Final Metal Gear Survive Trailer (2018)

I know, I know. I said I was going to move Metal Gear to the background on this blog after the Phantom Pain. But it’s a busy day in my office, and it doesn’t feel right to ignore a new Metal Gear game. Here’s the last trailer of this side quest, Metal Gear Survive. It’s about two minutes long:

I did not play in the beta, and haven’t really followed the news. So I have no idea if it’s actually a good game or not. The MGSV engine is pretty solid though. (No pun intended.) I will not be picking this game up until much later, if at all. I’m more interested in follow up Metal Gear games. Konami is moving toward profitability in its post Kojima life, so I have a feeling we won’t be seeing any $50-80 million dollar projects from them soon. That said, the Metal Gear franchise is too storied to just stay mothballed forever. And I think I’m not alone in the sentiment that we need a clean break from Kojima and his vision for future games. So we can probably expect a revival in the future. When and how is anybody’s guess. Outside the company, that is.

There is the small matter of the 20th anniversary of Metal Gear Solid this October. I will be doing a Read From Memory series, of course. But some point this year, I would not be overly amazed if a remake were announced to mark the milestone. If not that, maybe a PS4 enhanced release? A dream of mine is to see The Twin Snakes ported to the Switch. I highly doubt that would happen, but never say never, I suppose.

For now, fans will have to content themselves with Metal Gear Survive. As I said, the game looks decent, if nothing else, and could be a fun diversion while we wait for bigger news, and better games.

Metal Gear Survive Single Player Trailer

A new single-player trailer for Metal Gear Survive was released a few days ago. Here’s the roughly six minute long video from IGN:

To recap, the first post-Kojima Metal Gear game is a side story. The splitting off into multiple worlds happens at the end of Ground Zeroes. Motherbase is attacked by the XOF and part of the base is sucked into an alternate dimension via the wormhole technology. How that happens, and why, I suppose we’ll find out in the game.  I wonder how the various fan sites are going to include this in their story cannons. Might be better to just start over.

The gameplay we’ve seen so far appears to be a hybrid of survival horror, base defense, and crafting mechanics grafted onto the MGSV engine.  That’s all fine, as far as it goes. This trailer shows us the rudiments of a story mode. From the last trailer, our avatar doesn’t stick in the other world permanently. He’s fished out somehow and later sent back in solo. To retrieve survivors and other items. So far, so good. In this trailer, we see a few of the classic Metal Gear tropes, including vague commentary and an appropriately gruff “mission controller” serving as our superego of sorts. It does make the game feel a tad bit more like Metal Gear, though it still feels off. Understandably.

The gameplay beta is set to begin January 18. I’m not going to participate in it, with so much other stuff on my plate. But I have to admit the game looks more intriguing than I originally thought. I scoffed at the notion of a Kojima-less Metal Gear game. I have a feeling that this is going to be a test balloon of sorts, to not only see how viable the Metal Gear franchise is but to gauge the crowd reaction. Like it or not, Konami has a lot of damage control to run for its old flagship IPs. A solid and enjoyable Metal Gear game, that can Survive without Kojima or his characters (get it?) might go a long way to seeing us getting new entries in the series.

Whether or not that’s a good thing, well…

MGS4 Death Animations

I was talking to a friend on a forum the other day about Death Stranding rumors, and he mentioned he had recently played through MGS4, and found its death animations funny.

Now, I don’t think they’re funny but they are a bit dramatic. Perhaps they all are (SNAAKKKKEEE!!! was a proto-meme of sorts). Luckily for us, somebody took the time to make a 15-minute video with all of the MGS4 death animations. Let’s take a look:

I forgot that you caught little glimpses of scenes of the game (and past games) getting flashed before your eyes. Along with the usual melodrama from your radio guy (Otacon 90% of the time).

MGS4 feels like the odd child of the family. Of course, Kojima had been telling people he was on his last Metal Gear game since the original Metal Gear Solid. Who knows how sincere he was about that, but MGS4 does have a sense of finality to it. Of course it was, for Solid Snake anyway. MGS4 had the unenviable task of trying to tie up the loose ends from MGS2 and MGS3. I was dissatisfied with the attempt of the former, but it’s understandable. MGS2 is a postmodernist romp whereas MGS3 was a far more straightforward action adventure story.

