No more sneaking around, just start cutting stuff up.
The prolific Metal Gear Solid franchise has always been about stealth and subtlety, it’s literally a game of hide and seek; hiding in a cardboard box, dropping enemies with silenced weaponry and occasionally running like hell to a safe area after being discovered. However, all this is the result of an older generation of developers and for an older generation of MGS fans – an old snake. The new face of the Metal Gear Solid franchise we have here is the cybernetically enhanced super ninja Raiden who dumps the time-honored MGS tradition of sneaking around and hiding for a more visceral approach, charging headlong into the fray with a thirsty blade by his side. This is the first MGS game not developed by Kojima Productions. MGR is developed by Osaka based developers Platinum Games, the studio that brought you Vanquish and Bayonetta, by contrast they are a studio better known for bombastic action games in the veins of the Devil May Cry series . Every encounter in Metal Gear Solid demands silent and preferably non-lethal infiltration, going guns blazing would only result in a quick death however in MGR almost every single scenario requires a sleek lethal solution.
The narrative of MGR is now focused solely on the tale of Raiden whose transformation from a buck naked wimp in MGS 2 to a lethally efficient cyborg ninja in MGR is an excellent commentary of how the series and the industry have matured through the years. Set 4 years after the events of MGS 4, Raiden is now under the employment of “Maverick”, a private security contractor that offers their services to the highest bidder. The game opens with “Maverick” overseeing the protection of a Nelson Mandela-esque African Prime Minister on his journey to bring peace to the region. The convoy was ambushed by members of a rival PMC “Desperado Enforcement” who outmatches Raiden, kidnaps the minister and cuts one of Raiden’s eye out. Soon after, Raiden recovers and sets in motion a tale of vengeance which will span 7 chapters, Raiden will hunt down members of “Desperado Enforcement”, face his past as a child soldier and confront a conspiracy that threatens the balance of power in the world. It’s an entertaining but predictable storyline drenched in Japanese clichés however it’s epic set pieces more than make up for its overall corniness.
Combat in MGR is fast paced and enjoyable affair while it’s not the most deep or complex combat system in Platinum Games’ repertoire, it’s still a visually electrifying experience watching Raiden slicing enemies into pieces. Raiden’s basic attacks are your standard light and heavy attack system which allows the player to succeed just by mashing the attack button but a cautious and methodical approach is the only way to clear levels at the higher difficulty levels. Raiden’s can enhance his repertoire of combat abilities such as sweeps, aerial juggles and spin kicks with currency earned by eliminating enemies. The exclusion of a block button dramatically changes the entire dynamic of combat in MGR, the player would no longer be able to hold the block button and wait for the enemy to attack. The only way to deal with incoming attacks is to either dodge out of the way or parry the attacks. Raiden’s repertoire of attacks all have a very organic flow to them, the brutality of each attack mixed with Raiden’s acrobatic grace turns him into sort of a ballerina – a ballerina who slices everything into tiny little bits. In addition to Raiden’s blades, killing bosses allows you to acquire their weapons which would serve as your secondary weapon. Unfortunately there is a catch, these weapons would replace one of your normal attack buttons which effectively cuts you off from your repertoire of sword combos. You are able to switch between the 2 weapons on the fly during combat but alternating between the two weapon feels forced and disjointed.
The main hook of the game is still “blade mode” where Raiden would go into a matrix style slow-mo mode that allows you to slice anything including the environment in any direction by flicking the right analog stick. Activating “blade mode” after a well-timed parry or to an enemy close to death would result in a “Zandatsu” kill which allows Raiden to rip out the enemy’s spine to replenish his health and energy – it’s not as gruesome as you think because most of the enemies you engage with are cybrogs.
MGR is a very short game, it only took me 5-6 hours to complete the main story, and I also died quite a few times along the way. The game ranks you on your performance at the end of each level, so if you are a Completionist who won’t stop until you’ve S-ranked every single chapter and on every single difficulty level, there is plenty to do here. The story unfortunately, is predictable ,paper thin and extremely short but every single moment is chalked full of fast paced action sequences. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of quality over quantity.
MGR takes everything we know about metal gear solid and throws it out the window, the game is no longer about stealth but instead it’s about the raw brutality of slicing and dicing your enemies into tiny tiny bits. A New Game + mode encourages multiple replays – just don’t find yourself obsessed with the idea of a no-kill playthrough.
Ratings: 4 out of 5 Stars.
by Chen KangYi
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