RR-sama Talks: On Metal Gear Solid V's hype

The Metal Gear series is a great series, it's just a very inconsistent one in terms of what the gameplay focus is...

Hello everybody, and welcome to the first RR-sama talks segment! These sections will be where I discuss games or series that don't make it to my Rewind Reviews but are interesting enough that I'd like to discuss them. This might be because of an upcoming sequel, or maybe I just don't feel like writing a full review about a game that everybody knows will get a decent score - even by my standards.

These games will be included in these sections for a number of reasons ranging from them being lost from my collection to otherwise being otherwise inaccessible to me at this time. Don't worry, though, the same rules still apply: No nostalgia glasses, no excuses, no rationalizing hardware limitations, and no sparing myself from angry fans and readers. So let's dig in!

What is Metal Gear Solid?

My first experience with Metal Gear Solid came from Egoraptor's Metal Gear Awesome parody. While the animation was hardly reminiscent of the actual game, when I first watched that animation I immediately wondered about what Metal Gear Solid was actually like. From my first impressions, it was supposed to be a game about stealthy infiltration of an enemy base of operations to stop, steal, or destroy whatever plans they had to do... something.

These expectations led me to believe Metal Gear Solid would be something like a hardcore version of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker's Forsaken Fortress where you would have to stay out of enemy sight or else suffer the consequences. This was true, in part, but I never suspected that the game would have been much easier and lenient than my expectations. I guess I was a bit naïve in that sense, but it did make sense to me.

So what is the real Metal Gear Solid?
The Twin Snakes was all about getting the jump on your enemy, as getting caught more often than not resulted in the player's death

The Metal Gear series is anything but easy to define. While Metal Gear Solid or Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes did a better job of blending combat and stealth mechanics than I expected, I found that later additions to the series unable to do so. With the exception of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the remaining entries in the series did not punish you much at all for getting caught. In fact, combat gameplay was improved to the point that at certain points in the games that you could go on a one-man killing spree if you wanted to. 

Sure, in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty stealth was still important, but there's a reason they added the first person mode. It's a new way to combat the enemy, and any way to focus on killing your adversaries over staying invisible while making your enemies smarter is - in my humble opinion - a wrong course of action.

The worst game in the series for this lack of focus on stealth is Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. In MGS4, players can go through the entire game without a care in the world. Sure, there are portions of the game where stealth is required - namely the first 5 non-cinematic minutes. In a game literally labeled "Tactical Espionage Action," I didn't quite expect to be running down an alley shooting everyone down with an assault rifle.

 In Snake Eater, this scene would be your deathbed. In Guns of the Patriots, this is a target range on any difficulty below Big Boss mode...

MGS4 proved I couldn't be more wrong about the series...

Unless you are playing the game on the highest possible difficulty available, Guns of the Patriots is a cakewalk. Let me correct myself... It's a cakewalk up to the point where you get to the last mission that actually requires insane amounts of stealth. While I would have appreciated it if the game slowly built up to this difficulty, having got used to just killing everyone in sight made me have a severe case of whiplash. The short and sweet? I died over and over until I remembered how to "Snake".

So what about the rest of MSG?

I can't really speak for the non-console titles since MGS4 pretty much killed my expectations for the series, and as such I never bothered picking up the HD remasters of those games. I've heard great things about them, however. I would just be a bit hesitant to pick them up since - last I checked - they still have the online multiplayer mode.

My assumption would be that, as a result, they would resemble MGS4's combat-heavy gameplay. But as I said, I've never played them, so this is merely speculation.

 Metal Gear Online pretty much represents all the failings of the newer games in my point of view...

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that the Metal Gear Solid series up until this point has been a game with a great premise, but with a very inconsistent level of execution. More than anything, I know the games have a great story, provided you have the patience to sit through hours upon hours of cutscenes and take down notes.

If you really want a "Tactical Espionage Action" adventure, then I suggest picking up MGS3. If you want to just shoot everything, then rage quit after the game stops letting you do that, pick up MGS4. For everything else in between... pick the rest of the titles. Every single Metal Gear Solid title is well crafted, and they're all good games, but they might not all match your expectations.

And Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain?

To be honest, I'll probably skip it. I really don't understand the hype. Maybe it's because it is the concluding chapter, and as such it has "last game in the series" syndrome where everybody has to "play it for the story" so to speak. In the future, I might pick it up for nostalgia's sake (I know, ironic coming from me).

Otherwise, I'll just wait until the hype dies down, and the user reviews have settled on where exactly this game stands on the action-tactical scale without the hype preaching "best MGS yet!"

Published Sep. 2nd 2015
View Comments
  • KonstantinMKD
    I really find your article confusing, and I'm having trouble figuring out what you're really implying... Could be that you disapprove of Phantom pain's enormous spot-light attention, which (in your opinion) is due to the fact that is the very lauded conclusion to the series? It really hasn't occurred to you yet that the game receives unanimous praise because of it self ONLY, and not because of its status as a closing chapter?
    Also, I strongly disagree with the picture you're trying to paint here about MGS 4. Just because that game offered viable non-stealth options for the first time in the series, I'm baffled as to how you don't find it not "tactical espionage action" enough?! MGS 4 offered unparalleled array of options, both stealth and guns-ho style! Did you forget about the Metal gear Mk 2 and the larger than ever choice of non-lethal weaponry? Your categorization of that game, and also your misplacement of the other titles "in-between" MGS 4 and MGS 3 (absence of stealth - vise, I figure) makes me seriously question your true understanding of the MGS series as a whole...
    And let's re-read the concluding paragraph of your article:
    "To be honest, I'll probably skip it. I really don't understand the hype. Maybe it's because it is the concluding chapter, and as such it has "last game in the series" syndrome where everybody has to "play it for the story" so to speak. In the future, I might pick it up for nostalgia's sake (I know, ironic coming from me)."
    This makes me curios: did you did the same with The Witcher 3, another release that was super-hyped pre-release, a game that also is supposed to be the last in the series, and also received unanimously perfect scores at launch?
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    Okay, going to try to answer as much of this as I can!

