RTo anybody with good taste, February’s Metal Gear Rising: Revengeace is easily one of the better titles released this year so far. And for the real cool cats out there, it’s a solid Game of the Year contender. Platinum’s take on Kojima Production’s goofy Metal Gear universe, salvaging the original train wreck, was nothing short of a delight to the nanomachine senses. And because Konami clearly feel the same way, they’ve commissioned Platinum to expand the adventure further with a series of downloadable content packs.
A month or so ago we were introduced to the first pack: expanded VR Missions. Is as it sounds, this very affordable bundle added thirty new VR missions, pitting players against new action and stealth challenges across a host of virtual environments. Reuse of assets was hardly an issue, as the challenges themselves were surprisingly creative, making good use of existing content to keep the formula fresh. Being priced at a couple of bucks certainly didn’t hurt.
But this wasn’t to be the meat of Platinum’s Revegeance DLC. Instead, Platinum had planned at least two character based mission packs, one for Jetstream Sam and another for LQ-84i Bladewolf. To be released separately each of these would have their title character playable with a set of new moves across a series of story focused missions aimed at filling in character back story. Given the latter point, it’s no surprise that both Sam and Bladewolf are the chosen subject matter, their characters arguably more important to Raiden’s adventure than any other.
As of a few days ago the Jetstream Sam DLC is available for purchase and download for about AU$15. Based purely on the aforementioned promises, Jetstreamdelivers exactly as expected. You’ll play as Sam, with his own set of attacks and moves, and you’ll learn a bit more about what drives him towards the main Revengeance narrative. It’s a shame then despite brimming with potential, the first major DLC release from Platinum really struggles to justify its price tag.
Starting with the positives: action brawler aficionados will instantly appreciate the combat system Sam brings to the table. It would have been all too easy (and cheap) for Platinum to simply re-skin Raiden and sprinkle on a few combat tweaks, but they’ve taken the time to build something almost entirely new. The core mechanics of Zandatsu, parry, and dodge are in place, but Sam’s rhythm of attacks have shifted to one based on methodical light swings and well timed charges. In fact, Sam does not have a traditional heavy attack function at all. His iconic gun-sheath takes its place, allowing for either quicker explosive slices or longer charges. These charges are integrated into combo strings, allowing Sam to unleash charged forward thrusts, explosive area attacks, and even ranged energy slices based on preceding light attacks. Throw in a double jump, air dodge, and cartwheel roll, and you’ll find that not even base similarities will let players ease into Sam, and I mean this in a good way. Most will need to re-learn the system of play, and get a better feel for Sam’s methodical, Samurai-like combos and combat potential.
And it goes deeper. Unlocking ripper mode turned Raiden into an unstoppable monster, but Sam has none of that. Instead, in good faith to his playful character, Sam is able to commit to taunting enemies, an actual game mechanic that sends enemies into both a state of aggro while also debuffing their defenses. Taunting makes targeted opponents more aggressive and damaging, yet balances this by weakening them to your attacks, not too far removed from ripper mode’s insta-slice benefits.
As you can imagine, the taunting system combined with Sam’s combat rhythm makes for a surprisingly unique feel to every encounter, as the approach is entirely different. The risk/reward payoff of taunting becomes essential in some of the tougher fights where enemies are able to take a ridiculous amount of damage, which additionally increases the necessity to chain in high damage dealing charge attacks. Players who love to indulge in action brawler combat systems, discovering creative ways to dispatch enemies with utmost efficiency, are really going to appreciate the lengths Platinum have gone to here. Making Sam play unique was the most important obstacle to overcome, and they’ve succeeded.
And now comes the bad: with the exception of Sam himself, Jetstream is almost entirely composed of recycled content. I’m sure most people, myself included, expected some recycled assets, whether they be enemy types or environment set pieces. But Jetstream is overkill. You’ll fight the same enemies you fought inRevengeance, in the same areas too. Remember the sewers? Prepare to go through them again, from a different angle. There’s some remixing here and there, but by and large Sam’s environment layouts are ripped straight from the main game, attempting to ride off the back of revised enemy encounters using existing enemies. Yes, you’ll fight those mechanised water striders in the sewers. Because that’s exactly what you did in Revengeance.
Jetstream has the benefit of Sam’s unique skill system, and Revengeance in general playing so damn well makes the encounters themselves just as enjoyable as ever, but it’s very disappointing to see so very little new encounter content. Jetstream even recycles a number of bosses from the main game. They’re still a lot of fun to fight, and their aggression has been boosted to better accommodate Sam’s combat flow (and for added punishment), but it’s all very much been-there-done-that. There’s basically nothing truly new in the level and encounter design, except for the remixing of who-goes-where.
Length and replay value is also an issue, moreso the latter. Jetstream is short, as expected coming off the back of an equally time restrained main game, but is also devoid of any combat unlockables and “new game plus” style continuation. Acquiring new weapons and moves drove Raiden through his adventure, but none of those, with the exception of a few health upgrades and data cubes, are here for Sam. What you see is all you’ll get. A couple of Sam specific VR missions accompany the main quest, which is nice, but I mean “accompany” in the strictest sense. Activating these missions must be done during play of his adventure, and thus cannot be accessed from the main VR menu. I don’t understand why this is, especially given the VR mission pack logically expanded the VR menu with new options. As it stands, the only way you’ll experience Sam’s VR missions is to play them in the middle of other missions.
To Platinum’s credit, Jetstream‘s narrative is backed with high production fully voiced pre-rendered cinematics, not unlike the main game. And, as promised, they divulge more on what drives Sam to be the warrior he is, and what lead to him replacing an organic arm with cybernetics. There’s a decent amount of story there that should please those enveloped in the Metal Gear universe. But I’m not sure this is enough to justify the entry price. At AU$15, Jetstream has fallen victim to typical Australian price hiking, and as usual it’s totally unjustified. At a lower price, recycled content would be far less of an issue, but it’s hard to stomach when we’re paying AU$5 more than those in the United States.
And it’s a shame too, because there’s nothing really offensive about the way Jetstream plays. I really cannot sing higher praise for the way Sam himself, as an original game mechanic, has been designed. And, as said, the combat in Revengeace is so well envisioned that doing it all over again from a different perspective is hardly unappealing. Dedicated Revengeance fans will enjoy Jetstream plenty, and talented players will get a kick out of mastering Sam’s moveset. However, value is still worth considering. At a fair AU$10 or less this would be money well spent, but at its current Australian price Jetstream just doesn’t cut it.
Original combat system for Sam | Cinema production values | Fun as always
Heavy content recycling | Overpriced