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In the spirit of Kojima abandoning the career defining exposition and embracing brevity, I will endeavour to deliver a “review” that surmises my experience playing Metal Gear Solid 5 The Phantom Pain (MGSVTPP) in a concise manner.

The game picks up straight after the events of Ground Zeroes (GZ), delivering a beautiful, cinematic experience with the most fluid control ever seen in an Metal Gear Solid game, period. But much like GZ, this experience is sort lived. The broader experience of MGSVTPP is that of an incomplete, incoherent mess.

Konami have come in for criticism for allegations of mistreatment of employees, apparently firing Kojima and his team and blatant mishandling of their franchises; Castlevania, Silent Hill(s) and now Metal Gear. They are deserving of criticism but so too is Kojima. Having played The Phantom Pain (TPP) for over 80 hours I can honestly say that Kojima did drop the ball. The shear volume of repetition, vast open worlds with little content or variety and a story so ill structured and poorly told, it is clear that Hideo was out of his depth on TPP.

He clearly mismanaged his teams time and the budget. While I don’t love Konami, you can understand their reasons for stepping in and setting a September 1st 2015 realese date, much to the detriment of the end product. Since the release of MGS2 back in 2001 sales of the series have fallen, from an estimated 6 million for Metal Gear Solid 2 (MGS2) falling to an estimated 2 million for 2010’s Peace Walker. After 5 years and a budget said to be in the region of $80 million, Konami decided time was up on Kojima’s oft mooted opus.

Konami’s decision to release earlier than Kojima most likely desired, is evidence that Kojima spent too much time building the game up on social media and not enough time delivering on his earlier promises. Promises on “the ultimate Metal Gear”, dealing with controversial topics, taboo subjects and delivering something that had never been done before in video games. All of this is absent from TPP.

Many clamber online for clues to missing content, an illusive Chapter 3 hidden somewhere in game file awaiting to be woken from a coma akin to Big Boss himself. As much as I hope the efforts of the dataminers and theorists on the NeverBeGameOver thread on Reddit yield results, I fear their efforts are in vain. The game is missing parts like the protagonist, and as Kojima walks away from the Metal Gear universe, we must move on too.

It is clear now looking back at the first few reveal trailers that the story was resolved at an early stage. With principle cinematic and narrative cutscene work complete, it begs the question what was he doing for the last few years? I am a fanboy for the series, I love all the games for various reasons, and while I am not unaware of the imperfections of past titles, I am far from a Kojima apologist.

MGSV’s gameplay, presentation and scope of ambition are excellent and admirable, but the game is unbalanced and it is clearly incomplete. The open world (two areas in total) are beautiful to look at but are barren in terms of content and variety of things to do. Where are the set pieces and beautifully detailed environments that made past titles so captivating and tense? I am tired of finding wandering Mother Base soldiers, clearing mines and extracting prisoners. Quantity does not equal quality.

In the clamber for open world mass market appeal Kojima fultoned his expertise in linear prefection. The side ops are repetitive, the story is poorly structured with the final truth (which I loved) came out of nowhere with no build up. For all the heat that the demo Ground Zeroes garnered it is a more structured, composed and complete package. I don’t condone derision of artistic endeavours but The Phantom Pain is an unmitigated mess and is more devisive than MGS2, but this time for all the wrong reasons. A case of quantity over quality.

The early promise tastes sweet, but the flavour soon dissolves into a bitter taste that will linger long. A sad not to end 28 years of Metal Gear. I’m off to play Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, who is coming to join me?

3.75/5

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“Lady Godiva entered the royal enclosure at Ascot claiming she had literally nothing to wear.”
Edmund Blackadder (Blackadder Goes Fourth)

According to legend Lady Godiva the infamous Anglo-Saxon noblewoman, rode naked through the streets of Coventry (England) in order to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants.

