This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
Sometimes I think the Metal Gear franchise is like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show: it’s this loud wacky dipshit in dire need of an editor who lives in a little world of his own surrounded by people reassuring him that, “No, Metal Gear Solid 4 was totally a touching emotional character drama, especially when the funny man did a big poo in his pants.” And every now and again someone tries to parachute in wearing a t-shirt saying, "Everyone’s taking the piss!", but get swiftly bundled out of sight by a dogwalker and a Sony executive.
And while you could never accuse the games of being dull or conventional, they just can’t keep a consistent tone! Case in point, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, or to give it its full title, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance I Don’t Think That’s A Real Word. Is it the dramatic story of a haunted man seeking redemption for his dark past while fighting off the instincts left over from the killer he used to be, or is it an episode of Scooby-Doo? Why can I gorily hack off three of a soldier’s limbs and watch him crawl away bleeding out his last miles from home and then climb inside a barrel and roll around until I puke?
With previous Metal Gear frontman Solid Snake kind-of sort-of probably killed off, Bishie-Come-Lately Raiden takes up the main character torch he hasn’t held since MGS2, when everyone told him to put down the fucking torch before he embarrassed himself further. And I kind of pity the guy ‘cause his entire existence since then has been Hideo Kojima going to more and more extreme lengths to convince us that Raiden is cool. So the next time he appeared he was a breakdancing cyborg ninja and with Revengeance we can now add "motorcycle-riding vigilante" to the list.
This is a fucking 12-year-old’s idea of character development. A cast-iron-balls-out fight sequence is meaningless without a sense of threat, and Raiden’s a cyborg about as affected by loss of body parts as a Mr. Potato Head. I might have mocked Solid Snake for doing nothing but repeat the last 2 words of the previous speaker’s sentence as a question with a voice like he'd inhaled a burning Brillo Pad, but he was at least human and felt pain. It’s humanity that makes a character; Raiden can slice up robot monsters till he grows his first pube and he still wouldn’t be as engaging as the leads of MGS4, the two most socially inept men on the planet living in a sexless gay marriage.
The box blurb is, as often the case, inadvertently telling. “Action game set in the Metal Gear Solid universe” it says, and you’ll note the phrase not being employed is "a Metal Gear Solid game", which are characterized by an emphasis on stealthing to avoid having to do the horrible combat and dialogue inserted about as elegantly as a killer whale being inserted in a stationery cupboard. And while you'll certainly be best friends with the skip dialogue button by the end of Revengeance, you may be surprised by its relative brevity, perhaps for the sake of keeping up a fast pace now the combat’s got all hack and slash-y on us.
But then the game starts trying to tell you to be stealthy. I know you feel you have to at least acknowledge the previous games, but the combat’s actually halfway fun now and trying to stealth it is boring and doesn’t really match the game’s overall pace. And besides, we are a men made out of coffee bakers and wing mirrors and even the fucking stealth kill entails somersaulting over the victim, slicing them in half and pulling their spine out. Going unnoticed seems like a lost cause outside of a sanitarium for the deaf blind. Just stop fussing and decide on the fucking tone, Metal Gear, for fuck’s sake!
But the combat is quite fun, yes, with the USP being the ability to slice at any angle and divide a large variety of objects into jigsaw puzzles, and since this is kind of feature a processor has nightmares about, the levels do seem a wee bit barebones-y. Against enemies it’s not worked in too horribly, though. You can flail the sword around like a plastic chimpanzee with a feather duster until the baddies are effectively powderized, but you’re rewarded for accurately divesting them of their limb portfolio or cutting through the bottle of commercial energy drink they all seem to keep inside their spines.
In most cases, that only comes after you do a certain amount of button-mashing chimpanzee maid work though, and for a game with Metal Gear’s occasional tendency to witter on a bit, it’s very bad at explaining how the parry works. Which is a shame because it's your only defense, and while you can get quite a ways through the game without it, the last couple of boss fights will stick a prong up your arse and repurpose you as a windscreen wiper if you haven’t mastered it. I eventually did, thanks to plenty of retries and a small team of MIT scientists, and I do appreciate the fact that technique demands skill.
What also helped was turning off that bloody boss fight music, and incidentally, Hideo, if breakdancing ninja cyborg vigilante biker hasn’t made Raiden cool, a score that sounds like a J-rock artist composed it as he was trying not to burst into tears while meeting his own gaze in his bedroom mirror isn’t going to clinch it.
By the way, I didn’t make that earlier Scooby-Doo comparison idly. Not only is Raiden followed around by a mystery-solving gang of international stereotypes of varying degrees of necessity, including one token female support character whose main role in the plot is wear a blouse with the top two buttons undone, but he also acquires a comedy talking dog as a sidekick. No really, this is a thing that happens. But wackiness jarringly placed alongside cringingly-awkward drama is entirely expected in a Metal Gear game. Hideo Kojima writes like someone who has never left his house or spoken to another human being except when renting another cart load of bad action movies and anime. But that’s what makes those special, you know? And a gratifying reminder that there is still auteur-driven in this psychopathically commercial industry for better and worse.
Having said that, there’s a limit to the leeway this affords Metal Gear, a leeway that is overstepped with Revengeance’s final boss. I thought that The Adventures of Shaggy and Scooby: Bloodsoaked Robot Assassins was a bit schizophrenic in tone, but even those wavering and hazardous rails the game then goes off. At this point every halfway threatening villain is dead and we're reaching the culmination of a plot about child organ harvesting and an attempt to assassinate the president in order to destabilize the Middle East but then...well, I won’t spoil it, but imagine watching something like, say, Ghost in the Shell, but right before the end you sit on the remote and the TV switches over to an episode of Biker Mice from Mars, or Dragon Ball Z where the special guest villain turns out to be Hulk Hogan who goes on about how awesome right-wing policies are for 20 minutes before doing body slams on everyone who disagrees.
I'm kind of afraid that Metal Gear is deliberately fucking with us now. And when a joke tries to be in on the joke, the humour value tends to drain. You can’t start laughing at yourself now, Metal Gear, 'cause we’ve been doing that since we’ve figured out "Solid Snake" could refer to a cock.
Seeking revengeance for the mutilation of written English: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
I suppose you could stretch 'Jack' into a masturbation reference but it's just not the same really
Also Raiden rhymes with Haydn who was a pianist and that sounds like penis