What You’ll Like:
- Astoundingly superior visual and audio presentation
- Creative and fun hack and slash ‘cutting’ mechanic
- Fantastic boss fights and accompanying melodic rock soundtrack
- Flawlessly tight controls
- Experience only improves the longer you play
What You May Not:
- Learning curve can be annoying and frustrating
- Convoluted and throwaway story
- Voice acting can step too far to overly dramatic schlock at times
- Uneven difficulty spikes during your first playthrough
- Too short of a single campaign
What You’ll Remember:
- The epicness that is Blade mode
After many years of doing the tactile espionage thing with our beloved Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid games, Konami decided to bring us our first spin-off title featuring perhaps the most unlikely of characters – Metal Gear Solid 2’s Raiden. The one character who at the time was looked so down upon, and still so to many fans, due to his younger and less experienced wimpy pretty boy exterior, albeit still physically capable abilities. A whinier voice and more androgynous look were seen as a complete deterrent to the focus of what the Metal Gear series was supposed to represent. If players were not forced to play as Raiden during the majority of the campaign in 2002’s Metal Gear Solid 2, perhaps he wouldn’t have been branded with such a seemingly irrevocable badge of annoying incompetence. Yet, Hideo Kojima, mastermind behind the MSG games, seems to believe in the character so much so that Raiden was completely reworked for his next game presentation in 2008’s Metal Gear Solid 4; this time returning as what seemed like a half-human cyborg ninja aiding Solid Snake in his battle with the Patriots. Complete with a near indestructible katana that was sharp enough to slice through metal like soft butter, along with superhero style abilities brought on by his supremely technologically advanced cyborg armor, Raiden now won the respect of many doubting MGS fans, thus finally giving himself a fair shot here in Revengeance.
It should be noted that Hideo Kojima did not participate as lead director due to his involvement with the next iteration of his mainstay MGS series, therefore the remainder of Kojima Productions took reigns, and in doing so have still kept much of the atmospheric and thematic flair which fans have come to expect from the Solid series, yet establishing enough new gameplay and pacing mechanics to give this prospective ‘Rising’ series its own unique persona, tailoring to fans who wished a faster pace and more action-oriented gameplay than the Solid games would grant.
Revengeance brings us four years after the events of MGS4, opening with Raiden working for a low profile security PMC (private military company) called Maverick, and on a task protecting the African prime minister during an urban area excursion they are attacked by a group of military terrorists named Desperado, who then kidnap the prime minister. We soon meet up with the leader of this terrorist group, Sam. An early battle has Raiden lose an eye and arm being left for dead, he’s rescued, repaired, and revamped by Doktor, the game’s pseudo-mad yet quirky scientist working for the PMC as well as acting as Raiden’s personal confidant during his mission.
Soon the PMC informs Raiden that Desperado have secretly been kidnapping and harboring young street children in Mexico in order to infiltrate their brains to place within cybornetic bodies, that they may be put through various VR missions training to build their own army. Taking this personally, Raiden becomes a weapon of vengeance to save them. After plenty of bloody hacking and slashing, Raiden begins to struggle with his own motivations in the mission, and whether or not he is as bad or worse than the terrorists he is fighting against, considering he seems to have taken on a particularly cold-blooded mindset in his approach to justice, and perhaps taking some sort of subconscious sick pleasure from it. As a result Raiden takes on his ‘Jack the Ripper’ alter ego, which implores gamers on taking full advantage of the game’s free cutting mechanic – the standout killer app that makes Revengeance such a unique release. From here, Revengeance’s story involves many details regarding foreign involvements with the Desperado group and their inner workings, but really is where the staple of convoluted storytelling takes Revengeance into the thematic realms of the MGS series. Though similar it, you may contact your PMC team through codec in order to gain more details regarding the story and enemy profiles, yet doing so just isn’t necessary, as due to the continuous intense action and unfortunate frustrations does not invest the player enough, and forsaking any real investment won’t detract from the bigger points that actually matter. After attempting to deduce all these various motivations and intentions of the Desperado group, their origins and foreign affiliates, one only needs to know that you’re team of good guys are fighting the Desperado bad guys who are killing children and setting up a new world order takeover. By the end, all other minute details may unintentionally just be zoned out.
Revengence’s story is undoubtedly an ongoing flaw in its overuse and execution. While not as convoluted as some previous Solid iterations, Raiden himself can come across as too exaggerated in his delivery during ‘Ripper’ mode, subconsciously telling the player to not take this whole affair too seriously. Bosses encourage this, and are animated with various devious smiles that may have been intended to express their cynicism, yet come across as actors who are delivering all their lines with a tongue-in-cheek bravado, almost making fun of the script whilst speaking it as well as winking at the gamer to focus on the action instead, because that’s where the real meat of Revengeance is.
