I Love Metal Gear, But I Don't Want A Metal Gear Solid 5.

I am pretty much the biggest Metal Gear Solid fan there is, and I really, really hope that Metal Gear Solid 5 doesn't happen.

Kotaku recently published Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima's comments to Official PlayStation Magazine regarding a potential Metal Gear Solid 5–there'd "probably" be one "at some point," the famed director said, as he minimized his involvement with a palpable weariness. "Maybe I can just do one stage," he said in a fashion that seemed hopeful.

Of course, this is Kojima's shtick. Every time there's a Metal Gear Solid, he says he won't do another Metal Gear Solid, and then of course there is one. The controversial oddball is often accused of resenting the very medium in which he works — why else develop video games, experiences that thrive on interactivity, and then plump them full of long cut scenes that owe their heritage more to film tropes than to gaming? Why does he divorce himself from the franchise he birthed, only to end up retreading it in a fashion more grand than the last?

It's almost like the soldier who's called up to the battlefield again and again, amid questions of why and what for. No, it is exactly like that. The character of Snake is the voice of the auteur himself.

I hope a Metal Gear Solid 5 won't happen the same way players of MGS4 hoped Solid Snake could rest in the end. I think there's nothing more Kojima — or Snake — can do. The climate that drives MGS is irrevocably changed; the series is a voice speaking out from a place in time, and that time has passed.

The series is a voice speaking out from a place in time, and that time has passed.

MGS is my favourite franchise, and it's because of this: To me, video games are at their finest as an act of personal expression on the part of the creator; I love most the games that feel like they were born from a vision, from a desire to say something. There are a lot of well-made games. There aren't nearly as many games that are expressions, intended or otherwise, from the person who conceived them.

On one hand, I've always resented the tendency to correlate or to compare games and film. They're completely different media, and with that in mind I can empathise with people who cringe at Kojima's almost pigheaded adherence to ideas that seem to fly in the face of everything that's been proven "correct" about the art of game design.

Yet when movie buffs talk about the evolution of the form, about their standout films, inevitably it's the directors they discuss. When you're talking about movies you can talk about an individual director's oeuvre as having established certain conventions, or as adherent to particular themes is part of what makes it sophisticated, artful, worth talking about. It's not the most "successful" films-–the ones that appeal to the widest audiences, that earn the most money-–that are the most relevant to the craft.

I actually never intended to be a game journalist. All my life I was a theatre actress, with hardly a day in my life that I wasn't performing in some play or another. For better or for worse I didn't go to journalism school or even to proper college-–I went to acting conservatory. What I learned there is that the performances that captivate us are the ones that happen when an actor gives themselves over to the fiction moment. In acting school you're told your body is your "instrument", a malleable conduit between your audience and the story in the script. The story passes through you and is imbued with life by your own emotionality, your own experience.

The best actors are the ones relaxed and unselfconscious enough to let that communication happen (draw your own conclusions about why I ended up writing!). Their very human nature will colour their performance in ways that are subconscious and unintended. The worst actors are the ones that have simply learned to imitate behaviour, who care so much about how the audience will receive them that they are parrots of reaction and interaction, their natural emotionality lost in some over-intellectualization.

The intellectual quality of Kojima's Metal Gears has resulted in flashes of brilliance... it also means MGS is overwrought, over-thought.

In the original Metal Gear Solid, Kojima had a vision for a certain kind of game. His enthusiasm for the action films of the late 1980s was obvious, and it was clear he wanted to create something with more nuance, more story, more emotionality, than other games about soldiers. His enormous ambition for departing from norms is what made that game so great — yet just like a weak actor, he has always been intellectual to his detriment.

The intellectual quality of Kojima's Metal Gears has resulted in flashes of brilliance — philosophies on the subjective morality of war, cleverly-plotted battles that turn boss fights into character studies, and gameplay that gently guides the player to consider direct confrontation as a fraught proposition. Nonetheless, it also means MGS is overwrought, over-thought.

And that overly-lacy intellectualism multiplies in MGS2, which is famously polarising for its convoluted nature. It's a funny thing that happens when a performer feels self-conscious; they are less relaxed, they think harder, they are less capable of honesty. Yet the wonderful thing about the MGS games is that even despite all of this, Kojima's vision is so strong that his character, his personality gets into everything. The homages to film trivia, the bizarre humour, the way the gameplay itself often seems to lead the player to one perspective on war or global relations and industry, then another, like someone is thinking out loud and wants you to come along.

