Metal Gear Solid 4


MGS reminds me a lot of the Xenogears/Xenosaga series in terms of cultural impact; it was made after someone’s mucht too grand vision of a good story that – while starting out from a good idea – was destroyed by too many over-the-top or ridiculous elements. The story and cutscenes take up a too large part in both series, but there is still a lot of fans claiming that it’s the best story ever written – and by extension the best game ever produced – and if you don’t like it you just don’t understand it. I much prefer Xenosaga, though, the unlikeable characters with “quirky” antics were more or less the same but the actual game parts were longer and there was a really interesting battle- and leveling system in place that made the game interesting, MGS 4 just has a rather poor 3rd-person action game tacked in between cutscenes.

I wonder a little why this is. Technically, MGS 4 delivers some of the best cutscenes I have seen, face and body animations are near flawless and it throws great scenes with dozens of characters in one after the other. The basic concept of the world evolving to a state where we depend on warfare since it’s the only thing keeping the economy going is very interesting, but it’s not about that at all but rather what sci-fi elements made it happen so the story feels banal. I can’t sympathize with any of the characters, and the overexplaining of everything just bores me since the elements of slapstick comic relief and Kojima’s trademark breaking of the fourth wall constantly destroys immersion and makes the story silly and trivial, even when it’s somewhat believeable. But I did like the first MGS to some degree, and had I played all of the others I might not have seen the story as banal due to the sheer familiarity of it, so (at the risk of sounding condescending) I can sort of understand why people like it.

Yahtzee described another game, “Too Human”, as having the “stink of the auteur, a pet project, something that made for the designer’s sake rather than the players“, this might not be the most articulate or best describing definition of a game where someone high-up has garnered enough of a cult following not to have to kill his darlings, but seeing as I revert to the kind of condescending view he projects in his videos when thinking about said cults, it feels close to heart. It is also eerie in a way, since there are almost certainly people assigning the same phenomenon to, say, Shigeru Miyamato, Fumito Ueda, Rieko Kodama (though I doubt it) or Gunpei Yokoi – designers I have a lot of respect for. I suppose we all need to like some big ideas to have visions and decry others to be independent, and this could be why individual opinions matters so little in matters of taste.

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Posted on Nov 28/08 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »