Sometimes, just hearing one reviewer's take on things isn't enough. That's where the Co-Op Review comes in! This week, CRN's game gurus HOTT GAME BOYZ Joseph Luster and Nate Ming take on Platinum Games' action-packed foray into the Metal Gear universe, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance!
NATE: So, this is going to be a first, at least for CRN--we're doing a co-op review, where two (or more) of us will play a game and then share our thoughts on it.
JOE: So, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. I like that we chose the least co-op game ever to do a co-op review of...
N: Well, there was Dead Space 3, and we were totally kicking the shit out of that game. But... this is just more fun.
J: And it's bite-sized!
N: Yeah, it's really short--like 5-6 hours if you skip all the cutscenes.
J: Though, less than a week after the fact, I officially have more time invested in MGR than Ni no Kuni.
N: And that's not to say that Ni no Kuni is bad, it's just... this game really encourages replay. You don't just beat Platinum games--any idiot with a couple hours to spare can beat a Platinum game. You master Platinum games, you perfect them.
J: I've been moderately obsessed with it this week. It's now in that comfortable point where I can play MGR on mute while listening to music.
J: Of course. It calms me during the frenetic action.
N: Okay, so, what's your history with the Metal Gear franchise? When did you hop on the train?
J: My history is mostly Solid era, but I used to play the NES Metal Gear back when I was a kid. I never quite "got it" then, though. When Metal Gear Solid came out it blew my mind.
N: Yeah, it was the same with me--Metal Gear was this cool G.I. Joe-type game that I liked, but once MGS came out I was hooked. I've played every single one to death since then.
J: Same here. The only one that never really clicked with me was Peace Walker. I love all the main entries, though.
N: See, I loved Peace Walker, especially the base maintenance aspects. It's like, you spend five minutes running around tranqing/kidnapping guards via balloon, and then the rest of the time is spent making sure everybody can eat.
J: That's where our tastes diverge. I'm a Big Dumb Action guy. Thus, Revengeance is perfect for me.
N: But Revengeance really switches things up on us--I mean, it's like 100% action. You can go quiet, but the game seems to actively discourage it.
J: Oh yeah. Stealth is almost in Revengeance as a gag. All of Raiden's support characters encourage it. They constantly remind him he's the best at it. They reward him with praise when he does it well. But in reality it's awkward. He can't even walk! He was born to mince enemies.
N: His walk animation is slow and clumsy, and it's really just a slow-motion power walk for when you want to walk up to an enemy all badass-like. I mean, you have x-ray vision to see what's around corners, and a stealth kill, but the game is at its best when you're making full use of Raiden's arsenal of moves. It's kinda weird how Raiden has all these moves--like a launcher, and a blowback move, and a quick backstep dodge/counter, but the game doesn't tell you about them at all.
J: They actually do kind of a poor job of explaining some of the finer points to players. Parrying, for instance, is a huge aspect of the game, but I didn't master it until I finished my first playthrough. That's fine, because it's there to master, but I think it's tough at first to tell whether or not you're doing it right.
N: It really has the feel of an older game--it just drops you in and says "play."
J: Which is great, don't get me wrong. Games are WAY too tutorial happy now--the last thing I want is reams of text when I'd just like to figure things out myself and discover.
N: And you feel more like you've mastered the game yourself, right? It felt good beating the last boss with the skills you've perfected.
J: Yes, and mentioning the last boss reminds me that this might be one of the most balanced Metal Gear games in terms of story versus gameplay. No one can make "walk to cutscene" jokes about this one.
N: Yeah, they actually brought back Codec conversations--there's plenty of interesting Codec stuff to listen to if you want, but otherwise the cutscenes are fairly brief and they're just there to move you to the next action scene--that you play. But in MGS4, you spend all that time sitting around watching movies and tapping X for flashbacks, and it got old fast.
J: That's one of the best things about Revengeance. I've played so many games over the years that show you the coolest stuff, and leave you wondering "why can't I just do that myself?" Not so here. Raiden's moves are slick and they really up the ante of insanity steadily throughout.
N: Even for some of the QTE-ish stuff, you're really just doing a single hit, or moving from one spot to another. And the real thing is, you're gonna get people who say "wasn't Metal Gear about stealth?" Well... not really, because Metal Gear always gives you the choice to go in guns blazing, it's just a hell of a lot harder that way. Here, the focus is on action, and it's still balls freakin' hard.
J: They just make it less appealing in proper MGS titles.
