My Problem With The Metal Gear Solid Series (A Convoluted Comparison)

My Problem With The Metal Gear Solid Series (A Convoluted Comparison) - Article

by Brandon J. Wysocki , posted on 14 September 2015 / 6,487 Views

I'm a long-time user, pretty big fan, and possibly an abuser of analogies.  At this point in my life it seems my brain is hard-wired to process things as analogies, and that is likely why I had this epiphany of how I should see and value the Metal Gear Solid series.  You see, for me, the Metal Gear Solid series is like pornography. 

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In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve only gotten into Metal Gear more recently.  Around the release of Metal Gear Solid 4, which I only ever dabbled in, I began to take a little more note of the series.  That said, I can recall Metal Gear Solid on the original PlayStation really wowing me.  The beginning felt so much like a movie, which was both fresh and exciting to me at that time; and the gameplay was revolutionary in my eyes.  It may be the first game that really came off to me as the next level of videogames. 

And just to establish the last bit of my life history and experience that is relevant to all of this, I’ve also seen my share of pornography.  As a fairly young man, I recall my Dad telling my brother and I we could watch “Skinemax” (to sum it up quickly), but we had to keep one eye covered.  I never understood that rule, but those days are far behind me.  Subsequent to those early days, I must confess that I witnessed porn in print, on video, and online, and with both eyes open.  I’ve seen more than I care to admit, and I personally feel like it is a potentially unhealthy habit, but that is not at all where I make the comparison between it and Metal Gear.   

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In an attempt to get caught up on the awesome series of Metal Gear, I bought the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on the Xbox 360 when it was released a number of years ago.  Despite the refreshed look, and the pretty good gameplay that hadn’t aged too badly, I just couldn’t really get into it.  I know better now why that was, but I’ll get back to that in a moment.  I all too quickly abandoned the effort of getting caught up on the series.  Instead I later opted to borrow Metal Gear Solid 4 for the PS3 to get right to the good stuff that I had missed some time back (unlike my experience with porn, I was a late adopter of the PS3, so I had missed this critically-acclaimed title when it was first released).  Again, I just couldn’t get into it.  It was a beautiful game, and seemed to have so much promise, but I just couldn’t do it, and I didn’t understand why.  Fast forward a bit and information for the newest Metal Gear Solids (Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain) began to trickle out, and again I found myself wanting to get both titles when they released, but doubting that I actually would in the end, or in any way get into them. 

Luckily, Ground Zeroes had a fairly affordable price tag, so I rolled the dice again, certain I wouldn’t enjoy it as the majority of my fellow gamers always seem to, but I was wrong.  I couldn’t tell what in particular it was, though the clearly expanded and refined gameplay helped, but I loved it.  When I heard The Phantom Pain was bigger and more versatile, I may have literally salivated.  I felt the wait would be too long, but now it has come to pass, and while I am thoroughly enjoying The Phantom Pain, and see it as a true gem, it was only on the day of its release when it all clicked for me. 

http://www.vgchartz.com/articles_media/images/mgsv-ground-zeroes-3.jpg

I had invited the friend who had loaned me Metal Gear Solid 4 over to play the game with me, as I knew he’d want to get his hands on it right away.  He’s a huge fan of the series; he knows so many ins and outs to the history of it (or at least seems to because I surely do not) that it just felt wrong not to invite him over.  But the day before its release, I had read about the perks that could carry over from Ground Zeroes to The Phantom Pain, so I decided to try to do some of the missions that I had glossed over up to that point in order to take advantage of that feature.  I did one or two that Monday night, and then, even as The Phantom Pain was fully ready to go, he and I did one or two more on Tuesday. 

As we were doing that, and of course talking about games and gameplay in general, with an obvious emphasis on Metal Gear, he began to nerd out with its story details, and what happened where, when, and by whom, from the first game release until now.  Now I’m a huge nerd, so I understood his enthusiasm - I’m not judging him for being a little hyper-passionate.  I could barely pull myself out of a Disney Store a few days back because of the overwhelming urge I had to take on debt in order to own all of the awesome new Star Wars toys.  But as he talked, my eyes began to glaze over.  It was as much self-preservation as it was plain rude, but I sort of went to a different place in my mind.  Then it clicked in this triumphant moment!

http://www.vgchartz.com/articles_media/images/mgs-metal-gear-solid-stuff-phantom-pain-5.jpg

For a number of reasons, Metal Gears’ story is at best convoluted and over the top.  Obviously, this is just my opinion, and my taste is by no means the be all and end all (it seems to be representative of the majority’s taste maybe half of the time).  As much as I like Star Wars, I only care for one or two of the Disney Marvel movies (Guardians being a highpoint to me, and Avengers being a letdown), for example.  It reminded me of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation but obviously with Marvel characters.  Anyway, I've used this example in order to demonstrate that my tastes and opinions are very much my own and I don't claim that they're representative.