I’m realizing as I write this, I probably need to spend more time with MGS4 before getting too harsh on it. I’ve only beaten the game once. It’s exhausting to play, and not just because of those very long load times on the original. It feels both constrictive in its scope and massive at the same time. The Shadow Moses retread is done well but felt hollow in a way. The gameplay was excellent as always, but the beats are just off somehow.

Still, I would play MGS4 before other games. Maybe after I chip off a few games from the back catalog, I’ll give Old Snake a try again.

Metal Gear Survive Gameplay video

Konami released a gameplay video (with commentary) of the upcoming Metal Gear Survive game, a standalone side story set in the Metal Gear Solid V universe. The video is about 6 and a half minutes long, and the game is due out in February 2018.

Hey, I know what I said: I would forsake future Metal Gear projects now that Kojima has moved on. But you know what, this one is starting to look interesting. I have a morbid curiosity as to what will happen with the IP. Especially now that Konami has turned its eye toward profitability. There’s a slight chance that this side game will be entertaining, at least. Crafting system looks interesting, if it has any depth. Hopefully whatever they decide to do with the main series is a clean break with Kojima, with a respectful nod to what he got right. I don’t know if Metal Gear Survive is that break, but kudos are in order anyway for doing something creative with the IP.

I still preferred somebody come in and finish The Phantom Pain properly, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that just couldn’t be.

You can get more details about Metal Gear Survive at its website, and you can pre-order it for PS4 here and Xbox One here.

Kojima’s CIA

Over a MuckRock, there’s an amusing post about some startling similarities between Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid opus and the CIA’s Cold War archives. From the piece:

At MuckRock, we run into a lot of weirdness poking around in the Central Intelligence Agency archives. So much weirdness, in fact, that we’ve coined what’s known as Best’s Law (named after its strongest proponent, Emma Best) that states “With sufficient research, history becomes indistinguishable from a Hideo Kojima game.”

The post goes on to list five instances that should be familiar to fans of the series: everything from super soldiers to super weapons and shadow networks. And maybe even AI…

It’s worth a read if you’re into the real world inspirations behind some of the more fantastic aspects of Metal Gear’s lore.

The Art of Metal Gear Solid I-IV coming in 2018

The other day Dark Horse announced that it will be publishing The Art of Metal Gear Solid I-IV. The 800 page volume of Yoji Shinkawa’s iconic artwork will be available on May 8, 2018. You can pre-order the volume on Amazon here. From Dualshockers:

This definitive collection of Yoji Shinkawa’s work contains 800 pages of concept and key art for characters, weapons, and vehicles from Metal Gear SolidMetal Gear Solid 2: Sons of the PatriotsMetal Gear Solid 3: Snake EaterMetal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.

Although Dark Horse Comics’ version of The Art of Metal Gear Solid I-IV has been translated into English, it’s important to note that the Japanese handwriting on the images included have been left intact.

I have the original books for Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Metal Gear Solid V. There beautiful, but I note that many write ups claim that the books are not in English; this is not true. As you can see from my post about the Art of Metal Gear Solid 2, you can still get these promotional books for a rather steep price and read most of them, too.

The list price for the Art of Metal Gear Solid I-IV is $79.99, but at the time of this writing it’s currently 40% off.

Metal Gear turns 30

Metal Gear came out on that obscure MSX platform some 30 years ago today, according to Konami’s various social media feeds. As I originally started this blog as a tribute site of sort to the earlier entries in the series, I thought it would be fitting to make note of it today.

Of course, the franchise is moribund today. I saw Yong Yea posted impressions from E3 about the upcoming Metal Gear Alive (or whatever it’s called) but I have no intention of supporting future Kojima-less titles. Especially zombie-themed co-op shooters. Anymore so than I have any intention of going to Japan to play the MGS3 panchinko game. The only thing that might possibly revive my interest is a MGS remaster-remake, and I have a feeling that would be botched. If Nintendo-Silicon Knights (in its heyday) could barely get it right, what makes you think Konami in its current form could?