It's interesting that the MGS games so often deal with questions about national allegiances. Characters change sides at astounding rates. No one's actual allegiance is certain, and in every game, the protagonist Snake has a revelation that he is a conduit for someone else's message, someone else's goals. His superiors that direct him in the field, his allies, are never who he thinks they are. He is used.

It's interesting to place those shifting allegiances and Snake's plights in the context of the fact that Sony has often relied on Kojima's MGS as a pillar of the PlayStation brand. During a time when exclusives were certain to competitive advantage on the console battlefield, MGS was right up there with Final Fantasy as a lynchpin in Japan's war for industry dominance against the West and the rising Xbox brand (Metal Gear Rising, announced first for theXbox 360. Hmm!)

To play his games, though, you might get the idea that Kojima found his responsibility as a gaming platform standard-bearer a complex proposition. Following the explosive success of the first two MGS games, the third instalment returned to Snake's origin story. MGS3 is my favourite video game, a heartbreaking story of a man who would become a villain as the forces for which he fought let him down again and again, in which he lost his mentors and realised that every "war hero" is a pawn for some greater national interest.

Never was that pressure greater than at the launch of MGS4, which was all but declared to be the game that must "save the PlayStation." You get the sense that Kojima loves challenges; his games are clearly made with the air of someone who wants to surpass limitations, to be agile and clever amid the constraints of technology. In 2009, he spoke at the Game Developers Conference about the ways he used the hardware environment to his advantage during each instalment of MGS — as if he himself were a character on one of his own battlefields.

MGS4 may not be the best video game ever made in accordance with the "rules" of game design and interactive entertainment. But as an authorial statement, it has no equal.

But the thing I remember most about that talk is how — once he yet again said he felt he didn't want to make any more MGS games — he was tempted back into the fray again by the promise of a "monster machine" that could finally allow him to perfect his ultimate vision for the series. "So the mission was, use the rumoured 'amazing power' of the monster gaming platform to create the ultimate stealth game. I thought this will be my final mission," he said at the time. He was facetious, and I thought he seemed a little rueful.

MGS4 may not be the best video game ever made in accordance with the "rules" of game design and interactive entertainment. But as an authorial statement, it has no equal. If we understand that, consciously or otherwise, Kojima is representing himself through the character of this super-soldier called up to wartime again and again, look at the circumstances of 4: In a world where all combat activities are controlled by machines that remove the chances of error — a world free of creative risks, if you will — the authentic soldier Solid Snake has aged rapidly. His spine cracks as he traverses a desert military zone that looks much more like earlier Call of Duty games than the lush complexes of earlier MGS.

In MGS, Snake's love interest Meryl was something of an adoring idealist. But when he reunites with her in MGS4, they cannot reconnect; her hesitant attempts turn to a painful derision. She sees him as a relic — "I'm done playing little love games," she tells him. "I just wanted you to see who I was," she says ruefully, in a way that makes the pure visionary's intention of MGS1 seem naïve, dated.

Instead, Meryl marries Johnny Sasaki, a blond, Western-looking character who in every previous instalment of the series has just been a joke, no threat. His nickname is "Akiba", in mockery of Japan's Akihabara, the seat of the gaming nerd. Meanwhile the MGS4's "No Place To Hide" tagline was punned in trailers as "No Place For Hideo," and if there isn't a clearer expression of his own resentment and sense of irrelevance-–besides the fact that he stuffed the game with more of his trademark much-maligned long cutscenes than ever-–I don't know what is.

It's miraculous that in, the face of what feels to me like a lot of sadness and anger, Kojima managed to tie up nearly every single one of the convoluted and multifarious loose ends in his decades-long Metal Gear plot in a series of breathtaking, memorable setpieces throughout MGS4. The game manages to be simultaneously a statement to its detractors and the game industry's changing nature as it is a love letter to its most loyal fans. I believe there are few achievements in gaming as significant as that.

I can't say for sure that he meant to do it, but somewhere along the line, since the crafting of MGS1, Kojima became an honest performer. Like any artist, his feelings seem to come through whether or not he planned them. That's why MGS5 feels like something he'll "probably have to" do, in his words, despite his fervent wish that he can keep his involvement minimal.

"For MGS1 I made the maps myself, laid out the enemy routes myself, did everything hands on," he reflects. "That level I can't do again."