Which brings me to my criticism of Metal Gear Solid’s story.  Frankly, it's borderline ridiculous.  Obviously it has its moments, but overall it’s uneven and, in that, bizarre.  With running fart jokes and villains such as an overweight villain cleverly called Fatman, one who wields the powers of bees, another who has the powers of telekinesis and telepathy, and one who is seemingly an immortal vampire, it often feels like the development team is trying to appeal to child anime fans.  

But there are also the scantily clad women, graphic throat cutting, stories of self-sacrifice and government conspiracies, and exhilarating tactical gameplay.  It’s like an amalgam of the live action Jason Bourne and the Saturday morning X-Men cartoon from the 90’s.  At times I get the sense that Kojima was unclear as to who his intended audience is.  So, in this moment of clarity, I thought to myself, “no one plays Metal Gear Solid for the story”. 

http://www.vgchartz.com/articles_media/images/mgs-metal-gear-solid-stuff-phantom-pain-3.jpg

Now, as a neurotic, overly analytical person, I get that a blanket statement like that is not entirely true, but I do feel it is (or at least should be) fairly accurate.  And, as I thought about it more, I was reminded of past discussions of people getting porn magazines to read the articles, or needing a good storyline in order to “get into” a porn video, and while I’m sure that is occasionally true, in my heart I believe these people must surely be the exception rather than the rule. 

I’m a stickler for facts and the scientific method, but I have no idea where I could get reliable, hard numbers for the specific intentions or methods of porn use.  But from my own experience, as well as my arbitrary, likely unreliable mental data tracking of past conversations with friends, I strongly feel the majority of people who watch porn watch it to satisfy needs or desires that they cannot necessarily satisfy in the real world for one reason or another.  I don’t want to be crude, but I have goal in mind when I partake of the pornographic arts.  The story or articles are usually, but not always, completely irrelevant, and actually get in the way.  And so it is with Metal Gear as well.

http://www.vgchartz.com/articles_media/images/mgs-metal-gear-solid-stuff-phantom-pain-6.jpg

Metal Gear has a scene or a theme here or there that wows me, and maybe influences or inspires me as an aspiring fiction writer, but I prefer to skip as much of it as I can to get to the good stuff.  Not only is Metal Gear Solid like porn in this respect, but apparently I take my Metal Gear the same way I take my porn - I simply want it to get right to the good stuff.  I don’t need strange porn star names or stories any more than I need strange Metal Gear names and stories.  In fact, people often use “porn names” as fodder for humor; “Metal Gears names” should be a synonym for “porn names”.  And the quality and sophistication of the stories of the two are nearly just as interchangeable.  Actually, with names like Big Boss and Solid Snake, I can’t believe there hasn’t been a porn parody of Metal Gear yet, or has there? 

I have been amazed by Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain during my time with it.  The beginning was an example of everything that’s wrong with the series in my mind, but since getting past that and into its amazing open world, I have been thrilled.  The issue is that I’m the type of person that needs facts to be clear and established, even when they’re largely if not entirely immaterial.  I’ve corrected my own accounts with incredibly mundane details, even well after I first tell a story, just because I have this nearly unending need for the facts to be right and the story to be straight.  There’s probably medicine for that, but whatever, it’s part of who I am. 

http://www.vgchartz.com/articles_media/images/mgs-metal-gear-solid-stuff-phantom-pain-4.jpg

So you can like and love Metal Gear, and play it all you want, just like you can watch and read all of the porn you want (if you’re 18 and over and the content is itself legal, of course).  But, let’s be honest about it.  We watch porn because we’re unsociable, perverted, curious, unsatisfied, etc. and we’re attempting to remedy that.  We're not there for the articles, the art, the beauty of the female (or male) figure, or for the stories.  All of those could be valid in isolated situations, but that would be an anomaly of the general experience and icing on the cake, not the primary motivation. 