    1) My disapproval isn't because of the spot-light on the game. In fact, there are many games that have huge amounts of praise before it is even released that I have come to enjoy. This isn't a case of some sort of "hipsterism", it's more like a "I don't approve of hyping a game so high when you have no idea if it'll match your expectations". Of course, there's always the hype based on the fact that it is part of the Metal Gear series alone. Zelda and Metroid get similar hype for Nintendo fans, and I'm sure Mass Effect's latest installment will receive similar hype. However, it is so unanimous that it makes me... skeptical, I guess? I can understand a certain level of hype, but getting as excited as certain people were about Phantom Pain prior to release was - in my own humble opinion - a bit much.

    2) I'm not denying that MGS 4 had stealth mechanics. However, almost every game had the possibility of launching an assault but usually they had some sort of major consequence. I guess what I was trying to state about MGS 4 was that yeah, it has options, but those options most of the time had one that was clearly easier and had very little consequence. I know another comment mentioned that I should "just not get caught" but to me that's an absurd argument. I feel as though that argument is equivalent to "Which would you rather do? Walk across a 90 foot floor of burning coals while carrying 300 lbs on your back? Or would you rather walk through a shallow pool of water filled with happy puppies?" There was also an argument of simply playing the game on "hard" as opposed to normal or easy. While that's true, I shouldn't have to play a game on its hardest setting to be presented with something remotely challenging if I decide to pick the "puppy route".

    3) Yes, in fact, I did the same with The Witcher 3. I was almost certain that the game would have flaws, and sure enough it did. While the scores were perfect at launch, there have been numerous complaints over the time in between about how your choices have been watered down, or story elements were weaker, and etc.

    The most overlooked statement in my article is "Every single Metal Gear Solid title is well crafted, and they're all good games, but they might not all match your expectations." It is a very good series, and the games are enjoyable. However, I know that I, as well as some select others I have met, have come to the conclusion that certain titles shift away from the elements of gameplay that the older games had. While this doesn't make them bad, it can be considered "worse" if you have a certain expectation of what the game is supposed to be.

    And trust me when I say this... I did originally play MGS 4 in "stealth mode". It was only on my second playthrough that I realized I could just go through the entire game killing just about everyone without much consequence.
  • Larry Iaccio
    Featured Contributor
    MGS definitely isn't everyone's cup of tea, but objectively this series has proven to be on of the best ever created. Your expectation of the game was based off of a parody of it. I'm not one to nitpick but this whole article seems incredibly misplaced. MGSIV is too easy except when you put it on hard mode? So then put it on hard mode? Oh, the enemies are too forgiving when you get caught? So then maybe just don't get caught? You seem upset that this game gives you different options on how to play it. You can be stealthy, you can be action-oriented, or you can be a mixture of both. It's Tactical Espionage Action for a reason.
    The games are incredibly hype this is true, but they definitely more than justify it.
    Yet I admit you did your job by getting my attention and stirring up controversy lol
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    I would make a whole argument on the claim of an "objectively supreme" game, but that's a debate for another day.

    I guess I didn't get into enough detail about MGSIV to talk about just how easy the game is. I tried to portray in this article that the first 3 Metal Gear games had a vastly different formula from the fourth onward, with Snake Eater being the most stealth-centric game in the series. Considering that seems to be the intention of the earlier titles, the fourth would rather be considered a departure from the stealth genre or a failure of execution depending on your lens.

    Also, the "Tactical Espionage Action" title has been taken to a radically literal interpretation. The title is actually supposed to present a game that is focused on the stealth and espionage aspects. There's a reason why in the earlier games getting caught is a life and death situation: it's a stealth game, the only action aspects being against the bosses (of which the game celebrates inventive methods of dispatching enemies instead of taking the enemy head-on). It's the same reason that MGS4 moves to an over-the-shoulder camera: it is more action oriented, with even the bosses tending to be a shoot-em until they're dead vs find a weakness to exploit. Hell, they even added a mecha battle in MGS4.

    Like I said in the concluding paragraph: the games are by no means bad, but if measured with the same expectation they're inconsistent at executing the concept of the first three games.
  • katlaborde
    Featured Contributor
    I started the Phantom Pain on Tuesday night. I played through about 20 minutes, but it felt like 2 hours. The opening is incredibly boring. I do not get the appeal of playing as a guy flopping around on the ground like a fish, even if it is there for the weird Moby Dick metaphor. I'm not surprised by all the high reviews, it was the same for MGS 4. The games do suffer from being way too over-hyped!

    Also, great article!
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    Thanks! It's always an honour for me when somebody enjoys my articles! :)

    As I said in the article, the games are certainly good games... but they're by no means "great". While the first Metal Gear Solid revolutionized stealth gameplay, the later titles lost that special something and just became more of a regular action game. By MGS4 the game was nothing like it originally was, and that's why I refuse to accept the hype. I would go so far to claim that the hype sells the game, but I know better than to pick a fight with fanboys and fangirls.

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