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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PC) artwork

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PC) review

"The combat's great, and because of that, Revengeance's biggest problem isn't that it's over so quickly, but that it constantly kills its own pace whenever it seems to really get going."

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance asset

Well, that was close. PC game development is a notoriously inexact science, and for Platinum Games' debut on the platform to launch with always-on DRM – that thing – would've been a terrifying omen indeed. But it turns out to have been an innocent bug, one that's since been promptly patched. And now that we've cleared that hurdle, I can confirm that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance ran faultlessly on my relatively middle-of-the-road build. No, it doesn't feature high-res textures. No, it can't run faster than 60fps. But it easily matches the console original in framerate and surpasses it in resolution. And while the mouse-and-keyboard controls are less than ideal (and downright unintuitive for menu navigation), it's not like anyone in their right mind would want to play a character action game starring a cyborg ninja with anything other than a controller, anyway.

So, all things considered, Platinum's first PC port could have been much, much worse. That leaves the question of whether or not Revengeance is worth playing to begin with. I believe that it is, and a year ago, I wouldn't have been so enthusiastic. The game went through some notoriously hellish development woes and bears the scars to prove it; the last three chapters (of seven) are each set in a single area, one of them going so far as to be restricted to a lone one-on-one boss battle. This particular playthrough, the third time I've beaten the game, clocked in at just over four hours, which doesn't include cutscenes, but still. It's a game that's too short and feels too short. For that, it left me underwhelmed early last year.

I've come around, though. Maybe it took me playing a messy button-basher like Ryse: Son of Rome to see the light, but now that the sting of Revengeance's hurried final act has worn off, I was able to more fully appreciate the game's selling point: its wonderful, wonderful combat. This is one of the few character action games to understand that there's more reward when there's more to master, and every time I play it, I develop a deeper understanding of Raiden, his moveset, and his enemies. When you purchase a new skill, it's not even immediately apparent how to use it. You get good at Revengeance by actively testing the waters, which is why I seem to have more fun with each subsequent playthrough.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance asset

Two things propel Revengeance beyond generic, two-button "quick attack, strong attack" brawler status. One of them is the parry system. It's your only defense, since there's no straightforward block, dodge or even double-jump, and it can only be executed by throwing a light swipe in the direction of an enemy at the precise moment that it attacks. So keeping your health up requires concentration, good timing and – this is the fun part – a keen understanding of your foes' movements. There are only a handful of enemy types with which to familiarize yourself, but you'll get absolutely shredded when facing more than one or two at a time if you're not actively reading their attack patterns and looking for "tells." Some of the later bosses absolutely rattle you with massive combos, and the reflexes required to parry each individual strike represent the sort of challenge that's both steep but perfectly reasonable.

The big draw of the combat, though, is Blade Mode, which (via some processor voodoo) allows you to slice enemies and environmental objects along any geometrical plane. It's relatively simple to use – provided, again that you're not trying to play Revengeance with a keyboard and mouse – and actually allows you to dismember limbs before foes are down for good. The gorilla-like Mastiff mech introduced in the second chapter has a grapple attack that's almost impossible to counter, and thus, your best defense is to launch yourself headfirst into the thing and chop off a limb before it has a chance to use the move. Soldiers can be disarmed; massive attack robots can have their plating sectioned. It's a blast to fool around with.

Getting the hang of Blade Mode is also key to pulling off a proper finisher, or Zandatsu. The idea is that when an enemy's guard is broken, or they're just flat-out weakened, you can swiftly cut along a specified point that results in Raiden brutally tearing its innards out and absorbing the electrolytes. Even if you're not one to care much about your end-of-level grade, executing foes offers the reward of instantly restoring Raiden's health and energy, in addition to looking cool. So expect to be doing it a lot to recover from all of those hits you take while trying to master the parry system. On some occasions, particularly when a soldier or mech is on its last breath, you're allowed to just go hog-wild, and portioning enemies into literally dozens (or even hundreds) of messily-cut pieces is a unique spectacle that's well worth the rather bland modeling and texture work necessary to make it all run smoothly.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance asset

