The venting of the spleen

This week, I did something I haven’t had the occasion to do in quite a while: I published an article which was little more than me being a cranky, sardonic jerk about videogames that annoy me. I’ve been so darned positive about games lately, for the most part, which mostly has to do with the fact that my free time is limited and I only spend it on games I enjoy.

It was particularly satisfying to vent about how absolutely terrible the final stupid fisticuffs encounter of Metal Gear Solid 4 was, but I’m absolutely shocked to see how many people are willing to stand up and defend it. To my mind, it is the absolute lowest point of a series that alternates wildly between brilliant and brain-dead, and frankly I was kind of tempted to give MGS4 something in the neighborhood of a C just because it was such a terrible, inappropriate finale to the saga. This does not seem to be the general consensus on that sequence, though, and that baffles me.

Oh well. Internet be wack, yo.

Back to being positive, though: I’ve just opened up a Talking Time thread for voting on games to include in GameSpite Quarterly 6. Where the publication’s second issue was about the greatest games ever (according to you folks), issue six will be about the most underappreciated games ever. (Titles that appeared in GSQ2 are disqualified for what I should hope are obvious reasons.) So, please do log in and vote for your top three personal picks. Subjectivity is totally great! I want this to be an interesting list that forces those of us writing to really think about what makes games worth playing, and these games in particular.

30 thoughts on “The venting of the spleen

  1. I’m with you 100% on the terrible fist fight with John Carpenter for no damn reason. When a game busts out an entirely new, awkward control scheme, entirely separate from the rest of the game you’re still playing, you have a problem.

    It didn’t help when the Snake Eater theme started playing, reminding me of when Kojima still kind of gave a damn about mixing gameplay and narrative.

  2. SFIII New Generation Gill is way harder than Seth. Gill WILL fill his bar (unlike the subsequent revisions), and then you have to fight him all over again.

  3. I mean, yeah, it wasn’t as solid in gameplay as the rest of the game, but I thought it was an important thematic point.

    I took from it the Einstein quote that goes, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

  4. Gimmick-based final battles are offensive. A game spends 10, 20, 40, maybe 80 hours teaching you (and rewarding you) for mastering its mechanics, only to throw all of that out and impose new rules at the very end? That is garbage videogame design, and MGS4 is among the garbage-est.

  5. I’m surprised that you got the a list of stupid bosses without mentioning the final boss of No More Heroes 2. Stupid “on purpose” is still stupid.

  6. Jeremy Parish talking about Metal Gear Solid 4 AGAIN?

    Do you guys have an abusive relationship or something? Shouldn’t have given it a high score, man.

    For the record, I enjoyed the mechanics of the last fight, especially on the highest difficulty. It was tense and looked beautiful, at the very least. The dumbest thing about MGS4 was the extended ending which forced a bunch of faces that we didn’t need to see, but I for one thought the rest of the game was fantastic.

  7. MGS4 is one of those games that’s going to cause a lot of inner turmoil if you’re doing professional game writing, possibly up there with Chrono Cross. Games with a too much reputation coming in to point out their flaws without being hunted down by angry mobs.

    More importantly though- Is it me, or is there something fundamentally wrong with having people vote for most underrated anything? I mean, there’s an inherent catch-22 there.

  8. I don’t think I’ve written anything about MGS4 since around the time it launched; this post was less “flogging the same horse” than it was “the first time I’ve had the stomach to return to that particular topic.”

  9. MGS jumped the shark a long time ago, somewhere around that Raiden/BigShell nonsense. The bullshit they trotted out in MGS4 is just playing out the string.

  10. I got to the MGS series pretty late, so 1 was unimpressive, 2 was really fun until – you know – the story and that wack-ass metal gear fight, and 3 was an absolutely amazing game. I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed by a sequel than MGS4.

  11. The end battle in MGS4 was a bit cheesy and went for much longer than it should. I think if I were Kojima I would have made the final battle a simple 1 on 1 shootout between Snake and Ocelot that would be reminiscent of the battle in MGS1 but in a larger environment.

  12. Yeah, it was clunky. But I thought it worked story-wise, and I’m okay with games changing things if the purpose of the final encounter is to be the culmination of the plot rather than the normal game mechanics. I can understand being more bothered by it if you died there once or twice, though.

  13. I’m frankly more surprised the Black Manta and Tom Sawyer fanbases aren’t angrily storming the comment thread.

    You got lucky this time.

  14. Yeah, I had to think about this for a while, but I mostly agree. It was just… clunky. Also I don’t think the game ever rewarded you for learning its mechanics… you only really get to play MGS4 in the first 2 chapters and a little bit at the beginning of chapter 5. The scene would have at least worked thematically if a certain twist at the tail end didn’t pretty much kill all impact any of the Liquid Ocelot scenes had.

    Also, the video you showed of Black Manta surprised me… mostly because I didn’t know they changed Tiny’s graphic for the US Release. Makes me wonder if I should endure the torture and see how much else of that game changed between countries.

  15. You know those scenes at the end of a film where you see a bunch of quick flash-backs in rapid succession that totally breaks from the narrative/directive style of the entire film that came before it? That’s what this ‘final boss’ was. Except that instead of seeing the flashbacks on screen, you’re seeing them trigger in your mind, thanks to the very carefully chosen camera angles, body language, controls, the hud, and the music. Is this good gameplay in and of itself? Maybe not. But in terms of making use of gameplay in order to advance the narrative and tell a story through user input alone? I’ve never seen anything like it; that scene blew my mind.

