Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Misadventures of Colonel Campbell, Geriatric Cyborg Ninja


So, it seems that Metal Gear is happening again. Kojima Productions is on the lookout for "engineers, artists and game creators" to help create a new installment of auteur designer extraordinaire Hideo Kojima's massively popular and utterly insane stealth game franchise. We don't know when, but it does look like Kojima could be shooting for the next generation of consoles - the IGN article does mention "next-gen gaming engine technology" to use with the studio's in-house FOX engine, although that's a slightly ambiguous statement as by some quirk of memetic nomenclature, the current console generation has never really stopped being referred to as "next-gen." Nevertheless, it looks like we're due for a few firsts in the Metal Gear franchise, what with the game seemingly being developed for both consoles and PC and with an apparent emphasis on collaboration between East and West, with work locations listed in both Japan and California.

Now, I'm a pretty ardent Metal Gear Solid fan, and I wish I could say I was turning cartwheels at this news, but for one minor yet significant detail: the series is absolutely over. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a series that's over in terms more absolute than this one. 2008's MGS 4: Guns of the Patriots didn't so much draw a line under the narrative dating back to 1987 as it did carve a fissure under it a mile deep. The Patriots were destroyed and their system of control decommissioned! Revolver Ocelot is dead! Solidus is dead! Liquid is really really dead! Major Zero is dead! Vamp is dead! They brought Big Boss back to life for 20 minutes only to make him even more thoroughly dead! Snake was left with a year left to live at the outside! Raiden got decyborgified and reunited with his wife and child to lead a nonviolent life! Meryl got married to that annoying twat! Everything was explained, revealled and resolved in painstaking, borderline OCD detail. Every theme discussed, there was a conclusive statement made about. There is literally not a single card left in this universe's deck.

I honestly don't know what to make of Hideo Kojima sometimes. Here, he's created one of the deepest and most complex stories in videogame history, not to mention dedicated a quarter-century of his life to it, and yet he seems to have remarkably little regard for the integrity of his creation. Yes, I have the same reservations about the upcoming Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, but then, that game was outsourced to another developer and seems unlikely to retroactively undo MGS4's herculean effort at tying everything up given that it's a spin-off whose status as canon is dubious. Anything more closely tied to series continuity, however, seems to me bound to end in disaster. The image of Big Boss above might indicate we're doing prequels again, as in MGS3 and the two PSP releases, but then, that well's pretty much tapped at this point too. I mean, what else is there left to reveal about the events of Big Boss' life in the 60s and 70s without becoming redundant? One possibility might be a game centred around The Boss' exploits during World War II, but then, she was supposed to have been eight months pregnant during her operations then, and a game where you control a heavily pregnant woman lugging her belly around the French countryside slitting Nazi throats has even greater potential for bathos than a game with the word "Revengeance" in its name.

I know Kojima's gone on record as saying that MGS4 wasn't the conclusion he'd wanted for the series, both in terms of gameplay and story, and I respect the fact that he wants to make the "ultimate" MGS. But I'd much rather see him explore these ideas in a new IP, rather than continue a story that's he's done everything in his power to ensure can't possibly be continued. Drawing everything to a gigantic grand finale in MGS4, and then going ahead and making MGS5 anyway because the conclusion wasn't entirely satisfactory has the uncomfortable feel of George Lucas-esque revisionism. How are players supposed to feel any sort of closure from these games with the knowledge that it could all be undone in a couple of years when another installment comes along? I mean OK, Friday the 13th fans have been doing it for decades, but I really don't want to know how the mind of a die-hard Friday the 13th fan functions. That's a dark and scary place to go.

Oh, and one more thing. Hideo, if you're absolutely committed to bringing the world another MGS title, would you at least consider postponing it until after maybe making that new game in that other franchise that you've been jerking fans (myself included) around over for the better part of a decade now? I don't want to come across like an entitled fanboy, but there's a limit to how much I can be teased.

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