Following months of hype and a major showing at last year’s E3 show, it was safe to say that "Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance," out last month for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, had two obvious roadblocks to overcome.
First, making the despised Raiden the centerpiece in a new ongoing series and, of course, the inherent challenge of updating a popular series into the new video game age.
To be certain, every old school game franchise, from Mario and Luigi to Ninja Gaiden, has an enormous challenge of moving from 2D side-scrolling to a fully-realized 3D world.
Outside of Ninja Gaiden, the entire ninja genre has experienced a lull since its 8- and 16-bit glory days. Its prospects were even murkier with the departure of Metal Gear mainstay, Solid Snake for whiny acrobat, Raiden. In gamers' minds, it was like replacing Clint Eastwood with Justin Bieber.
But the game makers at Kojima Productions, and its leader, Hideo Kojima,have successfully updated the series with some new tricks, though we're hopeful the kinks will be worked out by the next sequel. This latest version which pits men versus metal monsters incorporates fighting game mechanics into the series known for creating the stealth genre.Revengeance also forcibly incorporated in old Metal Gear elements, such as annoyingly-long conversations through the codec, intruder alerts triggered when being spotted by enemies and VR missions. They even brought back those silly cardboard boxes for Raiden to hide from enemies in.
But Revengeance isn't about hiding. It's about tearing them apart. That said, Metal Gear purists will likely hate the new game, which largely departs from the stealth world, though they could be won over with its face-paced action and mind-blowing gore. Revengeance will leave your TV screen a dark shade of crimson.
Revengeance is set in the near future, where cyborg technology has exploded and soldiers-of-fortune around the world are getting robotic enhancements.
Raiden, first introduced in 2001’s Metal Gear: Sons of Liberty, starts the game as a sword-wielding cyborg security consultant working for a benevolent Democratic leader in Africa. The leader is killed for cartoonish reasons, leading Raiden on a quest filled with moral questions and dismembered cyborgs.
To increase Raiden's appeal, the game designers toughened him, turning him from a prettyboy more suitable as a Final Fantasy hero to a single-minded killer.
Revengeance's main strength is its kinetic, free-flowing movement that allows Raiden, using a mix of strong and weak attacks ala fighting games, to unleash an arsenal of weapon-based attacks that will leave your enemies in chunks like a butcher's freezer.
Because Revengeance is modeled more like a run-and-run fighter, the key to success is quickly mastering your fighting combos and defensive skills.
I squared off against a cyborg wolf (as one does) at least 25 times until I learned to effectively use Raiden's block, which doesn't have its own button and isn't listed in the gamer's manual.
Revengeance's fighting style shares more than a passing resemblence to Tecmo's "Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge," an overlooked gem released on the Wii U last November. It will see action on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in April.
Like Revengeance, Razor's Edge allows its hero the ability to dodge missiles using bullet time and easily bounce from enemy-to-enemy, allowing you to attack several people at once.
The camera angles can be infuriating, though not more so than using secondary weapons. Trying to shoot down an enemy helicopter or throwing a grenade using the bumper buttons is nothing if not awkward.
The good news is that Revengeance is a test of whether the glorious game series can survive major changes. If it can survive the main games and a host of cheap VR spinoffs, it can survive Raiden.