Between Silly and Serious: Metal Gear Solid V

Kevin VanOrd and Carolyn Petit analyze the latest Metal Gear Solid V trailer, seen at E3 2013.

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One of the highlights of Microsoft's E3 2013 press conference was the Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain presentation that opened it. Editors Kevin VanOrd and Carolyn Petit began a spirited exchange over what they thought of the demonstration, but instead of keeping it to themselves, they decided to share their thoughts here. And we invite you, in turn, to share your own in the comments section below.

Kevin:

"I expect you'll become quite familiar with those binoculars as you plan your next move."

Fellow GameSpot editor Carolyn Petit and I exchanged glances when hearing this line, which was uttered near the beginning of the Metal Gear Solid V presentation at Microsoft's E3 2013 press conference. Yes, this super-obvious dialogue was kicking off the Metal Gear demo in fine style. We expect self-conscious, redundant dialogue in this series, with a slight edge of cheese, and sure enough, here it was, reminding us of one of the many things I love about Kojima's personal brand of craziness.

"Then go, and let the legend come back to life."

Carolyn:

I've always thought of the over-the-top cheesiness of the dialogue in the Metal Gear Solid games as part of the experience. Kojima creates this world of larger-than-life characters and ludicrous conspiracies, a world that's much more comic-book absurdity than believable intrigue. Sure, Kojima always tries to work real-world concerns into his games--there's the nuclear proliferation theme of the original Metal Gear Solid, stuff about the military-industrial complex in 4, and so on--but really, it's the borderline-comical level of emotional intensity that makes those stories fun for me. The first time I heard Otacon ask Solid Snake if love can bloom, even on the battlefield, I was won over by the goofy earnestness of it all. But as much as I've loved this aspect of all of the MGS games, I've always gotten the sense that Kojima thinks he's creating truly dramatic stories, not cartoonish soap operas.

After watching the trailer for Metal Gear Solid 5, though, I'm concerned. There are shots of child soldiers, and indications that blood diamonds may play an important part in the game's narrative, in a more front-and-center way than, say, the mentions of Raiden's traumatic past in MGS2. I just don't know if Kojima's instincts as a storyteller, which I think tend toward the silly and overblown, are a good fit for such grim, serious subject matter.

Kevin:

And that's where the problem in the demo arose for me: the odd contrast between the sheerly ludicrous and the ludicrously tragic. I was immediately drawn in when the camera zoomed around Snake and we saw him ride into the desert on horseback. But then the demo showed off Metal Gear Solid V's new stealth mechanic--the ability to slide to the side of your horse to avoid being seen--while speeding up the footage, apparently for convenience. But the fast-motion effect was rather silly, and broke the initial mood. When the real-time weather was shown off, the demo didn't stick to its own real-time aspirations, hurrying the scene along so we could see the dust storm in action.

Even the usual Metal Gear product placements felt too blatant to make the right impression. That big Seiko watch logo while we were introduced to the game's realistic passage of time brought back memories of Metal Gear Solid IV's iPod, a totally unnecessary and blatant bit of advertising that came with no gameplay benefit. Throw in plenty of text overlays and a corny song ("Sins of the Father"), and I was struck not by the awesome bits (and trust me, Metal Gear Solid V looks plenty awesome), but by the inconsistent tone.

Carolyn:

I had high hopes when the trailer started. The thought of riding on horseback through a dusty, natural open world stirred fond memories of Red Dead Redemption. Meanwhile, the clumsy combination of dramatic declarations ("You're a legend in the eyes of those who live on the battlefield!") and gameplay tips ("I expect you'll become quite familiar with those binoculars as you plan your next mission") was the sort of thing I might criticize in most games, but Kojima makes his characters so committed to their beliefs and so accepting of the game-like nature of their lives (Snake never batted an eye when told to switch controller ports or look at the back of a game box) that it all works in the crazy world he has created.

By the trailer's end, my feelings were more mixed. Many of the elements that I love in Metal Gear games appear present, including the outrageous cast of apparent adversaries like Skull Face. (The Quiet could stand to be more sensibly dressed, though!) And the increased versatility in terms of stealth options and close-quarters combat should make the series' action feel more flexible and empowering than ever. So I'll be very surprised if, in gameplay terms, Metal Gear Solid V doesn't end up being thoroughly enjoyable. But the very grim, very real plight of child soldiers isn't something you just toss into a crazy comic-book story to elicit an emotional reaction from players. You need to handle a topic like that with respect. I hope Kojima knows what he's doing.

Kevin:

Something tells me Kojima does know what he's doing, though. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will surely be over the top, sometimes even silly, but when it comes to melodrama, few game franchises do it better. Ultimately, I wish the trailer had captured a more consistent tone, but I have faith in Kojima's ability to keep the sense of drama high without diminishing the impact of his serious themes. I am excited to see the new generation of Metal Gear. And I suspect that the inadvertent comedy of the presentation will give way to another beautifully self-important, politically charged adventure.

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GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

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Discussion

38 comments
jezdamayel
jezdamayel

oohh yah! this just looks wonderful. i will need to play all the others now XD might just do it in timeline order. 

