Why Metal Gear Solid Matters

When I was asked to write 1000 words about why Metal Gear Solid matters, and what you need to know about it, I knew there was only one way to do it.

By feel alone.

I decided that I would write this thing in an hour. I would submit it in first draft shape. If I hadn’t reached the end of the piece within the hour? Then it would just end. I would take Metal Gear Solid and lower it into my stream of consciousness. I would just let it float. It will float well – it is made of light and thought.

Why do it this way? Why not go through the entire history of the saga, detailing all the characters’ backstories? Why not pull all the plot strands together, as many fans have attempted to do, and create some kind of diagram? Why not join the La with the Li and the Lu with the Le and find where exactly in the timeline the Lo fits?

I think this is where so much analysis of the Metal Gear games falls down. These games are not a franchise. This is not a “universe” as we understand it in this age of the entertainment megabrand. They are not games created by a “frustrated film director”, as many fools have stated. The story, laid out flat, is beautiful and silly and brilliant and sad and horny and dumb and clever. But the story is also not the point. These games are pieces of pure expression. They are hot and frightening – intimidating digital forest fires lit by the greatest genius, and the greatest maverick, of one of the world’s youngest art forms.

Why are we even talking about this? Because Metal Gear Solid V is upon us, and it is A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME. And we see many people asking “Do I have to play the other games to understand the story?” And the answer is NO. “Should I play the others?” Of course. “Do I need to play the others?” No. NO.

This is A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME. To love A J. M. W. TURNER PAINTING you don’t have to see FISHERMEN AT SEA: A J.M.W. TURNER PAINTING first. (If you do see it, it will be beautiful. But it will take you years to think you fully understand it. And you will only think you understand it. Many a brush stroke will remain hidden.)

And Metal Gear Solid 1 is beautiful. Do you remember that beautiful Playstation snow? Crude and jagged and cold? Do you understand how difficult it is to create a great villain in a piece of fiction? Do you remember how HIDEO KOJIMA gave you a number of them in one go? Do you remember how Psycho Mantis read your mind?

Do you understand how HIDEO KOJIMA continues to read your mind?

In Metal Gear Solid 4, Snake is an old man. The world has changed around him. “War has changed”, he says. But the game also says “Entertainment has changed”. MGS4, behind all that weird story, speaks of industrialised entertainment – where everybody is a superhero. The bad guys are in robotic supersuits. Raiden, a character from the experimental Metal Gear Solid 2, has been given a full make-over. He has super-strength, can leap tall buildings in a single bound. It is a world of Iron Men. Snake is an old soldier. Tired, confused, obsolete. This is A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME.

Metal Gear Solid 2. I remember seeing one reviewer say that the dialogue was “gibberish”. Predictions often look like gibberish until you’re looking back at them, nodding. Kojima warned us that, very soon, we would all be communicating using memes. We would be passing off other people’s thoughts as our own. We would turn our real names over to virtual avatars who only looked like us. We would clone ourselves across various networks. We would become one with the machine, and only glimpse our real selves in passing. We would lose touch with what is real. “This is a simulation,” we were warned.

Too late. We went inside anyway.

Other video games are cave paintings compared to these. HIDEO KOJIMA offers us an opportunity to climb out of the cave.

So we climb.

That Ladder…

Meaning.

With.

Loaded.

And.

Wonderful.

And.

Brave.

Is.

It.

And.

Time.

Long.

A.

For.

Ladder.

A.

Climbs.

Snake.

3.

Solid.

Gear.

Metal.

In.

And Metal Gear Solid 3 is the greatest video game of all time. Of course it is. What else could possibly compare to that assault of ideas? HIDEO KOJIMA is in complete control here. It is not a design, it is a fucking possession. In a story about the utter tragedy of duty, you are duty-bound to dance to the tune of the greatest puppet master of all. He makes you dream. He makes you afraid to turn the game off. He creates The Boss, the character who is truly the beating heart of this whole saga, and then sets you on a dark path towards her, and it hurts. The end is inevitable.

You actually fight The End in the game. Even the end of The End is inevitable, and how Kojima explains this to us is remarkable and something I won’t spoil here.

Oh, a thousand words on all of this, Rock Paper Shotgun? I could write a book.

And that’s the point. That’s the whole point. That’s why Metal Gear Solid matters. These games are so far ahead of everything else that no-one has yet managed to talk about them properly. Websites will rush to review Metal Gear Solid V, and it will be an act of pure folly. Some websites will attach a score to it.

THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST – 9/10

And in the years ahead we’ll talk and talk about the game, and numbers will never come into the discussion. It will all be feel.

So here’s what you need to know about Metal Gear Solid going into this new one – the story alone never really mattered. Neither did the gameplay. The expression of a true auteur, through the story and the gameplay and the art and the music, that’s what matters. We’re just not used to that. This is A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME and we’re all just playing catch-up.

This is A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME.

It doesn’t matter that his name has been wiped from the promotional materials, Konami. This thing is the great man’s thoughts made digital, same as it ever was.

This is A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME.

