Flawed ‘Metal Gear Rising’ still fantastic fun

As a huge fan of the “Metal Gear” series, “Metal Gear Rising” was one of my most anticipated games for 2013.

Even with the change of focus from stealth gameplay to a more action-oriented approach, I couldn’t wait to experience another installment of one of my favorite franchises and delve deeper into the lore of “Metal Gear.”

What I got was an outright flawed game that somehow ended up being one of the most fun and over-the-top games I’ve ever played.

Created by PlatinumGames Inc., “Metal Gear Rising” is a hack-and-slash style game, which is a change from the usual stealth-focused gameplay.

The story takes place four years after the events of “Metal Gear Solid 4,” with the player taking over the role of the cyborg ninja, Raiden, who was the protagonist in “Metal Gear Solid 2” and a major supporting character in “Metal Gear Solid 4.”

The story begins with Raiden on a mission to protect the president of an unnamed country when the members of a militant group known as Desperado kidnap the president.

In his efforts to stop Desperado, Raiden uncovers their plans, which include starting a war by killing numerous world leaders and creating an army of cybernetic child soldiers.

The story doesn’t delve further into the series’ lore beyond the technological advancements already in “Metal Gear Solid 4,” which makes the story more accessible to those who may not be familiar with the rather complicated story of “Metal Gear.”

One of the challenges faced by the designers at PlatinumGames in creating “Metal Gear Rising” was to give players the satisfaction of feeling like they were actually controlling Raiden as a ninja, the way he appeared in the cutscenes of “Metal Gear Solid 4.”

So, does the game succeed in this regard? I’d have say that it absolutely does.

The combos in this game utilize light and heavy attacks in order to take out opponents.

The weapon for heavy attacks is changeable, starting with the default sword at the beginning of the game, with Raiden gaining the weapons of bosses he defeats as optional replacements.

Another ability within Raiden’s arsenal is the Zandatsu mechanic. When enabling Zandatsu, Raiden is frozen in place while the rest of the game goes into bullet time.

By moving the right stick of the controller in any direction, Raiden will cut in that same direction. If the player manages to hit certain weak spots, a small quick time event will flash.

If the player successfully completes this quick time event, Raiden will absorb the energy of opposing cyborgs and restore himself back to full health and Zandatsu energy.

In terms of making the player feel that Raiden is as awesome as he was in the cutscenes of “Metal Gear Solid 4,” the Zandatsu mechanic is only the tip of the iceberg.

Within the first minutes of the game, Raiden is tasked with destroying a rogue Metal Gear Ray (a giant robot, hundreds of feet tall). What occurs throughout this encounter is just as ridiculous, if not more, than anything that Raiden has done previously.

Not only does Raiden pick up the entire robot and throw it, but he jumps onto a series of missiles in order to reach the robot to finish it off. It is sequences like this that make players feel like the game achieved its purpose in that regard.

However, the combat system, while fun, has a few issues. For starters, the developers decided to map the block mechanic onto the same button as light attacks.

The only way to perform a block is to press the light attack button while simultaneously pointing the left stick toward the opponent you are attempting to block.

The way this block mechanic was designed makes the combat system extremely exploitable.

By constantly jamming forward on the left stick and frequently pressing the light attack button, the player essentially becomes unhittable while still being able to deal damage, as the block will only activate if an opponent is actually attacking.

The amount of quick time events needed to kill enemies is another annoyance, as is the game’s upgrade system.

The game allows for the player to purchase new combos for them to perform, but doesn’t give the player any indication of how to actually perform the combo they just purchased.

Additionally, the stealth mechanic that is used in the game is barely functional, seemingly shoehorned into the game purely because it’s a “Metal Gear” title.

All in all, despite the glaring flaws of gameplay, it’s amazing how much fun there is to be had in “Metal Gear Rising.”

While it may feel easy due to the broken blocking mechanic and the constant full-heals that Zandatsu gives the player, the game ends up being so entertaining that it’s easy to forget your frustrations when you’re cutting an entire helicopter into tiny bits.