Friday, March 1

The Hard Way with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Note: This post contains spoilers for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.

When I finished DmC: Devil May Cry a few weeks ago, the first thing I did was dive into a "Son of Sparda" run - which presented vastly more difficult enemy configurations and a reworked damage model. I put on a brave face for the first mission, but before long, I was up against Butchers as well as Ghost and Blood Rages that broke me and any chance of conquering a greater challenge. I don't think I've ever completed a "Hard" playthrough of any 3D brawler, now that I think about it. I've started quite a few -- even came close to finishing the original Devil May Cry -- but never quite had the resolve or the wits to rise above Normal in anything from Maximo to Bayonetta


Despite reading that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was beyond brutal via the likes of Kotaku and my Twitter feed, I thought I handled its bombastic brand of butchery with aplomb. Sure, I may have only attained a C ranking for my Normal playthrough, but Platinum seemed to be quite punitive with regards to their grading schema. I could only see one C grade on my entire report card (displayed upon completing the campaign) but all of those As and Bs weren't enough to earn me more than a pass overall. Regardless of the mediocre ranking, I felt that post Blade Wolf, I was rarely troubled by the Winds of Destruction or even the monstrous new iteration of Metal Gear that awaited me in the final stage. 

With regards to difficulty, Revengeance plateaus after the duel with the carbon canine on the default setting; which falls roughly half way through the second level or about an hour of play. There are some small spikes in the level of challenge that you'll encounter, but if you can tough out that first real obstacle, then I have faith that you're up to the task of completing the game on Normal.

I found that the flow changed slightly when I ascended the scale for a New Game Plus playthrough. The plateau still hits really early -- earlier in fact -- but so long as you as you parry often and make the most of both Blade and Ripper modes to reap as many spines as possible, you'll survive. Those sword upgrades and an expanded move list help a great deal as well, but you'll need to endure some pain to access the fruits of your lower difficulty labours. What I'm trying to say is, New Game Plus doesn't start until you finish the prologue. "No sweat," you reply, but can your confidence withstand a stronger, more durable Metal Gear Ray? I used the majority of fourteen continues in the first stage of that boss fight. The plasma cannon attack is just shy of an instakill for Raiden without the extra cyborg upgrades, so be sure to avoid Ray's wide, deadly... erm... ray. I learned that the surest way to survive the first two parts of the fight is to slice incoming missiles for repair units. It's tough going, but YouTube, as always, offers a wealth of strategies and revelations if you need them (example: you can parry the immense machine's stomp attacks!).

The level of challenge flatlines once Raiden gets a hold of his new body. The first Blade Wolf can be worn down in seconds, and the encounter with Mistral was a breeze (though I should note that it's just as visually arresting the second time around). I didn't find a need for repair paste for a couple of hours - something I'd have found hard to believe whilst initially coming to grips with Revengeance's fast-paced combat system. 

Monsoon marked the first bump in the road of my Hard run. One of the few boss fights that requires parries from beginning to end, he whittled down my stock of healing items before I cut him into one hundred tiny slivers. He still couldn't take my life though; nor could the doppelgangers, nor could Sundowner. Sam was just as delicate, if not, more so on Normal. All but the final stage was cause for any real concern. Sure, there were some instances where I had to swallow my pride: the minigun turrets couldn't survive the defense of World Mashall's lobby, I Ninja Ran to my death while traversing the rooftops of Denver, the cargo elevator fight knocked me around a bit, and I generally lost a lot more life than I should have when dealing with Mastiffs... at any time.

Metal Gear Excelsus and Senator Armstrong were the only other challenges encountered. Much like the first time I dueled with the screen-hogging mech, the seemingly-open nature of this particular battle caught me unawares and claimed my life a few times. There's a sense of intimacy that goes with battling the Winds of Destruction that is absent here: even though Raiden's still confined to a relatively small area, the vastly greater dimensions of this opponent again proved both disorienting and daunting. It was by luck that I managed to avoid some of Excelsus's more damaging attacks by performing a Zandatsu on one of the Gekkos that are thrown into the field about halfway through the fight. Blade energy and vitality restored, I managed to sneak through to the final showdown with one precious serving of repair paste.

The battle, that is to say the actual fighting against Armstrong, was surprisingly easy. The dodge attack was more effective here than in any other scenario: dealing relatively high amounts of damage and conveniently sidestepping pretty much anything in the muscle-bound politician's repertoire. It did, however, take a few attempts to cut through various parts of Metal Gear Excelsus that were hurled towards me. Having to use both sticks to line up the required angle without prematurely slicing was no small feat as I'd long grown accustomed to mashing square and triangle in Blade Mode without much care for accuracy. A few precise cuts later though and Revengeance came to a spectacularly violent close once again.

What did I earn from my victory? Not a great deal other than some pride and a few trophies that could otherwise have been earned on any other difficulty. I attained the same overall ranking, the same titles and a new skin.

I may not have attained many tangible rewards from this endeavour, but I did find enough confidence to venture into Very Hard. Two Blade Wolves and a Gekko before you even reach the first checkpoint, with no upgrades and no dodge attack. No thanks, Platinum. No thanks.

How do you like your brawlers? Do you prefer the default difficulty setting, or do you thirst for a true challenge? 

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