Yak ‘n Slash

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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PS3, 360)
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Konami
Price: $60

Nanomachines in Raiden’s brain — technology akin to Lost’s island that’s used for anything enigmatic in the Metal Gear series — repress his ability to hear the thoughts of adversaries. When he ignores the microchip’s effects, the cybernetic samurai suffers from depression when he mindreads soldiers worrying about overdue rentals and rising taxes. It’s a moment of existential crisis for Raiden as he sulks on the battlefield like a child who opened a janky Yu-Gi-Oh! booster pack. This junior high mentality ends when he chooses to stop listening. This is a grand metaphor for the player though, as you cease to care for what anyone has to say in Metal Gear Rising: Revegeance because you’d rather keep butchering.

Raiden encounters many blabbermouths in his travels. His communication buddies – Kevin, Courtney, and Doktor (guess his nationality!) – are all characterized by their lack of character and their desire to give you excessive information. Expect yawn-inducing and superfluous updates, like why the skyscrapers are designed with multiple electricity outlets. Villains babble on about war economies and child brains. Your robotic mutt muses about freedom and knowledge he doesn’t possess. Characters crave poignancy yet they convey childish contemplations. It won’t take long for you to wish that everyone would shut their collective traps so you can go back to playing the game.

When you’re an active participant in Revegeance, chopping enemies up into fruity pebble bits is infectious. It’s easy to pull off flashy moves like spinning around on your back like a break-dancer with your sword held out. Impressive feats are streamlined to simple button sequences between two attack buttons, making the katana tango immediately accessible. With few defensive skills available, other than a parry and a slow sidestep, playing offensively is paramount for success.

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If you slash an enemy enough its limbs will glow blue, meaning they can be hacked off like withering branches in blade mode. When initiated, time slows down and the camera pans over Raiden’s shoulder, allowing you to choose the exact angle you want to slice. Chopping off your enemies’ appendages Kill Bill style limits their actions, making them easier to predict and kill. Watching human tree stumps flail on the ground is a grotesque pleasure. If you aim your cut within a small square on weak or bruised foes, you’ll absorb their blue fluorescent light bulb vertebras that replenish your health and blade mode meter.

Shattering the glowing spines is thrilling. Japanese calligraphy splashes on the screen to cue you in when backbones are exposed during certain situations. I never grew weary of upsending multiple foes with a sliding kick and hacking underneath the floating bodies like a green golfer unable to drive his teed up Titleist. Failing Revengeance’s surgical moments prove as upsetting as triggering that BUZZ of defeat in Operation, so the repetitive nature of these scenes doesn’t intrude — they heighten the drama. If you miss your window of opportunity, feel free to unleash your aggression and chop foes into as many pieces as you desire (there’s a window on-screen that displays how many slivers you’ve cut if you’d like to keep count). Watch your tears of sorrow transform into tears of joy as you dice dudes like onions.

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Slicing humans, machines, and human-machines like veggies is a natural fit for Raiden; evading patrolling enemies is not. You can toss an EMP grenade to limit their communication capabilities and assassinate soldiers from behind, but come on. Play along and you’ll be rewarded with some extra brownie points to spend on upgrades, but it’s like playing Mario and being rewarded for not jumping. I want to jump. Jumping is fun. Sleuthing past enemies feels wrong when you’re this badass, so, in protest, I let my presence be known. I’m no shadow-hugger like Snake – my name’s Raiden, and I’m here to instill fear, to massacre. Reckless behavior such as this isn’t rewarded but it is (thankfully) tolerated.

Swallowing Revengeance’s frustrations — from nonsensical and intrusive dialogue to hackneyed warehouse and office locales — isn’t a challenging task. It’s a game bereft of fat, introducing new enemies, new bosses, and new locales at a brisk pace. However, for the less-than-five-hour runtime, it’s a bit too lean. Blade mode wears thin. There aren’t a large variety of threats and few require unique approaches. A smattering of difficult optional challenges does not make up for a short adventure.

This brevity is a disservice to Raiden’s potential. More options and greater control introduced throughout an appropriately sized adventure would alleviate these issues. As it is now, Revengeance’s swordplay is like playing checkers with chess pieces — it has all of the components to be stellar, but it lacks the nuance of superior action titles. It ends on a high note, and it’s best left that way.

B-

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