Despite getting a mostly positive reception (and in fact being an awesome game ) there has been some rather odd coverage surrounding the release of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Kotaku, as well as some other blogs and sites, ran a feature on how to play to game as it apparently “does a terrible job of explaining anything to you.” On top of explaining a bunch of basic mechanics for the game, the feature claims that “It’s not your fault that you might be stuck; It’s Platinum’s.” Let’s ignore the fact the writer doesn’t understand how to use a semi colon and focus on the absurdity of the statement itself.
First off, there’s one thing Revengeance can’t really be defended on in terms of conveyance, and that’s how it explains it’s parrying system. Learning to parry is incredibly important for the combat and many of the later boss battles are pretty much impossible if you can’t do it consistently, and although the game does feature a tutorial on it it’s description of it is vague at best and you’re given one guy to practice on who barely attacks you in the first place. Here’s the trick to parrying, you quickly tap the direction of the opponent attacking you along with the light attack button at the right time and it’ll work if done correctly, the game seems to imply you hold the direction and tap the attack button which is not the case. You’ll get it down eventually and although this isn’t great design it’s hardly a game breaker either.
Everything else however, is absolutely fine and as long as you pay proper attention there’s nothing to get lost on, and if you do it’s your own fault. There’s the fact that the AR mode can be used to detect enemies and hidden items, the game very early on informs you that this mode can be used to find your next objective if you get lost so very quickly you’re told of its existence and how to turn it on, just not everything it can be used for. The thing is, when you turn it on you should immediately notice things popping up on the radar and very quickly realise that it’s worth turning on every now and then to scan the arena, and if you didn’t bother to test out a feature of the gameplay that’s shown to you that’s your own damn fault. Furthermore, it’s a little baffling that a video game journalist would seriously criticise a game for not flat out telling you how to find the hidden items, that’s what makes them, y’know, hidden.
Another part of the Revengeance people have complained about is the item and weapon menu and that it’s not explained in tedious detail to you. Okay, this is where I personally love the design of Revengeance, in the first chapter (after the prologue one) there’s a section with enemies that haven’t detected you yet, and directly in front of them there’s not one but two rocket launchers just sitting there for you to pick up. If a game hands you a rocket launcher and your priority isn’t to immediately figure out how to use it then again blame yourself for your own lack of curiosity. You should immediately discover that using the D-Pad opens a menu where you can manage your items (including health items) and weapons, with a description of every single item and weapon you have so you’re not left clueless. Again, your own fault if you didn’t figure this out, Revengeance had faith in your ability to figure basic things out and you failed.
It would be so easy to go on and on about all the tiny things about Revengeance that can be easily figured out without the first two hours by nothing more than PLAYING THE GAME but it’s more worthwhile to ponder, what does this backlash mean for game design? This generation has been absolutely atrocious in terms of design and allowing the player to figure a game out themselves through pure intuitive gameplay, as bigger and better looking as games are getting it’s becoming near impossible to find an organic experience in any of them. Yet, here we have a game that totally lets you figure out practically every part of it for yourself to significantly higher satisfaction but people and so called journalists complain about it.
It’s worth wondering, has the sludge of recent triple A gaming ruined certain aspects of game design? Are people so used to tutorials and hand holding in modern games that they just won’t accept anything else? I would like to say the answer is hopefully no, and the success of games such as Dark Souls is testament to that, but it is worrying that basic elements of game design from the late 80s onwards are being criticised nowadays because people can’t be bothered to deal with not immediately being able to understand and run through a game.
Here’s a bit of game theory, what’s better when you’re trying to learn a new board game or new trading card game? Do you sit down together and all read the rules for hours on end until you’ve got the basics memorised, or is your default option to just start playing it straight away with the rules for reference, and just see how it goes. EVERYONE picks the second option because the first option is simply less fun, it’s so much better to run into something and make mistakes and build your own understanding of the mechanics than to have them drilled into your brain beforehand so there’s nothing to discover on your own.
Metal Gear Rising is awesome, and should not be punished for having faith in its audience to figure out the basics of what is ultimately a pretty simple game. And to the Kotaku writers, that Wolf boss really wasn’t difficult at all, please pay more attention to the games you cover in future.