You don’t have to know what it’s all about. You just have to know what you think it’s actually about.

And guess what? That’s exactly what art is.

97 Comments

  1. Da5e says:

    “I could write a book.”

    Please, *please* do!

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    johannsebastianbach says:

    Come again!?

  3. Boosey says:

    I have never played a MGS game and really want to get into them. Is Rab right when he says I can just leap into the latest one or do I need to go back to the first one and play them through to truly “get” them?

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      Henke says:

      I’ve played MGS2-4 and big chunks of MGS1 & Peace Walker and I still don’t *get* them. Not the way Robert does at least, which is perhaps why I’m ok with attaching numbers to them(MGS3: 7/10). But I love the cinematic flair, and the stealth. What I like most is the sheer amount of *personality* these games have. Even though I’m often annoyed by the clunky camera and cutscenes that go on for 45 minutes, I stick with them because there’s bound to be something insane waiting just around the next corner.

    • Farsearcher says:

      I played MGS 3 first (which is chronologically the first game) then some years later MGS 2 then MGS 4. It felt to me like they were interlocking pieces. When I played 2 I understood some more of 3, then with 4 I understood more of the previous 2 again. I haven’t played MGS 1 and that might be tricky to get hold of.

      Ideally I’d play them in release order but if you can’t don’t worry about it you’ll just have it illuminated in a different sequence.

      For convenience release order is MGS 1, 2, 3, 4/peacewalker, ground zeroes, 5.
      Chronological Order Is MGS 3, Peacewalker, 5, 1,2,4.

      Your best bet (other than emulators) is to get the HD collection on Xbox 360 or PS3 which is MGS 2, 3 and Peacewalker. There’s also a legacy collection only on ps3 which has the same but also nets you MGS 4.

      Getting hold of MGS 1 would be trickier as you’d need the original PS1 game or a gamecube/wii and a copy of the MGS Twin Snakes which was a remake of MGS 1 (still done by Kojima)

      • Farsearcher says:

        Oh I do miss the edit function.

        Anyway I realise I wasn’t quite clear enough so – yes you can jump into the latest one.

        It’ll have more impact if you’ve played the previous games but then the previous games will have more impact if you play this first too.

        So don’t worry about it. Just make sure you play MGS 3 if you get the chance, it’s the best of the series so far – with the possible exception of 5 which I haven’t played yet.

        • Boosey says:

          Thanks! This is exactly what I was looking for as I had not realized Twin Snakes was MGS1 re-released! I might have to see if I can pick that up on ebay or something.

      • FunnyB says:

        MGS1 was also released on PC back in the day…

      • Tinotoin says:

        MGS1 is actually on PSN for PS3 / Vita for a mere £8! :)

        It’s the one I know the best. I played it and MGS2 many times over, but kind of lost interest in the series since. I think I’ll be happy to go into TPP without playing the others.

      • mrwonko says:

        The legacy collection for PS3 also includes a code for downloading MGS1 from PSN.

        • Boosey says:

          Even better! An absolute bargain for £20 odd quid on Amazon. Cheers!

      • Syme says:

        I think it’s on the psn store if you’ve got a playstation 3, would have to check.

    • Jericho says:

      I would say “yes” with the caveat that MGS4 tried really hard to tie up as many of the remaining loose ends in the plots of MGS1-3, but it also does the player the favor of showing bits and pieces of those older games in flashback form when it’s necessary. Of course, these flashbacks also have the effect of further lengthening what is already the most cutscene-filled game in the series.

      Similarly, MGS2’s plot works on its own due to its general theme of memes and the Internet’s growing power over society and culture, but the concrete bits and pieces it uses to illustrate this are taken from MGS1 before it. It might actually be more entertaining to have played MGS2 BEFORE the original MGS just to be able to experience its plot and gameplay without the memetic links to MGS1 obscuring the real plot through the first half of the game and generally subverting the expectations of the player. MGS2’s subversion is directly built on the player having first played MGS1 and wanting to get the same “experience” again.

      From what I’ve seen so far of MGS5 (about the first 10 hours or so of plot and gameplay) its not even necessary to have played Ground Zeroes beforehand as even that is retold via brief flashbacks when needed. In fact MGS5 seems to do an amazing job of quickly flashing through the “here’s what you need to know” bits at a rapid pace so that the player can get to the actual “playing the game” part without delay. For good or ill, MGS5 seems much more focused on giving the player an increasingly growing tool set to utilize for “playing” it than bookending each contained play segment with cutscenes and story. There’s still cutscenes and story, but much MUCH more of it is relayed through the process of playing missions than it is in watching digital actors interact with each other. The series token radio conversations that paused the “game” for as long as it took to finish a conversation are now done audio-only in real time as you run/sneak/drive around the game world doing stuff. The in-depth conversations still exist, but they’re mostly reserved as a collection of cassette tapes that you gain as you progress through missions or locate information in the field. You can listen to the cassette tapes on your own time when you’re not actually “playing” or you can queue them up in your in-game Walkman and listen to them while you complete other tasks, assuming you care to know the minute details of the story.