This being a Platinum game, Revengeance avoids the temptation of favoring style over substance, but manages to be plenty stylish anyway. It's also got a lot of quick-time events, which would usually annoy me, but they're employed about as tactfully as possible here: usually at the end of a climactic battle, when the player's energy is probably expended and all he or she wants to do is just mash noisily on a button to make awesome things happen on the screen. Again, the game's biggest encounters all culminate in players entering Blade Mode and reducing characters to thin pieces more or less until they get bored. By that point, it's just pure empowerment. Revengeance strikes a rather rare balance between challenging you and making you feel like a god.

So the combat's great, and because of that, Revengeance's biggest problem isn't that it's over so quickly, but that it constantly kills its own pace whenever it seems to really get going. Every time it's on fire, it runs you into a wall, often literally; chambers are surrounded by VR barriers, and you're not allowed to pass them until you've killed every enemy in the vicinity and the game has taken the time to tally up your score for the segment. Then there are the lengthy cutscenes (this is a Metal Gear game, after all) and the equally intrusive Codec conversations, wherein Raiden slows to a walking pace, puts his finger to his ear and has a conversation for a rather extensive period of time. That was already one of my pet peeves in modern gaming before it started showing its face in my freaking cyborg ninja brawlers.

The excuse, I guess, is that Metal Gear has a reputation for being very plot-heavy, for tackling heavy topics and doing so in as many words as possible. The problem here is that Revengeance was developed by Platinum, who are not traditionally master storytellers. Making riveting, fast-paced action games is their forte. Writing interesting narratives isn't, and their dips here into deep existential themes and the subject of child organ harvesting are undone by banal dialog, ridiculous costumes and actors doing their most cartoonish "tough guy" voices. It has all of the cheesiness of Metal Gear Solid with none of the self-awareness; all of the mass with none of the weight.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance asset

Sometimes, it's harmless and even infectious. When a new villain with a bulbous red helmet who calls himself "Monsoon" shows up out of nowhere midway through the campaign and begins levitating large objects, he repeatedly shouts "MAGNETIC POWER!" just to remind you that he's not telekinetic. Because that would be silly, right?

But then there's the now-infamous moment in which a guy in a business suit, who can for some reason balloon himself to the size of the Incredible Hulk, tunnels out of the ground in a machine that looks like it should be piloted by Tron Bonne and declares himself the game's new central villain... which would be fine if he didn't then double the length of the ensuing boss battle by prattling on about exaggerated American right-wing political maneuvering. The Metal Gear franchise being plot driven only works when there are revelatory things to be said, and when its villains aren't just one-dimensional archetypes. Revengeance's final act plays less like Metal Gear and more like a parody of it, which is impressive when you consider how much the series already pokes fun at itself.

If I have one other issue with Revengeance, it's that the game's sword physics are extraordinary in combat but feel somewhat underutilized elsewhere, particularly in regards to environmental damage. Bear in mind that Revengeance more or less sacrifices a distinct visual style to make this happen, so it's kind of disappointing that the ability to slice any object along any angle doesn't really affect how you play. Basically, if I'm given the ability to bring a bridge down on top of a group of soldiers, I want the rubble to do something other than just harmlessly bounce off like pieces of styrofoam.

But Revengeance's short campaign, meandering focus and general lack of consistency are flaws that I could see being ironed out in a second entry, and given how thrilling the combat itself is, I'd love to see it happen. That the game conjured a strong enough following to even make a PC port happen says a lot about its lasting appeal, and hopefully its availability on Steam only widens its audience. I'm hearing somewhat varying reports about how well this version runs, but since I can only speak of my own experience, it's a solid first effort from Platinum and the start of what I hope will be a very fruitful relationship. It's fun stuff, PC gamers. Get in on it.


Suskie's avatar
Freelance review by Mike Suskie (January 12, 2014)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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