10matt1995
10matt1995

The stupidity of this "analysis" is amazing... 

IrishSJ23
IrishSJ23

"gameplay tips ("I expect you'll become quite familiar with those binoculars as you plan your next mission") was the sort of thing I might criticize in most games"

This was both a gameplay tip and a reference to MG1 on MSX when Big Boss told Solid Snake to use his binoculars often.

Biggs613
Biggs613

That kid in the trailer, Eli, is probably Liquid. They refer to him as "A youth who curses his fate", and if you think back to MGS, Liquid mentions "in the middle east, we don't hunt foxes, we hunt jackals" and he has jackal teeth on with a damn snake in his lap, not to mention the resemblance. The timeline would fit, I'm really leaning towards him being Liquid.


zowbaid
zowbaid

The thing about Kojima is that I don't think he is trying to be funny or knows that he is being funny with those cheesy lines. He's just trying to make a very dramatic universe and he thinks those lines fit into that universe. He probably doesn't realize that we are rolling our eyes when we hear such cheesy lines because maybe to him, they're the coolest lines ever.

Firelo
Firelo

Just a question: Is that Solid Snake, or Snake?Not played Metal Gear Solid 4.

nawarwakkaf
nawarwakkaf

i think the most silly things are Kevin VanOrd and Carolyn Petit

this trailer shocked all MGS fans....whatever u say ,it will be a great game

nexumen7
nexumen7

Carolyn, the game is grim because it's the transition from Peace Walker, to Ground Zeroes, the Phantom Pain... to what we know through Metal Gear from the 1980s.

PouyaDH
PouyaDH

the trailer excited me but disappointed me @ a same time. after the trolls, secrets & annoying games by Kojima, showing off a gameplay on fast forward is a  ( - ) point.  

souther_hill
souther_hill

Sexism is not an issue anymore and it was always overrated. Sure, a guy shirtless and in tight jeans is cool, while a woman in a bikini is sexist? Oh, the joys of this stupid insane world...

nesky
nesky

My only complaint with MGSV... Snake sounds like a little p***y. No David Hayter, no buy sadly. Going to skip this one, unless I somehow get it for free later.

BoromiRwcgeorge
BoromiRwcgeorge

i usually like carolyns and kevins discussions, but on this one i simply dont agree with most of it.... its like you guyz  were deliberately trying to find all the negative aspects of the game. oh come on!
i also mostly took quite personal what carolyn things about mgs. ( i know, how silly and childish of me ! ) the questions this franchise is asking with each installments are beyond "a world that's much more comic-book absurdity than believable intrigue".
also, judging by her definition of "cheesiness" you could say that usa decl of ind+const+bible are cheesy as well.
if mgs is cheesy then i dont know what is "serious" for you !

MARIO maYBE?

ani5eed
ani5eed

im worried about the open world element. it looked like it should be called Metal Gear Horse

jecomans
jecomans

People seem to forgive Kojima for producing alot of crap just because of MGS2. That was one of my favourites games ever, but he hasn't done anything close to half as good as that since. MGS4 was one of those reviews where everyone gave it 10/10, but then wrote reviews explaining how almost everything was wrong with it. Should have listened to the words, not the Kojima-bias number. This sounds the same already. 

maddog123
maddog123

pre-order/day one purchase for sure, no doubt. I love MGS. Hell I even bought MGR.

zackcurl
zackcurl

well, i would say that Snake Eater had a lot of the same tendencies; most of his games do.  it's what has become idiosyncratic about Kojima himself, and what we come to expect from his work --a well-informed, thought-provoking, melodramatic action drama that still has enough sense of humor to keep the audience aware that it's playing a game.  i can agree that the child soldier and conflict diamond subjects are incredibly touchy, but i feel like that is the area in which Kojima will manage to pull back and be incredibly serious; if you'll remember, Kojima never made any jokes about PMCs, or nuclear war, or the cold war, or MEMEs.  he has a sense of humor, but it never bleeds into his serious subject matter, and i would much rather see some silliness in an MGS game than see some shitty attempt to over-dramatize "real-life, authentic" war in Battlefield or MoH.  Kojima creates heroic archetypes, and he understands a greater, larger scope that a series can produce, and he adds that to each chapter he creates; we got to see Solid Snake and his relationship with Big Boss explored, but i always got the sense that Big Boss had so much more to tell.  I mean, he was an off-screen legend for so long, and he was what every genome soldier was modeled after, and i belive we still haven't seen the height of what made him so special to all those characters.

 also, the sexism talk is certainly relevant, but in cases like this, i often think of the question of sexism versus sexuality.  is it blatant sexism for her to be dressed the way she is, or is it simply a product of the game creator's own sexual attraction and interest in putting that in a game?  it could be steeped in a little bit of both, but for the most part, i can embrace a little bit of the creator's interest in expressing what he likes in-game; the problem is that he is reaching a very large audience that doesn't know the difference, and it therefore becomes a slightly more difficult subject, and until there is true gender equality in games development, it is still a little soon to wholeheartedly accept that choice, wherever the intent may lie.  as long as we don't get another insane, invasive breakdown of the fourth wall like God Of War Ascension had with it's now-famous trophy though, i feel like this will mostly sit on the sexuality side of the fence.

joe_lvc
joe_lvc

Can't we have a nice game preview without the sexism talk creeping in? I mean, imagine if every time a shirtless dude showed up in a trailer someone complained about it. This stuff is getting ridiculous.

gutsallover
gutsallover

I can think of no other franchise that manages to be ridiculously over-the-top yet feel serious at the same time. Of course, everyone has varied opinions on how these "taboo" issues should be handled, but I think Kojima has the talent to treat them with the tact they deserve. 