      Like MGS2/3/4 before it, I’m not sure if the gameplay/story loops seen in the first dozen or so hours of the game will be subverted later on (I’ve not read any reviews that discussed the story’s content), but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a switch-up at some point. For example, it wouldn’t shock me at all if after spending countless hours building up and fortifying your Mother Base throughout the entire game, there comes a climatic moment at or near the end where you are forced to infiltrate/assault your own base (either as Big Boss or another character) and have to deal with the fact that any hardships you face in doing so are of your own making. Thematic closure like that is something I’ve come to expect from Kojima at this point. Or, in other words, the player being made to face up to their own past decisions in one way or another (See: the “fight” with The Sorrow in MGS3, an experience that was so shocking to me the first time I encountered it that it actually changed the way I approach combat and stealth games ever since).

      I know this isn’t a simple reply, but like Rob said you can get a lot out of A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME even if its your first time playing one, and you can get a lot MORE out of one if it isn’t.

    • aoanla says:

      I don’t know: the only MGS game I played was MGS2, and I found that I disliked it quite a lot (enough to never bother getting more than about 20% of the way into the game, at best). But the things I disliked were mostly gameplay elements, which felt awkward to me, not any plot (or metaplot) elements which rely on knowledge of MGS.
      So, I guess, “as far as I can tell, yes, you can just play any of them, but this doesn’t guarantee that you’ll agree with Rab”.

    • Synesthesia says:

      “Getting” them might be impossible. I’ve played the entire saga, with the exception of peace walker(i’m making a first run of that right now though), and the few non canon spin offs. I’ve spent many hours on the wikis, bouncing around.

      I still don’t get all of it. It doesn’t matter. They are fantastic games. I do recommend you play at least MGS3. It’s the best one.

      If you like that, and feel have the energy for it, a 1/2/4 marathon might bring you to kojima nirvana.

      • Dugular says:

        Not only is MGS 3 the best one, it’s the only one which feels like a complete own story with an ending and all the information you need in the same game.

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      Thulsa Hex says:

      My own feeling would be to at least play MSG1 first as this laid the foundations for pretty much the whole series and is referenced a lot in the sequels. I think that it’s still a spectacular game — it doesn’t feel nearly as graceful as it did 17 years ago but it still controls relatively intuitively when you get used to its logic and rhythm. It isn’t a very long game, either, and will give you a good overall sense of the series’ tone. It also has a TON of character, despite the low-poly models. Just come at it with some suspension of disbelief and you might have a great time with the story. It’s paced pretty well and not nearly as confusing as some say, in my opinion.

      I don’t usually openly recommend emulation, but if you don’t have a PlayStation console, the emulated PS1 version plays great on modest hardware.

      Anyway, if you do decide to jump in, I hope you enjoy whichever one you choose.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Another angle: Like some here, and unlike others, I don’t really get or remember much of the story except a few connections and name drops here and there, and I get none of the deeper metaphilosophical ludowhateverstuff, but I really love the games. I might not stick my “favorite game” label on them, but they are absolutely the best games at being games. They are distinctly (all-caps, if you want) Hideo Kojima games, which is up there with Being Deus Ex and Being Journey, but I’m not really sure how to explain that qualification besides the fact that they are his and his teams’ games.

      To give more context to that: I only played a few minutes of the PC MGS1 demo many years back and did about the same with Metal Gear on the NES, but I played MGS2 several times in part and in full and watched college roomies play through it still other times, and I played through MGS4 exactly once. I think I like them both about the same, but 4 sits fresher and more critically examined in my mind, so I’ve more praise readily available for it. At any rate, I see them both as extremely intricate, yet complete and tight representations of all that’s good about gaming (minus multiplayer, which I don’t care much about anyway), and I wouldn’t be surprised if all the odd-numbered ones are, too. Oh…actually, I guess I did watch friends playing MGS1 on Gamecube and 3 on PS2 a bit, too — enough both to want to play them at some point and to feel like I’m not missing out too much by playing the others first.

      I say go for it with #5!

    • vahnn says:

      You can. I first played 2 on PS2, then 3 in PS2, then years later played 1 on PC. Haven’t touched 4. Preordered 5.

      I still am not quite sure what any of them are about but they are undoubtedly among the greatest games I’ve ever played. One day I’ll have a go at 4 and I’m sure it will be among the ranks of greatness.

      What i mean to say is: dive right into MGSV.

  4. Spacewalk says:

    I never realized how cauliflowered Playstation-era Snake’s ears were before now.

  5. Easy says:

    So say we all.

  6. spacedyemeerkat says:

    What an entertaining read, thank you!

  7. The Sombrero Kid says:

    It’s a pile of old shit.

  8. Skeletor68 says:

    Death on a Pale Horse is my favourite Turner painting.

    I’ve only ever played the demo for MGS 2 on the PS2. Choking guards unconscious but not killing them and leading them around in the snow with my footprints. Listening to their exclamation points and *Huh?*

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      I think you mean MGS. There is no snow in Sons of Liberty.

  9. Humppakummitus says:

    This is A ROBERT FLORENCE FEATURE.