As a fan I could no more imagine him doing it than I can imagine damaged, exhausted Snake as he was at the end of MGS4 having another go at the battlefield. Maybe they'll have to make MGS5 for business reasons, but I hope they let Snake-–and Kojima-–rest.

Leigh Alexander is editor-at-large for Gamasutra, author of the Sexy Videogameland blog, columnist in Edge Magazine and games editor at Nylon Guys, in addition to freelancing reviews and criticism to a wide variety of outlets. Her monthly column at Kotaku deals with cultural issues surrounding games and gamers. She can be reached at leighalexander1 AT gmail DOT com.

Comments

    kill the blasphemer

      Kill 'em all!

    The title really kills any interest in reading the rest of the article.

      Why do you feel the need to broadcast your ignorance like this? Do you expect a pat on the back? A high five? Do you expect to be heralded as a hero amongst men for you rejection of intellectual discussion? For questioning the world you live in? Grow up and stop reinforcing psychological stereotypes about the weak-minded and belief.

    One part of me agrees wholeheartedely. The end of 4 is a great place to stop.

    The bigger part of me says, 'woooooooo, moar snake!'.

      You could have moar snake if they remade Metal Gear... and it avoids ret-conning the end of 4...

        I want maw snake. Maybe they could do a whole Alien thing where they clone him from old snake, then at the end of the game he dives into a smelter as an alien bursts from his chest.

          UR MICKS'IN UR SEEQWULLS! ;-P

    MGS stands alongside Final Fantasy tied for my favorite franchise of all time.
    The irrational hype-succeptible child in me wants MGS5. The mature adult who started with MGS on PSX back in the 90's says that MGS4 is a more than fitting closure to the series.

    Let's just leave it there. Even Kojima himself has said he wants to do something else, rather than just be known for Metal Gear and not a lot else. Even if it's another ZoE game, just something different would be nice.

    One of the most emotional scenes i have ever seen in a video game and the most phsycially daunting. Was when Snake in MGS 4 was moving through the super heated tunnel trying to get to the Patriot server. With each movement getting harder and the sneaking suit literally melting off as he goes through every muscle every nerve in my body was pushing for him to make it.

    Its like every Metal Gear momement had led up to this. One more step, one more push all he had to do was make it and all that has happened over his life wouldn't be in vain.

    Completley inspiring. You would sturggle to ever re-create that amount of emotional investment in any character unless you had years of success with multiple great games and consistant memorable expirences. The character of Soild Snake will always be one of the best of the last 15 years. He has had his story told time to move on.

      I'm glad it's not just me who thinks that scene was utterly amazing, especially for a video game. Easily the most memorable sequence of any game I have ever played. As your mashing to get him through its getting harder and harder for yourself and snake to push on, a perfect harmony of the player and the character.

      I'd also like to add this is a great read, thanks for the article Leigh.

      All I remember is how much my hand hurt from button mashing, and how frustratingly hard the area before it was. Kind of killed any of that special mood for me...

      superb scene until the end where I was like "wait...so the robot was impervious to the heat and he could have done everything by himself...why did snake need to go then??" major buzzkill.

    I love MGS to death, but I don't want another Solid Snake story. Maybe another BIg Boss story? But not really. A complete overhaul/rebuilding of Metal Gear 1, 2 and MGS1 in the MGS4 engine would be welcome. In terms of a new MGS, playing as the Boss in WW2 could have potential to be a great, great game.

    MGS on PSX was a revolutionary game. MGS2 was fantastic too, but I lost interest while playing Snake Eater. :(

      What is this I don't even

    This was a really really interesting analysis of MGS. I particularly enjoyed the comparison between Kojima and Snake, and the thematic link to Sony and the game industry.

    Now I must play them all again with that theme in mind.

    So basically an MGS5 without Kojima and Solid Snake is good? I'm down with that.

    I still think the MGS is the greatest game ever made and all subsequent games have been phenomenal, especially Snake Eater. I'm interested in 5 but I'm still waiting on Rising :/

    From one MGS obssessive to another, this was outstanding writing. I love viewing things on the authorial intent / stand-in level, but usually don't let myself because of wishing the fictional characters themselves to take up the full frame. Thank you for writing something that adds even more to my appreciation of MGS.

    MGS as a whole, taken with all its imperfections, is to me the finest moment of video games as a medium. I like to compare it to James Joyce's Ulysses.