Quiet, the new female sniper in Metal Gear Solid is not an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman, but her revealing ‘reveal’ has caused concern. Coupled with this is Hideo Kojima’s initial reasoning behind her appearance, it is possible to conceive that eyebrows, were, ahem, not the only thing raised in the wake of her announcement.

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In the months following the reveal of Quiet, Hideo Kojima and his translation team on Twitter have not helped the situation. Accusations of sexualised female characters appearing in a male dominated media have always been an issue. Mr Kojima and his team have worked hard to build the Fox Engine and anticipation for MGS5 tackle “taboo” subjects in an open world environment. The appearance of Quiet and her scantily clad demeanour looks set to send the series back to a darker age of female sexualisation.

The recent exploits of the rebooted Lara Croft, Commander Shepard (Mass Effect) and all female leads (Tess, Marlene and Ellie) in The Last of Us, have done much to show the strength and maturity that female protagonists can bring to an ever evolving industry that transcends age and gender.

Kojima’s exploits on Twitter recently have enraged some fans (myself included) and industry members. Kojima having stated:

“I’ve been ordering to Yoji (Shinkawa) to make the character more erotic, and he did it well”

“Recently I’ve been making characters this way. I create the setting thoroughly, how he/she spent early life, name, style, favorite phrase, fashion, action, to stand the character out.”

“The initial target is to make (you) want to do cosplay or its figurine to sell well.”

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David Ellis, one of the designers of the Halo series (343 Studios) tweeted his thoughts in the wake of the not-so Quiet controversy. Ellis said “Don’t care if this gets me in trouble. This character design is disgusting. Our industry should be better than this.”

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In an interview with IGN released today Kojima has tried to clarify Quiet’s appearance. Check out Mr Kojima’s reasoning below:

In the interview with IGN Kojima said that “showing the female sniper in Metal Gear Solid V was probably a mistake”. Kojima also said “I try to make sure I’m doing something new, not repeating something that is already in the series”. While he makes a reasonable response to his critics, if one looks at previous female characters in the series, it is hard not to view Kojima’s response with a note of irony and scepticism.

Take a look at Sniper Wolf (MGS1), Fortune (MGS2), The Boss (MGS3), the Octopus Unit (MGS4) and Paz (MGS Peace Walker). Despite Kojima creating some very strong female characters, It is difficult not to notice that some are part of an aesthetic pattern….

Sniper Wolf:

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Fortune:

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The Boss: (Arguably the strongest female character Kojima has created. Beautifully written and realised within the game.)

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The Boss: (The Hot Toys version)

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A great character is undone…by her zipper no less!

The Beauty And The Beast Unit:

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Paz: (in more modest attire)

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Paz: (Date with Paz)

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKIRIeKADUI Read More

“Kept you waiting huh?”

On Monday 4th 2013 Konami confirmed that Hideo Kojima’s next instalment in the long running Metal Gear Solid saga, MGS 5: Ground Zeroes will release as a standalone game in the spring of 2014.

The game has long been touted as a prelude to full sequel MGS 5: The Phantom Pain. Ground Zeroes has been described as an introduction to the new open world gameplay mechanics Kojima is introducing to the series.

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“Metal Gear….it can’t be!”

The Ground Zeroes ‘game’ will focus on the mission to infiltrate a Cuban prison camp. This camp and mission gameplay seen to date was depicted during the recent TGS video as shown below.

The game has been designed as a large open world playground with day and night times featuring. With the inclusion of the new elements, Kojim hopes players can approach missions in a non linear manner breaking tradition with previous MGS titles.

In serving as a prelude to the Phantom Pain, Ground Zeroes will bridge the gap between not only in terms of gameplay but also from a narrative perspective.

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“What the…”

The boxed PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Ground Zeroes will go on sale for £29.99/€29.99. Digital versions of the game will be available for £19.99/€19.99, Konami has confirmed. In addition to the (fast ending) current gen, Next gen versions for The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One digital versions will sell for £29.99/€29.99.

