Metal Gear Rising Revengeance Impressions

As a big Metal Gear fan I was really looking forward to the new trailer and the so called ‘truth’ that was to be unveiled at the Spike Video Game Awards 2011. The game had been announced at E3 2009, and from that point on we had seen little footage or information regarding this mysterious title. We saw a demonstration of the cutting mechanics, in which Raiden was slicing up a watermelon, but of the actual gameplay or story pretty much everything was shrouded in mystery.

We knew the game would take place between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4. It would explain how Raiden transformed from his MGS2 self into his MGS4 (cyborg) self. It would also cover Raiden’s mission to rescue Sunny from The Patriots and retrieve Big Boss’s body. The developers made it clear from the beginning that this game would be less story heavy, less deep in meanings and themes, and more focused on gameplay, but all in all, this story sounded intriguing and like a nice addition to the canon of the series.
Regarding the gameplay we knew it would be more action oriented, but it would also know stealth elements, a kind of ‘hunter stealth’ as the developers explained it. This would led me to imagine it would play a bit like Assassin’s Creed or Tenchu, but with a Metal Gear twist. A very promising concept.

During the year of almost complete silence, there were a lot of rumors surrounding this title. One of them was the game being taken over by Platinum Games, a rumor I dismissed as very unlikely. When it was mentioned that at the VGAs ‘the truth’ would be unveiled, I theorized this would mean that Kojima had once again taken over the project as a director, and was now very involved in the game’s design. But what turned out to be the truth, was the complete opposite.

The Trailer

The game’s development has been taken over by Platinum Games, with Kojima Production now only producing it. The previous build has been cancelled and Platinum Games basically started over, which means that everything we knew about the game to this point has become irrelevant now. The story has, at Platinum Games’ request, been shifted from the time period between MGS2 and MGS4 to several years after MGS4. Platinum Games wanted to do this, because it allowed them more freedom in their game design. Kojima agreed, the existing script was cast aside and a new script was written, with input from Platinum Games.

Another thing that changed dramatically is the gameplay. It’s no longer a stealth game focused on blades, it’s now a stylish action game in the style of Devil May Cry, a genre that Platinum Games is renowned for. The Zandatsu gameplay mechanic that was a core element in the previous build is now only an option, for the player to decide wether he wants to use it or not. Platinum Games are also known for over the top gameplay and story, and this style is also very noticeable in the trailer. One of the scenes has Raiden tossing an entire Metal Gear RAY into the air, jumping up and slashing it in half with his sword.

The story isn’t canon, and this doesn’t come as a big surprise since it seems to have little to do with the overall storyline. Raiden as a character is dramatically different from what we have seen in the other games. This is especially evident in the scene in which Raiden is about to start a fight, and he utters the Dante-esque sentence ‘Let’s have some fun!’. Everyone who knows the story of the MGS saga well knows that Raiden was far from having fun, he felt cursed by his dependency on battle, and suffered from severe PTSD due to his traumatic past as a child soldier in the Army of the Devil. He wasn’t someone who enjoyed fighting, but someone who couldn’t escape his past, or his soldier self. At the end of MGS4, he finally could cast aside his past, and start life as a normal person. Disposed of his battle suit, now wearing a cyborg body that resembled a normal human body, he could finally live with his family as a normal man. This makes it all the more strange that several years after this happened, he is once again on the battlefield, wearing a cyborg suit similar to the one in MGS4. I like how they take the concept of his child soldier self resurfacing, together with his old alias ‘Jack the Ripper’. I just don’t see how this is something Raiden would enjoy, let alone say things like ‘Let ‘er rip!’.

