At the end of of Metal Gear Solid, you defeat the titular death machine and a wacky special forces group. Just when you think it's safely dealt with, the Pentagon decides to stab you in the back and bomb the facility, destroying the evidence of their cloning project and removing you as a loose end. Now instead of that scenario, imagine that the Secretary of Defense appears in person, tears his shirt off to reveal a super ripped bionic X-men style body and you have a hand to hand battle in a volcano with him as he fires lasers from his eyes at you. That in a nutshell is the entire tone here - the older games in this franchise had a lot of anti-nuclear weapons talk, subtle digs at the Military Industrial Complex and various notes about the way soldiers are expendable assets... okay so it's not really that subtle at all. But here they go all out with a one dimensional attack on US foreign policy, pure sledgehammer style. The story itself starts out simplistically as you go after a shady paramilitary group called Desperado but soon goes overboard into child soldier plots involving cybernetic brains and organ theft. There are some mature themes like the consequences of the actions of the protagonist as a mercenary and his troubled past... but the execution is wildly over the top and sometimes veers from serious to cartoon show in a moments notice.
Forgetting their attempts at a narrative for a moment - this is a slasher in the vein of Devil May Cry 3 so gameplay of course is king. It's not all that polished though and the camera can be a little off at times - there's also no real dodge or roll, you have to master the parry or dash moves early on to avoid damage. As it's a Platinum release, the time slowdown gimmick from Vanquish and Bayonetta is back, this time offering a moment of calm amongst the craziness as you slice apart cyborg soldiers, mechs, robotic dogs, helicopters, the scenery, etc - with various rewards to be found for doing with the right amount of precision during the bullet time. Visually it's not bad, this isn't a great looking game as they changed the engine when it's earlier (implausibly eye pleasing) Metal Gear Solid: Rising incarnation was canned. Despite the garish art direction however, the sparse environments mean all this madness is pretty fluid. As a further result of this and other elements it does feel a little rushed and unpolished.
Onto other aspects of the game - you like ridiculous metal soundtracks right? If not, too bad I guess. It's something to think about if that kind of thing grates with you, it's not for everyone though I like some of the tracks as battle tempo and the lyrics are pretty amusing. Enemy variety is pretty nice, from ground troops up to various unmanned machines you have to battle. Stealth is obviously dead as you are a super awesome cyborg killing machine now, but you can do one hit "ninja kills" if you don't get spotted, and clearing an area this way gets bonus points and a thumbs up from you comrades, despite there being zero non lethal means available. Boss fights are fun, and the characters get a few monologues and exchanges (unlike MGS4, puke) even if they are very light weight. That being said, the last battle is almost game breaking and throws all sense of a learning curve out the window... without a full stock of health items it's pretty much impossible without a guide first time around and even then it can be cheap as you take damage during windows of opportunity designed for you to get in hits; and getting certain QTEs to appear is almost a necessity when standard attacks are so useless here.
Despite the weaker writing it's nice to see the return of a full roster of support characters, and there are plenty of optional codec calls to listen to offering backstory, tech insight and character moments as you'd expect - unfortunately most of the voice acting is pretty terrible. Seriously, some of it is really bad. If only the rest of the game offered as much value though, it's around 6 hours long even if you explore to find hidden items and try out a few VR missions as you unlock them along the way. I cite Bayonetta again as the nearest counterpart to this in terms of style, as an action genre game it had a whole lot more replay value, better production values and more missions. While there are a lot of upgrades to buy here; side weapons, secrets and so on, it still feels cut short like they got it together at the last minute and shipped it fast because of the failed original version. Some areas feel reasonably long, but some later chapters are over really quickly despite changing locations offering variety, and visually it's uneven with early levels looking more detailed. Two side characters are playable... but only as DLC missions, which is unfair seeing how both show up and disappear during the story for noticeable periods. Usually in this genre I'd expect them to be useable in the main game story rather than just the costume variants you get here. Overall it's fun if you take nothing on offer here seriously, so if you feel like some cathartic sword action this is a reasonably good time - but for the right price.