Our journey through the staff of OnlySP’s 50 favourite games has entered its final stretch. Last week’s game actually borrowed quite a bit from this storied and excellent series. If only these titles were in the hands of a company that actually wanted to make games…
#2. Metal Gear Solid (series), by Chris Hepburn
My first foray into the Metal Gear series was my dad’s friend giving us a copy of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The game was unlike anything I had experienced. The cinematic aspects mixed with wacky characters were enough to keep young me intrigued through a story that would later shape the way one views the world.
After the opening act, the game introduced new protagonist Raiden, another person who grew up surrounded by war and conflict. The character switch created a new way to look at Snake; instead of playing as the rough and tough military hero, the player now looked at him as a role model.
Metal Gear Solid 2 was also my introduction into video game scenes that created a real impact. From the stresses of saving a hostage to stories about freewill and the effects of willpower, the game can make a child feel uneasy or stressed out about aspects that normally would never have to feel. This feeling would happen time and time again through the series, with Metal Gear Solid 4 being the next title that felt more than a game but an experience.
Unlike many games, the boss battles in the Metal Gear series blend music, camera work, story, and setting to create a powerful cinematic feel that turns the battle into more of an experience to be consumed than just a game to be played. Two battles in particular stand out. The first is the astonishing final battle in Metal Gear Solid 3 that has the player taking down their rival within a beautiful scenery with music that pulls at the heartstrings, creating an emotional moment of betrayal.
The next battle that stands out is the one at the end of Metal Gear Solid 4: the sun setting above a battlefield as two enemies beat each other into exhaustion. This fight is powerful as not many games by then showed the progression of a fight in such a way, from full health to moving slow due to pain and fatigue, mixed with a powerful arrangement of music fills the player with emotions after the battle. The series balanced the cinematic aspects that brought out emotions with the tools to give the player the feeling of having control of their situation.
Most titles in the series are very much a guided experience, but what let Metal Gear shine is the way one plays through them. Depending on the items and weapons one brings into the mission, the player can really make the enemies act in a way that feels akin to sandbox-style gameplay. A player can enter guns blazing, alerting everyone but killing all that stand in the way. Alternatively, they could sneak without being noticed and explore open-style levels that allow them to feel as though they have several options. This feature would be further pushed in later titles where enemies could be captured to build the player’s military base or killed with nothing to worry about.
The way that players interact with the enemy is one way that truly sets the Metal Gear series apart from all other stealth games. When dealing with someone in a non-lethal way, the game actually treats it as such; enemies will be incompacitated but will eventually wake up, posing a threat yet again. The ability to hold someone’s life in one’s hand plays heavily into the lore and story of Metal Gear, as the basis is about controlling the power that can either destroy all life or protect it.
The overall theme continues through all of the entries as the player is trying to stop others from gaining powerful tools that can destroy humankind. The games use fantastical technological advancements to help make the narrative easier to follow, but ultimately demonstrate what the pursuit of military might can mean and where the world itself can lead.
Metal Gear Solid is the kind of series that stands on its own meritsne that mixes story, gameplay, and cinematics to create an experience unlike any other. Showing parallels to our world makes the series hit much closer to home, giving players something to ponder. The series is not only an inspiration to how we see and live life, but what can be done with the medium.
Auteur Theory meets KojiPro, by Mitchell Akhurst
More than any other series we have covered for this list, Metal Gear Solid is covered by and, arguably, constantly raises the idea of the auteur theory in video games.
Video games are almost always an intensely collaborative affair and big games like Metal Gear Solid are never created by just one person, but the idea of sole authorship is irrelevant and unnecessary for the auteur theory to apply in this case (as exciting as Hideo Kojima’s personal creative touches are).
Rather, what we see with the Metal Gear series overall is a consistent voice that is unusual in series of this scale. Other franchises such as Mass Effect or God of War certainly retain many elements across their multiple entries, but they rotate core personnel on a regular basis.
The Metal Gear games, having captured the public’s attention and the bulk of creator Hideo Kojima’s career, show the evolution of a group of artists led by a creative vision, ‘singular’ or not. This, of course, is part of why Metal Gear Solid V was disappointing for fans: the game was a chance for Kojima Productions to have the last word in closing the circle of the Metal Gear universe. Unfortunately, Konami and Kojima falling out part-way through development resulted in an undercooked product, missing that final piece, the mythical ‘third chapter’ of which only cutscene snippets have emerged since.
A few other series such as Grand Theft Auto or the original Gears of War trilogy share something with Metal Gear in that each game does obviously come from the same direction, but neither series is as heavily plot and theme driven as Kojima’s, making the ignoble end of the series all the more painful for how special its brand of weirdness was. On a smaller scale, the Uncharted series had a similarly disappointing shift in gears in the tumult between Uncharted 3 and 4.
For fans of what Hideo Kojima and Kojima Productions were able to accomplish with Metal Gear, more is to come, as Death Stranding looks no less idiosyncratic than its predecessor. However, the chances are unlikely that another series could become as big and as storied as Metal Gear, and particularly Metal Gear Solid, while retaining its obvious authorship for as long as this one did. Not getting to see this to the very end was a shame, but that it exists is still very special in the world of gaming franchise royalty.
The future of Metal Gear Solid is currently in flux, with Konami’s video game operations seemingly curtailed, beyond a yearly release of Pro Evolution Soccer and its famous pachislot machines. Hopefully, with video games being bigger than ever, Konami will revisit their approach to games and one day revive Metal Gear—with the blessing of Kojima Productions, please.
That is just about it for the list: next week, the big #1 of our favourite games—can you guess what it might be? And do not forget, for further updates, you can always follow OnlySP on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and join in with the OnlySP Discord.