    [Pretend this paragraph is read in a codec call by someone saving your game:]
    Ulysses had a lot of detractors in the literary world for its constant experimentation with format and perspective. In some sense, it "fails" as a normal novel. It does not pay attention to literary convention, though with an intense awareness of it throughout, plays with what a novel or literature is. The author's life is whispering under every line, and sometimes shouting, even punning himself into scenes.

    This is like Metal Gear Solid, in that by including so many cutscenes and references to other media (film tropes, etc.), it is not a video game at ease with itself. It is something that points out its gameness in ways so much more honest than a tutorial pop-up telling us to press X or a Heads-Up Display. It references gameness itself, in imagining a world where humans are becoming akin to RTS sprites, integrated with life bars and selectable for actions to be assigned. It vibrates catastrophically what literary critic Harold Bloom calls "the anxiety of influence," where a work's author is so aware of what has come before in the medium, and what he himself has made before as well, that the work is almost alive with the voices of what came before. The attempts to evade these voices often result in mad genius - see the Nighttown chapters of Ulysses, or the Rectum sequence of MGS2 - or in actual resolution and unshakable perfection (see either work viewed as a whole).

    I love MGS, and I agree - NO MGS5 !

    As a huge MGS fan with Hideo as my hero, I want him to be able to create something new and become the auteur of another great gameplay experience. As much as I hate to say it, we have enough MGS and I've always wondered what he could do without its reigns. I understand that he has done it before with Snatcher and Zone of the Enders, but these feel like side projects. We can even see the quality he adds to game with which he had less involvement like Castlevania and Lunar Knights... Image what kind of new games we could get if he could just make something new from his heart.

    If they make a 5 I think it will be a prequel. Snake's story ended in 4 but that doesn't mean it has to be the last game featuring him, just the last game canonically. 5 could take place during any time before 4. From WW2 right up to 2014. You could play as Snake, Big Boss, Raiden or even The Boss.

    Best article I've read on kotaku in ages. I agree with every sentiment. I can't imagine the series reaching any higher than that final battle on the tanker in 4.

    What are you on a about? Solid Snake survived when I finished, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots! Metal Gear Soild 5 is nearly finished anyways - if I have to spell it out for ya, The Title is; Metal Gear Solid: Rising, Lightning Bolt Action.

      Rising isn't Metal Gear Solid 5, and Kojima has been adamant about this from the start. Hell, he even said Peace Walker was more of a proper main title game, and that Rising is a spin-off (although still being canonical, like Portable Ops).

      And frankly, Snake was in no shape for another mission by the end of MGS4. He's gone off to spend the rest of his (very short) life for himself, and while Otacon stated his desire to go with Snake out of curiosity, it was clear that he really wished to look after a man who was so severely beaten and broken after a lifetime of fighting other people's wars. Bringing him back for another title that takes place after MGS4 negates the entire point of MGS4, and cheapens everything that Kojima has been building up to.

        MGS5 doesn't have to take place after 4 and likely wouldn't.

    i agree completely at least in the sense of following snakes story hes story is done it was perfect you couldnt of asked for a better end to a series i say leave it alone.

    now some prequels or sequels involving some of many other interesting characters would be awesome much like rising

    Great article. MGS5 must be set in WW2 with The Boss as the main character.

    i'd like to see another MGS. MGS4 remains one of my favourite all time games, and Peace Walker too.

    I love Metal Gear.

    I agree that Snake should be left in retirement. I also believe Kojima should move on to other things.

    I would like to see a new Metal Gear franchise that retains the core ideas of stealth and great characters and storylines and a healthy sense of humor sprinkled throughout. But I want it to be different and unconnected. I dont think starting a 'new series' starring Raiden is a good idea. If anything else is made it should deal with Big Boss or with The Boss in my opinion.

    but I'd really rather see a brand new series/universe... whether or not it carries the Metal Gear name, I just think this style of game is so very unique and shouldn't be retired with Solid Snake and Kojima.

    I'm sorry, but large parts of MGS4 (the only one I've played) were complete drivel. Not "overwrought", drivel. It thought it was being amazingly smart and deep - in reality, it was just presenting it's own laughably silly lore in laughably silly ways.

      You are opening a book in the middle and complaining that you don't understand it.
      Every MGS game built on what came before.

    I am a big metal gear fan and I would love a metal gear solid 5 but in my opioin with solid snake and Big Boss. Not only are they the ones who started off Metal Gears in the first place but they are the main characters of The Metal Gears and Metal Gear solid series. Why not prove that Snakes do belong into this world after all and it just wouldn't be Metal Gear Solid 5 with out them. I'm just saying.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now