My conspiracy theory before MGSV came out (and Kojima’s ouster) was that Phantom Pain was going to feature a retelling of the original Metal Gear as its denouement. Considering the direction the game went, and with it only half finished upon release, it’s plausible. But probably not realistic. What could have been, if Kojima had been permitted to finish his masterpiece?

Still, not to be too petulant about it all; here’s to you, Metal Gear. I spent many hours of my life enjoying the games that spawned from this humble action title; the stealth convention built out of necessity and the silly story that served as window dressing for a premise that eventually got ambitious.

The Art of Metal Gear Solid 2

Yoji Shinkawa was the lead artist for the Metal Gear Solid series. In the 17 years after he took over as a lead, he designed much of the iconic look and style of the series. Textbook answer, right? I’ve always admired his work. A little too much ink in a lot of it, but somehow it worked for the games. I’ve also become a big fan of game art books. They made some nice ones for Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2. Since it’s April 30th and yesterday I promised something special, I’ll share a recent acquisition. The Art of Metal Gear Solid 2. I’ll also discuss some other artistic influences on the game. In particular, the books and a game that Kojima said inspired him during his design.

The book has five sections: “official illustrations” “concept illustrations,” and a “Talk Collaboration.” This is a kind of free roaming interview between Yoji Shinkawa and fellow artist Takato Yamamoto. The first concept illustrations section has “Characters,” “Mechanics,” “Mechanics: Rough Sketches,” and “Artwork.” This is all rough sketches of what ended up in the game, and some unused stuff. As for Official Illustrations: you’ve seen it if you’ve ever played the game or seen its artwork. By the way, most of the book is in English, but if you know Japanese, you can read Shinkawa’s sketch notes. Like many art books, the font is a little too small for my tastes (microscopic in this one). But the point is to look at and admire the images. Absorbing all the details and what went into the imagery of the game.

Concept Work

I recall an interview with Kojima in which he stated that he and Shinkawa would meet several times to discuss the artwork. Usually whatever Shinkawa came in with first was what Kojima would select. But he “had fun” making Shinkawa work hard on his revisions. Looking through the concept work this seems to be the case. The early stuff is what’s most familiar to me in the finalized form.

Unpublished Work

If you’ve been to any Metal Gear fan sites, then you’ve come across the unused character art. You could see a lot of this in the Document of Metal Gear Solid 2, as well. Two boss characters didn’t make the final cut. A few support characters also got canned in the early going. I’ll get to them in a moment. In “mechanics: rough sketches” there’s a “metal blade” sketch that looks interesting:

Metal Blade concept sketches from the Art of Metal Gear Solid 2
Metal Blade concept sketches from the Art of Metal Gear Solid 2

Shades of D-Walker? From behind it looks like one of the deep sea suits that you can see in the Moonpool section of the game. I’m curious what these guys were supposed to be.

Old Boy and Chinaman

One of these characters get a cameo in the game. This occurs during the scene where Snake tells you about Dead Cell. We don’t know which character for sure. But in the early designs they were prominent figures in the story.

Old Man concept sketch from the Art of Metal Gear Solid 2
Old Man concept sketch from the Art of Metal Gear Solid 2

Old Boy was a former Wehrmacht officer who was the mentor of Big Boss. In MGS2 he is the group strategist of Dead Cell. Somehow a former WW2 german officer is still alive and kicking (nanomachines…?) in 2009 to take part in the Big Shell takeover. We don’t know how Raiden would confront him in a boss fight. So I’m guessing Kojima didn’t get too far with this guy in scenario planning. But the rough background for Old Boy formed the basis for The End; the well known boss in Snake Eater.

Chinaman (with all due respect to the Big Lebowski) did get more details. From what we know of him, we can infer that his concept was alive until late in the design process. His background story was that he was a boy sold into slavery and brought back to America by a wealthy business man. He learned to hate his adopted country. So, like people who hate their country, he joined its armed forces. Chinaman became one of the most elite Seal Team members because of his great swimming skills. He joined in Dead Cell’s Plant takeover due to his hatred for America and New York City.

