Poking fun at the gaudy melodrama, unabashed political incorrectness, and batty imagery on display in any given Metal Gear title is almost as enjoyable as playing them, if not more so. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demonstrates that developer Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Anarchy Reigns) realizes this, and they've cleverly approached their ballsy spin-off as an unblinking parody of Konami's most popular franchise, yielding mostly positive results. Compared to mainline Metal Gear installments, in terms of length, Revengeance is somewhat of a drop in the bucket. The core campaign only takes about seven hours to finish, but promptly demands multiple replays in order to absorb the complete experience, and to gather every worthy unlockable and well-placed Easter egg. Thankfully, there's not a second wasted in the entire process—not a frame too drawn out or a hyper-kinetic sword slash uncalled for. Platinum Games has packed a commendable amount of content into a relatively narrow space, quite possibly expunging the tarnished record of Metal Gear's most widely lambasted hero: Raiden.
Picking up four years after the conclusion of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Revengeance finds the once pretty-boy protagonist's cybernetic prowess under the command of a clandestine international security corporation called upon to shield a well-respected African diplomat. Raiden's tale of redemption is rapidly thrown into motion when Desperado Enforcement, an erratic terrorist organization, swoops in, captures the prized politician, and leaves Raiden temporarily handicapped. All of this is presented in the classically convoluted, overly chatty cutscene style of Metal Gear games past, but Revengeance delivers the goods with an elbow-nudging, ever-winking air that causes the loopy narrative to come off as something of a cunningly constructed black comedy. It's a winning formula, and one that still manages to exude a distinctly Metal Gear-ish mood beneath a shiny new coat of undiluted absurdity.
Similar to Ninja Theory's recent triumph, DmC: Devil May Cry, Revengeance takes a struggling, desperate-for-a-revamp series and applies elements to the established blueprint that might not have been thought of as necessary. By casting Revengeance in a melee-combat mold rather than that of a stealthy espionage grind, Platinum Games has opened up a slew of invigorating pathways never before present in a Metal Gear chapter. For instance, Revengeance moves incredibly fast. Almost too fast. Raiden's vivacious swordplay is the focal point, and if it failed to entice, the remainder of the package would surely fail along with it. Gratefully, hacking enemy forces to shreds is addicting to no end. Controlling Raiden is less about button-mashing and more about falling in line with a surprisingly rhythmical, acrobatic maneuverability that never bores. Alternating between hard-hitting and graceful assaults, stringing together spin attacks, stunners, and various juggles for strangely elegant combos elevates the would-be tedious katana onslaughts to a level of outlandish ornateness.
Unlocking deadlier tactics as you progress broadens your range of aristocratic assassination even further, and the endlessly appealing Blade Mode adds yet another layer of ruthless refinement. After a certain amount of baddies are slain, Raiden goes slow-mo, slicing and dicing, with pinpoint precision, individual limbs and various other body parts off his opponents with the dexterity of a practiced Benihana chef. Snatching the spinal cords of mechanical adversaries earns a surge of energy, and eviscerating specific aggressors allows for the acquisition of in-game currency, leading to an assortment of weapon, health, tactical, and swag-tastic costume upgrades.
Not everything here is as smooth as a freshly polished blade, though, as Revengenace occasionally falters when allocating Raiden any other armament besides his trusty katana. Dispatching bosses produces an axillary battle component, and whether it be a cumbersome staff or a massive sai, incorporating these secondary devices into comfortable combinations oftentimes proves bothersome. Balancing between katana and staff can disrupt the learned flow substantially, and it would have been wise of Platinum Games to either perfect the functionality of these subordinate accessories or scrap them en masse. Additionally, problems with the camera surface as well, which is understandable due to the game's frantic pacing. Yet, all too frequently, the angle's POV will gradually drift away from Raiden, leaving the player staring at a partially vacant field. This shifty slowdown also causes issues with weapon cycling, halting the proceedings and sometimes leading to accidental deaths.
Despite these minor hiccups, Revengeance is one hell of an action game. As with its appreciatively artistic warfare, its graphics are periodically jaw-dropping. The boss fights, in particular, are a beauty to behold, and rival some of the Metal Gear series's most memorable endgame encounters. Though its initially off-putting hokey-jokey, farcical attitude may not sway the legions of anti-Raiden Metal Gear fans to drop $60 for a taste of Platinum Games's tempting Kool-Aid, there's enough here to bring those who possess even an ounce of forgiveness in their hearts back into the fray, justly providing poor, misunderstood Raiden with another chance to atone for his prior sins.