I never knew it until now, but what I’ve always wanted to do in a video game is to do a guitar power slide on my knees in super-slow motion, whilst welding a high-frequency sword that slices up my enemies into as many pieces as I possibly can… for ten minutes. Continuously.
And to think, I nearly didn’t have the opportunity to find this out. When Kojima Productions quietly cancelled the action-orientated instalment of the Metal Gear series, nobody was expecting Dealspwn’s own personal heroes Platinum Games to swoop in and save the day, but that’s exactly what they did. Their previous work suggested that the project was in very safe hands, but the MGS fan in me had some slight reservations, despite the fact Hideo Kojima himself was involved in some capacity. However, after months of previews, copious amounts of trailers, and teasing the gaming world with a playable demo, I was given the finished product to finally see if the collaboration between Kojima and Platinum had been worth the wait.
Let’s start by taking a quick look at the plot for Revengeance. The game takes place after a few years after the end of Metal Gear Solid 4, with cyborg ninja Raiden now working for a Private Military Company called Maverick Security. When a mission to protect an African leader goes south thanks to an ambush by a rival PMC with a much larger dastardly plan, Raiden barely makes it out alive. This leads to the silver-haired cyborg being given a new, more powerful body, one which is fuelled by the dispatching of enemy cyborgs. So begins an over-the-top adrenaline-fuelled action-fest that sees a rather angry Raiden deal out his own brand of vengeance (with some revenge crammed in for good measure) and confronting his past as a child soldier.
Fans of Kojima’s previous work may have been concerned that that the change of focus from stealth to action might have forced the story and overall feeling of the game to distance itself from the established lore of the Metal Gear series, but as a MGS fan I was pleased to see that Platinum Games have been faithful to the existing backstory, ensuring that Revengeance is a true instalment. This expands into the user interface, with familiar fonts and audio cues making a return, and even the codec system being included (along with usual informative and ridiculous conversations) creating an experience that feels familiar despite the change to high-speed combat. If anything, Kojima’s highly enjoyable yet slightly ridiculous universe being paired with the utterly outrageous gameplay from Platinum is a perfect match. Saying that, there are some stealth elements in Revegeance, with the alert mechanic made famous in the MGS series making a return, and even the infamous cardboard box. Although I haven’t attempted to do so, I suspect there is a way to do a stealth run should you feel up to the challenge, but don’t feel too bad if you just want to tear the place up, because it’s just so damn satisfying.
This is because, true to their usual form, Platinum have managed to get to controls tuned to perfection, providing a natural setup for the player which are not only easy to learn, but ultimately makes them feel incredibly powerful, regardless of whether they are a brawler veteran or a newcomer. With a series of tutorial levels which explain the control scheme (and does a far better job than the one found in the demo) it ensures that the parry system, which confused many people initially (including myself), is understood before setting foot in the main game. This is important, because to survive in Revengeance players will need to know how to parry, but once this skill is learnt it can be immensely satisfying staving off attacks from enemies from multiple directions (and when the “parry-of-the-parry-of-the-parry” happens it is a thing of beauty.) It is worth noting that that a parry-assist is available on Easy difficulty if you do find the mechanics too much.
However, the real star feature of the game is Zan-datsu… otherwise better known as “I’m gonna slice you up REAL nice.”
Zan-datsu, which is accessed through the Blade Mode at Raiden’s disposal, is what truly separates Revengeance from its fellow brawlers, as it allows players to manually control the direction of the blade as the action slows down. Given the right conditions, enemies can be dissected into as many pieces as the player can possibly manage, providing the player has enough energy, but with some precise cutting the player can grab the insides of the unlucky enemy, restoring both energy and health to full, allowing for continuous runs of unadulterated action. Chopping up foes isn’t the only use for Blade Mode though, as it can destroy incoming projectiles or topple select parts of the environment. While it certainly doesn’t make the player invincible (I was ambushed a few times while trying to line up a cut) its execution as a mechanic is brilliantly realised and exhilarating to use without feeling too overpowered.
So it is a good thing that there are plenty of things to slice, be it boxes, chairs, established enemies such as the Unmanned “MOOOO” Gears or brand new foes, with the moment-to-moment action staying at a steadily high pace for most of the game. One minute you might be fighting your way through a street, the next you might be jumping on missiles towards a helicopter. Hell, you end up fighting Metal Gear RAY within the first ten minutes of the game (a sequence that is a brilliant introduction to the game.) That said, there are cutscenes to be found throughout Revengeace, but they usually last no longer than 3-4 minutes and can be skipped. Even most conversations (with the exception of when the game is loading) can be fast-forward so players can get right back into the glorious-looking action, so there are no worries of being forced to sit through huge bouts of exposition. Thankfully though, the story doesn’t get too convoluted as it goes, and Raiden’s return to lead character status is handled well overall (despite a few moments of “Christian-Bale-esque” vocals when talking as Jack The Ripper).