  10. Demiath says:

    I recently played through MGS1-4+PW for the first time and it’s really the best (and worst) way to learn about the exotic wildlife of southern Russia and Costa Rica, postmodern ideas about the illusion of personal identity, old Japanese and American horror movies, the intense shame associated with public defecation as well as the most needlessly complicated and least practical approaches to nuclear proliferation ever conceived. Among other things. Many other things…

  11. wraithgr says:

    I climbed that word ladder
    straight
    out
    of
    the
    rest
    of
    your
    article…

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      You mean straight to the bottom?

      • Synesthesia says:

        he had to tell us DAMMIT

        • wraithgr says:

          You’re right, how DARE I make a remark criticizing something I didn’t like about the article… If that were allowed, there would be a comments section at the bottom of the… Waitaminute!

  12. Tiffer45 says:

    You can play MGS1 as part of the Legacy Collection on PS3 – that game comes with a download code so you can download and play it from the PS Store. All the other games on that collection come on the discs.

  13. Eight Rooks says:

    It’s weird, on the one hand – I say again, on the one hand, if anyone’s reaching to delete this – I thought this piece was a load of nonsense. Seriously, I pretty much disagree with every single point. Kojima has never created a single decent character, let alone a great villain; MGS2 is a babble of incoherent nonsense half-heartedly reaching at highfalutin’ concepts and spewing them back William Burroughs cutup-style; the ladder sequence in MGS3 is ridiculous filler and that song is terrible with no redeeming features whatsoever; the Boss is one of the worst characters I’ve ever seen in a videogame, so screamingly irritating I turned the volume down on her final monologue because it was giving me a headache…

    and yet ON THE OTHER HAND (see?), I kind of agreed with the piece at the same time. Really. I’ve played, and beaten, 2, 3 and 4 and for all their many, many flaws I loved them to pieces. I have V on pre-order. Konami’s treatment of Kojima was a punch to the gut for me and that final trailer, that “Screw you guys, I’m out, it’s been a great 25 years” had me misty-eyed. Hell, as much as I hated the Boss I still teared up at That Moment at the end of 3, seen from Snake’s viewpoint. He is an auteur, is Kojima; wildly over-rated in some respects, arguably hugely under-rated in others. Triple-A gaming, indeed, gaming in general, needs more people with that sort of singularly demented vision. It is A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME, and in way, yes, that should be all you need to know.

    • GameCat says:

      Often wild imagination matters more than technical perfection.

      • GWOP says:

        Not that, of course, MGS games are ever lacking in the technical department (MGS V on the PS4 is running at 1080p and 60FPS).

    • Bull0 says:

      You can’t seriously think the ladder sequence is there “as filler”. Really? You’re right – you don’t get it.

  14. amcathlan says:

    Always had great mechanics, creative boss fights and good atmosphere, almost no matter which one of the series we’re discussing. Sadly also plots, dialoque and character motivations that seemed like they were generated from random bits of utter gibberish with no rhyme or reason. Creatively bad, gotta give the old guy that. They can be effectively completed without cringing so hard you burst a blood vessel in the brain by skipping every single piece of dialoque and all cutscenes. Then they’re great little games and not nearly as retarded as they come off as.
    The “art” angle seems like self-delusion to me though. I’m really pretty sure every word of the narrative is coughed up by a computer from random thoughts an intern had in the bathroom for hoots and giggles. Now that I think of it, that is a kind of an art project….

  15. XhomeB says:

    Konami, kindly come to your senses and port the MGS HD Collection to PC already. Sheesh. Some people playing The Phantom Pain are bound to feel totally lost when it comes to the plot elements.

    • Xzi says:

      Not really, they fill you in on everything relevant to MGSV in the intro sequence and Ground Zeroes.

  16. RedViv says:

    I could never look the same way at AAA games again after playing through the whole Tetralogy back-to-back when MGS4 came out. The series might not be technically perfect ever, it might be meandering, it might have very questionable moments (the series’ peak only reached in Ground Zeroes later… as far as I know right now), but it’s such a GRAND RIDE. A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME.

    P.S. hashtag FucKonami

  17. SparksV says:

    One of THE best articles about MGS, bravo Robert !

  18. Synesthesia says:

    Really good stuff. And yes, MGS3 is quite possibly the best videogame of all time. It and Dark Souls keep fighting for that spot on my personal list.

    also:
    THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST – 9/10

    Fucking thank you. I’m so tired of people experiencing games like hamburgers.

    Great stuff, as always. You’re pretty good.

    • death_au says:

      Ugh, I’m so sick of people giving number ratings to hamburgers. That doesn’t tell me anything. How was the meat? How was it cooked? How were the ingredients and how did the whole thing work together?

      BIG BOY BURGER – 9/10

      …And when I get there, it’s a pile of fatty, greasy meat that does not appeal to me at all.

  19. gbrading says:

    Truly great stuff. I’ve never played MGS before Ground Zeroes but I’ve avidly watched Giant Bomb’s playthrough of the previous games. I think I know more or less understand and appreciate what MGS is, and that it is something which can only really be experienced first hand. MGS defies categorization.

