Ok before we get started, in the interests of full disclosure I must state I didn’t (or more accurately couldn’t) finish Metal Gear Rising. I made my way through 99% of it but after 90 minutes of trying I admitted defeat on the final boss.
Set 4 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, Rising sees you take control of Raiden once more – though he has changed somewhat since the Metal Gear Solid 2 days
The most glaring difference, as seen during some cut scenes in MGS4, is that Raiden is now mostly machine – a cyborg, fitted with an exoskeleton and lots of nice weaponry just waiting to be upgraded.
Metal Gear Rising is not a stealth game like previous Metal Gear Solid titles – the few stealth sections in Rising feel a bit out of place in my opinion. This is a game all about destroying your enemy rather than avoiding them. And you have lots of ways to dispatch your foes.
Raiden’s main weapon is a katana which he can use to slice up his opponents, especially satisfying during ‘blade mode’, where time slows down and you use the right analogue stick to swipe your sword through any other cyborg in your way. It can also be a big help – a red box will appear on enemies while in blade mode, hit it with your katana and nail the circle button prompt to absorb your foes’ energy – refilling your life bar.
You can also parry enemy attacks by pressing square and pushing the left stick in the direction of the attack. Enemies give off a red light before they attack but unfortunately that doesn’t indicate when to parry, just that they are going to attack.
It makes it overly difficult to judge attacks and from what I understand on easy you only have to press square to parry, which sounds like a better option for these lower (easy/normal) difficulty settings. It just meant more frustration for me as I could parry some attacks but not others. I felt Platinum Games nailed the parry/attack mechanics in Bayonetta and Vanquish so it’s disappointing to see what they’ve delivered for Rising.
Couple this with some big difficulty spikes and it’s a recipe for trouble. When you’re having to spend almost two hours fighting the same guy (Hi Monsoon *waves*), even if it is over two battles, on Normal difficulty then I feel the game is doing something wrong.
Graphically the game looks a little rough around the edges at times and I noticed a distinct stutter and frame rate drop during some of the scripted Codec calls. However the cutting in blade mode is stunning and it’s amazing to see your damage rendered in real time.
The story is focussed around PMCs (Private Military Companies) and how they benefit from war, or even just the threat of war. Raiden uncovers a sinister plot that one of the PMCs is carrying out and vows to stop them. It’s not really anything spectacular but serves as a nice back drop while you’re chopping up cyborg soldiers and massive robots.
There is little mention of Raiden’s past (beyond him being a child soldier) or much else linking back to other Metal Gear games but there are a few things fans of the series will pick up on and the return of one character in particular had me smiling.
As I said at the outset of this review I didn’t actually finish the game. I was stuck on the last boss and sadly Metal Gear Rising doesn’t give you the option of changing the difficulty at all. I can’t remember the last time I failed to make it through a story-based game. I sunk a lot of time into that last boss and wasn’t making any progress at all so decided that my time could be better spent elsewhere.
It would’ve been nice to have had some middle ground with the option to drop the difficulty down while playing bits you were having trouble with. It’s the lack of flexibility that killed the game for me. I do like challenging games but being stuck on the same boss/area for an hour at a time isn’t fun. While some people might get off on finally beating that part, I just felt drained.
And to be honest that kind of typifies my experience with Metal Gear Rising. For the majority of the game I was comfortable, in control and having fun. Then I would hit a crazy difficulty spike and just end up frustrated. My advice, unless you love a hugely challenging experience, would be to just play this through on Easy first time out and enjoy the ride. Rising is a fun and over the top action game, I just didn’t enjoy playing it.