No one finds it harder to say than I, but Metal gear Solid 5 was a huge disappointment.
We were promised an expansive open world game that delved into the fall of Big Boss. A game that showed his descent into the evil child-soldiering lunatic we knew in Metal Gear 2. A deep storyline about revenge and a game that would explore difficult topics like child soldiering and would make us feel “ashamed of our words and deeds”.
What we got was a relatively svelte open world game about some unknown, uninteresting bell-end. A storyline about revenge where the object of your vengeance is so pathetically poorly utilised he barely feels like an enemy. Basically nothing difficult regarding child soldiering (it’s bad, duh) and very little shame regarding speech and actions.
Not only those broken promises, but we were landed with a game of two halves, the second if which is around 35% replaying old missions to unlock the “ending” at an unspecific point.
And the ending. The ending! I can’t think of a more effective way to sweep away all the character you’ve spent the previous 40 hours developing. Spoiler alert, but after a certain number of missions completed you unlock the game’s ending, which explains the twist: you’re not Big Boss.
That’s right, what many of us had expected all along is true. The body we inhabit in MGS5 is not that of the legendary Big Boss. It’s the body of the Medic who fishes the bomb out of Paz’s guts. In one fell swoop Kojima has both explained the blandness of the character this time round and completely invalidated the character development we get to experience throughout the game.
This is not the story of the Big Boss’ descent into becoming the bad guy, it’s the story of some random arsehole no one cares about. A cipher. It’s the story of YOU taking your place in the series.
Some random arsehole nobody cares about.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, we even get a brief look at the good old real Big Boss in the ending cutscene. His familiar joking demeanour and sardonic wit. The character we all love was there all along, we just weren’t allowed to spend any time with him.
Some random arsehole nobody cares about.
And speaking of such, the reaction to this has been baffling from my fellow Metal Gear fans. While a few have refused to accept that this is the product the great Kojima has handed them and are actively looking for the rest of the game, others are praising him for his ingenuity in intentionally making a bad game.
The idea is that Kojima left the second half of the game incomplete intentionally so we could all feel the titular phantom pain. His auteur mind thought the best way to end the series that made him the video game celebrity he is would be to leave fans feeling cheated.
It wouldn’t be out of character for Kojima to be as meta as that. We all remember the stunt he pulled with Raiden in MGS2. The problem is, he’s not an idiot either. MGS2’s story was about the inherent unreliability of digital information. So he filled preview content and trailers with images of Snake running around MGS2 environments.
Of course, once players got a little under an hour into the game they discovered they’d been fooled. Kojima was not to be trusted, and now they’d be playing as some girly blonde randomer for the next 8 hours. But there is one key difference between this bait and switch and the one included in MGS5.
We found out about Raiden at the beginning of the game.
We got to spend a solid number of hours learning about Raiden, getting to know who he was and experiencing the game world through his eyes. The bait and switch is less brutal because we’re in the know for most of the game. We didn’t spend 10 hours playing as Snake just to find out we were a girly blonde guy all along who was just really good at pretending. That would invalidate any and all of Snake’s character progression. That’s what happened with MGS5.
The Kojima fanboys display a terrifying form of Stockholm syndrome in this case. His holiness Kojima cannot possibly be wrong on this, and there cannot possibly be a bad Metal gear game. He hasn’t wronged them, how could he? This is the trusted Kojima. No, this is actually a BETTER story because of the complete nonsense it pulls, not a worse one. Of course!
But I’m sorry, folks. Someone ruined it. Either Kojima was pushed to release an unfinished game amidst being kicked out of Konami, or he took his penchant for meta far too far.
In the end the fans are left with a Metal Gear title that has a mostly dull story, with an ending that invalidates the few interesting sections. The gameplay is obviously fantastic but it’s still a Metal Gear game, and we came here to witness the story of Big Boss.
This was the last Metal Gear that Kojima will likely be involved in, and it’s shit.