  20. kud13 says:

    I’ve often been told this is the best story told in games. Usually it was in comparison with Legacy of Kain (which is my gold standard, since I’ve never had a console, and been confined to PC gaming all my life).

    I do wish this series would find its way to PC, so that I could see if that were true.

  21. jonahcutter says:

    “no-one has yet managed to talk about them properly.”

    Matthewmatosis has a real nice series of videos on the Metal Gear games. I wouldn’t say it’s the definitive word, but it’s a good addition to the conversation:

  22. Jinoru says:

    You’re pretty good!

  23. LogicalDash says:

    You don’t have to know what it’s all about. You just have to know what you think it’s actually about.

    And guess what? That’s exactly what art is.

    If I don’t have to know what Kojima meant by it, how is it A HIDEO KOJIMA GAME?

    Auteur theory and Death of the Author aren’t compatible, and yet, I keep seeing them in the same place. My best guess is it’s a way to avoid the sort of conversation that reaches conclusions about things. If you specifically refuse to take a set of premises that would make ideas falsifiable, then all interpretations are basically valid, and differ mainly in how interesting they are.

    • Jinoru says:

      Why do we need a conclusion?

      • LogicalDash says:

        Did I say you did?

        I tend to want conclusions because without them I am left with the impression that nothing much has been said; in this case, I have read an article purporting to explain Why Metal Gear Solid Matters, and I feel unconvinced that it does; or what it matters to, if it does; or why.

        • UndrState says:

          I have to agree. This article leaves a lot to be desired.

    • RQH says:

      “You just have to know what you think it’s actually about,” doesn’t need to be a total Death of the Author claim. It can just be an acknowledgment of the simple truth that in most artistic endeavors, meaning will be lost. However, as long as that work of art continues to resonate across time and contexts and blossoms in the mind of the viewer/player, then the artist’s efforts are not entirely in vain, nor is the artist’s voice lost or irrelevant. Something has been transmitted. In the case of Metal Gear Solid, quite a lot is lost, but just as much finds fertile soil in the minds of players, as this and many other articles in the last month attest. By talking about it, and sharing the meaning we found, we hope to come to a better, fuller understanding of Kojima’s vision; but we also always add something of ourselves to it, as discussing it adds another layer of mediation between Kojima’s intent and our own reception of that intent. It doesn’t mean that Kojima’s intent no longer matters, only that we can’t ever know it completely. He has told us, but he was always doomed to fail in the telling because if he had not used a video game he still would have had to use language. However he had tried to communicate it would have been open to interpretation and misinterpretation. But if he had not tried to tell us at all, we would not be here, alternately moved, baffled, inspired, disgusted, and provoked. And I think that’s worthwhile, even if we will never fully understand or be able to describe a HIDEO KOJIMA GAME.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      “Auteur theory and Death of the Author aren’t compatible.” Who said that?

      Haha. But this is patently untrue. If auteur theory gives a director the same creative status as an author, then surely you can’t have Death of the Author in films/TV/games -without- auteurs.

  24. Sunjammer says:

    Kojima is the Dan Brown of video games through the lens of Cannon Films and way too much money.

    I’m not sure art is worthwhile simply because it was created by someone. The art has to stand alone, IMO. This is why we forgive (mostly) Lovecraft’s bigotry, for instance, and the flaws of innumerable other artists, because taken aside each work can have individual power. “This is Good because This artist Made it” is a very poor piece of criticism indeed.

    Looking at MGS outside of the whole auteur bullshit (because it really is), the series has an unhealthy ratio of abject idiocy to its specks of genius. People are somehow in awe of the barely-coherent storytelling, base level anime acting because there’s So Much of It, forgive the really-not-very-funny objectification and simplification of women (MGS4 was wall to wall sadness in this regard), gay jokes and more, and go on to praise Kojima’s “art”.

    Fuck it. The games have merit because they are mad machines so distanced from other titles in their very madness that they are worthy of attention. But they are for the most part mechanically clunky and patently silly videogames with insane faith in their ability to blend The Hard Issues (including battlefield rape, torture, blacksite incarceration, child torture) with Lol Look With His Long Hair He’s So Much Like A Girl The President Had To Grab his Junk To Make Sure Lol that they come across as almost 100% completely tone deaf.

    Auteur? I dunno. Savant, perhaps. I’m up for MGS5, but only for the parts of it where characters shut the fuck up. And boy am I realllly looking forward to hearing the explanation for Quiet’s outfit. I bet it’s a doozy.

    • Bull0 says:

      The rumour is sunlight affects her camouflaging flying powers, so being scantily clad is a benefit. The idea was to get people talking, I expect. As for the rest of what you said – OK. A game should be All Serious, All the Time.

      • thelastdonut says:

        I don’t think hes saying they have to be serious but he doesn’t appreciate the “madness” on the same level as other people. MGS can be hella stupid at point but I still love it.

        For the other stuff he said, *shrug*, though I’d argue you can call Kojima can be called the auteur of the MGS series. Savant, idk, his team on the whole, yes.