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“Even if a pawn becomes a queen, it is still just a playing piece”

My initial thoughts are mixed. Finally having a release date is an obvious positive, but the price and dubious length of the title causes concern. When one thinks of a prelude one thinks of MGS 2 and the ‘Tanker Section and MGS 3 ‘Virtuous Mission’. While fun and immersive, parts of each respective title and their subsequent playtimes were dwarfed by their lengthy cut scenes. One can only assume that despite the open world nature, this prelude might suffer the same short gameplay length. At the Kojima/Konami suggested retail price one wonders if greed is the real driver behind a split release?

Little Richard once said

“men are so full of greed today, they’ll sell anything for a little piece of money.”

At £29.99 this is in no way a little piece of money for a little taste at Kojima’s latest creation. If anything Kojima should offer the game/demo/tutorial, however you wish to define Ground Zeroes free as a digital download. Kojima (or Konami) could have adopted a similar approach taken with Zone of the Enders and the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo (Tanker Section) and bundled Ground Zeroes with an upcoming Konami release…Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 perhaps? As a huge fan of the Metal Gear series, the constant re-releases in hd format and legacy collections etc etc leaves me jaded and lamenting the almost bi-annual money syphoning approach Konami/Kojima adopted on fans of the series. This is one title I will not be adding to my wish list any time soon. I think Marshall from How I Met Your Mother sums my feelings towards Konami/Kojima best…

words by david rushe

“Who’s footprints are these?”

In my previous post I speculated that Hayter would return for the Konami Pre-E3 Event and be revealed as Snake. This evidently did not come to pass. Tjis evening I was having a little search online and I came across this…

Snake

Don’t believe me?…here’s the link:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2801934/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast

“Metal Gear….it can’t be!”

Even though IMDB is the wikipedia of the movie world this latest revelation makes things much more interesting. In considering my own personal opinion on this “announcement”…I don’t disregard the claim completely but I do question in what capacity Hayter as David (Snake’s real civilian name) would appear.

There are a number of rumours circulating at the moment regarding the potential lead character for the next instalment in the Metal Gear saga. The Youtuber known as pythonselkanHD recently speculated that Gray Fox would become the new protagonist for MGS5 The Phantom Pain:

The video proposes that bandaged man known as Ishmael, voiced by Kiefer Sutherland plays the character called “Snake”. In the Konami Pre-E3 event, Sutherland is credited as voicing the character Snake, but never as Big Boss (who David Hayter previously voiced in MGS 3 Snake Eater)

Kiefer Sutherland as Snake

In the trailers thus far we are led to believe that Big Boss goes into a coma for a period of nine years, this correlating with the MGS timeline.) This coma episode and the awakening was the focus of gameplay footage shown by Kojima and was highlighted in the work of Dan Dawkins of CVG magazine. Dawkins goes on to discuss the reality of the bandaged man in his Master Theory article:

http://www.computerandvideogames.com/403140/features/the-mgsv-master-theory-part-two-the-phantom-pain/

It is clear that Sutherland is voicing “Snake” but who this incarnation of Snake is still up for debate. The Youtuber known as YongYea continues this debate with a reaction piece to the Gray Fox suggestion: pythonselkanHD video, all but disproving the possibility of “Snake” being Gray Fox:

In typical Metal Gear fashion there is another twist in the tail! Youtuber Cow Jedi proposes that the new “Snake” is none other than the legendary master of disguise and mimicry Decoy Octopus! The background story and reasoning for Decoy’s appearance is given credence by an informative if poorly delivered video:

“David…my name is David”

The debate will rage on regarding the true identity of Sutherland’s “Snake” and whether or not there is room for Hayter to appear at some point in MGS5.

