EDITORIAL: What Happens If MGS5 Is As Poorly Written As MGS4 or Peace Walker?

I’ve been a massive Metal Gear fan, since MGS2: Sons of Liberty. I’ve played every game released with the words ‘Metal’ and ‘Gear’ in the title, except for the god awful Kojima-less MG2: Snake’s Revenge. I love this series for all its flaws as well as its strengths. But nobody will ever convince me, except maybe through the use of hypnosis or mind control, that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was anything less than an unmitigated disaster.

If I could describe that game in one word, it would be ‘bloat’: the story, the dialogue, and the cutscenes all suffered from a rare case of video game-based elephantitis. To make matters worse, MGS4 takes its sweet ass time doling out its way-too-verbose exposition: you famously don’t even touch the controller for the first half hour. The ending cutscene is over an hour long. AN HOUR.

 

metalgearsolid4_gotp
(All that sequel baggage gives Old Snake a backache.)

 

Shakespeare famously said that “brevity is the soul of wit”. Well, there’s no brevity, let alone wit, to be found in this turgid marathon of expository dialogue, over the top action scenes, and babbling nonsense that somehow passes for story development. MGS4, in terms of being a compelling gameplay experience, essentially ends after Act 2. For the rest of the game, virtually every element that made the previous MGS games work is jettisoned for a style of pompous, indulgent, jibberish-laden over the topness; the likes of which someone like Michael Bay could only gawk at, dumbfoundedly. Perhaps most shocking of all, MGS4 made it seem like Kojima forgot the very elements that made his previous three games in the series so wonderful.

Sure, Peace Walker was a big step up – especially since the emphasis there was in gameplay, and not story. But even Peace Walker had some major problems and disappointments in its story, setting, and dialogue. What I’m getting at here is simple: how do we know MGS5 isn’t going to be a major disappointment in the story department? What do we do if this game makes absolutely no sense, like MGS4 – or relies too heavily on sequel baggage and forced nostalgia like both Peace Walker and Guns…? As much as it pains me to say it – considering how long and hard KojiPro (RIP) worked on this game, and how stunning it looks in the various gameplay demo videos released online – I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried MGS5 won’t be hot garbage in the story, dialogue, and general presentation department once released.

MGS_PhantomPain-20

Metal Gear Solid 4 and Peace Walker both were excellently designed video games in terms of gameplay mechanics – please don’t misunderstand. They are fun to play, and enjoyable enough to sit through if you’re a big enough fan of Kojima’s series as a whole. And Peace Walker actually presented many of its themes admirably – at times reminding me of Kojima at his best. That all being said, neither of these games had plots, characters, or dialogue anywhere near the quality established by Metal Gear Solid, MGS2, and MGS3. Though both MGS4 and Peace Walker were in many respects entirely different games, there’s one major commonality between the two that I fear will rear its ugly head in MGS5: blatant fan service.

When I say ‘fan service’, I mean elements of the plot or dialogue that serve no purpose other than to indulge the hardcore fans with some heavy nostalgia. Nostalgia is fine in small amounts – but look at MGS4. The plot is so busy integrating and connecting the entire Metal Gear franchise together, it never gets around to crafting a compelling tale that can stand on its own. A momentary nod to a previous game is totally fine – like in the opening of Snake Eater, when Big Boss does the same pose as Solid Snake from the intro to Sons of Liberty. That was acceptable- because it happens for a moment, then goes away to allow the plot of MGS3 to begin. Y’know, as a standalone story that works on its own level rather than merely recreating all the same moments from other Metal Gear games.

Compare this minor moment to the overload of nostalgia presented in Guns of the Patriots. Snake and Ocelot duking it out, just like Liquid and Snake did in MGS? Check. The pointless-beyond-fanservice return of characters like Meryl, Psycho Mantis, Vamp, and Rose? Check. Way, way, over the top fight between Metal Gear Rex and Metal Gear Ray? Check. The return of Arsenal Gear? Check. If it happened in MGS 1-3, it probably was called back to in MGS4. I’m sorry, but that’s just lazy writing. We need more than references to care about a story – if we want to relive those moments, we can replay those games for pete’s sake!

