TGS '07: Kojima speaks
Metal Gear Solid series director gives more details on PS3 stealth actioner, reveals Metal Gear Online starter pack will be included in game.
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It's become a tradition for Konami director Hideo Kojima to hold a stage presentation every year at the Tokyo Game Show. This year was no exception, and GameSpot was there to cover it.
Visitors to Konami's Metal Gear Solid 4 area were given a thick, 50-page booklet that was sure to be a treat for fans of the stealth-action series. Aside from pages of CG artwork, photos from the development scenes, columns, and interview articles, the booklet also gave a little bit more detail on MGS4's storyline.
The latest Metal Gear saga takes place five years after MGS2 (nine years after MGS1, as revealed in previous trailers), but the world has dramatically changed in that short time period. After the Big Shell incident in Manhattan, the US government required all soldiers working for Private Military Companies (PMCs) to be injected by nanomachines called the SOP (Sons Of the Patriots), which control their physical capabilities and emotions. The new technology allowed war zones to be completely controlled by PMCs. As a result, wars expanded, and PMCs grew larger and larger. By the time the game starts, warfare has become a vital part of the world's economy.
Roy Campbell now works for a subsidiary organ under the United Nations and reviews PMCs. According to his research, the total combined PMC military forces have grown to a size equivalent to that of the US Army. What's more, the top five PMCs are all operated by a single mother company named Outer Haven, commanded by Liquid Ocelot.
In order to assassinate his brother, Solid Snake--who has aged into an old, gray-haired man due to defects in his DNA--makes his way into the war zone in the Middle East.
The new trailer shown at TGS hinted that Liquid had kidnapped Doctor Naomi Hunter to hijack the SOP system and to lead an insurrection, although his motives aren't explained yet. It can only be assumed that he's trying to create the Outer Haven that Big Boss attempted to make: a utopia for soldiers, where they can battle forever without interference from forces such as politics.
Director Hideo Kojima appeared on stage at Konami's booth and started off by talking about the new bosses in MGS4. Although they were revealed to the press last month, this is the first time that Kojima directly showed them off to the public himself.
"In the first Metal Gear Solid, we featured a special forces unit that consisted of elite active soldiers," he explained. "In MGS2, we needed an even stronger team, and after a while of thinking, we went with a special forces unit that trains and instructs other special forces units. We decided to give superhuman abilities to those characters, kind of like in American comics. In MGS3, we had to make even stronger characters, so we went with a 'legendary' special forces unit."
"MGS4 was really tough since we had to go beyond legendary soldiers, so we thought that it might be better off if they weren't human. We made [a unit of] monsters, called the Beauty and the Beast," said Kojima, outlining the birth behind the oddly shaped new set of bosses in MGS4.
As GameSpot reported last month, Beauty and the Beast is a unit of four monster-like ladies that are, for an unknown reason, named like the special forces unit in MGS1: Laughing Octopus, Crying Wolf, Raging Raven, and Screaming Mantis.
The team members all look like bionic monsters, but they're actually women. Each has distinct characteristics. Laughing Octopus is constantly laughing as she makes her deadly rounds with bionic tentacles made of the same technology as Solidus Snake's appendages in MGS2. Octopus can also use the same thermoptic camouflage that Old Snake uses throughout the game, so finding her could be prove to be tricky.
Raging Raven is constantly in a state of anger. As her name suggests, she has wings, which are made of the same technology as those of the biomechanic bomber creatures called sliders seen in previous trailers of MGS4. Raven is strong enough alone, but she can also call out the sliders, which makes her an even tougher opponent. Crying Wolf is always crying, and she's the fastest monster in the unit, being able to use all four feet for running.
Finally, Screaming Mantis should be quite an interesting character for series fans. Leaving aside the fact that she's always screaming, she's got extra hands and she carries marionettes that allow her to control soldiers in the war zone. Her two marionettes are modeled after Psycho Mantis from MGS1 and The Sorrow from MGS3, and we expect the reasons to be explained in the game.
According to Kojima, the player's objective against the Beauty and the Beast unit is not to kill them. Much like the "little sisters" in BioShock, the monsters were originally girls with pure hearts, and it's up to the player to rescue them from their misery.