        • Bull0 says:

          I was being charitable by summing it up as that, if anything. Actually what he’s saying is it stops being art if it includes objectifying content or content that offends him. Which is… woah.

          • Sunjammer says:

            No man. I’m not saying anything remotely close to that.

          • Sunjammer says:

            Curse the lack of an edit button: I can see why you might read what I wrote that way now. That’s on me. I’ll rephrase:

            Kojima gets away with shit extremely few others would. Writers who will *pound* any game for sexism will gladly forgive Kojima’s, because “It’s just typical Kojima craziness”. This is the guy that has you grope every woman in his *adventure games* but hey, it’s Kojima right? If so, why are we tearing apart Lovecraft for his bigotry? Hey, it’s just typical Lovecraft craziness, right? If you’re concerned I don’t think his art is art then don’t worry. It is. It’s just not really an excuse. Even the most ardent Lovecraft fan won’t defend The Horror at Red Hook, for instance.

            I think Kojima produced a really great game in MGS. Beyond that I think he made like a kid with a credit card. If I ever have to watch a cutscene written and/or directed by him again in a million years it’ll be too soon, it’s that fucking rotten.

            As for seriousness, I’m a HUGE fan of Platinum, for instance. Bayonetta 2, Vanquish, probably my favorite two action games in recent years. I’ll take Bayo craziness over Kojima craziness any day of the week. A poorly written story injected with moments of hilarious madness (flamenco dancing vampire assassin, rollerblading bomb guy with a cocktail, guys with names like Hot Coldman, sex with minors and rape… You know, the coolest of the lols) is not elevated by it. It’s just a fucking clown show.

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            Aerothorn says:

            Sunjammer, I see where you’re coming from: but I will eat my hat if there are not a bunch of articles pounding MGSV for sexism. And for the older titles, those were released before there were many people writing about sexism in video games.

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            Aerothorn says:

            Basically I don’t think it’s a Kojima thing, I think it’s a video game thing.

          • Bull0 says:

            There’s two sides to all of it. The guy who has the long hair that Kojima makes fun of also goes through one of the most meaningful character arcs I can recall in games, does a ton of very heroic shit, etc. The women whose sexual characteristics can often be accentuated are also often among the noblest or most heroic characters. Snake himself is the butt of the joke for pretty much all of MGS3. Kojima “gets away” with this stuff because it’s all a giant melting pot. Other games don’t tend to have the same diversity and richness to trade off on when they include gags you would consider distasteful.

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      Oakreef says:

      Apparently the explanation is (so spoilers obviously) that she is infected with a parasite that means she has to absorb oxygen and water through her skin or she will die and Kojima thinks that clothes are vacuum seals.

  25. tiltaghe says:

    That beautiful playstation polygonal 3D. I love it!

  26. Hanban says:

    After a too long day at work, I really needed this. This is now one of my very favourite RPS articles. Thanks!

  27. Bull0 says:

    Well said AND an entertaining read. Bravo!

  28. UndrState says:

    I have to say, I really didn’t enjoy this article. While I have to agree that Metal Gear Solid qualifies as high art in the sphere of video games, I don’t think this article does much at all to argue why “Metal Gear Solid Matters”. The steam of consciousness takes this article right off the rails. While I think Kojima is an excellent artist, I think he does have some serious failures esp. post-MGS; just because Kojima did it, doesn’t mean he did it well . I also don’t think you can ever discount the importance of other works within a narrative continuum with regards to any particular part, esp. with regards to preceding volumes.

  29. apa says:

    When reading an article by Rab I just have to hear it in my head with his accent. I’ve done this since I saw the Space Hulk 3rd ed video way back.

    Am I the only one?

  30. Machocruz says:

    Rob, I hope you don’t think your views on art are informed enough to be telling us “how it is” or what requires how much understanding. Cave paintings are held in very high regard by critics and professionals, equal to anything else that came after. And your definition of exactly what art…I’d like to see support for such a bold pronouncement. And with your Turner comments, you are engaging in Modernist mystical thinking. To grasp Fishermen at Sea does not take years, and when one understands it, they will understand it well enough. What Turner (at least during this period) and his contemporaries intended in their work is right there. Unlike some contemporary art establishment hustlers, they did not compose pictures in a manner that would require a statement to relay the intent and meaning of the piece.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      You have interpreted Robert’s words in your own unique way, thus proving they are art.

  31. Stardog says:

    I just completed MGS3 in 8 hours (first time since I last completed it when it first came out) and it’s one of the most worst designed games you’ll play. Kojima is a frustrated movie director. As with most arty farty types, you ignore the most important part of any game — the gameplay.

    No crouch-running? Bad design.
    No orbiting/free camera (changed in Subsistence)? Bad design.
    Automatic wall leaning? Bad design.
    No movement in FPS mode? Bad design.
    CQC using button pressure? Bad design.
    Snake aiming in the direction he’s facing, rather than the direction you’re looking with the camera? Bad design.
    Crouching then moving makes you prone? Bad design.
    Every alert/evasion/caution cycle taking 3+ minutes? Bad design.

    MGS3 is a nightmare to play, unless you just Mk22 everyone you see in the head. Kojima was incapable of designing any useful gameplay tools to navigate the game stealthily. Being released in 2004 is no excuse, considering alternative stealth games were out at the time like Thief/Hitman/Splinter Cell and even the lesser known Commandos all did things better.

    The only interesting thing about MGS3 is the spectacle. He should stick to making movies and let someone else do the gameplay. Luckily, he seems to have done that with MGSV.

    • Bull0 says:

      Yeah, I don’t know about you but personally the only games I complete twice are the really shit ones.

      • Stardog says:

        Notice that you can’t actually argue against the points.

        • Bull0 says:

          What, like your point about how everything you don’t like about the game is BAD DESIGN? Yeah, hmm… I don’t really feel the need to respond to that to be honest with you

          • Bull0 says:

            And as for “nightmare unless you tranq everybody” “no tools to play stealthily” etc – mostly what this tells me is that you just *sucked* at the game. But still enjoyed it enough to complete it twice. Yet, here you are, shitting on it. So edgy.

    • Flavorfish says:

      I’ll be first to hate on some of the horrid design decisions and obnoxiously bad writing of MGS, but I think you’re dead wrong on MGS3. The list of poor design decisions you mention all relate to it’s clunky and unintuitive controls, which is fair; but your frustration with it’s controls blinds you to many of the design decisions MGS3 got phenomenally right, especially for it’s time.

      MGS3 had so many dynamic interwoven mechanics and such open environments that it provided an incredibly flexible and rich stealth experience that was unmatched for it’s time. It’s closest contemporary was Pandora Tomorrow, which was suffocatingly linear and offered essentially no methods of infiltration beyond the single predefined path through a level that the developers had created.

      In contrast, MGS3 offered these huge environments rich with interesting and novel ways to interact with them. There were dozens of ways to get through a single level, even before we account for equipment and enemy status. I would argue it was the first traditional stealth game to offer truly emergent experiences.

  32. LennyLeonardo says:

    The outtakes/alternate cutscenes in Subsistence were the best. Just saying.

  33. Snids says:

    Just quick. Kojima gets a lot of praise for the madness in his games but when you look at where he comes from and look at his games as a continuation of that, it makes a little bit more sense.
    His games, whilst very cinematic are at the same time very “gamey”, The NPCs telling you how to control the game etc. They never forget that they’re games which is something completely non-existent in AAA games at this point in time.
    Even when MGS1 came out it wasn’t.

    Anyway, games back in the late 80’s up until the mid 90’s were full of cliches with characters like “The Boss”, “The Kingpin” etc. Look at any arcade game.

    Anyway Kojima started making games back then and all he’s done is continue to make games with the content of a pure 80’s/90’s arcade game and then add cinematic stylings, realism, strategy, depth and refined gameplay etc etc.

    Which is precisely what I wanted when I attempted to look into the future of games back in the 90’s or whatever.

    People often miss the point of MGS because they get overloaded with the cutscenes (fair enough) but he’s making the the purest “game” games over his career and in all honesty they shit all over everything else in the same sphere. (AAA, console, action).

    He IS a genius. Yeah, I hate a lot of the content. There are frustrations as there are with any game. I love the rough edges. Otherwise were left with games that play themselves, unchallenging stories, bland wish fulfillment bullshit.

  34. sfoumatou says:

    Minor spoilers below.

    I made an account just to comment here because I’m wondering if I’m the only one who feels this way.

    I thought MGS 1, 2 and 3 were all amazing games, historically significant each of their own reasons. I’m not gonna go in depth here because I think that the general consensus agrees with me.

    What I feel pretty alone in thinking is that MGS4 seems like it went off the rails. To me it felt overbloated with cutscenes, without having the dramatic tension and thematic coherence of MGS2. It also lost the “one setting, one mission” concept of the other games, which I always felt was a big part of their immersion. To me, MGS works because you’re trapped with Snake in a certain place, in a certain time, and as the mission goes on and the plot gets more ridiculous that feeling of entrapment gets more and more intense (see Dark Souls for another example of this feeling). MGS4 threw that out the window and gave us a globetrotting romp instead, with dramatic tension being cut up in small bits. It didn’t help that the various levels were very short and every other scene was some kind of climax.

    Another thing I disliked about MGS4 was its rampant use of spectacle. It seemed to be full of insane technology, flashy characters, beautiful women that were thrown in for the cool/sexy factor without really being fleshed out like in previous games. MGS3 spends the entire game building up information on the Shagohod, for example, while MGS4 seemed to be handing you unexplained gadgets every 10 minutes.

    What I’m saying is, I fully agree with the first three titles being so important and amazing. I would also include Peace Walker there because while it went a lot more simple and light, it also somehow distilled most of what makes the series great. But MGS4? I just don’t get it. I wish I did, though. Someone help me out here.

    • Xantonze says:

      I’m with you. Loved 1-2-3 but hated 4 because it was so bloated in every way. Luckily, seems like 5 will be the exact opposite: open world, pared down cutscene-hell, good handling (this can already be checked with the prologue Ground Zeroes).