REX_VS_RAY
(What’s next, Snake fights Rambo? Maybe the X-Men?)

This thought clearly never occurred to Kojima and Shuyo Murata, since their game is chock full with little other than flashbacks. Flashbacks, flashbacks, and more flashbacks: MGS4 is drowning in em! I understand that Guns of the Patriots was aiming to be the big finale to the entire series: but did we really need so many revisits to previous locations, characters, and moments? The entirety of Act 4 takes place IN the ruins of Shadow Moses – was that entirely necessary? And don’t even get me started on the big Rex vs. Ray showdown. If the scene in your game could have just as easily shown up in an amateur work of fan fiction, it’s probably a good sign your game will only appeal to die hard fans whose critical thinking is being drowned out by all the nostalgia feels.

And Peace Walker had a similar issue: the entire game follows Big Boss as he chases the ghost of his mentor, The Boss. Remember Snake and the Boss’s relationship? Just in case you forgot, or couldn’t be bothered to fire up your copy of Snake Eater, you have 75% of Peace Walker to relive their essential dynamic all over again! Even more galling, in Peace Walker we’re given the laziest-written of any MGS character with Huey – Otacon’s father, who is conveniently voiced by the same actor, just in case people missed Hal’s voice.

Even the return of Kazuhira Miller is a big nostalgia trip for fans of Metal Gear Solid (PSX). I wouldn’t be so against Miller as a character if he didn’t – through both Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes – incessantly yammer on about the basics of sneaking and CQC to ostensibly the most formidable soldier in the entire world.

maxresdefault

Why can’t Kojima write any new characters? You’d almost think it’s easier reintroducing tried and true characters than, you know, coming up with new and independent plotpoints and characterization. Oh wait, that’s exactly the case.

To his credit, the last couple of independent characters Kojima created were hated by most of the diehard fans – from Chico to Rose to Raiden, these are not typically thought of as fan favorites. Maybe Kojima feels the pressure to give people what they want, considering how much controversy his fantastic yet strange MGS2 received. Though I can sympathize, acquiescing to the demands of rabid fans never makes for good art. And that’s why I’m worried about The Phantom Pain.

What we’ve seen so far in the trailer is enough to make me nervous.

A young Ocelot, two kids that look like they’ll probably be young Snake and Liquid, and the Ground Zeroes villain that still looks lame and un-intimidating(Skull Face) don’t inspire the greatest of confidence. And when you watch the trailer, which is more interested in spouting a bunch of long-disproven theories of linguistics rather than telling us anything about the plot, there’s some evidence that MGS5 may have been written with the same kind of devil-may-care, editor-less chutzpah of MGS4. Then again, it may be just a creative method of telling us a bit about the game’s themes indirectly.

I can only hope so – since, amazing New Order song aside, this trailer hints towards another Kojima game full of heady philosophizing. If this goes the route of MGS2 or MGS, by giving us a unique and compelling story that sets a new bar for narratives in video games, then obviously I’ll be happy. But if it goes the route of MGS4, I may again find myself regretting out loud that the series didn’t end with MGS3. Or at least, that Kojima didn’t hire a brave enough editor to call him on his purple prose.

Which brings me to the second major worry: that The Phantom Pain will rehash some of that frustratingly awful writing in Guns of the Patriots. These games have always carried a rep for being a tad convoluted – but I’d wager there are soap opera sagas with less needlessly complex plot points, character arcs, and dialogue.

Ocelot’s whole ‘I’m Liquid’ thing is a ruse to fool the Patriots? Ok, sure. The Patriots have been replaced by AI systems, which run the world? Why not? The original Snake Eater team became the original Patriots, with Sigint being the DARPA chief  Snake eliminated with FOXDIE in Metal Gear Solid? The big deus-ex machina computer program is called Fox Alive? Every nation on Earth is totally fine with outsourcing all their military forces to private mercenary firms? Everyone’s hooked up to nanomachines, which can basically be used as a mcguffin to solve every conceivable plot wrinkle? Big Boss’s corpse that you see burned in the river in Act 3 was actually Solidus, because of reasons? Nanomachines? More Nanomachines? Naomi’s stupid looking outfit? Meryl and Johnny Sasaki’s wedding? Drebin’s convoluted role in all this? My head hurts just remembering all this prolix nonsense. If it isn’t outright laughable, it’s because the plot point in question is too convoluted to make fun of. That is a serious problem that was assuaged partially in Peace Walker. Partially, but not entirely.

The strongest narratives in the Metal Gear franchise are found in MGS and MGS3, and it’s no coincidence that these are also the cleanest, simplest plots as well. A guard revolt at a secret nuclear facility? Easy to grasp. Crazed bad guys have superweapon and need to be eliminated? No problem deciphering that riddle. Contrast these to-the-point yet awesome set ups with the basic premise of MGS4: A bad guy is trying to control the AI system that runs the world’s war economy, which is bad –  even though the world is now a dystopia being run by a shadowy secret group that are really machines and… oh, God, I can’t even. You try to summarize MGS4 if you want, I think it’s impossible without just telling the entire story of the game. How did this game average a 94 on Metacritic? Seriously!

In Peace Walker, the narrative problems were less serious – but the plot felt completely phoned in. Sure, I appreciate the pro-peace themes and monologues: but as I said, a huge chunk of the game is spent rehashing the ending of MGS3. The Doctor Strangelove character feels out of place and poorly written, even if I’ll admit building ZEKE was a pretty cool spin on the Metal Gear Solid storyline.

It’s possible that seeing the man once known as Naked Snake finally transform into the legendary Big Boss in The Phantom Pain will be a compelling narrative experience. But the issue with this – from the general premise of the game down to Paz in Peace Walker working as a double agent for Cypher –  is that all of these games are tainted by the awful legacy of MGS4. And since MGS5 is, like Peace Walker, another prequel, I don’t see how Kojima can avoid this all over again. Everything is set up to build up to Guns of the Patriots, and its basic premise that Ocelot and Major Zero are at war over how best to honor the Boss’s memory. And like the Star Wars prequels, having the final outcome of your story already set in stone doesn’t exactly make for the most exciting storyline.

By the way: does this huge plot point (the war between Ocelot and Zero) even make a shred of sense? I get that Boss is Ocelot’s mom, and that he wants to serve her memory well. But why does Zero even care? Shouldn’t it be Big Boss against Ocelot over the legacy of the Boss? That would make way more sense, since Big Boss was as emotionally invested in the Boss as Ocelot. What’s more, would the Boss really want either a dystopian nightmare version of society or Lord of the Flies-style anarchy for the planet? Wasn’t her whole thing more about bringing longstanding peace than anything else? Why are so many people clamoring to make huge decisions on the global scale in the Boss’s name who don’t even appear to understand what she stood for in the first place?

412267_10150807907815986_285152375985_9969850_1073620005_o
If only the Boss could travel forward in time and tell off her idiot protégées

 

The Boss was loyal, not a revolutionary. She was a soldier, not a politician. Yet in MGS4 we are told that everything from the Patriots to the PMCs were set up with Boss’s ideals in mind. How do any of these games make sense now that MGS4 has ruined them all? How can a new Metal Gear surmount the narrative roadblocks that MGS4 imposes?

Don’t get me wrong – there’s no chance MGS5 will be less than stellar when it comes to gameplay and general design. Kojima always makes addictive, supremely enthralling video games despite whatever narrative shortcomings they are inevitably saddled with. But I remember when the name ‘Metal Gear Solid’ carried the reputation of having some of the best writing in gaming. And since Guns of the Patriots, that reputation has been steadily changing to ‘most unedited writing in gaming’. I don’t know about you, but from where I’m sitting that isn’t an improvement.