  16. That last fight was a bit of a mess. Not only did it not fit the game play, it didn’t really fit the story. I mean, Snake take a stroll through a microwave and we’re to believe he’s ready to fist fight Ocelot. I guess it’s fitting though, the entire story was a hilarious mess.

  17. @parish: What do you expect when everyone and their grandmother now says that games have to be artsy? It seems that if people have eye-candy to look at and a “dark/epic” story they couldn’t give one hoot about actually gameplay.

    Mind you I haven’t played MGS4 and I doubt I will. I got tired of Kojima’s story telling about 5 minutes into the first Codec conversation in MGS2. Good God, those things went on for-bloody-mind-numbing-ever.

    I thought Peace Walker would look fun until Kojima sold out on it and included a bunch of silly stuff, Monster Hunting? really?, that I’m not sure I’ll get it. Would like to get a PSP, but I think I’ll wait for the Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep bundle.

  18. The more I consider it, the more I’m possibly glad I haven’t played MGS4, and I like MGS2.

  19. I mentioned it in my comment on the article at 1UP, but man, when people get defensive about their games (or music, or movies, or socks) they just get ugly with the comments. I don’t know how you deal sometimes, parish.

    It seems that everyone rushing to defend the design of that final boss encounter just seems to be harping on how “epic” it was. I feel like these players are blind to how sharply it contrasts with the actual game it is presented within just because it was pretty (oh…and it was VERY pretty). Oh, and they just worship whatever Kojima does.

    @Chuck Franklin
    That article is a very good read, but I believe it serves to further cement that it was a gimmick fight. No matter how eloquently he explains it (and he does it much better than I ever could) I still feel it’s poor game design. Even if I accept the fact that the Liquid Ocelot fight is meant to mirror the Metal Gear fight, the fact remains that this isn’t a Metal Gear fighting game. It’s a stealth/action game. Don’t get me wrong, gimmick fights have the potential to be crazy fun (like the Metal Gear fight)…but having them as the final boss is, as parish put it, garbage design.

    All that said, I feel that fight could have easily stayed in if it were NOT the “final boss”, but rather an epilogue to the final boss. I believe there should have been a proper encounter with Ocelot prior; maybe using a take on SNKrenaissance’s idea.

    OOPS: Gah, for some reason (maybe because I’m stupid? haha) I’m having trouble with the commenting system. I didn’t mean to post “^gah, that was me”

  20. “I don’t know how you deal sometimes, parish.”

    I deal by never reading a comments thread after it hits about 20 or so. I assume, and with ample precedent, that anything after that is going to be ugly and hateful and will just make me feel bad. Not so much about myself, but about our species in general.

  21. I really hated MGS4 and thought that the final boss fight was the cherry on top of the awful mess and the cherry was really made out of faecal matter. It started alright I suppose and was good when it actually let you play but after that second act the game became an absolute chore and the story that you were forced to watch was beyond awful. There really was too little gameplay and what gameplay there was wasn’t even that great. I can’t understand how Konami got it so wrong after MGS3. After the initial flurry of cutscenes in MGS3 it actually let you play and experience the game with little interruption and it was the best in the series because of it. MGS4 seemed to have gone back to the flaws of MGS2 and multiplied them to silly levels. Kojima better not mess up ZOE3 if he ever makes it.

  22. I just finished fable 2 a couple of days ago and I must nominate that. A random battle to get to the final boss, no final stage, no setup and the kick in the nuts, you don’t even get to fight him. I listened to him talk and then someone else killed him midsentence then it was over.

  23. “It seems that everyone rushing to defend the design of that final boss encounter just seems to be harping on how “epic” it was. I feel like these players are blind to how sharply it contrasts with the actual game it is presented within just because it was pretty (oh…and it was VERY pretty). Oh, and they just worship whatever Kojima does.”

    It WAS “epic”, for a lack of a better word. It was completely expected given how the relationship between Snake and Liquid played out in the first game which, I don’t know if you guys remember, HAD A VERY SIMILAR FIST FIGHT. It WAS gorgeous. And as for worshiping everything Kojima does, I could just as easily say people dump on everything Kojima does. I can shoehorn you into a camp, too. Heaven forbid that someone actually did enjoy that scene, saying nothing else about the rest of MGS4.

  24. Just because there’s precedent for something to be garbage doesn’t mean it’s not garbage.

  25. Of course. But I still think the anger is misplaced. MGS4 is a culmination of everything fans have been raving about for the past decade, only with better gameplay, better graphics, and nods and references out the wazoo–the fight at the end is no different. Kojima (and his fans) reaped what was sowed over the years.

    Was the fight really all that egregious in retrospect? It was quite simple and could have easily been converted to a cutscene, and…well, I guess people still would have complained. I suppose Kojima figured one of the four or so endings would please someone.

  26. I just finished MGS4 last week. I play the MGS games because they are so stupid. The game seemed broken throughout, even when it did let you play. They give you access to ~50 weapons, but all you ever need are the tranq gun, rocket launcher, and electricity gun. I guess the freedom is a good thing. Otakon will be talking about how you need to win a certain way, but it is usually better to just shoot the bosses with rockets. The 4 boss girls were really embarrassing, with all the goofy moaning, writing and screaming, and I am glad no one saw me playing. Also, Drebin was more annoying than Don Cheedle reciting poetry about football. PS. I thought Otakon was supposed to be James Spader in Stargate, but in this one he looks like Jeff Goldblum.

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