Gameplay Mechanics/Elements/ Dynamics:
Players familiar with other non-espionage games such as Devil May Cry, Bayonetta and Ninja Gaiden will feel right at home, even though Revengeance’s combat system, aside from moving around and camera handling, is completely different, perhaps holding the most similarities to Ninja Gaiden. Right off the bat Raiden is confronted by cyborg enemies (no, not actual humans despite all the blood) and an urban environment riddled with trees, cars, poles, benches, and all types of things that can be easily sliced and diced with your trusty high-frequency blade, which thanks to technological wonders resonates and weakens the hardest of materials breaking their bonds. Enemies can meet such a fate after enough damage is dealt. Beginning with two attack buttons assigned to normal and strong attacks, your instinct to begin button mashing will bring about all types of combos right from the start, including lethal foot blades resulting in all a series of deadly swiping kicks and sweeps.
Over codec your PMC team quickly tells you how to enter Blade mode – the main showstopper attack palette of the game – executed by by holding R2 and using either the attack buttons or right thumbstick for vertical or horizontal cuts. Here Raiden enters a perspective which seems to slow down time but is really a state of superlative speed, where the player can begin swiping the blade in all desired directions, with the intentions of either doling out a quick barrage of attacks, or if an enemy has sustained enough damage, slicing the poor bloke into as many chopped Sui bits as your blade gauge timer will allow. To help Raiden heal some of his own damage, when doing enough damage to a foe while in Blade attack, a specific honed target cue appears on the enemy, and when hit, a button prompt allows Raiden to reach in and rip a set of particle capsules right out of the body, which then feeds his own gauges and can regenerate back full health. In quicker and more intense battles with hordes of baddies, even big gekkos and helicopters, the need for a recharge becomes your only best means of staying alive. Yet even in the normal difficulty, this ability can be too easily exploited, causing fairly easy levels and leading to some annoying difficulty spikes for boss battles; not to the gamer’s fault necessarily, but a poorly designed tutorial training system, but more on that in a bit.
Raiden goes through various locals such as your city streets and warehouses, and at many points, similar to the Solid games, there are a number of henchmen or machines strolling around or standing guard which can be more easily viewed through the game’s AR view, akin to the detective mode in the Batman Arkham games, although not exact. While the ability to move more stealthily is available, as well as surprise stealth kills, players will find that despite not having learned all the ropes to the game too early, even on the Hard mode it is somewhat difficult to actually die during normal combat sections, spoiling the player thanks to the Blade mode full healing mechanic. While there are some secondary weapons that can be used, such as homing rocket launchers and various grenades, executing with them is quite cumbersome, and barely necessary considering you will most likely be training mid-combat for the majority of the game. This leads to perhaps the biggest setback of the game – an unbalance of difficulty brought on by a lacking tutorial system, the healing ability which cannot be done during boss fights, and bosses who are not only very difficult to defeat initially, but can pull of some cheap guaranteed hits, especially when the player has not been able to master the one thing that makes the better second playthrough so much more balanced (and fun) – the notorious parry/block mechanic.
By tapping the left thumbstick towards an oncoming attack in its direction, Raiden will block, but if the tap is done while simultaneously hitting the square button, he will parry; the action then slows for a second, giving the player a chance to counter-attack. It should be noted that this is a fairly annoying skill to master, and even after a full playthrough it is still very hard to successfully perform it 100% of the time. Yet this one ability is what is not only required to win boss battles, but also be able to gain enough experience grade points during normal combat situations to afford purchasing the various power-ups and customizations available to upgrade between levels. A second game design flaw that is the game’s total length makes this a trying affair even after two playthroughs, which only runs seven game sections, only five of which are full levels in order to have a chance at earning these points. The game is simply too short to be able to fully upgrade all the various unlockable weapons, skins, energy, and weapon enhancements in one or even two playthroughs. During the first run, the game feels longer but only artificially, given the fact that you will find yourself dying constantly during most of the frustrating boss battles. Players should not blame themselves entirely though, as Revengeance almost tosses the player in the foray saying ‘ok, figure it out.’ Skills can be worked on during the VR missions, but the only way to unlock each one is to find hidden laptops throughout levels to activate them.
Therefore, after all this is said regarding gameplay, Revengeance unfortunately does not become truly fun until about the fifth level, near its end, because only then is it that even experienced players will actually have a significant grasp on what they’re doing. Moreover, many have complained about the insane difficulty of the final boss; while he is definitely hard, the villain does have pretty explicit patterns that must be practiced over and over if one hopes to achieve victory. At the very least it makes for a satisfying victory. So anyway, what keeps players interested until they’ve reached said skill? Perhaps only that golden gimmick Blade mode cutting ability. Yes, it’s mostly a gimmick, but one that is so unique to the hack n’ slash genre that it is enough to greatly extend the replay value, as well as be appealing enough to improve for future sequels.
Revengeance visuals are just half of what make its overall presentation so incredibly stunning. From the very title screen featuring Raiden posing in gorgeous hi-res textures, and to the start of the gameplay, this is one of the greatest feats using the PS3 hardware, pushing it to extremes that very few games up until now have taken advantage of. Raiden’s movements alone are beautifully smooth and near life-like; his transitions from walking to running will have players experimenting simply to see how realistic everything moves together, as well as even the smallest details, such as how his individual strands of hair react to his movements. Meanwhile, the action itself flows just as fluidly, and when slicing either enemies or metal objects in the environment, the extreme orange heat stains still shine off as the cut pieces drop away. If prompted to use the Blade mode ability the slo-mo attacks heighten the dramatic showing, highly detailing not only every cut you make but even each swipe. And surrounding it all are some cleanly polished textures making up the various locals, yet would perhaps mostly be appreciated in more closed surroundings, such as the underground sewers or office buildings. Water effects look especially nice. Cutscenes and quick-time event sections also look downright exhilarating, sweeping the player into such flashy fast-paced endeavors that even the wildest Hollywood action films couldn’t do. And it is this level of flash which works so vehemently throughout the game that it makes most, if not sometimes all, of Revengeance’s difficulty and story flaws non-existent. So while Revengeance is an absolute treat to look at, any criticisms regarding its visuals may simply lie in those wanting more diversity in environments, as here things are much less green, natural and colorful as some other more fantasy oriented titles.
And just as the visuals make up one half of this standout presentation, sound would make up the other half. Sure, lots of Raiden’s dialogue, as well as some of that of his enemies may delve into the realms of stretching the dramatic; yet in Revengeance’s case, this is done almost purposefully, granting it those epic cheese moments that the Solid games have become so brilliantly subtle at presenting. Hardcore fans will appreciate this stretch the most, as the thematics are in perfect coherence to the source material. This is especially evident after the introduction to Raiden’s ‘ripper’ mode, when his voice takes on an element of gruff, which can be just as intimidating as an angry middle school kid during the school play. Otherwise, the voice actor for Raiden is actually very good, with a very appealing tone when speaking over codec. The rest of the PMC team are excellent as well. As far as enemies, exaggerated accents abound but are also fitting to those previously mentioned dramatics.
As far as effects, the game would go nowhere without them. The extended ringings of the high-frequency blade will pleasantly pierce your eardrums; explosions are as realistic as they come; combat attacks strike enemies with sweeping ferocity; and cuing effects in and out of blade mode as well as all the extras between levels and combat are imaginatively satisfying. And last but certainly perhaps best, is the incredibly epic rock soundtrack used during the boss battles, particularly the final one. Not only would they be a joy to listen to outside of the game, they also are great enough to take a fun and challenging fight a few levels higher. At some points you may not even want the battle to end because the music is just so good. There is without a doubt NOTHING missing from the fantastic audio/visual presentation here.
While Revengeance does have a strong tendency to frustrate during most of your initial playthrough, there is still a good amount of fun to be found otherwise. Yes, dying does not happen commonly during regular fighting, but dicing up enemies through the variety of combos available would work well to enhance the training and picking up an individual style and preference of combos that the game just does not to enough to prepare you beforehand. This perhaps was done in order that the combat go on a more personal level for the player, not to also mention up the challenge factor, yet is not immediately felt until the boss battles where many gamers will most likely be feeling as if the fight simply cannot be won if not by sheer luck. But again, once the blocking and parry maneuvers are mastered, it would make things much more fair as well as enjoyable.
As stated previously, the most fun comes once all these combat techniques are practiced enough, and for more skilled players this may be earlier during the first playthrough; others will need near the entire game to really get it, but even then, practicing is never as fun as knowing. What is interesting is that once you’re upgraded in weaponry and skills enough, Revengeance becomes one of the most addictive and fun action games you’ll play all year, and the replay value comes in trying to not only work up enough skill points to upgrade Raiden completely, but also score S rankings in all the levels, which is difficult considering most battles require from this that you avoid all damage. Yet since the single player campaign is so short, I would only guess that at least two full playthroughs would be required to fully upgrade, if not more. Since there are no types of multiplayer, the only game-based extras are the VR missions, and a good amount of unlockable weapons to acquire. Aside from this, you will need to pay for further DLC content where two more game characters become usable with their own shorter campaigns.
A flash over substance action hack n’ slash with its flash on steroids to such a degree that you are forced to find more substance, Revengeance is a game that is simply begging for a sequel with all its annoying kinks to be worked out, as well as a campaign that is elongated and worth more value than what we have. Raiden may not be the most beloved Metal Gear character, but for such a style of game, he really was the only one who best fit the suit. After honing my own skills with Revengeance, it is safe to say that I do recommend it, but NOT at full retail price, as it is one of the more stand-out games of the year whose visual and audio presentation alone are such an incredible feat of technical prowess it easily serves well to put all its competition scrambling out of gamer’s memories. Revengeance is a great game that is obviously made for a more hardcore fanbase, hence it is somewhat understandable why it has to take as long as it does to unravel itself to reveal this. Not exactly worth $60 due to its brief length, but perhaps wait for a $20 price drop. I’d say 3 Rippers out of 4.