Konami Prevents YouTuber from Asking about Kojima, Microtransactions

Things just keep getting worse for Konami. After they pissed off the entire gaming industry by canceling Silent Hills, removing P.T. from the Playstation Store, and attempting to remove creator Hideo Kojima’s name from promotional materials for the upcoming MGSV: The Phantom Pain, they also got into hot water for trying to stifle youtube channel Super Bunnyhop’s insider reporting on the state of the company. Now, Konami is yet again attracting negative press for its attempts to prevent prominent youtuber AngryJoe from even saying Kojima’s name in an interview.

In a follow-up Vlog regarding the interview, AngryJoe reveals that he was taken aside by Konami officials prior to recording and instructed in exactly what could and could not be said. Most prominently, AngryJoe was forbidden from mentioning Kojima at all – and when AngryJoe alludes to the “heartbreak” that Konami fans have been enduring as of late, the PR man for Konami tries half heartedly to shrug it off/ignore it.

(Here’s the actual interview. The awkward ‘heartache’ question begins at 7:00)

(Here’s the Vlog where AngryJoe explains the process of being censored by Konami)

What could have possibly happened at Konami to warrant such enmity against Hideo Kojima? According to Super Bunnyhop’s inside source (see the link in the first paragraph above), it has everything to do with a personal vendetta between Konami’s CEO and its most influential creator.

The questions on every Metal Gear fan’s mind are these: what will Kojima do once MGS5 is released? What will happen of the Metal Gear franchise once Kojima is gone? Is Konami effectively pulling out of video games? It’s a shame that AngryJoe was forbidden from even broaching these topics, as this was the first time in a long while Konami was open to having one of it’s reps be interviewed on camera. MGS5 is sure to be a huge hit – but for Metal Gear fans everywhere, it will be a bittersweet ending to one of the most iconic video game series of all time.

 

20 Of The Most ‘WTF?!?’ Moments in Metal Gear Solid’s History

WTF

WTF

Hideo Kojima’s incredible Metal Gear Solid series is known for a lot of things: tense and exciting gameplay. Ornate, sometimes overly elaborate, plot twists and turns. The mixing together of absurdism, conspiracy drama, camp, anime tropes, and political commentary. Cinematic cutscenes and meta-narrative weirdness. All of these things are elements of what make the MGS games so iconic –but what I like most about the MGS games aren’t any of these admittedly awesome characteristics (though they’re all a part of it, obviously). No, for me, it’s what I’ll call the ‘WTF’ factor of the Metal Gear games.

The ‘WTF Factor’ refers to the various scenes and moments fans have seen over the years in these games that, simply put, provoke the response of ‘WTF?!’ from anyone who sees them. Just in case people don’t know what I’m talking about, as well as to commemorate the legacy of Kojima’s run as director of the historic Metal Gear Solid franchise – which will conclude with MGSV: The Phantom Pain, out this September – let’s look back at the top 20 most outrageous, mind-meltingly ‘WTF?’ moments of the entire series.

20. The Outtakes Cutscenes (Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistance)/ The Demo Theater Mode (Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance)

We’ll start with two really ‘WTF’ features of two different Metal Gear games that I actually wish became a mainstay of the MGS series. In the original expansion for MGS2, Substance, you could actually rewatch any cutscene in the game with all of the character models changed out. Want to see Rose play the part of Vamp, or some random NPC play the role of Snake? Let your own imagination/insanity be your guide.

A similar but even better feature was included in the original expansion for Snake Eater, where you could watch dozens of ‘outtakes’ from the game. These were actually just scenes from the actual game rewritten to be much funnier/ seem like outtakes from an actual movie. My favorites include one where Ocelot straight up murders Snake, or when the gun Eva gives Snake turns out to be a fancy lighter.