      • sfoumatou says:

        I had honestly not even glanced at anything 5-related because of how much I disliked 4, but what you’re saying is slightly encouraging. I might give it a chance.

    • Jericho says:

      You’re not alone.

      I didn’t HATE MGS4 per say but I really did end up disliking just about every part of it. I understood the story and “why” Kojima made it how he did, but I just didn’t like it once it was all done and said. I was SO happy when Peace Walker came out for the PS3 so I could finally get some more MGS in my life and it felt like coming home again after playing MGS4. That’s part of the reason I’ve been so excited for MGS5: I feel Solid Snake’s/Raiden’s story pretty much concluded at the end of MGS2. The only story left to tell was Big Boss’s, and that’s just what we’ve been getting.

    • death_au says:

      Crazy as it might sound, I think it was by design.
      This maybe taking artistic interpretation a little bit far, but at that point Kojima was a tortured soul making a game he really didn’t want to make. So he made it different and ruined parts and made it cutscene heavy to force story instead of gameplay. It’s all over the place. It’s different. If the higher ups at Konami wouldn’t let him kill Snake off, then perhaps he could conclude and kill the Metal Gear series.
      Of course, that was never an option. People would love it, he’d have to make another one. MGS4 is a game about futility, even in the face of success.

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      Thulsa Hex says:

      I don’t think you’re close to being alone in thinking these things about MGS4. While it’s the only main series MGS game I haven’t yet played, I’ve read a lot of similar criticism against it — both by fans of the series and its detractors. I’ve also heard dissenting opinions, to be sure, but the most prevalent I’ve encountered align with what you’ve written. I’m looking forward to eventually forming my own opinions but I’ve not been around Sony consoles very much since the early days of the PS2 so haven’t had the chance yet.

      I feel like with both MGS2 and (what I’ve read about) MGS4, Kojima had a sort of axe to grind or something (some cite a frustration with his fans’ demands). But since (only recently) catching-up with the prequel storyline, it seems to me that he fell head-over-heels in love with writing for Big Boss’ character. His enthusiasm for this Snake is tangible and I don’t know if he even expected it to happen. It think it may have freed him of the pressure to pander to other people’s nostalgia/expectations for Solid Snake and his supporting cast. He is clearly having a ton of fun with V, despite the Konami controversy. Give Ground Zeroes a try — it is a beautiful game to PLAY.

      (Disclaimer: I don’t know how Solid Snake is treated in MGS4, obviously, so there may be flaws in my thought process.)

  35. caff says:

    So, 8.5 out of 10 then?

  36. Sentinel Red says:

    The whole piece is great but he really nails it regarding Sons of Liberty, holy shit that insane stuff in the final act really did turn out to be some kind of demented prophecy for future behaviour and societal attitudes. So much of it feels bang on point now it’s scary.

    Apart from the bit with a battalion of walking submersible tanks, that never quite panned out alas.

  37. blastaz says:

    My wife and I have been going out for about eight years. I have gamed constantly across platforms and into the far too wee hours of the morning and she tolerates it with neary a glimmer of interest in the same way she does my problem drinking, as just another facet of my exuberant soul trapped in a far too prosaic world.

    Anyway to cut a far too long story short she had mentioned that she used to play metal gear solid back in the day when she was a wee nipper. I bought her Ground Zeroes as a bit of a joke. Now she as dragged my old PS3 out of the cupboard, previously only used for exercise videos, and promptly proceeded to buy the entire back catalogue.

    Every time I take a bath I hear the quiet sounds of marines being taken down by the tranq gun in the background. I think she will finish peacewalker in time to fit the phantom pain into her re-playthrough of the series.

    All I can say is this series gets its hooks into you DEEP.

  38. OmNomNom says:

    Sadly all i remember about the MGS games was decent story and awful gameplay. I doubt they’ve aged well.

  39. cpt_freakout says:

    I’m one of those idiots that couldn’t get past the “craziness” of Kojima’s work. I follow the man on Twitter, and I do think he’s pretty great and smart, but holy shit can his games be muddled. Rich Stanton’s recent pieces on 1 and 2 make some very interesting points, but you can apply the Greenberg-like “history of modernism” framework to so many things (to which it’s not intended to be applied to) it’s almost pointless; sure, self-awareness might be one of MGS’s cores, but it’s not like there’s no other ways to ironically point at the relationship between game and gamer, and you could argue to some degree that “the princess is in another castle” is a previous instance of it (games were postmodern before they were modern, in many ways).

    I don’t know, I find the series’ hyper-soap-opera form unbearable, and instead of seeing it as a Pop Art masterpiece I find myself thinking it’s just like one of those incredibly obtuse philosophical animes that are much less clever than they think they are. That’s not to dispute the series’ importance, of course, and it has started to produce some great writing, which I hope might turn me over to the side of the initiated.

  40. 10min says:

    I never played any Metal Gear game, but if the best video chosen by a fan to show the game is a looooooooong looooooong video showing a dummy climbing a stair, and nothing else, I don’t even want to know what this game is about.