N: I did punch/choke/body slam my way through MGS3, though--CQC was so much fun!
J: I am normally very careful in Metal Gear games, so, if you'll pardon a terribly and totally unintentional pun, this felt like cutting loose.
N: Oh, definitely, it's like the weight is off your shoulders and the devs are saying "here's Raiden--he is lightning, the rain transformed. Go, and kick ass."
J: In Metal Gear Solid I usually tranq people, then stab their bodies until they die. It's actually really sick when I type it out like that...
N: Holy freakin' crap, still laughing...
J: (laughs) After playing the crap out of this game, though, I do feel it's a proper Metal Gear.
N: The Codec conversations, the clashing ideologies, that whole point where Raiden is racked with guilt over just how many people (cyborgs, whatever) he's killed. It's total Metal Gear from the word go.
J: It hits all the right notes, and I imagine that has to do with Hideo Kojima and co. overseeing it and letting Platinum Games stick to the action.
J: At times I imagine a world in which this was canceled for real... it's horrifying.
N: What I most appreciate about it is how Platinum is able to take action and make it interesting. I mean, here's a personal thing I want to bring in: I HATE the "platforming" in Assassin's Creed. I mean, it's literally hold a button, hold a trigger, and run forward.
I guess the reason why I hate it is because it's just that--you're running forward, you're not doing anything else. But in Revengeance, you're doing something similar (hold a trigger and press forward for "Ninja Run" auto-platforming) but now you have to actually fight guys and dodge attacks while doing it.
J: It's amazing how placid [Assassin's Creed platforming] feels compared to how exciting Raiden's Ninja Run is, which is essentially that. Also, they make it more exciting because when you Ninja Run, you deflect bullets automatically, so it looks like you're doing something way more intense.
N: The game just does not let up--I mean, that final boss, man! How long did it take you to kill him the first time?
J: So, so long.
N: Because it took me like a solid half-hour of dying and retrying...
J: I beat the game the first night I had it, but I almost took a break there... it was nearly 3am, and I was tired and getting annoyed.
N: This picture perfectly sums up the game:
J: (laughs) Yes!
N: It's funny, but with this game, I notice my reflexes get sharper as I lose more health. You don't want to restart a boss fight, so you just play smarter and better--I mean, I was at less than 10% health for most of that awesome sunset duel.
J: That reminds me of another thing that has to do with the game not teaching you terribly well: the Blade Time stuff, I was just flailing with it for a while, and didn't learn literally until the last boss fight that it cuts when you let go.
N: It was actually during one of the later boss fights that I needed to up my game with Blade Time. That's something I appreciate about this game, though, with its difficulty and the bosses--it makes you work. Too many games nowadays let you coast once you reach the end.
J: And it really is rewarding to replay.
N: With this one, I had to dig deep and use every bit of knowledge and skill I had to beat each boss--well, most bosses--and when I finished, I told myself "I know I can do better." Not many games do that today.
J: One of the big hangups is proving to be the length issue, which is a mindset I wish people could work on. While I do think games are too expensive nowadays, I'd much prefer to have a solid, replayable 5-6 hour game than a padded experience.
N: Yeah, same. I mean, I can beat Super Mario Bros. in like ten minutes if I can keep my momentum, but it's still a great game.
J: 60 dollars means different things to different people, but like I said, I'm still playing this daily and have logged a ton of hours into it. It's addictive and the action still wows me.
N: Same. It's a game that I'm going to be playing and replaying for a very long time. There's a lot of stuff to unlock, there's a lot of game to master. The only thing it really, truly does wrong is how it just drops you in, and that can frustrate people.
J: It's another thing that reminds me more of classic games, and why I still go back to tackle NES classics like Ninja Gaiden and the like.
N: Its camera can also get kind of finicky if you're fighting in close quarters.
J: The camera is pretty bad. I can't think of many recent action games that have gotten it right. God of War games have a great camera but stylistically I think that works better for that series than others. At this point we should have a solution, shouldn't we?
N: I think the recent Ninja Gaiden games got it right with an auto-center button, that just became reflexive after a point... but yeah, the camera's not so hot. It's a very small point because if you're good at action games, you just suck it up and make it work for you.
J: Even in DmC: Devil May Cry--another great recent action game--I was regularly fighting enemies that were off screen. In Revengeance I often just didn't feel like disengaging from action to adjust.
N: Usually if that happens, I Ninja Run over the nearest enemy and make some distance--if I can. If I'm not able to, then it's just me frantically parrying in a corner while I wait for a chance.
