Monday, September 21, 2015

Game Diary - Metal Gear Solid V.

Her name is Pouncing Harrier.

Chamberlain, you are not alone.  Alex, too, dislikes where Metal Gear Solid has gone with V - it's too different, has too much weird extra shit like waiting for your base to build its latest platform or the tier-2 silencer for your sniper rifle.  There's too much stuff, and a lot of that stuff is suspiciously like other stuff you already did - but...

I love it.  Of course, I love it.  Metascores and critical consensus cannot always (or often) be trusted - critical consensus kept giving the Mario Galaxy games perfect scores, and I hated those fuckers - so I'm prepared to say that the consensus of two well-read gamers is perhaps more legitimate than what a review aggregate site has to say.

If you went into Metal Gear Solid V gleeful at the thought of the rather-strict linearity of previous Metal Gears, you will be sorely disappointed by V.  If you go in expecting the story to sit front-and-center while exceptionally detailed AI and skooshy stealth infiltrations sit in the background, well then fuck this game.  That is not this game.  This game barely qualifies as a core title in the legendary Metal Gear Solid series, if those are your criteria, but they're not mine.

Non-lethally choking out the dude who came to investigate why the lights went out.
That's my Metal Gear.

To me, Metal Gear Solid has always been a series that (1) loves stealth, (2) reveres and revels in our enthusiasm for what came before and (3) significantly evolves with every iteration - and every numbered entry in the series has been a significant iteration on what Kojima had done before.  He's never finished.  His formula for gameplay is a living thing that he's constantly smoothing and coaxing into new shapes while maintaining the original spirit.  No game ever dropped in this series that felt like the last one, in terms of the intricacies of its simulated battlefields.  It's always richer, always downright silly with detail and nuance and tiny little touches, but each new step in the MGS canon has always come with some significant departures from what came before.

Solid, with its extended story presentation and strange third-person controls.  2 with its first-person aiming, far more detailed world (remember shooting the pans in the galley and being all "whoahhh") and those sweet hold-ups, 3 with its incredible wildlife-preserve fauna simulations and camouflage systems, 4 with greater intricacies in all things and huge, sprawling levels, and V...

What's important, to me, is that in its moment-to-moment play, V feels like Metal Gear.  Sneaking up on a dude, whipping out my pistol and growling "hands up" is as cool now as it ever was, except now I can force the guy into the ground without touching him, or get some intel out of him about the location of the hostage I'm looking for.

It feels like Metal Gear in moments that have never appeared in any Metal Gear game, ever.

When me and my trusty war-wolf come dashing over a hill just before sunset to see the enemy outpost sprawled out beneath us, I hold down X and we smoothly transition from a flat-out run, lowering ourselves gracefully and silently into a crawl.  And I pull out my binoculars.  It's the sweetest stealth.

It's Metal Gear.  Just because Metal Gear's never been like this doesn't mean it's any less Kojima, any less stealthy, any less reverent of what came before.  Like come on, Venom Snake's silhouette is identical to his boy's, and Mother Base is basically one huge salute to The Big Shell Incident.

I could swear I've been here before...

I'm not saying I never loved watching the Metal Gear Solid games.  I could watch Ray backflip off that tanker in 2 a hundred times.  Remember when you fought Ray, while driving Rex, in 4?  It was gott-damned awesome, is what it was, but what I have always loved most about the Metal Gear Solid games is actually playing them.  Sneaking around dudes and having fun with the AI and pulling off masterworks of sneakiness - and with V, Kojima has final-tuned all of the systems he's been monkeying with for twenty years, and set them loose in a sandbox that I can spend hundreds of hours with.

Like Kojima, I find it very hard to be finished, too.  I love picking up a problem, a mission, an operation, holding it up to the light and turning it over in my hand until I've seen every facet of it.  Until I know it, deeply, to the point that I can dash into it and perform a perfect symphony of stealth.


I have not, I should note, put a hundred and forty-four hours into Metal Gear Solid V - that's counting the times I left the game running while I went and watched a movie with Kayla or something, so my dispatched operatives' missions or base components could run down their clocks in my absence.  And yes, that's bullshit.  And yes, "MB coins" is an awful fucking thing.

I blame Konami.

But the play of the game... the way it feels, the way its AI runs on all cylinders, with so many variables, but is just stupid enough to have a ton of fun with.  The fact that I am, at the moment, playing through the campaign of a Metal Gear Game with a female avatar...

In a lot of ways, V isn't a Metal Gear game.  In a lot of other ways, it's way, way more more than I could have hoped.

ASAP: always the appropriate time.


  1. You may blame konami. I, for one, fucKonomi.



    1. They said yesterday that MGS will continue without Kojima. I don't think I want to play that game.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I'll admit, Keifer's inclusion is a huge turnoff, for me. Konami originally spun it as necessary because of all the mocap and such they were going to use, so they needed an actor who could inhabit Big Boss physically - and there's no evidence of that, in the game.

      It's like if, as you were growing up, every time you went to your grandmother's house, she had Toll House, classic, chocolate chip cookies for you. And man, those cookies are delicious. They are a huge part of your childhood, and one of life's greatest pleasures.

      And then you go to visit your grandma, and the cookies now have raisins in them instead of chocolate chips. And your grandma is wearing shades, and you wonder if it's to hide a black eye. And grandpa is standing there with his arms folded over his chest, and says "raisins taste better."

      Fuck you, grandpa. Never touch my Nana again.

      That analogy went to a dark place, but I feel it's apt.