- "It is said, all dogs have their day."
The Blade Wolf DLC released yesterday, and as a fan of the Metal Gear franchise, I felt obligated to buy it and share my opinions on it. Much like the Jetstream DLC, most of the content here is recycled, from enemies to environment. What we do get however, is a very different play style from the first two, which makes this one worth looking into to.
Playing as Wolf gives us fresh take on Platinum’s tight hack-and-slash mechanics, but it’s still the same old song and dance, so don't expect too drastic of a change. At its core, the character action gameplay is largely the same, though it has been simplified. Wolf’s movements aren't as fluid as Raiden or Sam’s, but his lack of a ninja run does allow for some proper, if basic, platforming. Sadly, Wolf’s moveset isn't nearly as robust as Raiden’s, and even Sam had more combos. In addition, the player has access to Bladewolf's signature heat knives, but these are mostly just thrown in as an afterthought because hey, the fans expected it. These knives have almost no utility in combat and only deal "superficial damage". Still, the simple gimmick of running around as a robot dog with a chainsaw hunting cyborgs may be enough to carry this $7 add-on.
One thing that has changed is how the player approaches combat. Whereas the base game had stealth as an afterthought, it feels slightly more fleshed out and feasible and is far more enjoyable here than anywhere else in the game. The player is frequently put into situations that encourage them to go for a no clear status, and with some rote memorisation and a bit of trial and error, the player can naturally go from one enemy to another, feeling like a predator as they stealth kill each one. In fact, the stealth here almost reminds me of the original Metal Gear Solid, where simply staying out of the line of sight is the most important factor.
Like I said, most of the content here is regurgitated, with a slight twist. The first fights take place within VR realisations of the African nation from the beginning of the base game, and later Denver. These are more of the same dull environment we've seen from before, which didn't wow anybody the first time around. The only real difference here is how the virtual reality environment intermingle with the original level. This is used to full effect to create a proper platforming section that actually gelled well with the gameplay in Metal Gear Rising.
Optional VR missions are back, though they seem to be slightly altered versions of existing ones. Like the ones in Jetstream, they are accessed in-game rather than the main menu, meaning the player takes their items with them. This is somewhat of a double-edged blade, as this means the player has a higher chance of success, but that they can also lose items that could be of greater benefit later. Of course, completing one will net the player a stat boost, which can be useful in the long run.
Being a side story, Blade Wolf can't really advance the plot too much. It could have, however, given us deeper insight into the characters. Unfortunately, we don't really learn anything about Mistral or Wolf beyond how the latter is struggling to understand the concept of freedom. Most of the cutscenes involve her being an over-sexualised dominatrix, with plenty of the gratuitous T&A shots for which Platinum and Kojima Productions are known. The plot here is pretty forgettable, and unlike Jetstream, there aren't any cool reveals or funny nods to the main game. What we have here is an isolated incident with no impact on the plot, which is fine if you really like LQ-84i, I suppose. I for one got a kick out of it, though I wish they could have given us a bit more insight into the characterisation of Wolf and Mistral.
One thing I did appreciate was the introduction of a brand new character just for this add-on. Sadly, he gets absolutely zero characterisation and development, so he could hardly be called a character. He's completely unlikable, his personality is paper-thin, we learn nothing about him, and he only exists to give us a new boss fight which, ironically, may be this add-ons biggest selling point if you're still on the fence. Unlike the last add-on, which gave us three reprisals of old bosses, we get one brand new boss fight that feels unique, yet still follows the same formula as other bosses. It wasn't as epic as those fights, but it’s nice to at least get a new enemy and music to accompany him.
Much like the previous add-on, the Blade Wolf DLC doesn't have a lot of new content to offer. It's a short romp through familiar territory than can be beaten in roughly and hour or two tops. Like Sam, Blade Wolf cannot be customised, and the exclusion of any additional modes aside from a few throwaway VR missions really hampers the replay value. I think there's a lot of unexplored ideas that are ripe for Metal Gear Rising to exploit, and I still have high hopes for this spin-off series. I'd still like to see that prequel to Metal Gear Solid 4 at some point, and it even mentions fighting with Sam on three missions. These are side stories that can and should be explored, so I hope this isn't the end of this game's life cycle.
For $7 you could certainly do a lot worse than Blade Wolf. If you are hardcore Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance fan, you aren't going to be very disappointed. Even if it did turn out to be more of the same, this add-on was short and sweet, and left me with a good taste in my mouth. If you're looking to Zandatsu some more cyborgs, this time with a chainsaw, this is probably worth your time and money.