Similarly, you play Metal Gear for the groundbreaking gameplay.  Because who doesn’t want to be an awesome spy, solider, or whatever else you want to call it?  If you keep track of the story, like my friend does, that’s great.  If you genuinely enjoy it, like I believe he does, that’s great too.  People have worked very hard to bring that story to you.  But I would think a similar effort might go into some adult entertainment productions.  That doesn’t automatically make it sophisticated content.  In the case of Metal Gear Solid, the story just simply isn’t as refined as the gameplay.  The disparity between the two causes it to be a disjointed experience for me.  In all honesty, I don’t know if the world is ready to experience a game as amazing as Metal Gear Solid would be if the story content were as deep, advanced, and dynamic as its gameplay.     

http://www.vgchartz.com/articles_media/images/mgs-1.jpg

If the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection becomes part of the backwards compatible catalog for the Xbox One, I’ll likely give it another go.  However, just like my encounters with porn, I know now that I need to be ready to ignore or somehow skip past the content that I have no interest in, little appreciation for, and get nothing out of, to get what I’m really after; though I’m still not sure how achievable that is with those earlier games.  In the meantime, I’m going to keep playing The Phantom Pain, because if I look at it and value it for what it is (in my little mind), there’s nothing else quite like it.


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21 Comments

pokoko (on 14 September 2015)

Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis' starts out innocently enough but there soon comes a point where it splits off from what most people would consider plausible or possible. Said simply, it begins to make up its own rules. Metal Gear Solid makes up its own rules. It crosses over into absurdity. That's why people pointing out that the story doesn't make much sense somewhat confuses me. It's like reading 'Alice in Wonderland', putting the book down, and saying, "but rabbits can't talk."


SpaceLegends (on 14 September 2015)

You make a good point, but the story not making sense is not really what bothers me. It's that the story let's down the gameplay. Also, the idea that anyone would find the story captivating is quite strange to me. That is what I was trying to express.


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pokoko (on 15 September 2015)

I understand what you mean. There are a lot of Japanese RPGs that I like even though the narratives are convoluted to the point of being nonsensical. It seems to be an accepted practice in Japan.


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SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

Yeah, I had actually meant to mention in the article that perhaps my feelings on the story are at least in part due to a cultural divide. But plenty of people outside of Japan seem to genuinely enjoy the story. It's interesting how taste and opinions can fluctuate so wildly.


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Kotastic (on 15 September 2015)

Well...it IS a convoluted article...but I get your point.


gamingpotato7 (on 16 September 2015)

Why write so many words just to say you think MGS story is stupid and you, for some reason, think that everyone else plays MGS like they watch porn? Write the same thing about a game series that doesn't have the notoriety of MGS and lets see if it is even published. Jesus, why isn't there an article from a MGS fan saying how freaking awesome the game is? Only this "article" and the other Quiet one. Negativity sells right?


SpaceLegends (on 16 September 2015)

I can see where you're coming from with your questions and criticism. To be completely honest, I wrote this article with no guarantee that it would get published. As for it's length, I tend to be verbose, so perhaps that answers that. I simply enjoy writing. In the article, I tell the true story of the origins of this article. I effectively ranted this article in person to a couple of friends, then subsequently typed out my rant. It's how I feel, and I wanted to express that. Now I'm not completely ignorant. Of course I realized the the timing of the article and the popularity of the game would likely help it get some attention. But again, with no guarantee of it being published, that was almost entirely irrelevant. Similarly, my original title just cried out for clicks (thus I was asked to change it, and I respect that), but it was just the first title that came to mind. The fact that it would likely attract a lot of clicks just sweetened the pot. But alas, I changed the title and life goes on. Negativity (and sex) sells, you're absolutely right. But that is mostly coincidental to this article, not that you have to believe me. I wasn't trying to be negative, I was just saying that the story does nothing (or little) for me and that I cannot understand how it could for anyone, which immediately made me think of porn. You might not accept me as such, but I consider myself a fan of Metal Gear Solid. That doesn't mean I have to like everything about it. I don't want to The Phantom Pain to end. It's like when I'm eating a great steak, I lament the idea of taking the last few bites. I'm trying to savor The Phantom Pain. It's an amazing game! The story is just not my thing, and because it hasn't been as in my face as it has in past Metal Gear games, I think this is the best of the series. See, I told you I like writing. I know that not everyone is going to enjoy my writing or agree with my opinions (or both), but I sincerely appreciate you reading and commenting.


  • -1
NinjaFox (on 15 September 2015)

I find it interesting that your distaste for the story, oddly enough, stems from starting at the chronological beginning. I can't help but wonder how many who love the story started with the original game and have grown more interested in it as a way of delving into mysteries and questions as each installment moved in a disjointed chronology. MGS3, Peacewalker, MGS5:GZ, MGS5:PP, MGS, MGS2, MGS4 is quite a bounce around in order, yet most fans have played as they've released.


SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

That's a very interesting idea, NinjaFox. I eagerly awaited each Star Wars prequel, and loved each one upon my initial viewings. In retrospect, I tend to agree with most others in that they were a pretty big let down. Yet I still own and watch each from time to time. That all spawns from my love of the original trilogy. And to this day, I feel it is best to watch the trilogies in the order of their release, not their chronological order. That parallel immediately came to mind for me. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  • -1
NinjaFox (on 15 September 2015)

I dunno, a game series that is known for heavy cut scenes and long expanses of plot, dialogue, and story yet nobody plays it for the story? I don't think those two line up and jive. Yeah, the story can be convoluted and it's not a game series you can jump into any of them and know what all's going on. I mean, if you jumped into book three of Game of Thrones, would it really make sense? For me, the story is great BECAUSE it's a mix of Jason Bourne with comic book storytelling and a splash of philosophy and cultural commentary.


SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

I can respect what you're saying. I believe many do play it for the story, or at least feel like that's why, but I'm confounded by that. I put in parentheses that I feel like that statement should be true, acknowledging that it likely is not. It's just not compelling to me. Clearly it is to you. And who knows, I try to stay open-minded, maybe I come to feel differently down the road. You in particular have made a number of very good points and informative comments.


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Mr.Playstation (on 15 September 2015)

I agree :-). Games especially when they have very complicated and huge stories just tend to rely on gameplay at least that's how I feel when playing such games. Also this was an awesome article ;-)!


SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

Thanks! I feel other games have a better balance. Mass Effect, Knights of the Old Republic, and even Fallout all immediately come to mind. But you may be on to something, though I suppose it is not necessarily inappropriate for a game to be mostly driven by gameplay either. What bothers me is that Metal Gears' story actually has hindered my overall gameplay experience.


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Abun (on 15 September 2015)

The porn analogy is just horrible.MG has always been popular for it's story.I don't know a single person who likes it for anything else as most people found the lack if shooting unappealing and lacked the patience for stealth.The story is convulted,but MGS5 lack of story focus is not a step forward.


SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

The fact that you say what you say is why I felt compelled to write the article and look to get it published. By no means do I want to argue, but I literally don't think I could feel more differently than you. What is it about the story that you enjoy?


  • -1
Hiku (on 26 November 2015)

I was disappointed in MGSV, comparing to other MGS games.


Qwark (on 19 September 2015)

The games have stories wich are good as single game stories. But don't see all the gemes in the series form a whole integrated story. I suppose the there is but it is way to complicate to figure that out without the interwebz. Like Zelda games I suppose although they are pretty easy to differentiate.


rickribeiro (on 17 September 2015)

Nice Article. Don't agree with the most of it, but its still great. This website is publishing nice articles lately. Loving it.


SpaceLegends (on 17 September 2015)

Thanks, Rick (I hope it's okay that I call you that. You know my first name and a fair amount about my porn habits and history. If that doesn't put two people on a first name basis, what does?) I'd love to hear more about what you agreed with and didn't, and more specifically, why? Open discussions are typically pretty fun for me.


  • -1
rickribeiro (on 17 September 2015)

Nice Article. Don't agree with the most of it, but its still great. This website is publishing nice articles lately. Loving it.


Seventizz (on 16 September 2015)

How did this series score a 10 without reviewing the online?


Random_Matt (on 15 September 2015)

LOL.


Youthnando (on 15 September 2015)

Why is it that people always complain about the story when they talk about Metal Gear?. While other games like Assassins Creed, Zelda, Uncharted and Arkham have boring stories


SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

It's just the matter of taste and preference, which is seemingly pretty random and arbitrary. While Zelda is awesome, I would put it as more similar than not to Metal Gear Solid's level of storytelling. The difference is that Zelda's story has never really gotten in the way of me playing it, whereas Metal Gear Solid's has, thus the article. As for the Arkham games, I did think that story was well done, but I'm a Batman fan, so I might be a little biased. And again, it simply hasn't ever bothered much, if at all, while I was playing the game(s). Now I think Assassin's Creed is the opposite to me as Metal Gear. I am fascinated by it's story, but the gameplay is not very engaging, and often results in me not playing much of the games. I own nearly every Assassin's Creed, but I have only finished the first game. Thanks for reading and commenting on my article. I'd love to hear more from you!