That's another thing about parrying--it changes up the game for action titles: so many action games have a dodge button, or a guard button, so if you're pushed into a corner, you can just panic and cartwheel around, or turtle until you're safe. The only defensive option in this game is a mechanic that requires a lot of skill and practice to use effectively... and using it badly just puts you in an even more dangerous position than before.
J: Yeah, parrying helps separate it from the pack. That's important, too, because I play a lot of action games. This style is my favorite, I love big, balls-out nutty action games, and Revengeance is one of the best.
N: Yeah, Revengeance also doesn't really encourage combos. It tells you to kill your enemies quickly and efficiently, and move on to the next area.
J: I know we've mentioned them in passing, but what did you think about the enemies? Not just the bosses, which are MGS-certified bonkers, but the standard foes.
N: I like the weird variety they have. I mean, one minute you're fighting generic mooks with machetes, and then they upgrade and get Japanese swords, big Berserk-style longswords, hammers... and then you fight gorillas with grenade launchers on their arms.
J: (laughs) I was hoping you'd mention the gorillas. I love how nonchalantly they introduce them. Revengeance is as self-aware as any other MGS game, but like those, it thankfully plays everything 100% straight.
N: It's like one long swordfight, and then out of nowhere it's like AND NOW YOU FIGHT MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, HAVE FUN!
N: I usually rate action games on a "holy shit" factor, and the last one that really blew my mind was Asura's Wrath--before that, it was Bulletstorm. So basically, it's been a while.
J: The mechs look really cool, too. I love the mechanical design of this game.
N: Oh, they really follow Yoji Shinkawa's playbook.
J: I'd rank Revengeance up there with the "Moon Fight" in Asura's Wrath. That's my new scale: Bad, Decent, Good, Great, Rad, Moon Fight.
N: And no box-pushing or tile-sliding puzzles!
J: That's another good point. I think that also has to do with Revengeance not being a padded experience. There is no filler.
N: Because what kind of freak would find balls-out, interesting action "repetitive" or "monotonous?" WHAT KIND OF LIFE DO YOU LEAD when running down the side of a building and slam-dunking missiles into people is monotonous?
J: Exactly. There's no time to get bored, and as soon as it's over you'll probably want to have that fun all over again. And again. And so on. I kind of hope I stop playing soon just so I can move on with my life.
JOE'S REVIEW ROUNDUP
+ Blazing action that never lets up; elegant layers of violence. Maybe the most violent game ever, actually. Is that a good thing? It sure as hell works here
+ Immensely replayable, and a great length for mastering
+ It's definitely Metal Gear in more than just name, it hits all the sweet spots
+/- It does a surprisingly poor job of teaching the player the basics, but also makes up for that by doing so organically through increasingly taxing action challenges
+/- The music is appropriate, but also kind of hilari-bad corny in places
Joe's Final Thoughts: Platinum Games had a lot to deliver on with Revengeance, and they absolutely nailed it. Being short and sweet should be considered a virtue, not a drawback, and the all-killer, no-filler experience is one that all action fans, Metal Gear Solid devotee or not, should add to their collection.
NATE'S REVIEW ROUNDUP
+ Incredibly tight gameplay system foregoes standard action game formulas for an exciting original experience--Revengeance requires experience, skill, precision and perserverance to come out on top
+ The kind of game you can finish in a day... and then immediately start over on the next difficulty, because it's built around mastery and replayability
+ Fun and interesting (optional) Codec calls bring all the Metal Gear style and character, without making you watch goofy 45-minute-long cutscenes
+ The game has a great sense of scale, constantly upping the ante and making each battle more spectacular than the last
+/- Revengeance forces you to learn how to play, it doesn't explicitly teach anything. While it's great for hardcore action fans and old-school gamers, its difficulty and steep learning curve can be off-putting to some
+/- While it's great to have an entirely separate, stealth-based side of the game to play through, the controls are specifically built for high-speed action and don't lend themselves well to sneaking around
- The clunky camera can really screw you over in tight situations--it's unacceptable for a game that requires this much concentration and accuracy
Nate's Final Thoughts: Anarchy Reigns was not Platinum at its best, but Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is. This balletic, bloody actioner rewards smart play and razor-sharp reflexes, making it stand tall alongside the best its genre has to offer. Minor gripes involving the camera and sudden difficulty spikes aside, it's a near-perfect game with unexpected longevity.