Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a Ten Year Reunion
We live in a period where we have no clue if the Metal Gear franchise will ever return to the spotlight, at least in a positive way. With the whole Kojima vs. Konami drama, as well as the poor reception of Metal Gear Survive, the first Metal Gear game in a post-Kojima Konami. That game pretty much sealed the preconceived notion that a Kojimaless Metal Gear would never work. But I’m here to showcase you a counter-argument. Ten years ago, a Metal Gear game with little to no Kojima involvement was released, and it turned out to be excellent. Turns out that, in order for a game like this to succeed, you need to hire someone as over-the-top and demented as the franchise’s creator himself. That someone was Platinum Games, and the game was Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
If you have ever played a game made by Platinum, or any of the games made by its predecessor, Clover Studio, you basically know what to more or less expect: high-octane action, over-the-top set pieces, framerates for days, bombastic music, and that whole feeling that someone was really trying to one-up Capcom and its Devil May Cry franchise. Metal Gear Rising is basically a Metal Gear-themed Devil May Cry, and that is not criticism. At first, it sounds weird that a franchise known for encouraging players NOT to engage in direct combat would get a spinoff all about going full Leroy Jenkins on anything coming towards you, but once you stop and think about it, yes, it made total and complete sense. And that’s why I honestly think Metal Gear Rising is one of the best Metal Gears ever made, and also the best game Platinum ever made.
The first part of why this game feels right at home at the Metal Gear canon is the fact its story is absolute anarchy. Kojima writes plots that are equal parts attempts at being clever and attempts at just being the most nonsensical crap one has ever thought of (or at least that’s how it used to be prior to Death Stranding, also known as utter arrogance in digital form), and Platinum does the same thing with its games. Nier: Automata is the former taken to 11, Bayonetta is the latter taken to 11. It shocked me to find out that Kojima did NOT write the plot for Metal Gear Rising, and that Platinum actually considered his original vision “too dull”. It does feel like the kind of crap he would have written when given the freedom of making a high-octane action game, but nope, all Platinum. Bless them for that.
Where to even start? Talking about the plot itself is a disservice to newcomers, as I truly think the game is best enjoyed with knowing the least amount of information as possible, but you can expect pretty much everything and anything. Ultraviolence, child soldiers, war ethics, that whole “nanomachine” schtick to be expected in every single Metal Gear game, a colorful cast of villains with really ridiculous outfits, long codec talks, wearing a god damn sombrero as a disguise, and having a robotic dog companion programmed with extra sassiness for some damn reason. All you need to do afterwards is grab all of the action absurdity from The Twin Snakes, such as walking on top of missiles or jumping around like a ninja trained by the Cirque du Soleil, and you get Metal Gear Rising‘s plot, pacing and setting.
I actually think that The Twin Snakes walked so Metal Gear Rising could, uh, jump around like a Mexican bean wielding a katana. That game, which featured all of the absurdity seen in Rising, was reviled by the more
brainwashed die-hard followers of Kojima for being “too unrealistic”. Said lack of realism has never been criticised in Metal Gear Rising. If anything, it has been nearly unanimously praised. With reason. But here’s the fact: it was fun and exciting back in 2004 too, it was fun in 2013, and it’s fun in 2023. Metal Gear Solid has always been way too ridiculous for anyone to criticise it for realism anyway. Though I have to admit that Phantom Pain‘s plot and cast of characters was way too stupid (and not in the fun way) for me to even consider endearing. I’ll talk about that game some other time.
Letting us play as an unhinged, completely cybernetic and badass version of Raiden is probably the greatest character redemption arc in the history of gaming. I did not hate him in Metal Gear Solid 2, but sure, he was no Snake. He always felt like the Scrappy-Doo of the bunch at best. Kojima did a herculean job turning him into the coolest cat in Metal Gear Solid 4, but we weren’t able to play as him; we just witnessed him going full heroic via the eyes of a geriatric fart with an epic moustache.
In Metal Gear Rising, things are different. It’s all about Raiden. It’s all about making him go from epic cyborg with a hard-on for murder to an even cooler epic cyborg with a hard-on for murder. And it’s brilliant. No Rose to think of, no baby mama drama in the background. Kill kill kill. Let Jack the Ripper go loose.
Gameplay-wise, Metal Gear Rising is your standard Platinum Games fare. Light attack, heavy attack, dodge, epic finishers, silky framerate, the whole nine yards. I loved the inclusion of a “ninja run” button that allowed me to jump through obstacles without thinking too much about it. It made the whole damn thing feel a lot more epic. Stealth, while encouraged, isn’t mandatory, and I never bothered trying to be stealthy. I was dead-on looking for brawls and trouble, as I’d be rewarded with points which would then be exchanged for upgrades and new weapons.
Metal Gear Rising featured two main innovative ideas for its combat, one of them being pretty awesome, and the other one being, uh, divisive. Giving players a “free cut” mode, allowing them to dice enemies in any direction they could imagine, was awesome. Giving Raiden a free health and stamina boost when finishing an enemy off with this method was twice the fun. Parrying on the other hand, well, wasn’t as fun. It’s not that it’s hard to pull off once you figure out how it works; the game just does an atrocious job at teaching you how to do so, right on a boss fight against a robot hell-bent on turning you into metallic sushi. But those are just small issues with an otherwise amazing combat system. I was shocked to realize how well it has aged after ten freaking years.
Then comes the presentation. Let me clear that Metal Gear Rising still looks great after ten years, but this game was part of the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation. That means that game, just like pretty much everything else released during that period, was allergic to colors. Everything is drab, muted and mostly brown. The game makes up for it with stupidly hilarious character designs, explosions, and the sexiest of framerates.
Finally, the music. Oh boy, the music. Platinum and pre-Platinum hack and slash games (you ain’t gonna hear me say “character action” anytime soon, matey) are known for having iconic battle themes that rarely get old after multiple hearings, with Metal Gear Rising being no exception. “Rules of Nature” is a staple. Some people even go as far as to claim is as epic and revered as the Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater theme song. Furthermore, the voice acting is cheesy as all hell, but that is par for the course when it comes to a Metal Gear Solid game. Or at least those before Ground Zeroes.
Ten years later, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance still holds the hell up. Its action-packed gameplay has aged like a fine cabernet sauvignon. Its story is still one of the most bonkers from a franchise already known for being utterly demented with its plots. It’s a game that stood the test of time and proved that yes, you can succeed at making a Metal Gear game without the involvement of Hideo Kojima. You just need someone as crazy and utterly ridiculous as him working on the project.