19. The ‘Revenge of Genolla’ Mission (Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions, 1999)

The game VR Missions was great for a number of reasons: among them, the inclusion of ‘Variety’ mode. That was where the game’s biggest oddball missions were featured, including this hilarious one “The Revenge of Genolla”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt1q1jD2Vj0

18. The ‘Date with Paz’ Side-Op (Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, 2010)

“I love the Beach” is not something I ever though I’d hear Big Boss say. Then again, I also never thought I’d see him chase around a barely of age girl in a bathing suit with a tazer, either.

17. Meryl Gets Possessed/ Psycho Mantis Boss Battle (Metal Gear Solid, 1998)

This happens in MGS1, right after you meet up with Meryl. She starts acting strangely as you approach the boss fight with FOXHOUND operative Psycho Mantis. This happens just before the boss-fight begins, and the entire segment is worth mentioning for all sorts of different kinds of weirdness.

16. Watching TV (MGS4)

MGS4 was arguably the weakest and weirdest of the MGS series – I could have done this entire list of just moments from that game, but I wanted to cover the entire series instead. So for the first big ‘WTF?” moment of MGS4, let’s think back to how the game begins: you’re an unknown character watching strange TV shows and commercials for the first ten minutes or so. It was an interesting way of trying to immerse players in the near-future world of the game, and I would have liked more of this ‘show don’t tell’ approach throughout the entire story.  But what’s still confusing to me is why these early glimpses of the game world are so awkward. Like, Tim and Eric level awkward. Even stranger, one of the shows you can watch is a weird interview where both people look and act like they’re messed up on drugs or something. The person being interviewed is fan-favorite David Hayter, voice actor for Solid Snake. It’s nice to see him make a cameo in the game. The only question is: why is any of this happening at all?

15. Snake’s Nightmare (Metal Gear Solid 3, 2004)

If you turn your console off and come back a few hours later when Snake has just been captured in MGS3, when you load the game you’re confronted with this strange minigame. You find out it’s Snake having a terrible nightmare while being confined inside the Groznyj Grad prison.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXdMXkytVgI

14.The Who-Done-It Mystery VR Mission (VR: Missions, 1999)

Here’s another really weird one from VR Missions. Snake has to figure out what happened to the guard in the office. Without spoiling it, the ending is really what seals the deal.

13. “Get out of my mind, Liquid!” (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, 2001)

Oh, don’t think I would or even could forget the myriad of strange moments in MGS2. Here’s one of the first really ‘WTF?’ scenes in the game, at least for your first playthrough. I think a lot of MGS fans had the same reaction when, during the middle of the Tanker mission, Kojima drops some supernatural/ mind transferrence ‘Twilight Zone’ crap out of nowhere into a storyline involving the two most important characters from the last game.

https://youtu.be/6hNOlupyX18?t=21m43s

(embedded to start at 21:43)

12. The “Date With Kaz” Side-Op (Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, 2010)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing ‘WTF?’ about being gay. But what is this scene’s purpose? Why is it here? Is it supposed to be funny, or just strange? Because it’s both. I can’t tell what the tone is supposed to be, why Miller is gay all of the sudden, and why this moment is never brought up again in Ground Zeroes.

11. Snake jumps into the ocean to chase after a Metal Gear (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, 2001)

Ok, now we’re getting into some prime ‘WTF’ territory. Can anybody explain what Snake’s plan was once he hit the water? Or how he survives? Anyone?

(embedded to start at 4:38:50)

10. Trenya the Talking Cat (Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, 2010)

The title pretty much says it all. Snake actually has a conversation with a talking cat. To be fair, Trenya is a character from the Monster Hunter series who’s just making a cameo. But for people who didn’t realize that, this was one of the strangest side-ops in a game already chock-full of weirdness.

9. Volgin gets fresh with Snake (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, 2004)

That’s one hell of a way of shaking someone’s hand…

(starts at 0:56)

8. Colonel Goes Insane (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Libery, 2001)

Sons of Liberty was an ahead-of-its-time game that was completely misunderstood. That being said, I can’t exactly blame people for being freakin’ confused – especially when, near the end of the game, Colonel Campbell starts acting insane and saying really surreal, strange, trippy things:

7.  The Ending of MGS4 (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, 2008)

When people ask me why I disliked MGS4 so much, oftentimes I’ll just direct them to the agonizingly long and convoluted hour and a half long ending. This game seriously needed an editor, as well as another writer to rewrite some of this dialogue. Ostensibly ‘big’ events like Meryl’s wedding, Snake’s final confrontation with Big Boss, Drebin explaining the entire game, and Raiden being given a new body, are all handled poorly. A lot of these ‘WTF’ moments are intentionally hilarious or strange, but whether or not Kojima realized how crazy this ending was remains to be seen.

(watch at your own risk)

6. Hardcore surgery/ The bomb in Paz’s…uh…well…(Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, 2014)

Maybe just to remind us how ‘WTF’ moments are still a big part of Kojima’s style, he gave us this amazingly insane scene from the closing moments of MGS5 prequel/ 30$ demo Ground Zeroes. After being shown graphic depictions of surgery on Paz’s stomach without the use of anesthesia, we then find out there’s another bomb somewhere…ahem..else in her body. Then, Paz promptly jumps out of the plane where her intimately placed bomb detonates and blows her to bits. You can also find a cassette tape that plays the sound of Skullface putting the bomb into her body. Yeah, it’s super gross.

(WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)

(scene starts at 16:42. Paz jumps at around 23:48)

5. Ocelot Unit’s Secret Signal (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, 2004)

This one is (hopefully) intentionally hilarious. It’s little camp moments like this that make MGS3 one of my favorite games of all time.

4. The relationship between Otacon and his step-sister, EE (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, 2001)

Otacon and his step-sister EE (Emma Emmerich) have a very strange relationship. Not only did Otacon sleep with EE’s mom, which apparently led Hal’s father to kill himself; EE was also in love with Otacon, which she somewhat admits just dying literally in his arms. This was one of the saddest moments in the entire MGS franchise, which just made its weirdness even weirder.

3. Raiden Stops an Aircraft Carrier-sized Ship with his body…and survives (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, 2008)

Like seriously. WTF. That is the only appropriate response to this cutscene.

2. The Ending of MGS2 (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, 2001)

Like I said, I’m actually a fan of MGS2. I’d go so far as to say it’s an underrated game. Many intelligent people online have spent hours dissecting its ending, and explaining what on the surface appears to be absolute gibberish. Yet I’m still posting this as a ‘WTF’ moment, and very high on the list, because everything that happens here appears to be absolute gibberish.

https://youtu.be/BrL7wo5-nJo

1. The entire plot of MGS4 (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, 2008).

In a word, ‘nanomachines’.

Did I leave any WTF moments out? What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments.

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes Drops In Price

Photo edited by PT SMITH

Metal Gear

The much debated interim installment of the Metal Gear Solid series, Ground Zeroes, will be selling for less than originally announced.

Konami has announced a $10 price reduction in the title for the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.  According to a press release issued by the company the company wants to “provide as many people as possible an opportunity to experience Productions’ FOX Engine and the first installment in the two-part METAL GEAR SOLID V experience.”

Taking the game down from $40 to $30 is likely a response to a questionable game length that sparked outrage online.

Despite reassurances by the games creator that MGS: Ground Zeroes has several side missions and extensive replay value the company has found itself having to justify a main story line beatable in less than two hours.

Ground Zeroes will also now contain downloadable content for the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, including additional resources for players’ “mother base,” a reported key point in MGS 5.

The game will be released on March 18 for both Microsoft and Sony consoles. A release date has not been set for MGS 5.