When the action gets going, the intense visuals are matched by a sound design second to none. Each hit (or cut) sounds devastating, every time Raiden is hit or an enemy stomps to the ground the audio provides a true sense of impact, but the best use of the audio comes in the form of Jamie Christopherson’s soundtrack. A fusion of Metal, Electronica and Orchestral music, with songs composed for each battle (including individual tracks for each boss) the music transitions as a fight progresses. It’s a process that helps to ramp up the feeling of excitement, especially during boss fights, and helps to ensure the game keeps you firmed gripped by the action for outset.
Performance-wise, Platinum’s goal of providing an action game that runs at 60 FPS has been met, meaning that the incredibly impressive visuals are animated with smooth execution. That said, although the player is usually given a great view of the action as it happens on screen, the camera does suffer from occasionally glitching on the scenery, especially during ninja kill sequences or the use of Blade Mode. Additionally, fighting enemies on stairs can occasionally be problematic for both camera angles and hit detection, and while it doesn’t destroy the experience, it certainly stops is from being perfect, which is a shame.
In terms of length, the campaign can last between 8-10 hours on a single run, which some may consider a little short for a full retail release, but replayability is present in a number of ways. The most obvious is unlocking upgrades for your character, increasing the power and efficiency of Raiden’s abilities, as well as unlocking new moves, new weapons, new moves for the new weapons, and alternate skins (including a rather fetching Mariachi getup with a huge-ass sombrero.) This is done by accumulating BP, a form of currency that is gained by taking down enemies in effective (or stylish) ways or by completing objectives cleanly. Elsewhere, collectable items are scattered in boxes throughout the levels, but the most interesting collectable comes through Revengeance’s version of MGS 2 & 4’s dog tags – severing and collecting certain cyborg’s left arms. Identified during blade mode by a glow, they unlock the returning wigs which provide boosters for Raiden, and forces the player to mix up their usual slicing instead of always mindlessly going for the kill.
As with most brawlers, a scoring system is present, grading the player’s performance after every section and awarding them with an overall result at the end. This staple of the brawler genre will no doubt have perfectionists repeating sections (or entire levels) in the pursuit of achieving perfection, but players will also have the VR Training suite in which to hone their skills (as well as being an alternative way of gaining BP.) These missions, unlocked by finding special items throughout the main campaign, challenge players in scenarios such as killing enemies as quickly as possible, or doing so only with Zan-Datsu, or simply trying to get to a checkpoint as quickly as possible. A leaderboard for the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals is there, but I felt this was a missed opportunity by Platinum (or perhaps Konami) to not include a worldwide leaderboard with the best global times for each VR mission, or at the very least between friends. Hopefully this could be rectified with the use of DLC, but I felt it was disappointing to not have it included in the game initially. For now, it’s going to have to be done the old fashioned way with screenshots and PVRs.
The difficulty level that Revengeance provides a learning curve that can occasionally hit the player out of nowhere between various fights (the final four boss fights in particular.) There were moments where I honestly felt the game was using cheap methods to overwhelm me, to the point where I was close to taking my frustrations out on the controller (something I honestly haven’t done in years) but as I repeated the sections over and over I realised that I had been coasting through the game by just swinging the sword with gleeful abandon. It was only when I learned the combos and really paid attention to the action that I was able to overcome my foes, and it made going through the story a second time on normal difficulty all the more satisfying. Having upgraded Raiden’s powers to full I ventured onto Hard difficulty, but having gotten over halfway through I have yet to find a real challenges so far. That’s not to say that achieving S grades is easy (it really isn’t) but I haven’t been punished anywhere near as much as I was during my first run on Normal difficulty. Perhaps the final boss fights will put me back in my place, but I think I was expecting something a bit more testing of my abilities.
Ultimately though, what Platinum have crafted is a brawler that really does stand ahead of its peers in appearance, in execution, and in raw entertainment value. It grabs you in a relentless fashion and doesn’t let go for a second, all the while staying true to the vision that Hideo Kojima started over 25 years ago. I just hope that its DLC support helps to inject some more life into it, because although there is a fair amount of replayability in there, it’s only a matter of time before players complete as much as they possibly can, and releasing new outfits isn’t going to cut it (pun intended.)
- Brawling mechanics that are natural and make the player feel powerful.
- “Zan-Datsu” Blade Mode provides exhilarating moments.
- Stays true to the Metal Gear franchise.
- Occasional camera issues mar the action.
- The difficulty curve can jump between certain fights.
- A lack of online leaderboards for VR missions is disappointing.
The Short Version: As a Metal Gear game, it fits into the outlandish story perfectly, but as a brawler, it stands head and shoulders above its peers. Although not completely perfect, its moment-to-moment action that refuses let you go for a second ensures that Revengeance is yet another reason why we love Platinum Games. A stunning slice of over-the-top action insanity.