I do believe both Hayter and Snake (the Solid version) will return in some capacity in the game. As the game is set during 1984 and Eli (Liquid) is roughly 12 years old, this would also mean that a young David (Snake) would also be present too. The return of Hayter as Solid Snake may take the form of a post credit scene in typical Kojima fashion that would lay the ground work for Metal Gear Solid 6. This game (MGS6) most likely would be a reimagining of the original MSX2 classic Metal Gear, which saw a young Solid Snake on the hunt for Metal Gear and take on Big Boss at Outer Heaven. The scene could pick up after the conclusion to the MGS 5 game with the introduction of Solid Snake via a briefing from Colonel Campbell regarding the new Foxhound unit. It is a long shot, but a shot worth taking.

It is hard to know what Kojima’s plans are the MGS 5 The Phantom Pain and the future for the MGS series. With the release of each new MGS game, post Sons of Liberty, comes the “last game” threat from Kojima. If indeed Kojima was to retire from leading the series after MGS 5, which from early footage could very well be his opus, it would be understandable to bow out on a high. The game would be a gift to gamers and Fox Engine architecture would be Kojima’s gift to those at Kojima Productions and Konami, ensuring the future of the series. One thing is certain if Kojima is to leave the series on a high, he would most certainly want to leave the fans with a little treat. No better a treat then that of the return of Hayter’s Snake.

words by david rushe

56

“War has changed”

In March at the Game Developer Conference 2013 (GDC) in San Francisco the gaming world finally got confirmation and a glimpse of the hotly anticipated Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (MGSV).

Hideo Kojima will have full creative control over MGS V and will for the first time release a new Metal Gear experience with cross-platform support. The game will utilise the new Fox Engine he and his team at Kojima Productions have been developing for several years now.

From what little we know the game will be released in two instalments. The first being a prologue called; Ground Zeros, a possible digital download, that will introduce players to the new open world style of gameplay. The second instalment; The Phantom Pain, will be a much larger game and will complete the story arch established in Ground Zeros and slot into Metal Gear timeline post Peace Walker (PSP) and pre Metal Gear (MSX).

Old-Snake

“There are still too many things I need to do”

From the GDC much excitement and buzz was naturally generated. The game also produced its own controversial talking point. Strangely the potential use of child soldiers was not the cause of this controversy. Instead it was the little matter of the “voice” (TM pending) of Snake; it appeared that David Hayter was being dropped as the provider of the iconic voice. There is no room for debate Hayter is Snake, but it appears that after 15 years and 9 games the voice and Solid Snake would be giving up his smokes for good…….

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“Well, I don’t believe in coincidences”

In true Kojima fashion he has teased and misdirected both fans and journalists in the run up to this years Pre E3 Event. The phoney Moby Dick studios, the cryptic musings of game developer Joachim Mogreen and the esoteric Phantom Pain title that have wetted many gaming appetites. What has been most surprising has been the apparent “honesty” of Hayter, possibly the best misdirection of all.

Ever since his passionate and beautifully crafted letter to the fans, doubts have been raised about its legitimacy. The farewell letter was released on April 1st afterall…..

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Recent twitter correspondence from @davidbhayter account leads to one conclusion….

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and

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The man must be a troll. But a loveable troll at that!

Commencing Operation Snake Greeter

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What will we learn from the Konami Pre E3 event later today? PES 2014 is certainly looking and sounding good, is it ready to take its crown back from FIFA? Will Castlevania 2 deliver in the same way it’s predecessor Lords of Shadow did? Perhaps they will, hopefully they will, but the real reason for watching is MGSV. What I personally hope to gain rfom today’s show is two fold; confirmation on the release date of MGSV and most important of all, is Hayter returning?

My guess would be yes. If MGSV is to be Kojima’s much vaunted “last Metal Gear” game then why not have all the ingredients to create his opus? Who wants to create something brilliant only to stigmatise it as the videogame equivalent of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?

I am not a gambling man, but if I was, I would happily place some money on Hayter popping up from a cardboard box to state “kept you waiting huh?” during the show later today.

The Konami Pre E3 Show is streaming on the Konami and Gamespot websites at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. GMT

Follow me on Twitter @davidrushe

words by david rushe