I do have a theory about the character Rising has become in this game, and why he is so different from the previous games. You could say it’s just because this is made by Platinum Games, but Kojima Productions did say they wanted to keep the characters in line with the other games in the series. I think there’s a possibility Raiden has two personalities here: the one we know from MGS2 and MGS4, and his ‘dark side’. This could be his child soldier past acting up. It could also tie in with the gameplay, stylish action game often have a ‘devil trigger’ mode or something similar, in which the character is stronger for a short period of time. This could be Raiden’s ‘Jack the Ripper’ mode. This dark alter ego could explain quotes like ‘Let’s have some fun’ and ‘Let ‘er rip’, because it’s not normal Raiden speaking here, but ‘Jack the Ripper’, a monstrous manifestation of his dark past. This theory can be backed up by the fact that Raiden’s voice in the trailer seemed to be very different at the beginning (much like MGS4’s voice) from the one at the end (maniacal). Maybe it could even be his new suit that somehow triggers this dark mode, or the other way around, his dark mode causes his suit to change and gain a lot of strength. It might also have something to do with the continuously returning red glowing eye, maybe this acts a visual cue that Raiden has transformed into Jack the Ripper. This is of course just a wild theory, but it could explain some things that are otherwise confusing.

My feelings on this re-reveal of the game are mixed. My initial thoughts when I saw the leaked trailer were something along the lines of ‘What the hell is this?’. But when more information was provided over the days, that gave this change context, I could form a more balanced opinion.

First of all, I am looking forward to Metal Gear Rising as a game. I have always liked the stylish action genre, and Platinum Games are probably the best at this. To have one in the universe of Metal Gear Solid, with the awesome character of cyborg Raiden, is a very appealing concept. I’m also very glad Quinton Flynn is voicing Raiden once again, which goes against the rumors that appeared on the internet a few months ago.

On the other hand, I am disappointed. I was hoping Metal Gear Solid Rising to become more like a traditional Metal Gear game. Even though I knew it would be different, I didn’t expect it to stray this far away from the main series. I was hoping that Kojima had taken over the project or was at least heavily involved, and that we would see some shreds of a story as we are used to in a Metal Gear game.

But now that the game has been outsourced to a developer that makes radically different kinds of games, I should adjust my expectations. This is probably too early to tell, but from the trailer, it doesn’t seem like it will have a Metal Gear-level story, and the information that the new script was written in just 2 months (as opposed to the 10 for the original script) doesn’t help. Raiden in Revengeance seems like an entirely different character from the one that has been established so far. Also, the game is completely over-the-top, even compared to Metal Gear standards. The gameplay doesn’t seem to be focused on stealth and precision slicing anymore, but on fast paced action and combos.

The graphics also look very different, and you can tell they are not in the style of Metal Gear. The first build was made using the FOX Engine, but the new version is running on Platinum Games’ own engine. I must admit I preferred the visuals from the previous build. It has to be noted that the game now runs at 60 frames per seconds as opposed to the 30 of the previous build (Kojima specifically asked this), so that could explain the diminished graphical prowess.

The music in the trailer was very unlike Metal Gear, and once again it clearly showed Platinum Games’ style. It doesn’t sound like Harry Gregson-Williams or Norihiko Hibino is involved, but that could be just for the trailer.

Another thing I didn’t really like is the fact that this game is meant to be aimed at a western audience (as Kojima Productions explained). I’m not too thrilled when I hear something like that, since I’m a bigger fan of Japanese game design, pretty much all of my favorite games are made in Japan. I don’t really understand it either: isn’t Metal Gear a series that’s popular throughout the world? So why does that need to be changed? But it remains to be seen how this will translate itself into the game, as the trailer looked very Japanese to me in style and presentation.

One thing I am relieved about, is that this game isn’t considered canon. It isn’t part of the main storyline, but it’s presented as a separate spin-off. This is why the name was changed from Metal Gear Solid: Rising to Metal Gear Rising Reveangence. I think this was a good decision by Kojima Productions, as it both gives the Platinum Games team more freedom (they can basically do what they like, it doesn’t matter), and it leaves the main games untouched. Kojima Productions is making the cutscenes, at least partially, but as Kojima isn’t in charge of the script, I don’t expect the story to be on par with the canon MGS games.

All in all, I am looking forward to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. As a stylish action game, not so much as a Metal Gear game. I’m a bit sad we will never get to experience the interesting concept from the previous build, as I was really looking forward to it, but according to Kojima Productions it just didn’t work. But Revengeance looks fun enough and I see it as a nice game to tide me over until a new, Kojima made canon MGS games appears (which, by the way, will be coming some day according to Kojima).

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