7 Video Game Spoilers that are Now Unavoidable

The worst part about a great plot twist is that spoilers for it are bound to precede the story it appears in for anyone that was late to the party.  Even if you’ve never seen a second of the films Psycho, Planet of the Apes, or The Sixth Sense, you probably already know all of their most famous surprises due to how ingrained they’ve become in the popular culture.  With video games often growing into franchises, spoilers are even harder to avoid as major twists of previous games can be played up in promotions for the newest one.  The following spoilers are almost unavoidable now due to how much they’ve been brought up since in their respective franchises.  If you follow games media even lightly, you already know all of these inside and out.  However, for the sake of those that have managed to avoid learning these twists early, I’ll just be listing the titles of the specific games being spoiled so you can skip any entries that you’re worried about.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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7. Final Fantasy VII

This one doesn’t exactly fit the theme of the article given that the Final Fantasy franchise tends to reboot its lore with each numbered entry, but its hard not to call it one of the most famous and unavoidable plot twists in gaming history.  Part way through the game, one of your party members, the kind-hearted Aerith, is fatally wounded by the villainous Sephiroth.  Despite countless rumors of a way to revive her, her death is irreversible without hacking the game.  While Final Fantasy VII has had plenty of spin-offs, the only one I can think of that made a point of Aerith’s death is the Advent Children film.  However, it still belongs on the list just for being the one thing that is always the first to come up in any discussion of the game.  It’s gotten to the point where most people don’t even recognize it as a spoiler and just assume it to be common knowledge.  How many news outlets do you think mused about the possibility of resurrecting Aerith while reporting on the recently announced remake?  Even the quirky competitive FPS Screencheat uses her name as one of its many analogies for killing an opponent.  That’s the thing with big surprises; everyone starts to either analyze or satirize it endlessly.

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6. Metal Gear Solid 2

The first thing that comes up with any conversation on Metal Gear Solid 2 is its infamous bait-and-switch that had regular protagonist Solid Snake built up as the lead in all demonstrations and marketing for the game, only to replace him with an entirely new character named Raiden.  Where the big twist of Final Fantasy VII is one of the most discussed topics of the game, the bait-and-switch of Raiden is the only thing that ever receives any attention when discussing MGS2 or even just the character of Raiden.  When Metal Gear Rising, a spin-0ff centered entirely around Raiden, was released years later, many were still so jaded by his appearance in MGS2 that they refused to give the spin-off a chance.  It’s actually pretty ironic given that Raiden was actually built from the ground up as a parody of the very fanboys that hate him, spending most of the game whining right alongside the bitter players for the ‘real’ Snake to get involved in the mission.  Typical Kojima.

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5. Warcraft III

Prince Arthas Menethil, the main hero of Warcraft III, is pretty much your typical Prince Charming when the game starts out.  That’s what makes it such a shock when he turns to the dark side and ultimately changes from being one of Azeroth’s most celebrated champions to one of its most repulsive monsters.  His descent begins when an undead curse begins to spread across the land, turning people into mindless ghouls.  Desperate to contain the curse, Arthas resorts to slaughtering an entire village that has been infected but has yet to fully turn.  It’s a brutal choice that immediately turns both his mentor and his beloved against him.  Eventually, his struggle against the forces of darkness leads him to not only embrace the undead curse himself, but to even become its leader as the infamous Lich King.  From there, Arthas quickly became Warcraft‘s most iconic villain with an entire expansion in World of Warcraft centering around his final downfall and being made a playable character in Heroes of the Storm.  If you haven’t been following Warcraft lore from the start, it’s likely too late to check out Warcraft III without already knowing who goes full Darth Vader in it.

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4. Fire Emblem: Awakening

Here’s a tip: If you don’t want games spoiled for you, don’t even look at the Super Smash Bros games as you can find massive spoilers for other games just by looking at the character roster.  For example, there’s the identity of the masked swordsman going by the name Marth from Fire Emblem: Awakening.  This was built up as the big mystery for Awakening right from the game’s reveal and remained the focal point of its marketing all the way up to its release.  How could the legendary hero king from the very first Fire Emblem game, whose reign was generations ago, be appearing in this era?  Well, you could play the game yourself to discover the truth, or you could just take a glance at Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS.  As it turns out, it’s not King Marth traveling from the past, but Prince Chrom’s daughter Lucina traveling from the future.  While having Lucina appearing on the roster may not immediately give away that she’s the Marth impersonator, her using the mask from the disguise as one of her taunts and Kirby wearing the same mask after stealing her ability certainly make it obvious.  At least they didn’t give away the time-travel part from tha… She mentions it in one of her victory quotes, doesn’t she?

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3. Portal

Here’s one that’s become so ubiquitous that you’ve probably forgotten that it even is a plot twist: GLaDOS, the mastermind behind the first Portal game, is actually a psychotic computer out to kill you.  Today, that just seems as obvious as the fact that you use portals, but this was actually a massive surprise when the game first came out.  Remember that Portal was first released as a part of the Orange Box alongside the highly anticipated Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Team Fortress 2 with little build-up for the tacked-on puzzle game.  People started it up thinking it was just some simple bonus that was thrown in with the big releases because it wouldn’t sell on its own.  Then it starts throwing around a dark sense of humor slowly enough for it to be cynically charming.  As you dig deeper, it becomes more and more apparent that this facility is not what it seems and that everything has been designed to tear you apart physically and mentally.  Finally, you meet with the mechanical mastermind to shut down her devious plans… And then GLaDOS became the most iconic character in the Portal franchise, being heavily promoted for the sequel, making cameos in Poker Night at the Inventory 2 and the film Pacific Rim, and generally made it impossible for anyone to enjoy the same mental trip that Portal once offered again.

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2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Smash strikes again, but at least it’s not the only guilty party for this one.  The fact that the mysterious ninja warrior named Sheik is actually the missing Princess Zelda in disguise has been made abundantly clear in anything and everything to feature Sheik since.  First, Super Smash Bros Melee introduced both Zelda and Sheik as playable fighters with the unique ability to transform from one to the other during matches.  This was carried over into Brawl before being cut with the 3DS and Wii U entries making the two completely separate characters, but the damage had already been done by that point.  Even then, Hyrule Warriors came by to make sure nobody forgot the princess’s double-life by making it a plot point in its own campaign.  At this point, expecting anyone to be surprised at Sheik’s true identity is a joke in and of itself.

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1. Resident Evil

Capcom really couldn’t try harder to make the single biggest plot twist from the original Resident Evil known to everyone, regardless of whether or not they’ve ever even touched it game or any games in the series.  One of the members of your team sent into the Spencer Mansion, Albert Wesker, is secretly a double-agent working to sabotage your operations from the inside.  It’s shocking to discover that, after all of the horrors you’ve struggled to survive against, one of your own is actually complicit in it all and working to cover it up.  Or, at least, it would be shocking if Wesker hadn’t been made into the main villain of the series and highly advertised his turn to the dark side in future titles.  Not only did he reappear as the antagonist in several RE games, such as a major selling point for Resident Evil 5 being the chance to finally take revenge on him, he’s also appeared in two of the live-action films and as a playable character in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and Lost Planet 2.  Each time he’s appeared, it’s been readily apparent that he’s the baddest bad guy that the entire RE series has to offer.  Honestly, it feels like he should have just been a low-level goon that died within the first game and have a new character take up the role of the mastermind if only to keep the surprise fresh for a lot more people late to the party.  If you haven’t already picked up Resident Evil with any of the half-dozen rereleases that the game has had over the years, you’re going to have to go in already knowing who the surprise villain is right from the start.

What spoilers are you sick of seeing everywhere?  Do you have any that should have been included on the list?  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

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.

 

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(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.

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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!

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(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.

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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?

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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.