Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Sequel
Yeah I know, second crappy title in a row but considering the subject matter, I don't have much choice.
I've been playing a bit more of MGS V: The Phantom Pain and I find it to be a completely perplexing game. Not in terms of the gameplay (stay low to win, run around like a dunce to lose), but in terms of the story, presentation and positioning. I get that it isn't really meant to be a direct sequel to any of the home console titles. You still play as Big Boss from MGS 3: Snake Eater, but the gameplay is different, the genre is (arguably) different, the presentation is different, the voice actors are different and the overall setup and feeling of the whole game is different.
That in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it just leaves me with a weird and slightly uncomfortable feeling. Big Boss is a completely different character now. He barely talks (in the 10 or so first hours that I've played that is), and he feels a lot more passive than in Snake Eater. Obviously he's a soldier and he takes orders, but at least before he would make a comment about his orders or give some kind of insight. Now Ocelot or Miller tells you to fuck off back to Afghanistan and Big Boss just does it without saying a word.
It's not just Big Boss, but every character so far that would have been recognisable from Snake Eater. Ocelot looks, sounds and acts completely differently, Major Zero is now an unseen antagonist and the rest of the cast from Snake Eater is nowhere to be seen. And I know this is all probably explained in the handheld entries, or may be explained later in the game, but at this point in time I've got zero context for what is going on.
Whilst I am preferring the gameplay, as well as the gameplay to cutscene ratio, over MGS 4, I can't help but feel that MGS 4 engaged me more, simply by being more linear. With MGS 4, you moved locations, fought different enemies, had to switch up your gameplay style slightly depending on the objective. MGS V meanwhile has me attacking and extracting the same prisoners from the same looking outposts, from the same Afghanistan desert setting using the same goddamned balloon. I'm sure things will probably change later on (based on footage I've previously seen) but it's taking way too long to get there, and the repetition of the current missions is destroying my interest to see the later sections.
Hideo Kojima is a unique and talended game director, without question. But at this point in time I feel like MGS V has been a massive mis-step. In my mind it doesn't capture the essence of the Metal Gear Solid series. If it was presented as a completely new IP I'd probably think better of it. But having it attached to the MGS series just puts it up against too many of my long held expectations, that it is unlikely to leave a lasting, positive impression.
That my sound like massive bias - and it is - but then again, everyone's biased in some shape or form.
Only after starting writing this entry did I realise that the title of it isn't as clever as I initially thought. I was trying to say that MGS V is full of nonsense, but "Phantom Nonsense" implies that there is very little nonsense and that everything actually totally makes sense. And maybe MGS V will make sense by the time I'm through with it, but four hours in it definitely does not.
To be honest, I don't think any game was going to be looked upon favourably considering the last title I played was The Last Of Us. But MGS V seems to have particularly rustled my jimmies for some reason. It's probably because of the intro, as it is the exact opposite of the intro to TLOU. Where as TLOU starts slow, with tension building constantly but clearly so you know what is going, MGS V starts with a gore fest and a million names and organisations being thrown at you within the first 30 seconds. People disappear, reappear, act like ghosts, but then get affected by regular weapons, attack you, attack others and then you escape on horseback whilst a whale made of fire eats a helicopter.
I get that the MGS series has always dabbled in being slightly out there, in the same way the sky kind of dabbles in being a bit blue sometimes, but even for MGS this intro felt like too much. And it didn't get better as the game went on. The game is called MGS V(5) but it's clear that this game is not meant to be played directly after MGS 4: Pony Guns or whatever it was called. To fully understand what is going on you probably need to have played Peace Walker as well as Ground Zeroes, the paid demo. I have played the latter (because I got it for free, fuck paying for a demo) and I still had no clue what was going on. There is a certain appeal in being caught up in a grander story that is bigger than you, but there is a limit, and MGS V is getting precariously close to breaching that limit.
That isn't to say that MGS V is a bad game. I'm enjoying the gameplay so far, and the game has been out long enough that I've already seen plenty of screenshots and clips of some of the cool things you get to do later on. But I just thought it was an interesting comparison to make between two different games. One being a new IP with no backstory to provide exposition for, and the other being the latest (and most likely last) in a long lineage of classic titles with a story so ridiculous it makes the Fast & Furious franchise look restrained and down to Earth.