Let me begin by stating that this review will be horribly slanted. I have been a fan of the Metal Gear series since the original [heavily modified version of the superior Japanese title] premiered on the Nintendo back in 1987. I didn’t play the game until 1992 – and even though I was frustrated with the difficult gameplay I was mightily impressed by story.
Six years later Metal Gear Solid was released for the PlayStation. For me, this is still the pinnacle of the series. The story and gameplay were both well thought out and clearly developed hand-in-hand. For instance, all of the items exist for a specific purpose. There’s not a single weapon in the game that doesn’t require you to use it at some point.
The same cannot be said for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. While this is easily my second favorite in the series the game loses a few points in design due to unnecessary inventory items. One could argue that this makes for a more open-ended experience. The gamer is allowed the freedom to choose how to play the game; rather than being steered in a certain direction. You can conquer the entire game using only the M9 tranquilizer gun… or you can employ an entire arsenal of firepower. Or, like me, play somewhere in-between.
This review wouldn’t be complete without pointing out the gaming communities outright hatred toward the Raiden character. Some felt they were cheated out of a true Metal Gear Solid experience because Snake was the playable character for only 20-25% of the gameplay. Others felt Raiden was weak and whiney (my wife included). To be honest, Raiden didn’t bother me all that much. I was back in the Metal Gear universe battling vaguely familiar foes in a vastly improved graphical environment. I could certainly agree that Raiden was a weaker main character but wrote it off as being an important aspect of the storyline (how society passes along information to younger generations).
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was interesting because of how much back-story was explained… but the difficulty! With the loss of the Soliton RADAR it felt like we had stepped back to 1987 all over again. The series has consistently made improvements to gameplay with each new release. The Soliton RADAR was added to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (a title not released in America) way back in 1990. Removing it from the latest title was nothing more than an exercise in frustration. People argue that it had to be removed because, in game continuity, the Soliton had not yet been invented (Metal Gear 2 takes place in 1999 while Snake Eater takes place in 1964). While that makes sense I tend to believe that the RADAR was removed in order to make the game harder and last longer. I also found the story to become overly corny at times. Hideo Kojima repeatedly claimed that he was attempting to channel James Bond’s spirit. He missed and got Matt Helm, instead.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was a solid multi-faceted game. It gave the fans what they were hoping for – more Solid Snake. More tactical action. More government conspiracy story arc. Most importantly, closure and a finality that offers explanations to a sometimes convoluted story.
Which brings us to the newest Metal Gear title: Metal Gear Rising – which is a bit of a departure for the series. All previous titles were about a one-man army being sent in to rescue hostages and secure data relating to terrorist actions that often point to government involvement. The new game is about a cyborg ninja.
More specifically, Raiden the cyborg ninja (yes, that Raiden).
To say Rising takes the series in a new direction would be an understatement. For some Rising is outright blasphemy. For others it’s a chance to revisit a universe full of rich characters and story. Once again, I reside somewhere in the middle.
For those looking for stealthy cat and mouse gameplay you won’t find it here. Raiden moves around with all the stealth of a steam roller; albeit a very fast and angst-ridden steam roller. For anyone who ever wanted the chance to play the lightning fast cyborg ninjas from the previous Metal Gear titles – here’s your chance. He doesn’t have the depth of Grey Fox or the passion of Olga Gurlukovich. Instead, Raiden rips through his enemies with the same panache as he did as a non-playable character in Metal gear Solid 4; like a one-man wrecking machine. A wrecking machine that whines and complains and tries to sound tough but really comes off more like… annoying.
Fact: guys like to have friends that are dumber than they are. With that established it should come as no surprise that every guy has known a Raiden. He’s that guy we all knew in high school who tried a little too hard to fit in and be cool. The guy that, in an attempt to sound awesome, blurts out some string of words so completely bizzare and intense that all anyone can do is look around to see if everyone else heard it the same way. No one laughs. You just kind of nod and say, “…yeah, sure…” (which I’m sure encourages poor kid).
Some of the dialog is so over the top that it’s laughable. Fortunately, the visuals are so stunning that it sort of makes up for the dork in the robot suit. The gameplay is, to quote the cover of the box, lightning bolt action (you’ve got to hand it to them for truth in advertising). The action is slick and stylized. More other than not I found myself grinning like an idiot over another “ah, cool!” moment. However, some of the gameplay is so fast it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Where previous Metal Gear games were all about striking at the precise moment, Rising is about moving the left analog stick as fast as you can. There are also some timed button mashing moments to change-up the game play.
The core game play is fun but this is not your father’s Metal Gear. If you’re able to trade in Harry Gregson-Williams’ score for some Rage Against the Machine this may just be your game.
In fact, maybe that sentence sums up this game the most. Where Solid Snake’s world of Metal Gear was a sly and slippery fox Raiden’s is a heavy metal death machine. The game’s are just that different – and if you can come to grips with that you might just enjoy this game.
If not, you may want to wait for Metal Gear: Ground Zeros.