The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Gamer's Corner column [The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa]
(Hawk Eye, The (Burlington, IA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 10--"Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance" available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Rated "M" for Mature. $59.99
Like a lot of long time "Metal Gear" fans, I could write a book about how loopy video-game plots eat away at my limited brain matter. If you know what's going on in a "Metal Gear" game, then you've devoted way more time to understanding nonsense than any normal person should.
Thankfully, this latest spin-off in the "Metal Gear" series isn't nearly as hard to understand as its predecessors. But with a goofy title that includes the made-up word "Revengeance," it's just as whacky. Think "Dragon Ball Z" meets "Rambo: First Blood, Part 2", mixed with a dash of computer science textbooks and buckets of blood.
It's the kind of crazy I love.
Players take on the role of Raiden, a former soldier turned mercenary, who played a vital role in "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty" and "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots."
This time around, though, his weapon of choice is a ninja sword.
The back story behind the "Metal Gear" franchise is far too convoluted to sum up in a book, much less a column. Just be content with the knowledge that franchise hero Solid Snake destroyed a super secret network of self-aware artificial intelligence units that were controlling the world's war economy.
"Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance" takes place four years later, when the need for PMCs (Private Military Companies) are at an all-time low. Raiden is still finding work as a mercenary thanks to a cybernetic body that grants him superman strength and agility. When a group of equally powerful mercenaries show up and kill the prime minister of Libya while he's under Raiden's protection, all hell breaks loose.
That may sound like a lot of story for a frantically paced hack-and-slash game, but it's about par for a "Metal Gear" title. This spin-off is an intense dichotomy between balls-to-the-wall action and lengthy philosophical conversations, representing a true collaboration between Platinum Games (the designers behind "Bayonetta") and Kojima Productions, which has been in charge of the "Metal Gear" franchise since it started.
It's kind of a trippy experience for longtime "Metal Gear" fans. This looks and sounds like a "Metal Gear" game, but it plays a lot more like "Devil May Cry." Stealth opportunities are limited, and combat is full of multi-hit combos that involve juggling baddies through the air. The game play is as smooth as silk, and the shiny graphics are among the best I've seen in any game.
What truly sets this title apart are the slow-motion kills that allow Raiden to instantly replenish his health. As time slows down, a hollow red square appears over a section of the enemy's body, indicating where you need to slash to cut the baddie in half. Raiden's katana is independently operated with the right analog stick in this mode, which makes the slicing and dicing a bit challenging at first. The reward is well worth it, though, making it possible to endlessly chain together enemy kills.
As you probably can guess by that description, this is in an incredibly bloody game, full of severed limbs and torsos. It's all handled in a very over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek manner, akin to a good Quentin Tarantino splatter film like "Kill Bill." Even the five-story tall robots Raiden is forced to battle bleed like stuck pigs when they're cut in half.
If you stick solely to the action and skip through the lengthy dialogue scenes, this is a rather short game that can be finished in about six hours. For non-"Metal Gear" fans who want to milk this game for the exquisite combat, that would be the way to play it.
But if you're a "Metal Gear" fan, you're going to want to listen to the optional, lengthy conversations that Raiden has with his support staff. That may sound a little odd to those who aren't familiar with the series, but those never-ending heart-to-hearts have been a trademark of the series since "Metal Gear Solid" was released for the original Playstation back in 1998. You'll learn way more than you ever wanted to know about cybernetics and nanomachines, but there's quite a bit of back- story buried in those conversations.
Though the over-bloated plot surrounding the core action will only appeal to a certain niche of gamers, the incredibly fast-paced combat system should be experienced by everyone. The developers over at Platinum Games are masters of their craft, and their attention to detail shines through every digital pore of "Metal Gear Rising Revengeance."
A must play.
Three-and-a-half out of Four Stars
"Crysis 3" available for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. Rated "M" for Mature. $59.99
Regular readers know what a big softie I am when it comes to critical analysis. More often than not, my game reviews end with a score of "Three-and-a-half out of Four stars."
But I just can't fall in love with "Crysis 3," no matter how highly other game critics think of it. It's empty, soulless, and worst of all, boring. And that's coming from a huge fan of "Crysis 2."
Technically, there's nothing really wrong with "Crysis 3." The graphics are prettier than ever, the game play is tight and responsive, and the cloaking power still makes that cool "Predator" sound when you engage it. The first-person-shooter action is as fluid as the previous games, which makes slaughtering the intelligence-deficient enemies incredibly easy.
That didn't stop my eyes from glazing over after spending 30 minutes in the poorly designed levels. "Crysis 3" has everything going for it except a compelling atmosphere, and that fatal flaw is enough to suck all the fun out of this much-anticipated title.
The player once again assumes the hero from the first "Crysis," Prophet, whose personality and memories are stored in a Nanosuit that serves as the centerpiece for the game. Throughout the single-player campaign, you can continually upgrade the suit to make Prophet run faster, hit harder, absorb more damage and stay cloaked for longer. There also are a staggering amount of options when it comes to customizing the wide variety of firearms, but most of it is unneeded. How many different ways do you need to fire a shotgun
Story never has been a strong suit for the "Crysis" series, which is painfully evident from the ham-fisted opening. The plot has something to do with the return of the alien invasion that was stopped at the end of "Crysis 2," but the poor voice acting and stilted action-movie dialogue do little to provoke further interest.
It may be unfair to criticize a plot device used in hundreds of other video games, but the best games stretch beyond their cliched stories to create something unique, usually through a combination of character design, game play and atmosphere. "Crysis 3" feels more like a hollow template for a potentially good game, flailing to find original qualities of its own.
In an industry defined by sequelitis, too many good game developers are unfairly criticized for playing it safe. "Crysis 3" should serve as a warning for what happens when familiar game play axioms turn stagnant.
It might as well have been titled "Generic First-Person Shooter."
Two out of Four Stars
(c)2013 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)
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