Metal Gear Solid V never sat right with me, and I’m not exactly sure why. There’s no doubt that V ushers in a whole series of radical changes to the format of Metal Gear: A new voice actor, different mission structure, an open world setting and the controversial release of Ground Zeroes before the full game roughly a year later.
When I first got into the world of video games, there were two titles that revealed to me the incredible potential in this medium. One was Final Fantasy VII and the other was Metal Gear Solid, both for the original PlayStation, and both wildly different from what I had experienced before. Instead of gaming just being a way to challenge hand-eye skills and kill time, these two games demonstrated epic storytelling with engaging gameplay, filled with remarkable characters and, for both titles, fantastic soundtracks that still inspire me musically to this day. So speaking for myself, Metal Gear has always been a powerful series since it played such a critical role in cementing gaming as a part of my identity.
Like most gamers, my hype for Metal Gear Solid V was outstanding. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the previous entry, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, I was still very much excited about where Big Boss’s story could go, and what amazing gameplay elements were going to be added. I should also mention that despite thoroughly enjoying Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, I was mostly let down by the lack of stealth-based gameplay in this entry—as well as a few plot elements that struck me the wrong way. Overall the experience of Guns of the Patriots was positive for me, but I hoped the next one would make up for the ways in which 4 lacked.
The hype for Metal Gear Solid V among gamers was very much real, and for many good reasons. To start, it was going to be another Metal Gear game, something that’s almost always an occasion to celebrate. There was also talk about Hideo Kojima exploring some taboo subjects in regards to war, we were possibly going to see the actual moment Big Boss goes from renegade soldier fighting for a better future, to an all out war criminal, and—as we learned more—the game was going to be a massive open world allowing you to try out any number of stealth and combat tactics.
This hype took a strange hit when we learned that David Hayter, the voice of Snake, would not be reprising his role for the game. I won’t go into detail about how strange this sounded at the time, but it certainly captured a lot of attention. Conspiracy theories floated around about Hayter secretly being in the game—which never turned out to be true—and petitions were started, none of which ever made any impact.
Upon hearing about Keifer Sutherland taking on the role of Snake, I was intrigued. Excited even. I’ve always enjoyed Sutherland as an actor and thought if anyone was going to take on the role of Big Boss, he had an enormous amount of potential to really take the character in an exciting direction—despite how much it was going to suck that Hayter’s signature voice wouldn’t be a part of the experience (at the time I too was holding out on the possibility that Hayter was still secretly in the game.) In a way it made sense anyhow: If anyone was going to secretly hide a voice actor in the game and play with gamers’ perceptions of what they were going into, it would be Hideo Kojima.
Some time passed, and more news floated in. Metal Gear Solid V would be released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360—the current gen at the time—but would also see a release on the next generation, and eventually PC. Further doubt was cast on any notion that David Hayter would play any kind of role in the game, and we learned that the game would be split up into two parts: A prologue in the form of Ground Zeroes, and the main installment: The Phantom Pain. The title of course being revealed after a mysterious game known only as The Phantom Pain by “Moby Dick Studios” was shown to actually be Metal Gear Solid V all along. With stunts like this, it is reasonable to suspect Kojima was hiding other things (such as the possibility of David Hayter making an appearance in the final game).
Despite losing the signature voice of the game, all of this was fun up until some very serious news began to break: Hideo Kojima would be leaving Konami. I think gamers everywhere were concerned not only about Kojima’s job, as he has become a cherished developer in the industry, but also about what was going to happen to Metal Gear Solid V. Would it be handed off to someone else? Was there a chance it could be cancelled? Once Konami began removing the very familiar “A Hideo Kojima Game” from all promotional art for the title, everything grew dark.
Ground Zeroes released in early 2014 to some mixed reception, at the very least. Not being a full game, but rather a prologue to the main title that lasted somewhere between 45 minutes to a half-an-hour, most gamers felt cheated, and understandably so. Despite the game including a number of other missions somewhat similar to the VR Missions of earlier years, this really didn’t make it feel any better—especially since most predicted that at some point in the future, Metal Gear Solid V would be available in some kind of deluxe package with both Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain (this remains to be seen, though some retailer listings suggest it might happen after all).
Metal Gear Solid V ended up being a unique entry, with varying opinions on its quality and importance in the entire series. As a massive Metal Gear fan myself, I can’t help but feel something was off in Metal Gear Solid V—and not necessarily in a bad way. I’m not sure how to feel about a game like this. I’ve experienced hype and sobering reality often in the form of a highly anticipated game turning out to be mostly trash, but this was different. I enjoyed Metal Gear Solid V thoroughly, but some things just didn’t sit right with me. They still don’t sit right.
Enter this series of articles titled “Making Sense of Metal Gear Solid V,” where I’ll be diving into this game and exploring its details, as well as wondering what its legacy will ultimately be. Metal Gear Solid V is a bit of a roller coaster, and many details aren’t clear. What we can deal with directly, however, is the complete game as it was shipped, as well as some interviews and other pieces of verifiable news out there.
I’m not entirely sure of the overall direction this will take—as this mostly started as a desire to replay the game with a closer eye, but I expect it will involve a lot of opinions I currently have of the game, as well as some new ones that might even surprise me. I’ll continue to discuss my perspective of the series overall, as well as some speculation (not a whole lot) about the situation with Kojima and Konami (at least to the point where it may have affected the game.) I’ll start by diving into the prologue, Ground Zeroes first. For now, however, I leave you with this incredible piece of music from the original Metal Gear Solid:
God damn that song gives me chills.