm sure this system will seem very familiar to you.

The Playtime of Rising:

Although Metal Gear Rising is in fact an action game, it is actually a pretty long action game! Now don't get me wrong, it isn't the longest action game out there, but that doesn't mean it is a short game either. The thing is, it is actually pretty hard to tell just how long Metal Gear Rising is because of the way the game counts time. You see the gameplay clock actually doesn't time most of your actions in the game, and because of that it is really hard to tell how long you have actually been playing it! For example you may actually spend two to three hours watching cutscenes and codec chats, but the game might say you've only been playing for twenty minutes or so. Apparently the clock doesn't count cutscenes, codec chats, menus, the customization screen, and it may not even count time spent OUTSIDE of battle either. In the end, you may actually spend 15:00 - 20:00 on this game, but your play time at the end may actually only be 5:00 - 6:00. Really though, Rising is what you make out of it, and it can last as long as you want as well. If you watch all of the cutscenes and codec chats you'll find a pretty long game, but if you speed run through it, it may actually be over in just a few hours.

Even so, Metal Gear Rising is a game that was designed to be played over and over again as you work your way up through the difficulty levels. Although starting on normal might be the best option, you really don't have too much of a reason to stay on normal once you've finished the game for the first time. There's three more settings higher than normal, and each one of them is a pretty big step up from the last! By the time you've gotten to the end of it all, you'll be a MGR master!

The Good and the Bad:

Metal Gear Rising is really a hard game to judge. There are going to be people who'll love it, there will be people who hate it, there will be people who love it because its an action game, there will be people who'll hate it because it isn't Metal Gear Solid, and some people might either buy it or pass on it because the lead character is Raiden. Really everything about Rising is going to cause some controversy, and there is really no way to avoid that. Even so if you just get right down to it, the game does a lot of things right, and it has some areas that it could improve on as well.

To put it simply, Rising is a solid action game, it can be as easy or as challenging as you want it to be, it has a lot of fan service for you Metal Gear fans, the whole cutting system is a nice addition, the stealth (although limited) is fun and helps mix the game up, the VR missions are a nice extra, the game has some AMAZING BOSS BATTLES, and the story is pretty nice as well! Another thing that really stands out is also the game's great soundtrack, as well as the rock theme songs that play during the boss battles! Really there is a LOT to like here, and it is a game I'd recommend to both Metal Gear fans and action game fans alike. Still, it isn't perfect....

Although the areas you go to in the game are quite nice, there really aren't that many, and they do tend to lack verity. Sure you'll run across some areas that will just really stand out, but (like I said) there really aren't many of these. Another little complaint is the fact that the camera can also be a little bit hard to get used to, and it can sometimes be hard to see everything that is around you! I mean sure you can lock onto targets, but when you have about ten or so enemies all trying to grab you and beat the heck out of you, it can be kind of hard to keep track of where they are all at. It isn't a major problem, but it is something you might find yourself fighting with from time to time. The final "issue" is the fact that the graphics may not be considered "top notch" by today's standards. Now I'm not one to complain about graphics (and I'm not complaining), but I would like to warn anyone who is obsessed with them, that the game doesn't look as amazing as you might have hoped. Due to the nature of the game (as in hundreds of object shards flying allover as you slice things to a million bits), the graphics really couldn't be as outstanding as you might have hoped; this would have caused frame rate problems, and it wouldn't have been worth it. (Why would you damage the gameplay just to make it look a little nicer?)

Anyway despite these few flaws, Metal Gear Rising has a LOT of good, and it is a VERY solid game! It is a game that will provide you with many hours worth of gameplay, and it is also the game that finally continues the story from where Metal Gear Solid 4 left off! Even if you're not a huge fan of Raiden, please don't let that turn you off from this game; give it a chance and chances are you'll find that the Raiden you once knew is long gone.

In the end (with all things considered), I give Metal Gear Rising a 9/10. Not perfect, but pretty close! Really I couldn't have asked for anything more! Although I do hope the sequel Kojima is talking about does in fact improve on the formula!