Review: Metal Gear Rising Revengeance – Blade Wolf DLC (** stars)

252774-BW1-620x

With my review of the Jetstream Sam DLC put to bed, we find ourselves with the last piece of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance content. You’d imagine Platinum Games would leave us with something rather amazing in its wake, inspiring talk of a sequel, or maybe even continuing the story and game in some unforeseen direction. Metal Gear, after all, usually does both (or, DID both before Kojima flew the coop). Whether changing up its stealth elements from game to game (camouflage in MGS3 and active camo in MGS4 come to mind) or completely destroying your preconceptions of its story (MGS2 blew my mind, let me tell you), it was likely to be good. So what did they do with the Blade Wolf DLC? Also, SPOILERS because you wouldn’t even know who Blade Wolf IS unless you played through the main game.

Hearing that the new DLC would allow us to play Blade Wolf – i.e., the robot dog with a CHAINSAW for a tail – lit a fire under me, I must admit. Whether it appeals to my red-blooded American sensibility or just my love of destroying things in digital world – apparently I am an angry person who channels that into video games if modern psychology has anything to say – this immediately endeared itself to me. Did I ever know I wanted to play a roaming death machines that makes no logical sense in the real world? No more than I knew that I liked it when giant robots beat each other up before seeing it. Do I like the idea? Absolutely!

So what should you expect from a robot dog game? Something innovative? Something amazing? Yes! I should expect this, and why not? Platinum Games does not usually fail to supply its fans with reams of excellent content (even if said content rehashes things already in the game – see Jeanne in Bayonetta, Jetstream Sam in the DLC prior to this, etc). So it was that the relatively content-lite previous DLC inspired a bit of confidence in me. Surely, if anyone could do it, PG could. My hopes were high:

and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5

Metal-Gear-Rising-Blade-Wolf-10

But hey, video games don’t always work this way, and Platinum failed. What you get feels akin to someone grabbing the money out of your wallet, running five blocks, then returning the money because it came from a Monopoly game. In other words, it’s a total cash-in that deceives you at first glance. It ultimately fails to hold a candle to the other content released – yes, even the VR Missions that I don’t even like very much! It’s just bad all the way around.

In the core game, Blade Wolf looks awesome and does awesome things. So what do you do here? Act like you’re playing a Metal Gear Solid game! Using stealth, Blade Wolf navigates his own set of VR Missions as well as re-used assets in his/her/its quests to understand the concept of freedom. Unfortunately for PlatinumGames, they are not well-known for shoehorning dumb and ill-designed mechanics into their works. Whether by corporate pressure or otherwise, that’s what we get from Konami’s end, and this is exactly how Blade Wolf plays.

To give an inkling: Blade Wolf can hold its own in combat to a degree. However, unlike Raiden or Sam, there’s no margin of error. A few hits will stun Blade Wolf, and given his relatively low stamina that’s not a situation you want. Enemies can destroy you in the blink of an eye, and good luck parrying well at first; they definitely made the timing more strict. His move set for combos feels even more restricting – your primary attack does a simple combo, and your secondary does a wider area of affect. Both leave you completely vulnerable if you miss, with no Dodge Offset to save your bacon.

262915115

Also, what’s up with the platforming? Seriously?

Blade Wolf does have a dodge, sure, but like the parry counter, the timing’s more strict and you cannot use it to cancel attacks immediately. Blade Wolf also uses exactly one sub-weapon, that being the Heat Knives. Completely useless in combat, you’ll find yourself using them on aerial enemies exclusively. That’s because, surprise, Blade Wolf’s combat abilities come at the expense of his speed. He needs to do what we call “Hunt Kills”, which amount to Raiden and Sam’s Ninja Kills. Approach an enemy from behind, press your magic context sensitive button, and away you go.

Now, none of this would necessarily constitute a “bad” experience. Stealth games work great if designed properly – that is, with a system that allows you to know when an enemy CAN and CANNOT see you. Mark of the Ninja did this brilliantly through its graphical elements; Metal Gear Solid does this through its radar systems (whatever the story chooses to call them at the time), which becomes an invaluable device for planning your next move. You have lots of options to distract enemies and move around them without detection. It’s in the series’ blood, and obviously Konami wanted to include some sort of bone for the fans who clamored for a new stealth-action experience.

But here’s the key, MGR:R is not a stealth game, and its engine, graphics, camera, and UI do not take this into account when you place a stealth game within it. Imagine my frustration in trying to figure out when an enemy saw me. Sometimes, I’d be completely behind a box or tall object, only to find myself seen. This becomes especially egregious because, unlike in MGS, enemies jump and move between multiple levels at a whim. They’re not separated by corridors or floors, so they can see you from any vantage point as long as they’re looking at your direction.

Furthermore, the camera complicates this in the most extraordinary way. You want to remain undetected? Have fun dying and reloading over and over again. Try memorization, and that MIGHT get you through it without detection. The patterns vary so wildly, and become so hard to see, that you end up with fatigue just by trying to discern any regularity. There’s no distraction, or ways to kill enemies quickly from afar (barring heat knives, but those only work on weak enemies). It’s pure memorization without good options, and it’s egregious in a game that provided so many options in its core incarnation.You can fight enemies, but the game gives you easy S Ranks for Blade Wolf if you 1. aren’t detected and 2. kill all enemies with stealth kills. As you know, this game demands ranked performance, so why fight when it doesn’t want you to fight?

Header-Image

Not that Blade Wolf controls the best either. Question: what’s the worst element to add in a game with a bad camera and loose hit detection designed for fighting? Platforming! My God, the platforming in the VR Mission made me tear my hair out and slam some controllers. Yes, it was for an optional item, and the Jetstream Sam DLC does some platforming stuff, but these are TINY platforms by comparison. To add insult to injury, our robotic canine only jumps once. ONCE. Even Raiden gets to just twice, and even that’s a pain when you need precision. What in God’s name made them imagine this as a fun diversion? For money?

Frankly, it’s a huge disappointment, and there’s no other way to put it. Even the new original boss (which I will not name for SPOILER purpose) barely takes advantage of Blade Wolf’s abilities, and making stealth a part of the fight just begs for trouble – not to mention how unnecessary it feels. This cash-in does not delight me in any way, and I have not touched it since I bought and played it.

That’s a real shame, but we must judge a product on its merits rather than its conceptual brilliance and/or my attachment to a franchise, so I cannot let this slide. There’s just too many mechanical issues and problems that, frankly, don’t add up to a cohesive or enjoyable experience, and for that reason I need to caution most of you to stay far away from the DLC. Whereas Jetstream Sam adds more actual content to the game (even if not integrated very well), Blade Wolf sucks the fun out and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I’d hate that to be our last experience in this particular world. Shame on Konami for pushing this out the door.

For all but the most hardcore story fans (who will get little, if anything, from it), stay far away.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.