Let me preface this micro-review with the information that the only Metal Gear game I’ve finished to date was the first MGS on PS2 (or was it PS1?). While I think Konami’s recent treatment of Kojima is terrible, I don’t hold him in reverence or even care for him as a writer, as everything I’ve read within and about MGS games is a badly-written clusterfuck that compares to terrible fanwank fiction combined with the overblown contrived and over-complex ridiculousness of the Star Wars EU or Marvel Comics of today. Disagree? Just go through the terribad background to Ground Zeroes and that should be more than enough. Also, I already know that Revengeance isn’t a word.
Still, I’m not too fussed about terrible videogame storylines if the gameplay is good enough, and this thing got decent reviews – so I decided to jump in, buoyed by the fact that it’s supposed to be quite short. I enjoy short games as a nice counterpoint to the huge open-world games and MMO-ish games that I like to spend much of my time in.
So anyway. You play as Raiden – a character that some people apparently dislike quite a bit but I started – and ended – with complete indifference to – through a title which may as well be called “Cutscenes: the interrupting exposition game.” I say this because after every couple of minutes (or less) of frantic, spastic, gameplay, the game takes control off you for seemingly just as long or longer so it can play nicely animated but overlong, terribly written cutscenes at you, or even worse, play terribly written exposition and instructions at you via the ingame codec (essentially the radio where you get told what to do). I know that the codec and such has been a longtime part of MGS games, but ouch, this is pretty fucking painful. Seriosuly, I can’t emphasise just how bad the writing is. I’m sure lots of other games are just as bad, but this game takes great delight in shoving it’s terrible story down your throat at every opportunity – which means constantly. There’s also some heavy-handed political allegory, and there’s even a bit where the game attempts to point out the humanity of the guys you’ve been merrily slaughtering to this point, which in turn makes Raiden sad.
One particularly ridiculous example: I ended one boss battle by covering the boss in liquid nitrogen, freezing them, and then bisecting them from the top of their head to their crotch. (Because the game is so cut-scene-y, it’s less cool than it sounds – the whole thing felt pre-planned rather than something cool that I did). Anyway, while their dismembered, frozen-solid corpse laid on the ground in a number of pieces, they still somehow managed to have a longish, tedious “deathbed conversation” with their boss while I sat there thinking What the Absolute Fuck?
Gameplay is essentially Japanese-styled score attack gameplay – which is fine for those who enjoy it, and are prepared to learn the nuances of the system, but it’s just button-spammy bullshit to me. I guess I should be grateful that it allows scrubs like myself to essentially spam the attack buttons and get through the encounters, but it sadly doesn’t really feel like there’s much more to it. Not for me, at any rate. The whole thing is made more spastic as – in a word – the camera is awful. No camera-target lock, enemies running around like headless chickens while you do the same, it’s really not well done at all. While writing this review I noted that Platinum Games also made Vanquish, which played somewhat similarly, received similarly positive reviews, and similarly, I also disliked due to mindlessly spammy gameplay.
As I played through I unlocked various things like VR mode levels and such, but sadly I was simply not having enough fun with the base game to have any kind of willingness to go through it again on either a higher difficulty or wade through VR missions either. I guess it’s at least partly something that comes with age – when I was young I did play through some of the VR missions in MGS. Now I’m older and have way too many games – I don’t have time to waste doing extras in games I don’t enjoy. In fact, I wonder why I make myself play things like this that I’m clearly not enjoying. Am I really going to be willing to put 8 or 10 hours into this thing for the sake of nothing but sheer bloody-mindedness?
Blue locked boxes apparently need to be attacked in blade mode to open them. Which isn’t explained or even implied anywhere. How did I find out? Googled it after awhile and found a bunch of dickheads on GameFAQs talking down to others about it like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Anyhow, while the combat can occasionally be mindless, spammy fun, the way the game keeps interrupting the gameplay for long, boring, overwrought and terribly-written cutscenes sapped my interest. Finally, I got to the boss fight at the end of section 3 – so just short of halfway through the game (it starts with Section 0 and ends with Section 7). The boss in this case is called Monsoon, and unlike the previous ones, comes entirely from the “cheap bosses” store, being entirely out of whack with the difficulty of all of the mobs that you fight beforehand and – even more fun – featuring long sections where he cannot be hit or damaged at all, while naturally continuing to whale on the player. After a couple of goes, getting bored and eventually killed each time (on easy) I decided that to be blunt – I don’t have time for this shit, and so I ejected the disc and uninstalled. From what I read, this fight ends with a QTE, and I think that tops it all off perfectly.
Basically, if you’re into this genre of score-attack game, you like Platinum games’ “style” and are willing and able to put the time in to learn the intricacies of it’s combat – then the gameplay might be quite good. If you like Kojima’s writing, then the story might appeal.
As someone not invested in Kojima’s writing or stories, I found the plot and characters awful and painful pretty much from the beginning. Made even worse with constant interruptions and non-skippable non-interactive cutscenes. The backlash against Sony’s The Order 1886 based on similar issues makes me wonder how well this game would have been received if it were released now – and 2013 wasn’t that long ago. Kojima seems to have an inordinate amount of goodwill for his awfully written stories, though – even moreso with Konami’s recent shenanigans. To me, this game is an excellent example of style over substance. If I want mindless spammy fun with a collection of choppy blades and without an awfully written, intrusive story, I can play Dynasty/Samurai Warriors instead.
If you particularly like and enjoy this game, genre, Kojima or Platinum, that’s fine. I guess the problem comes when someone with little experience with those things only manages to read reviews written by fans and fan-reviewers (and I’m counting IGN and Eurogamer here as well – seriously, listen to this guy gush about it) and gets the feeling that the game would be worthwhile for them as well when it’s a lot less cut and dried than that.
For me, this game was ultimately awful. As I really enjoy action games and melee-centric games, I was hoping for something I’d really enjoy based on the reviews. As it is, I’m not even interested enough to YouTube the ending cutscenes. Unless you’re already invested in this genre, Platinum Games’ style and/or Metal Gear, my recommendation is: