Fish and visitors and Snakes

This year at E3, Hideo Kojima announced no less than three new Metal Gear games. Or was it four? I’ve lost count. In any case, that is, by my reckoning, about three or four too many.

It’s strange, but for the first time since I drooled over that ad for the NES game in 1988, the news of fresh Metal Gear content fills me with dismay rather than excitement. I’ve always loved the series, even despite its occasional (well, more than occasional) comical excesses, and I was right there on the front lines champing at the bit for Metal Gear Solid 4. Despite some very severe flaws and about 200% too much taking itself too seriously, I really enjoyed MGS4… once. But once I tried to replay it, I discovered that there’s nothing I want less than to spend any more time in the Metal Gear universe. As far as I’m concerned, MGS4 is the final word on the series; as I’ve suggested before, there’s too much baggage attached to the name now. MGS4 was 10 hours of brilliant game design and 10 hours of jaw-flapping verbosity about fussy plot points that ultimately didn’t matter. Kojima Pro would be well served to take the great game mechanics and concepts that made the first half of MGS4 so enjoyable and spin them into something new.

That, it seems, is precisely the opposite of what’s actually going to happen. By all impressions, Metal Gear Rising will feature a different play style — probably something more melee-oriented and less about stealth and precision — but it’ll almost certainly be bogged down in Metal Gear “lore.” Meanwhile, I’d really like to be excited about Peace Walker, because (1) Big Boss is awesome and (2) the name suggests it should come with a pedometer that links with the game and grants you special “peace points” based on your step count or something. Unfortunately, Peace Walker is a PSP game, which doesn’t give me much confidence.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with the PSP as a platform (at least technically — Sony’s idiocy is another matter entirely), but after all this time you’d hope a developer as high-profile as Kojima would understand how to work within a system’s limitations. But if that were the case, Peace Walker would be designed around the PSP’s lack of dual analog inputs and stick to the old-school top-down Metal Gear point of view. Alas, from what I can tell, Kojima’s going for a post-Subsistence third-person camera style — very modern and progressive, but also rather dependent on having proper camera controls. So it’ll be Portable Ops all over again. Count me out, thanks.

Maybe I’m just getting old, but after seeing more and more classic series dredged up or dragged out only to be regurgitated in far less satisfying modern incarnations, I’m increasingly of the mind that most franchises have a shelf life that should be respected. Better to develop new concepts than capitalize on familiarity and ruin the goodwill of its fans. Metal Gear looks to be about a year beyond its sell-by date now, and things get pretty rotten when they’ve had a year to spoil.

22 thoughts on “Fish and visitors and Snakes

  1. Actually, after Monster Hunter I can finally understand the logic behind using the Subsistence camera; millions of Japanese are perfectly content with putting their index finger on the D-Pad to control the camera. Kojima Productions must have figured if everyone was fine with doing that for Monster Hunter then it must be fine for Metal Gear, unfortunately.

  2. Note to whomever wrote this: there’s a bug in the posting system here, and if you don’t type a name your post will be lost forever when someone else posts. I’m preserving your writings in a named post:

    I’ve just got to say — those Thumbnail Theater pieces are absolutely fantastic.

    What were we talking about again? Metal Gear?! Oh, that’s right. No, I agree with you, Parish, although I wouldn’t mind another Metal Gear game in the same vein as, say, Ghost Babel. More than anything, it sounds like it’s the “lore” that’s getting on your nerves than the series’ actual game design itself, but then again, without that trademark “lore”, we wouldn’t have any of those Thumbnail Theaters!

  3. Parish and I agree 100% on our thoughts about MGS. Even the thoughts he has I don’t know about yet. I devoted 3 years of my life to excitement over MGS4. That’s all I had to give.

  4. I was extremely let down to find that the series was continuing. I love Metal Gear, but what more can they do in that universe without really messing things up? Especially since Kojima worked so hard to wrap everything up in 4 (which he did rather poorly (in the sense that some explanations were absolute rubbish)). I just don’t feel like more Metal Gear is what we need now.

    The new Metal Gear titles were among the few sequels I didn’t see much promise in as far as sequel announcements went at E3. It was a pretty sad feeling.

  5. Just when they get the MGS formula right, you want them to quit? MGS4 was brilliant in every way. I never really saw the PSP MGS as a real MGS game (felt like little clunky chunks of stealth with an incredibly thin story), nor does Peace Walker look like it’ll make any great strides.

    MGS has always had a whacked storyline. Part 4 made the most sense of all of them. :

  6. I’d kill for a sequel to Ghost Babel. Maybe I ought to check out ‘dem Boktai games.

  7. @Hero: I’m not even going to go IN to the idea that MGS4 made the most sense of all of them. Not that I think they need to make absolute sense as it’s a work of fiction, but I digress.

    I won’t deny that the gameplay in MGS4 was the absolute best in the series. The stealth felt completely organic without being absolutely boring the way MGS3 was (What with all the menu hopping and waiting around doing nothing while waiting for the best possible moment), but you only do that for the first two chapters which are about 4 hours or so of actual gameplay. After that, you get a chase sequence, a follow the guy sequence, another chase sequence, a stealth segment without that organic feeling which lasts about maybe 2 minutes before some boss fights and end game sequences.

    I really like what they did with the system, I just wish I had more of a chance to play it. So instead, I’d rather just play MGS 1 or 2 over and over again whilst skipping the cutscenes rather than the first two levels of MGS4, which for me, was the only substance the game had gameplay wise.

  8. Oh! Did someone mention Boktai? That’s probably my favorite nearly-unknown game. I’ve played the hell out of the first one and I’ve played a lot of the two sequels (well, the two English sequels, Solar Boy Django and Lunar Knights). If I remember correctly, they were all Hideo Kojima games in some way, too.

    If you want a stealth game, I think the first one would be to your liking since it encouraged stealth; you only had the solar gun and shooting enemies in the back was the best way to kill them. The second one had a similar system, but since you were mostly using melee weapons (and the gun, when you had it, felt nearly useless) the stealth aspect was almost a footnote. Lunar Knights didn’t make it any more stealthy.

  9. MGS4 was awesome. Parish, you say it took itself too seriously, but if you’re watching Snake during the more laughable cut scenes that waste our time, you’ll find that Snake really couldn’t give a shit about what’s going on. It was a really striking point in MGS4 during the Chapter 5 mission breifing that while Mei Ling and everyone else is being moody and discussing battle strategies, Snake is dozing off, or checking out Mei Ling’s ass, or making wisecracks to keep himself entertained. The whole story is less about some BS of stopping the Patriots or Liquid, but more about the story of eternal suffering Snake seems to have to endure, and part of that suffering, I’d argue, is the ham fisted plots and dialogs he finds himself continually having to endure.

    I do agree with your take on Peace Walker. I would much rather have an old-school top-down MGS on the PSP than the camera-jerk around that was Portable Ops.

  10. I’m sad that some of the best gameplay I’ll ever play is trapped within that “lore” you spoke of. Not much more to say than that at this point, I’m afraid.

  11. MGS4 was basically the Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 of video games. I want more of that about as much as I want more Pirate movies. Put the gameplay/Johnny Depp in something fun without all that garbage.

  12. Brandon, the flaw in your analogy is that the pirates sequels ruined Jack Sparrow, and he was only “awesome Captain Jack” for fragments of the movies. Whereas in MGS4, the gameplay–oh.

  13. Personally, I’ll just be dozing over here in the corner until someone tells me Kojima Pro is working on a new Zone of Enders game (or perhaps something else that looks like actual fun).

  14. I think most you already know that MGS4 left me a bitter, disappointed shell of a former fan. I want another Metal Gear like I want herpes.

  15. kirin: Sadly, Z.O.E. 2 (the actually good one) took a bath at the box office.

    Whereas Metal Gear Solid 4 managed to handily make back its Cecil B. DeMille budget and then some. So, Metal Gear forever.

    If nothing else, this means plenty of work for all the independent 3D animation houses in the greater Tokyo area. So good for them, I guess.

  16. This is all according to Kojima’s plan to run the series to the ground so that he won’t have to make them anymore.

  17. When MGS4 started, I sensed a real hope and vision from Kojima. However since then his comments make it seem like he’s a little disappointed by how it turned out (this lends to my theory that the game was originally planned to be much more balanced). I sense a big excitement from him about Peace Walker. It’s a shame we’re all so apathetic toward it (I hope that it’s a shame I mean)

  18. @Sami

    That’s a plot worthy of MGS4. “I don’t want to make anymore Metal Gears, so I’ll make a whole bunch until everyone’s sick of them.”

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