I’m not particularly a huge Metal Gear fan. I started with the NES games, and when I was a kid I really liked the concept and the overall mechanics of Snake’s Revenge. It’s really a better game than either NES or MSX Metal Gear, and introduces a few mechanics that became stable in the series, mainly the different phases of Alert. I never really beat any of Metal Gears back then, because I was always more into action games like Mega Man and Battletoads.
Much like for all western Metal Gear fans at the time, Solid was a sort of surprise. We had never heard of Zanzibar land or anything like that. ‘lo and behold, we got something different that we never expected; a sequel to a game we never knew existed. Solid series as a whole is a decent experience, but plagued by the fact that Hideo Kojima really wants to direct movies. Metal Gear Solid games have always been an example of story before gameplay, and that suits a lot of people. Luckily, Metal Gear games don’t suffer as much as Policenauts does from this. In all honesty, I really dislike how MGS games work until 3 and 4, where they ditch the old camera alongside a few new gameplay additions that really should’ve been a part of the first game to begin with.
Cutting down the excess
Now, with Revengeance, the series gets some fresh air from the sneaking it’s known for. It’s a clean slate to begin with. Whatever you think of Metal Gear or Solid series can be left aside. The schema you have about the name Metal Gear won’t apply here. As such, I have hard time grasping why a load of reviewers are putting emphasize on the story or on the lack of boss introduction. Metal Gear games rarely introduced any boss characters prior to the encounter, that was mostly what Solid did. Rising, having more common ground with Final Fight, doesn’t need a complex plot to be good. We get to know what kind of people the boss characters are and where their core motives lie. Actually, it would’ve been interesting to see all of these plot elements removed and the only thing we learn from them is that they’re Desperado operatives and they’re there to kill Raiden, so slice them up. I never expected long-winded speeches about the nature of life or some other philosophical bullshit Solid series is known for. I just wanted to slice these bastards up. Because of this, the story is good and does what it needs to do; sets a frame where it is justified to cut a massive number of bodies into tiny bits. I never gave two cents about MGS games’ plots no matter how hard they tried to push through, and Platinum Games realized that a plot resembling that convoluted mess MGS games have would have gone against the lighting bolt action MGR is.
So, what’s the point then?
The action in Revengeance is what matters, there’s no debating that. I’d lie to you if I said that I didn’t enjoy the gameplay. The controls are responsive, thou some of the mechanics are wonky. For example, the in-game menus are horribly designed and follow little to no logical path outside making it resemble Solid titles. I would have liked to see a more streamlined experience with this, as it makes changing your secondary weapon a pain. It doesn’t help at all that Raiden needs to stand completely still in order to access the weapons menu. I’m sure this was made to avoid players from using recovery item in the middle of a fight, but that could’ve been realized much better.
Anyway, a dedicated button for the weapon change would’ve been in place. As it stands now, the system discourages from using different weapons a bit. I really do like how the secondary weapons have their functions and uses, but you really don’t feel like exploring them over the standard Heavy attack all that much. Sure, the pole weapon is an excellent crowd control tool, the tactical sai basically stuns all UGs and the pincer swords can dish out some incredibly crushing damage, but when you can’t change the weapons on the fly in an action situation, tending to go with one of them or none of them becomes a habit. However, all the three weapons become increasingly useful when you realize that you haven’t upgraded the main sword at all and all enemies are more or less a huge threat in the later levels. I noticed that you can upgrade the weapons on my second playthrough, so secondary weapons became a necessity when dealing with any specialized troops. On top of that, my fight against the Metal Gear Excelsus became an interesting survival story, as everything from that on took 0.1% damage unless I used the pincer swords. I thought that the game was actually hard on Hard, and forced me to rethink my approach for every new enemy and level I was thrown in, but I was just breezing through the game too fast to notice how to access the weapons upgrade menu. To be honest, I enjoyed the game a lot more that way.
Despite all the mentioned, the combat itself is very entertaining, very satisfying and flows just right. Attacks are easy to string to each other, locking unto enemies helps when needed, parrying/blocking is readily available and asks some degree of skill. It just feels right to run through an enemy crowd, slow everything down with the Blade Mode and cut the whole crowd down. It’s even better when you’ve been fighting against an annoying enemy, and you manage to bring it down, engage Blade Mode, cut the energy intestine out, and then proceed to chop the enemy into hundred of itty bitty slices. It’s hard to say much about the combat other than that it works well and it’s fluid. Part of it can be attributed to the Devil May Cry experience the staff has, as most Platinum Games workers worked on CAPCOM titles like Viewtiful Joe and Okami. I do find some of the moves rather unintuitive to do on a Control Stick, so the use of controller’s face buttons for the moves would’ve been preferred.
When you really get down to it, the action has some flaws, but at the final boss battle, the system shines. When you’ve learned the controls and how the game functions, parrying and evading becomes a second nature and you’re able to breeze through it like a wind. That is, if you have learned the controls and are able to anticipate the moves properly.
But it’s a four hour game!
Yet I’ve put some twenty hours into it already. As Revengeance has more common grounds with Streets of Rage, expecting some twenty four hour is misjudging the game. It never overstays its welcome and lasts about the right amount of time to leave you craving just a bit more, just a bit more refinement. The game is repetitious, there’s no denying that, but it never really feels like it due to the most situations being more or less unique until on few later levels. Enemy distribution and locations are just as well thought as you’d expect from a Metal Gear, except here you’re just cutting them down instead of prancing around them. Collectables and such do extend the playtime and add some replayability. That’s not really much, but at least it encourages the player to wander little off from the main road.
The reason this review comes out relatively late is because its frustrating to balance between MGR being good and mediocre. This is because the game itself is like a raw diamond; everything valuable is there, but it’s not properly cut and polished yet. As it is its still valuable, but it would be even more valuable after some work. That said, the mechanics are brilliant and can sell the game by itself, but the rest of the game that surrounding the mechanics is lacking. The shortness of the game stems from this mostly, as levels are short but ever so sweet. It’s the first game in the (hopeful) series, and as such I’d compare it to Super Mario Bros., where the foundation how everything should work was made, but the game didn’t have much other content around it, until SMB2 and SMB3 stepped in, and used the same mechanics to a whole new degree with far more content. I’d imagine that the second MGR will blow this one out of the water. If not, then the devs are seriously lacking in skill.
Contrasting this to the Mega Man X FPS that we were just informed of, MGR is a damn good example of how to use an existing setting and characters without messing with the already established series. It doesn’t demean what Metal Gear Solid is, just like Metal Gear Solid didn’t demean Metal Gear. I’d say that it’s best to wait the game to drop into 40€ region, if you haven’t bought it already. Nevertheless of all the shortcomings I keep returning to the game time after time just to beat the final boss, simply because on the harder difficulties it’s really fun boss to play against, especially when you fully understand how to dodge, block and parry. Revengeance might be a flawed and short game, but it’s still above the all mediocre stuff that gets churned nowadays. I’m more eager to see what the sequel is like rather what DLC will be released. The word that would describe the game the best would be Fast. Fast action, fast stages, fast game that’s over a bit too early. It’s like this review; it could have a lot more things in it, and ultimately even after long period of making it falls short.