Halloll
Halloll

Kojima is overdoing it with Quiet. but he also wanted the Beauty and the Beast to be naked at first in MGS4.

gutsallover
gutsallover

@zowbaid Right, because humor has never been a thing in Metal Gear. Naked Raiden, the box conversation in MGS3, all the Paramedic convos, EVA fulfilling the femme fatale role, and so on. Sure, it's silly, but it's great juxtaposition that helps make the serious parts all the more amazing.

l777l
l777l

@souther_hill Sexism is still an issue, as such. The schemes and insufficient understanding of gender-feminists, and the hysteria and paranoia they foster make it nebulous. 

theconniption
theconniption

@joe_lvc Sure sure--Carolyn could be criticized for constantly forcing her engagement of sexism in video games, but...is it really so bad to have different voices represented on a journalistic video game website?  Was "Quiet's" outfit not completely out-of-place and basically sexualized?  Carolyn throws in one short line of criticism and people get bothered?  Sexism is still a huge issue whether you care or not, and it IS relevant to some people who visit this site, whether or not it's relevant to you.  

Furthermore, unless you're completely unaware of human history and gender politics, a man with his shirt off means something VERY different than a woman with her shirt off, especially in the male-dominated world of video games.  The sexes are still far from equal.  What's the big deal with pointing it out?  Often, it's just our own insecurities.  Not saying it's that for you, but...well..."Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."  --Carl Jung.

gutsallover
gutsallover

@Halloll I'd argue that Metal Gear has always been about being over-the-top. Also, who complains when Snake is running around without a shirt on? I suppose it just boils down to us all having our own perspective on the sexism debate.

joe_lvc
joe_lvc

@theconniption There's nothing wrong with talking about sexism but there is a point when these things stop being thoughtful criticism and turn into tiresome preaching. If you really wanted to nitpick, you could find many more things to complain about. The violence and killing of soldiers could be offensive to some, the choice of Afganistan as a setting could be seen as racist and promoting of prejudices against people from the Middle East, and I'm pretty sure the horseback riding would offend everyone at PETA, but you don't see anyone complain about these issues, so why the obsession with sexism?

theconniption
theconniption

@gutsallover @Halloll How is a man with his shirt off sexist?  A shirtless guy and a shirtless girl mean very different things.  Not objectively, but...come on, man.  We don't live in an objective world.

Halloll
Halloll

@gutsallover @Halloll imagine the awkward tan lines she would get from her military gear, and how dare you not mention naked cartwheeling Raiden.

l777l
l777l

@joe_lvc @theconniption Indeed. The incessant one-sided, poorly thought-through whining has gone beyond criticism that the average reasonable person is willing to listen to. At best, it has become noise, at worst the self-entitled proclamations of a disparaging tool of propaganda. There are good thoughts contained, occasionally. But they are drowned. Complaining, such as hers, leads to extremism. Her complaining (across numerous contributions, and situated in radical feminism) itself is extremism, and it provokes extremism in return. Amusingly, the profound insults radical feminists bring forth against men are seen as fine, whereas ironic remarks such as "make me a sandwich" are seen as evil and as justifying radical feminism. Rationally viewed, radical feminism more than justifies these ironic remarks.

As a side note, there's no need - no true moral obligation - to apologize for male heterosexuality. Women truly are free to write and read romance novels, and to use the epitome of objectification: dildos. With all due appreciation for the considerable value of deep, complex and diverse characters and stories, every individual man is free to choose what he wants from fiction (such as video games). If that is scantily clad female characters in a silly or serious Metal Gear game then fine. Neither do men have to create games women want. It probably would be nice of them. Try asking.

jezdamayel
jezdamayel

@GhostOfSparta4I think it might be because she has been one of the only females to be seen. however she is smart it is hot out there.. and well if she is one of the only females.. it is only fair.  I mean most of them men are good looking even dressed. All the mgs games had over the top men and ladies.sex can be used as a wepon .  I just hope she has sunblock. As for the bikini . some wear it because they want to (little to no tan line.. because they look good ( or think they do).. others think they need to because that is " what is in" others  wear them just for men.  something like that will not prevent me from getting the game :)


GhostOfSparta4
GhostOfSparta4

@theconniption @gutsallover @Halloll It's silly to say that a shirtless man and a shirtless women are the same thing. But then how is it sexist for a woman to wear a bikini?

zackcurl
zackcurl

@theconniption @gutsallover @Halloll yeah, let's be adults here and stop acting like they're the same thing.  whether we want them to be or not, they just aren't, and it's time to give up that argument, especially in a male-dominated, action game genre.