You were supposed to fight him in the filtration room. He would swim around and lure you underwater. There sharks (under his command) would attack you. Also his chest dragon tattoo would come alive and attack. Yeah, I know. There’s a good reason why Chinaman didn’t make the final cut.

In the final product, Vamp ended up absorbing Chinaman’s abilities. Got his boss fight too.

Chinaman concept sketches from Art of Metal Gear Solid 2
Chinaman concept sketches from Art of Metal Gear Solid 2

Max and Doc

Concept art for these radio support characters appears in the Book. I have no idea who Max was. But judging from the illustrations, she looks like she was going to be a perky Mei Ling type character. A brief Metal Gear wiki dive shows this to be the case. So the rumor goes, she was going to quote Shakespeare to you when you called in. It’s implied that she got into an accident right before the mission began. So Rose took her place as “the mission analyst.” Much to our joy.

Doc concept artwork from the Art of Metal Gear Solid 2
Doc concept artwork from the Art of Metal Gear Solid 2

“Doc” would have been your science officer. If you called him he would tell you about sea life and other information. Like Master Miller in the first game. As with Old Boy, this rough character background got folded into a character in a later game. In this case, Revengence, where the Doctor (Doktor) fills that role.

Both of these characters would have been AIs, like Colonel and Rose in the big reveal at the end of the official game.

Max concept art from The Art of Metal Gear Solid 2
Max concept art from The Art of Metal Gear Solid 2

Other Artistic Influences

In past posts, I’ve mentioned that Kangaroo Notebook and City of Glass as influences for MGS2. Pokemon also got a nod.

Kojima got some bizarre imagery from Kangaroo Notebook. Vamp’s “vampire” gimmick is the most obvious allusion to that work. I’ve read most of that book, and I can say nothing else in particular stands out for MGS2. Though, thinking about it, the relationship between the nurse and the narrator resembles Rose and Jack. The nurse is far more antagonistic than Rose is, and that’s saying something. And the narrator is not as whiny as Jack.

The book does give a hint of the feel of Metal Gear Solid 2. Everything you encounter is vaguely familiar but alien at the same time. You have to rely on total strangers to give you vital information on where to go next. You feel like you’re going down the rabbit hole in both the book and the game, and it’s all confusing. If that doesn’t describe Raiden’s mission in the Plant Chapter, I don’t know what does.

City of Glass is on my to-read list, so I can’t say for certain how it influenced Kojima. It’s well known that the AI characters were all going to be named after characters in the book. Besides the setting (New York City), the only clear reference to the work is Peter Stillman. You know, Peg Legged Peter; the bomb disposal expert we know and love. As far as I can tell he was the only character with a City of Glass namesake to make the final cut.

Now, when you played the game, did you find the dog tag minigame to be sort of, out of place? I mean, it worked. It gave us a nice optional gameplay objective to it all. Though we were blackmailed into it since collecting tags unlocked the special items. I read somewhere that during development Kojima became quite the Pokemon addict. He would play the game nonstop for hours on end. And that’s where we got collection game from.

Games as Art

I don’t want to get into the larger debate here. That’s been handled quite well by others over the last few decades. But I do want to point out that 16 years later it’s still possible to appreciate the artistry that went into the game. It’s got a distinctive style across the board. And it’s still a unique experience.

I’ve said that Sons of Liberty represented Kojima’s high mark as a creator. In this game he took the boldest steps and had a great vision. He was the most confident in this project. It shows in how willing he was to infuriate the player. Now, I’m not saying this was a wise choice on his part. But it was a bold one.

I hope he’s managed to recapture that spirit for the upcoming Death Stranding. For his part though, Yoji Shinkawa has been producing quality work in his unique style for quite a while now. I’m interested to see what he comes up with for Death Stranding.

