It was just after midnight, and my Mum and I were sitting next to each other, eyes transfixed on the TV. We had beaten Metal Gear REX, witnessed Gray Fox’s demise, beat up our evil twin and had just received a codec call that the base we had spent hours infiltrating was about to be destroyed. My heart was racing, and I had school in like 7 hours, but we were going to see this through to the end. That is one of my first memories of Metal Gear Solid.
Being five years old at the time, I watched my Mum play through the original Metal Gear Solid. I have gone back and played it a number of times since then, but at the time the themes and message didn’t fully make themselves apparent to me. It was the characters, the music, the atmosphere, the cutscenes! It was like nothing I’d ever seen before and I was in love. Looking back on it now, it’s funny to say, but the game blurred the line between movie and video game. It was incredible.
I’ve been a fan since. I got the demo for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty on a demo disc that came with The Official PlayStation Magazine and I played it every single day until the full game was released. I can play that Tanker section with a blindfold on. I took the day off of school when the game came out (Thanks again, Mum) and beat it that same weekend. The bait and switch with Raiden, E.E’s death and the Colonel needing scissors (61!) have stuck with me, and are some of my favourite video game moments.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was much the same story. Demo disc for days on end. Pull a sickie on release day, and play for as long as possible. The ending of that game is the first time a video game has given me a lump in my throat, and I think it’s the best game in the series. The story is solid, the gameplay is fun, and the setting is exciting. It’s a must play for anybody wanting to get into the series.
My relationship with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is nowhere near as intense as the others in the series, on account of me opting for an Xbox 360 that generation. I’ve played through it a handful of times, and it has some of the greatest moments in the series, but I don’t know it as well due to my hardware choices. Platform exclusivity is bullshit, unless it directly benefits me.
That brings us to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Before I got the game, I was looking forward to seeing how it ties the loop on the Metal Gear Saga. I wanted to see the Darth Vader like descent of Big Boss that we were promised, but after spending ten or so hours with the game I realised that wasn’t what this was about. The story is kind of there, but unfortunately it’s not the story you want. It didn’t matter though, I couldn’t stop playing. The gameplay is so polished and so mechanically sound that it begs you to play more. It’s the first game in the series where the story has taken a backseat to gameplay, and I think it greatly benefits the game. One of the main criticisms I hear from people towards the Metal Gear games is that the story is too messy and convoluted to jump into, and it feels like The Phantom Pain was designed for those people. The story is there if you want to go looking for it, but the game is about creating your own stories and moments with the tools at your disposal instead of the game giving them to you, and it is incredible.
I would go as far as saying that The Phantom Pain is the most polished game of the generation so far, and I challenge anybody to prove me wrong. There may be games that look better, but no game this generation plays better than The Phantom Pain and it is addictive.
It’s a shame we’re not going to get another one.
You don’t need me to tell you that Hideo Kojima and Konami have had a falling out, and their battle has left multiple casualties in it’s wake. It’s been all over the web and it’s victims aplenty: Silent Hills, The Phantom Pain’s unfinished story, poor Guillermo del Toro’s video game aspirations. Now, I’m not one of the people that thinks Kojima should be making Metal Gear games for the rest of his life. I am excited to see where he will go and what he will do next, but what I simply will not accept is somebody else making a Metal Gear game without his oversight.
Konami has a history of getting rid of the minds that made their properties great, and then contracting external developers to make follow up titles that don’t capture the magic that the original games did. Castlevania is one example, but more notably there is the sorry state of the Silent Hill franchise in recent years. After Konami disbanded Team Silent, there was never a Silent Hill game that reached the heights the original trilogy (and arguably Silent Hill 4: The Room) did. Where is Silent Hill now? It’s being plastered onto the side of Pachinko machines, and being crammed into genres that could not be further from it’s roots and it’s a sad, sad sight.
If Metal Gear ends up like Silent Hill, it will break my heart. Let’s hope the rumours that Konami are leaving the AAA development space is true, because if Metal Gear Solid goes the way of Silent Hill, it will be painful to watch.