[24 June 2013]
The Metal Gear is a series already known for its sprawling cast and intricate (or nonsensical, depending on how you look at it) storylines. Metal Gear Solid Rising: Revengeance is itself a spinoff that takes place between the numbered games, but it also has multiple side stories nestled into its timeline. Blade wolf is tells the origin story of the cybernetic wolf, LQ-84i. He was Rising‘s first boss and then later Raiden’s constant, somewhat sarcastic companion. While the Blade Wolf DLC helps flesh out the backstory of why LQ-84i would turn his virtual coat and join Raiden, the in-game scenarios are not as polished as those of Rising‘s campaign.
Rising contained enough stealth sequences to honor its roots, but the bulk of the game was about direct confrontation, which emphasized Raiden’s speed and agility. Blade Wolf leans heavily on stealth sequences and suffers for it. LQ-84i is surprisingly slow and ungainly. He controls sluggishly and his size makes the fact that he can sneak up on enemies difficult to execute and difficult to believe. Enemy vision cones are difficult to decipher, which means a lot of battling instead of sneaking.
I was excited to get into a melee, as I remembered how dangerous and quick LQ-84i was when I fought him as Raiden. Unfortunately, his moves are lumbering and repetitive compared to Raiden’s nimble swordplay. Awkward claw attacks and large tail wind-ups slow the pace of battle and make engaging multiple foes a chore. Perhaps understandably, Blade Wolf assumes you’ve internalized Rising’s combat system, but I still found myself pausing the game to double check the move list and in order to try to test things out. Without a gradual learning curve, re-familiarizing yourself with the controls and the new character’s basic movement roles detracts from the experience.
Despite this, Blade Wolf wastes no time plunging you into deadly situations. After a couple VR missions, you’re facing gorilla-like robots that can end your run with a few hits. Again, this is at odds with how deadly LQ-84i felt when you fought him as Raiden. Despite controlling a half-tank, half-wolf with razor sharp claws and a prehensile chainsaw tale, you’re relegated to skulking about the environment, hoping that the lowliest grunts ignore you. In a game with such a heavy emphasis on stylish combat, it’s a shame that Blad Wolf incentivizes you to ignore it.
This misunderstanding of the game’s strength is most evident in Blade Wolf‘s insistence on platforming sequences. Jumping was the weakest part of Rising and so insignificant that holding down the run button caused Raiden to automatically mantle obstacles with minimal effort. Bladewolf presents numerous jumping sequences that only serve to highlight LQ-84i’s clumsiness. Falling off the same contrived virtual block for the tenth time shatters the illusion that this is one of the most advanced robots ever created.
There are flashes of that unique brand of Metal Gear absurdity, but they are fleeting. Highlights include cutscenes in which Mistral sits on a throne of Dwarf Gekko drones and a boss encounter that actually makes good use of stealth, but sadly these are brief diversions. Blade Wolf’s campaign is roughly 90 minutes and the rest of the game is comprised of VR missions with bland environments and contrived instant-death sequences. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I come to Metal Gear games for the ridiculous stories, and I come to Platinum-developed games for flowing, dynamic combat. Neither of these elements are represented well in Blade Wolf, making it a mediocre dead end in the larger Metal Gear universe.