The first two words of this game's title trigger thoughts of stealth action, sprawling tales of global conspiracy and a kind of stylized hero who's always been ready for the big screen. That's why the last two words (Rising and Revengeance) are so important in understanding the departure Metal Gear Rising Revengeance is making and how successfully it has arrived. Once the decision is made to keep this game in the world Solid Snake made famous, yet focus it purely on the action and combat of Raiden (a character that's been around for more than a decade now) there are a lot of smart decisions and hard work involved in making all of those things work. So, yes, there are still giant walking weapon platforms that would cause Metal Gear Solid players to crap themselves throughout extended boss battles. However, now you've got a cyborg ninja who's going to engage those walkers up close and personal instead of hiding and shooting. The folks at Konami have made the whole thing work wonderfully so that we're getting solid, scaling combat action that's accessible yet very rewarding for those who persevere and it's all done in an environment with characters and dialog that seem charmingly familiar.
You have to keep moving in Revengeance because you're always facing imposing opposition. If you ever end up one on one with a low-level foot soldier enemy, it's because you've disposed of four more just like him and/or a couple of menacing walkers who area always bigger and nastier than you. The size of the enemies is important in MGRR because it triggers very specific instincts in you as a player throughout the game. The ridiculous bowling-balls-with-three-arms drones always attack in packs with the specific task of distracting you from a pack of rocket launcher troops or several giant gorilla mechs who like to toss Raiden around like a rag doll. Similarly, entering a room with a giant tour-bus-sized transforming walker justifiably makes you want to run and hide, but you're only delaying the inevitable when you do: you're going to have to fight this thing and earn your victory one health point at a time and there's not shortcut to be had.
This game may come off as too difficult for some weaker willed gamers, but I say this is Revengeance's strength because of all the support you'll get. Upgrading Raiden's weapons beyond the extremely satisfying High Frequency Blade is rewarding in that you'll simply look cooler using powerful tsais to stab enemies to death or a 15-foot pole to vault and slap enemies from across a room. Other specialized grenades and equipment that look and feel like gear Solid Snake would use are welcomed but not necessary. You can fight the good fight slicing and fighting with your basic move set and weapons and get very deep into this game. It'll take longer, yeah, but MGRR is a game that seems to celebrate gamers who like doing things the hard way. Upgrades and cool moves are more for style points than anything.
I have to mention how much Revengeance feels like a Ninja Gaiden game because it's absolutely true. The grinding, 1980s heavy metal soundtrack and pure venegeance-story-as-narrative approach to the cutscenes does just enough to put Raiden and Metal Gear Rising Revengeance on its own firm footing though. The innovative Blade Mode that gives you control over the angle, plane and speed of your sword swings works brilliantly and is well applied throughout. Just jump in, get to slicing and enjoy those dramatic anime-style victory moments like you're supposed to and everything will be fine.
Do not get Metal Gear Rising Revengeance if: you think a Metal Gear game is only supposed to be bullets and head bands; you never accepted Raiden as anything more than a girly Japanese action game equivalent of Robin to Solid Snake's Batman; you think walking weapon platforms are stupid; you think games should be easy and repetitive; you're afraid of sharp, slicing objects; you don't like boss or miniboss battles or you're intimidated by the game's title.
Get Metal Gear Rising Revengeance if: you like tough challenges and generous gameplay rewards; you've always wanted to slice directly through an enemy and watch as his body fell to pieces in the aftermath of your vicious strike; you like taking down walking mechs of different sizes, strength and speed by the dozen; you have any interest in cyborg ninjas whatsoever or if you like playing kick ass action games to a rock and roll soundtrack.
Star Rating (out of four): Four Stars