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generic-user-1 (on 15 September 2015)

"Luckily, Ground Zeroes had a fairly affordable price tag, so I rolled the dice again, certain I wouldn't enjoy it as the majority of my fellow gamers always seem to, but I was wrong. " what? whaaaaaaaaaaaaat? the price was a fuckn joke


SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

Yeah, maybe that wasn't the best phrasing by me, as I know there was some controversy over the price. It was free last month as part of the Games For Gold program on Xbox, and I thought similarly it was a PS Plus game a few months back, though I'm not as certain. Anyhow, I bought it on sale for $20 on Xbox One. It was a calculated risk. A $20 loss, while not completely inconsequential, was doable for me and my financial situation. I wasn't trying to justify the price tag in relation to the size of the game or the amount of gameplay.


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DemoniOtaku (on 15 September 2015)

Firstly IT WASN'T A GAME!! IT WAS A DEMO!! A PAID DEMO!


  • -3
Heavenly_King (on 20 September 2015)

Kojima sold Ground Zeroes, so that he has enough budget to deliver TPP not as a broken game. Konami reduced the budget for the game since the "new way of thinking" took place.


  • +1
spemanig (on 15 September 2015)

Great article. I completely disagree, but this is the type of stuff VGC needs. But yeah, MGS's gameplay isn't even close to "ground breaking." It's just stupid, silly fun. Which is great, but it's definitely not somehow more refined than its story. At least, that's the way it was in Snake Eater.


spemanig (on 15 September 2015)

Seriously, though. 10/10. Great read.


  • 0
pokoko (on 15 September 2015)

I agree. I like seeing honestly written and original articles like this, whether or not I share the same opinion as the writer. I think it fits well with the community and brings something different to the table. It's a good direction.


  • +2
SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

Thank you both for reading and giving some feedback! I'd like to write more articles like this and get some dialogue going (much like this right here). To me, it's fascinating to see how different people can feel so differently about the same subject. Out of curiosity, what would you consider ground breaking gameplay, namely in this type of "tactical espionage" category?


  • -1
DemoniOtaku (on 14 September 2015)

If Your problem is the story.. then just skip the cinemas... I think that Kojima overuse cinemas and dialogs to tell a simple story... but I don't think is prescindible.. Not all people like to smash buttons only...


LipeJJ (on 14 September 2015)

So true...


Roronaa_chan (on 14 September 2015)

Nope


foodfather (on 14 September 2015)

Amusing analogy and I agree. As much as the series intrigued me and as in depth the game play really is, the story is complete crap. Ground Zeros remains the highlight of the series for me. Barely there story content, just how I like my games (and porn...)


SpaceLegends (on 14 September 2015)

Thanks for reading and commenting. Ground Zeroes was great for exactly the reason you stated. Have you played The Phantom Pain yet?


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Roronaa_chan (on 15 September 2015)

Ground zeroes is the worse MGS release for that very reason


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SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

And that is the beauty and intrigue to tastes and opinions. You and I completely disagree. We may never be able to understand one another in that regard, and that's okay. May I ask what it is about the story that you like so much?


  • -1
Goatseye (on 14 September 2015)

Out of dozens of MGS fans I know, only a small amount know the story of the game. But they swear on their ugly moms, that the story is the best in the gaming industry.


SpaceLegends (on 14 September 2015)

Thanks for reading and commenting. This is the first article I've written for the website. I wish I had thought of a sentence as awesome as your second one! I got a nice laugh out of it.


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Bisa (on 15 September 2015)

First time I've seen the writer lose his cool, Goat I don't think your line is strong enough, might wanna let this one back into the wild.


  • +1
SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

Wait, how did I lose my cool? I was complementing him on the way he expressed himself. I thought it was clever and effective. After I pointed it out to them, a few of my friends felt the same way. I'm confused. (And I don't think that should count as me losing my cool either.) I just want to try to engage with the readers, regardless of their views. In the case of Goat's comment, I genuinely enjoyed it and agreed.


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Ruler (on 15 September 2015)

ehh the story is so good because it predicted many stuff happening now in the society and politics


  • +2
SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

That's interesting, I don't know that I've ever heard that angle before. Can you elaborate?


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NinjaFox (on 15 September 2015)

Ruler is likely referring to the concepts primarily in MGS4, though they were touched on in the others, with private military companies (privatized armies) and how war is becoming less about combat and more about control (information control, control of the media) as well as the idea we're becoming more aware of war being perpetuated for profit rather than differences in ideology or taking territory.


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SpaceLegends (on 15 September 2015)

Thanks for explaining that, NinjaFox. Obviously because of my lack of a deep familiarity with the games story, I can't confirm the veracity of what you say, but it checks out on the surface and seems reasonable. It's awesome when life imitates art. That seems to happen a lot in the sci-fi genre.


  • 0