As soon as I mention Metal Gear, many gamers will have a number of distinct things flash to mind. Based on any of the other nine games in this long-running series—along with its various portable gaming adaptations—you could easily be thinking, High-tech warfare, giant biped walking tanks, katana swords, genetically manipulated soldiers, and a hard-to-follow ongoing story of political intrigue and worldwide power plays.
All of those gaming touchstones still apply to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. But this latest creation from famed game director Hideo Kojima is still something of a departure from the Metal Gear ways of old.
From Snake to Cyborg
In this game the usual protagonist Snake takes a backseat to a cybernetically enhanced battler named Raiden who reemerges from Metal Gear memory to take the lead. It's four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and this "raised to be a soldier" cyborg is part of a private security firm tasked with keeping an African prime minister safe and sound.
There are other powerful forces, however, who don't want an influential leader doing silly things such as curbing crime rates and opting for peace. They prefer unrest and a flourishing war economy. So an organization called Desperado Enforcement is sent in with its own supercharged cyborgs to kidnap the leader and stir up an international boiling pot.
After he and his team are smacked around a bit and shown to be ill prepared, it's time for Raiden to get some updated tech enhancements and fly into a raging quest for vengeance … or revenge … or revengeance? That fevered pursuit is also where this new game starts feeling a lot different from its predecessors.
From Sneak to Streak
Metal Gear games have been famous for pioneering the stealth genre, with players generally starting out with a single simple weapon as they're called upon to sneak past guards and then on to better armaments and guns. But there's no need for no stinkin' sneakin' here. Raiden is a guy with a run-and-gash fever lust for killing and all the "better-than-Ginsu" katana steel he needs to slam-bam into conflict rather than worry about silent infiltration. And so it's battle after battle of high-flying, slashing, hacking and dismembering action that jumps from one big boss and his hundreds of somersaulting underlings to the next.
There are guns and rocket launchers in the mix, of course, but the focus here is to master the various trigger-pulling, button-mashing katana moves and fluidly rend screaming human and robotic foes into their basest chunks. Lopping off an opponent's arms and legs and leaving him squirming defenselessly on the ground is a plus. And then with a special move, Raiden can snatch out internal organ-like "repair units" from his foes, crush them in his grip and replenish his reserves. There's even a special goal of collecting data-filled (severed) hands for valuable upgrades.
From Hide to De-Hide
Does that sound potentially messy? It is. As limbs are lopped and bodies sliced in half, there are ridiculous amounts of blood spray and pooling and intricate details of exposed organs and bones. One big boss finishing move cutscene displays a guy's still-beating heart being gruesomely ripped out of his chest and popped like a fleshy water balloon.
Besides all that gore, gamers also wallow around in f- and s-words, along with mountains of other profanities and obscenities.
And then there's the pain quotient. The emotionally tortured Raiden delves a bit into his past and eventually decides he must have his cyborg "pain inhibitors" turned off. This leaves him in a state of perpetual, purposeful agony. "Pain. … This is why I fight. … This is my normal. My nature," the tormented fighter groans out.
And Raiden isn't the only tortured soul getting ground up in the gears. This is a game steeped in something of an existentialist, Nietzschean mindset. (Probably never thought you'd read that in a video game review, did you?) It includes a rabid right-wing U.S. senator who wants to burn our "diseased, rotten" country to the ground in hopes of a new American rebirth.
Let's just leave it at this, then: Twisted psyches and torturous pulpings make this new Metal Gear as convoluted a mash-up as it's Revengeance title might suggest.