If you’re interested in buying the Art of Metal Gear Solid 2, you can do so here. I have to say it’s gotten quite expensive in the last year or so. Metal Gear Informer has a ton of high-resolution scans so you can get the gist of it. Kangaroo Notebook and City of Glass may also be worth looking at. That is, if you’re dedicated to understanding pieces of Kojima’s vision for the game.

Metal Gear Solid 2 Gameplay and Anniversary

Two years ago I started blogging on this site, and my first post was about Metal Gear Solid 2, since it was April 29. Get it? In honor of both, here’s a walkthrough of the entire game via Tactical Dinner Roll. (Includes all cutscenes and codec conversations)

Tactical Dinner Roll was kind enough to split the gameplay up into 23 parts in a playlist. Most of the clips are less than 20 minutes long, so it’s all digestible. Better than the hours long let’s plays, filled with commentary and editorializing. Nice touch too to have all the boss battles labeled.

A good thing about these walkthroughs is that you can see how others play old and familiar games. You would think that especially in such a small game (compared to today’s games) there’s only so many ways to play it,. And you know them all. A reasonable assumption. But I’m always surprised by somebody’s innovation or little trick I didn’t catch before.

Metal Gear Solid 2 Posts

This wasn’t intended to be a Metal Gear fan blog, but since it is one of my favorite series I ended up posting a lot about it. For those interested here’s a list of the posts I wrote that are specific about MGS2:

For the record, I have yet to get the Virtually Impossible achievement on the PS3 port. I also have not reviewed Kangaroo Notebook. But there are a few more anniversaries for the game coming up, so I can manage them. Certainly by the 20th anniversary.

Thanks for everyone who has read my blog and given me feedback in the last two years. Here’s to many more.

I have something special planned for tomorrow (you do know what day it is tomorrow, right?)

Metal Gear Solid as Gothic Fiction

A few days ago one of the Konami accounts tweeted out an older article that appeared on Games Radar, and called it “an interesting take.” In the essay, the staff writer says that the island of Shadow Moses played a big role in setting the tone for the game:

For all its frozen desolation, the uninhabitable rock which props up this dark tale of military scheming is the perfect companion for Solid Snake. Without its hiding places he could not survive. Often game locations assume the role of a character in games, pressing their personalities on to the story, funnelling the mechanics designers have created to fill them in ways that amplify their effectiveness. But rarely does a location become a true companion to the action, without whom our avatars would simply perish.

The level design is atmospheric to be sure.  And one of the mechanics is to use the environment to your advantage (hiding, cover, etc). All fairly novel back in 1998. But until I read this article it never occurred to me to think of Shadow Moses as its own character, and it’s an interesting rabbit hole to explore. I was reading The House of the Seven Gables around the time I was playing the original game and that was my first exposure to gothic fiction. It seems to be a specialty of New Englanders. But in any case the main point drilled into my mind was that the setting, in this case the haunted house, was its own character chock full of meaning.

Now, Konami knows a thing or two about horror, even gothic horror, but I don’t believe it’s controversial to assert that Metal Gear Solid was strictly the publisher’s action series.  That said, when Kojima was at the helm the series did have a strong post modern bent and horror elements crept in here and there. The idea of looking at the setting through the character lens is an interesting exercise:

  • Metal Gear: Outer Heaven, the military fortress that becomes a major plot point
  • Metal Gear 2: Zanzibar Land/Outer Heaven, same as above
  • Metal Gear Solid: Shadow Moses Island, as discussed in the article. Can be a nemesis and ally at times.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Tanker/Plant/Arsenal Gear/NY, a lot to unpack there. You go literally from being on a vessel transporting Metal Gear, to the camouflaged development center of a massive Metal Gear, to being inside that massive machine.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Jungles of Soviet Union. It’s well documented that you need to become one with the environment to survive.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Various locales, including Shadow Moses Island, 9 years later. Like in MGS3, you have to adapt to the environment to survive.
  • Peace Walker: not as clear cut
  • Phantom Pain: same as Peace Walker.

So you can make a compelling case for the earlier Metal Gear Solid games, but I find the comparison starts to weaken after you get away from the original Solid Snake saga.