By Tony Walter | Feb 20, 2013
They tell me it's a good thing to step outside your comfort zone every once in a while. That it reminds you why you love what you love, maybe lets you discover the merits of something new, or at very least reminds you why you stay away from that stuff in the first place. Last year I took a risk with XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and it paid off. I've decided that I'm going to take that risk more often now. Partially because I'm totally sick of the standard first-person/third-person shooters, and partially because I want to grow as a person - but mostly because if I play another 'pull left trigger-pull right trigger' style game this generation, I might actually give up on games altogether.
Monday night, when I should have been sleeping, I decided that I would check out the release schedule and see what big games coming up I'm most excited for. I seem to remember this year being a little more jam packed than this, but with Aliens: Colonial Marines releasing with tepid reception - and I refuse to play it and ruin my childhood any more than TellTale did with Jurassic Park last year - and Grand Theft Auto V being pushed back into the time of year where I'll have to give up eating and sleeping to play everything, this late winter/early spring calendar is a bit more manageable than I had originally thought. In fact, so much more so that I realized I hadn't picked up anything this year yet. The next morning I made a quick trip to the game store to pick up something new before the credibility demons came and shut down The Ambivalist and took me away.
Last time I was in this situation, extra time and extra money, I stepped outside the box. So, I did it again. I've had an odd relationship with character action games. I played the first Devil May Cry and God of War, and enjoyed them both enough, but for whatever reason I couldn't pull myself into the sequels for more than a cursory glance. And considering this year started out with the well-received, yet dumbly-named, DmC Devil May Cry (yes, DmC is part of the official title), I figured I'd better open up to these games before 'Game of the Year' chats start happening again - in about three weeks, right?
|The first boss battle makes a heck of an impression.|
Instead of picking up last month's release, I went for the other really dumbly named, Japanese, super-adored-franchise-but-this-game-is-stepping-away-from-what-people-know-and-making-some-fans-angry-but-critics-think-it-is-totally-pretty-awesome game, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
This game's development history is as a jumbled mess as its name. It was originally announced back in 2009 during an Xbox press conference, rumored to be an Xbox exclusive - ironically an untruth because Playstation 3 was actually lead platform for the guys who would make the game. A couple years would pass, and with difficulty turning the cutting gimmick - oh sorry - I mean cutting mechanic, into a full game Kojima Productions silently canceled the project. Then, Kojima decided, in a stroke of genius, that PlatinumGames should have a crack at this idea, and they accepted - I mean, Kojima, the king of insane game stories, asks you to make their crazy sword action game, you accept, especially if you're PlatinumGames.
Anyway, a few years passed and the damn thing actually came out. The problem with productions like these, is that whenever a game goes through changes mid-development like this, more often than not - and by "more often than not", I mean all the damn time - it shows. Sleeping Dogs, for example, is one of my favorite games of last year, and despite the quality product that came out of a troubled development, it still has its share of odd quirks, chiefly among them, it's lost in its own style - it has no damn idea what it wants to be stylistically.
This isn't about Sleeping Dogs though, and it's not even about the weird trials and tribulations that some games must go through before a wide release. This is about how Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (God, I'll never get sick of typing that) actually turned out. And, based on my few hours with the game so far, it's kind of a toss up.
How do you feel about a cyborg ninja using a sword to cut a giant, city-destroying, robot dinosaur in half down the middle? Frankly, this game lives and dies by your answer to that question. This game is dumb. Like, really dumb. Like the only kind of dumb that could result from taking a game conceived by Kojima Productions and having it developed by PlatinumGames.
Dumb is not a bad thing though. I can't stress that enough. Sometimes dumb is good. Sometimes dumb is great. I put this game in expecting to have fun with a goofy slicing mechanic. I wanted to chop dudes, and cars, and trees, and billboards, and ammo crates all into tiny pieces, and you totally do that. A lot. The thing is, there is a fighting mechanic in this game that is actually pretty unique, and can be satisfying under the right circumstances. Blocking is done by timing a button press and direction of the enemy at the right moment. Do this well enough and you're rewarded by being able to chop this dude up, and if you do that right, you're rewarded by filling up your chopping meter (not the official term, but somehow probably less stupid) and getting to chop another dude up. It's a morbid sort of currency the game builds on, but it works, for a while anyway.
|I hope you like cutting dudes.|
Unfortunately, the game trades hard on this idea. This combat loop is short, and after about only two hours of actual gameplay, I'm a bit worried I've seen what it has to offer. Couple this with somewhat imprecise controls (the lack of any sort of lock on has you flailing aimlessly on occasion), and the character action game's natural enemy - the camera - and you might find yourself being more frustrated than excited.
The last encounter I had before writing this took place in a small room against one enemy. It was an enemy type I had seen before, not the normal grunt but only a step above that, and one that in previous encounters was easily disposed of. Due to an inability to lock my attacks to this enemy, a camera that insisted on showing me Raiden's face instead of the man stabbing me, and the small room that had me stuck in corners, this fight lasted much longer than it should have. Part of this is my fault, for wanting to pull off perfect counters and use the game's slicing mechanic, instead of just offing the opponent with a few boring swings of the sword. At the same time I can't help but feel urged to attempt for the counters at every chance because of the way the perfect counters and slices are rewarded. It wants you to deal with these encounters in the ideal way, but then puts you in an environment that was actively working against itself.
|French arm lady wants to hurt you with her spear made of arms.|
I am trying to tell myself that this last encounter wasn't a hint at grander problems with the game, and that they knew the more open environments are what work for this genre. I might even be willing to brute force my way through a few more of these sorts of moments just to see the next extravagant set piece action scene, but I'd be lying if I said these sorts of decisions didn't grate on my nerves after time. With DmC Devil May Cry waiting for me to play, and the usually well executed God of War games' sequel coming up, it's hard for me to justify enduring a game in this genre right now. The thought of ratcheting down the difficulty, just to walk through the game and witness all it has to offer, has crossed my mind a few times now, but that feels like giving up in its own weird way.