|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Platinum Games|
|Pub: Kojima Productions|
|Release: TBA 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Robert VerBruggen
About once every ten or fifteen years, the Metal Gear franchise adds a new word to its name and dramatically shifts its gameplay focus. In 1998, plain old "Metal Gear" became "Metal Gear Solid," and the gameplay shifted into 3D. In 2012 will come the first installment of "Metal Gear Rising," subtitled "Revengeance," and the move is guaranteed to be controversial.
The problem isn't that anyone expects Revengeance to be a bad game. Metal Gear kings Kojima Productions will be involved, and they're teaming up with Platinum Games, makers of Bayonetta and Vanquish, two of the best games of the past several years. Rather, the problem is that the stealth aspects of the series have been shunted aside, and Revengeance will focus on hack-and-slash action. In other words, Revengeance will have the Metal Gear name on it, but it won't be a true Metal Gear title. To a hardcore fan, Metal Gear without stealth is like Mario without jumping—starting a new sub-franchise called "Rising" doesn't change that.
That said, you have to respect such a gutsy move. Back when the game was called Metal Gear Solid: Rising, the plan was to make it a blend of action and stealth—something that could satisfy the series faithful while attracting new players. But instead of settling for half-measures, the powers that be canceled the project, brought in Platinum, and resurrected the game with a new name and a complete devotion to action.
And fans of action games have a lot to look forward to. You will control Raiden, a cyborg equipped with katanas that are capable of cutting through just about anything. Whereas Solid Snake has to lurk in the shadows and figure out clever ways to take out big enemies, Raiden goes toe-to-toe with an army of Metal Gears and comes out alive. The fluid, fast-paced, stylish fighting we saw in Bayonetta is definitely present in Revengeance's trailer. No, it's not what the Metal Gear name is supposed to stand for, but it's still awesome.
A major new feature of the gameplay is its free-form cutting system, called "free-slicing mode," which will allow you to control Raiden's every movement as he hacks items into little bits. You'll be given a targeting reticule to guide your strikes, and virtually everything in the game's environments will be destructible. There's no word on whether this system will support Kinect or Move, but I, for one, would not mind some motion-controlled savagery with a sharp blade.
Another innovative element will be a change to how you take items from fallen enemies—you'll have to cut them out of their bodies. There will also be other standard action features, including bullet time, a fast dash in the style of Vanquish, and the ability to carry weapons besides Raiden's trademark katanas (a dagger, for example).
The aesthetics of Revengeance will be a change from the rest of the franchise as well. Raiden has a bit of an emo vibe about him, including a feminine face and a stupid haircut. He even says things like "Let's have some fun!" before his rampages. Metal Gear has always been a little cheesy, especially in its dialogue, but I usually got the sense it was unintentional. Here, judging by the trailer, almost everything the characters say is self-consciously silly.
But even Metal Gear fans who aren't crazy about the new direction might want to play Revengeace to follow the story. Revengeance will add to the series' ridiculous, convoluted plot by explaining Raiden's backstory and adding to his lore. Raiden was a feared child soldier, known as "Jack the Ripper," during the First Liberian Civil War. Today, he lives by the code of the samurai. (In keeping with Metal Gear tradition, we will probably learn about his childhood and philosophy through some incredibly long, incredibly awkward cutscene conversations.) Revengeance's plot will explain what happens to him after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, though the exact details have not yet been released.
Also, while Sony has done a decent job of keeping Metal Gear games tied exclusively to PlayStation consoles, that bond seems to be breaking. The recent HD Collection brought most of the classic games to the Xbox 360, and a remake of the collection's biggest missing piece (the original Metal Gear Solid) has been long available for Gamecube as "Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes." Revengeance will continue this trend—Xbox 360 owners will be able to pick it up right alongside their PS3-owning friends. Maybe this is a sign that we could one day see Metal Gear Solid 4, too.
No doubt, Revengeance deserves skeptical glances from the Metal Gear faithful. It's virtually guaranteed to be a Metal Gear game in name only. But given the sheer amount of talent that's behind this title, I'll be surprised if it doesn't work extremely well as a hack-and-slash action game. We'll find out if I'm right next year.
CCC Contributing Writer