Friday, 26 October 2012

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Might Actually Be... Good!? Now With Bonus MGS4 Hate!

After finally getting to see some lengthy, high-quality gameplay clips of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, I have to say that I’m very much looking forward to it. The fact that I’m fairly excited for it all of a sudden feels strange and a little bit wrong. My favourite MGS game is the 2nd, mainly due to its incredibly powerful post-modern storytelling, I’m a huge fan of 1 and 3 due to their masterful character development, tense stealth gameplay and willingness to innovate in almost every way and I dislike much of 4 for removing all of these qualities in the name of pandering to the whining, mindless dipshits that make up 99% of the Metal Gear fanbase. Judging from what I’ve seen of Revengeance, it seems to embrace everything I disliked about MGS4 while turning it up to 4000, so why do I seem to like it so much?

I’m guessing that part of my willingness to accept this game stems from the fact that it’s a spin-off, and it seems to be doing exactly what a spin-off should do: Using familiar characters and tropes with new settings and gameplay styles. The dropping of the word “Solid” from the title suggests that it is not supposed to be seen as part of the main series; the Acid games made a similar omission when experimenting with a vastly different style of gameplay. To me, as soon as a title is branded as a “spin-off,” any and all expectations associated with previous entries in the series, outside of a few characters or settings or themes, should be forgotten and the game should be allowed to stand on its own merits.

The fact that Revengeance is a spin-off means that it will have a story almost completely unrelated to the main series. One of the things I hated most about MGS4’s plot was how it so brazenly retconned much of the series past, MGS2 in particular. Giving answers to questions that were designed specifically to not be answered, tying up loose ends that never needed to be addressed and generally taking all of the vast, wonderful intrigue of MGS2 and shitting on it in the name of ridiculous fanservice. MGS4 had the same effect as Bioshock 2; it wasn’t just a bad story in itself, it also made previous games worse by association. So the fact that all of this will be avoided by not connecting the story of Revengeance to the main plot will allow it to be as ridiculous and over the top as it likes without potentially damaging the previous entries in the series. As much as it still feels wrong that Raiden was transformed into a totally badass ninja in MGS4, I’ve pretty much gotten over it and feel that we might as well have him do something cool, now he’s here. I’m apparently one of about 7 people who understood his true purpose of representing the player in MGS2 and everyone else just unironically hates him so it was probably for the best that he’s become a bit cooler anyway. I mean, it’s not like Kojima has all that much integrity left, nowadays. MGS4 was made specifically to passive-aggressively insult his fans, anything after that has to be better, and having the playable character as a ninja is a good first step to achieving that. Which brings me to my next point…

Every gamer has a list of ideas that they would love to see, or would make themselves should they ever become a game developer. Mine features such obvious choices as a GTA-style sandbox featuring pirates and a Dragonball Z game that feels as frantic and involving as the anime, and the 2 at the top of my list are a fast-paced stealth game and a game that genuinely makes you feel like a badass ninja, both of which Revengeance looks set to achieve.

There’s been much outcry from the MGS fan base, or The Cunt Collective as I like to call them, over the fact that the game is “all-action.” Now, aside from the fact that even a Gears of War-style action game with Kirby elements would be fine in a spin-off, the gameplay I’ve seen seems to suggest that stealth is a viable option, allowing the player to either sneak up on guards and slit their throats or rush in for a big sword-fighting fuckfest. In fact, it puts me in mind of the recently released and fucking awesome Dishonored, a title that most reviewers are lavishing perfect scores on like it’s a bacon sandwich that uses more bacon instead of bread. If Revengeance could take this choice-laden style and speed it up a bit, I think we could all agree that it’d make a pretty excellent game.

I like ninja games. They just don’t like me very much. Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi have both kicked my arse so hard it felt like I’d spent a weekend with Jimmy Saville as a child. I’m a big fan of Tenchu and it definitely nailed the stealth aspect of being a ninja but the combat aspect was somewhat lacking, to put it nicely. My point is that there isn’t really a ninja game that makes you truly feel like a badass ninja in both stealth and combat. The aforementioned Dishonored does a fantastic job of making you feel like a badass assassin. The first Metal Gear Solid truly made you feel like a badass secret agent. It seems like such an easy thing to do with ninjas and yet no-one has done it, but the tidbits of Revengeance I’ve seen so far seem set to change that. This part is more speculative than any other; it just looks cool, at this point. It could be like one of those shirts that looks amazing on the hanger but seems designed to prominently showcase your man-breasts when you put it on but I’m nothing if not an optimist!

The simplest reason why I’m looking forward to Revengeance is because, although it looks very different, it also looks fun. Remember that? Remember when games were about just enjoying yourself instead of abusing strangers online for their poor skills or differing opinions? The fact that the game doesn’t look exactly the same as the old ones shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a new one; an idea that seems particularly ludicrous given the critical praise for MGS4, a game that made a conscious effort to step away from the gameplay style of the older MGS games. I have very little problem with change if it results in a good product, Resident Evil 4 is my go-to example of a game that benefited hugely from a complete overhaul. The problem with MGS4 is that the changes were almost universally to the detriment of the experience. I mean, who truly enjoys the shadowing section in Act 3? Or seeing the once vibrant and atmospheric Shadow Moses reduced to a depressing shambles in Act 4? People might tolerate them in the name of convincing themselves the game is perfect as I admittedly one did but they are Just. Not. Fun! Yeah, they were included ironically to insult the fans but ironic awfulness is still awful. The shift in tone in Revengeance looks set to create a fast-paced, thrilling experience, which I’m all for. Different Bad.

An important point to note is the fact that Revengeance seems almost entirely designed to be mindless fun. Just look at the choice of developer: Platinum Games, a company perhaps most famous for creating Bayonetta, a game with all the depth of a fucking teaspoon. Think about it: That was a conscious choice. The message of MGS2 seems all too fitting here; people seem hesitant to question anything. In the same way we should question Raiden’s design in MGS2 or the focus on weaponry in MGS3 or the neutral conflict in MGS4, it’s worth looking at the reasons behind this choice instead of assuming that game design just happens by accident. The fact that Kojima chose a developer focused on creating soulless action titles suggests that he’s abandoned all of his attempts to create something meaningful and is now just making empty action-filled games. My biggest hope for this title is that people realise that it is a mindless action game and treat it as such. MGS4 didn’t contain any messages or themes that weren’t about Kojima’s depression or his hatred of Metal Gear Solid fans and yet people still attempt to analyse it as a serious piece of art in a hilarious and cringeworthy display of ignorance. Hopefully, the choice of developer and game design decision should inform people that Revengeance is a shallow piece of entertainment that is solely meant to be enjoyed as mindless fun. And maybe birds will fly out of my arse and feed me burgers.

Of course, this could be all for nothing. I’m just going off of trailers and tidbits here. Who knows what the full game will be like? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that Kojima used pre-release hype to deceive his fans; Revengeance could turn out to be another sprawling post-modern masterpiece. Speaking as an ardent fan of Kojima, though, I would say that his days of innovation and subversion are, sadly, pretty much over, with any spark of intellectualism beaten out of him by rabid fanboys baying for action, and that Revengeance looks set to be a simple, mindless ninja game. Maybe that’ll be enough. Maybe it will be awesome.

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