"There's the old fairytale about the beauty and the beast, where the character gets enchanted in the forest and gets turned into a beast," said Kojima. "These girls have been turned into a beast by the forest known as the war zone. It's up to the player as to whether or not they can break the spells on the girls."
For players that can lift their curses, there's a little bonus. As previously reported, Kojima used live actresses to model the Beauty and the Beast unit, and he also took 3D data of their faces. If the player can rescue them, they'll be able to unmask the beauty inside the beast and see what they actually look like.
Kojima confirmed that Raging Raven is modeled after actress Yumi Kikuchi, who's also doing the motion-capture acting and voices for the Japanese release. He kept the rest of the voice actor identities a secret, saying that it'll be up to the player to discover them.
Kojima then went on to give some details on the new characters that were shown in the TGS trailer: Drebin, Sunny, Big Mama, Johnathan, Ed, Johnny, and the Haven Troopers. Drebin is an arms wholesaler who delivers weapons registered to a corresponding solider with matching SOP nanomachines in them. Since he is able to modify these weapons, Drebin will play an important role in the game: delivering various kinds of arms to Snake.
As can be seen in the trailer, Drebin has a hairless pet monkey in shorts named Little Gray. According to Kojima, the motion-capture actor who played Raiden was extremely good at monkey impersonations, so Kojima decided to add one as a sidekick to Drebin, especially given that Drebin seemed a bit plain compared to the other characters in the game.
Kojima and art director Youji Shikawa explained that Drebin was one of the first characters to be written in MGS4's plot, but they had a hard time making him stand out. The developers decided to make him a master of magic tricks, and they hired a real professional magician for Drebin's motion captures. In the Japanese release, Drebin is voiced by Keiji Fujiwara, the same man who did Sigint in MGS3.
Sunny is a 9-year-old genius who is also the daughter of Olga, who died in Metal Gear Solid 2. Kojima joked that this is the first time a little girl is appearing in the series, and that she's been extremely vital to uplifting the spirits of the MGS4 developers because the other characters in the game are all old. In the Japanese release, Sunny will be voiced by Kikuko Inoue (Rosemary in MGS2, The Boss in MGS3).
"Sunny plays a central role in MGS4. Like her name says, she's like the sun, with the other characters in the game revolving around her. She's extremely important," said Kojima.
Another thing that the Metal Gear Solid series hasn't had up until now is an aged woman. Eva from MGS3 returns to the game as a strong lady that's around 80 years old. She's now known under the code name of "Big Mama," and she's fighting against the Patriots.
"She's called Big Mama. Her name might suggest something, but I won't comment anything further on it," said Kojima, who also noted that Big Mama carries a Mauser C96 just like she did back in MGS3. The gun is one of Kojima's favorites.
Kojima also gave some additional details to Meryl Silverburgh's teammates, who remained more or less nameless until now. The soldier with the Mohawk is named Johnathan, and he's mainly in charge of backup support. Johnathan's Mohawk looks like an exclamation mark when he's seen from the back, and as that might suggest, he isn't too fond of anyone catching him from behind. According to Kojima, Johnathan's motion captures were done by the MGS series' military advisor Motosada Mouri himself, so he moves a lot more professionally compared to the other characters in the game.
Meryl's other teammate, Ed, is the team's subleader. His specialties are in communication and sniping. If Johnathan and Ed's names seem familiar to old gamers, it's because Kojima named the two characters after the protagonists in his old adventure game, Policenauts.
Meryl's third team member is Johnny. The name should ring a bell to MGS fans; this is the same soldier who had stomach problems in the restroom, back in the original MGS. Kojima commented that Johnny is the least useful member in Meryl's team, as depicted in the last few seconds of the TGS trailer.
In the TGS trailer, Meryl's team gets assaulted by a group of armored soldiers. Kojima revealed that they're called the Haven troopers, and they're Liquid's special forces units. The Haven troopers wear the same enhanced muscle armor gear that Vamp wears on his legs, which allows them to move beyond normal human capabilities. Kojima also noted that the Haven troopers look a bit busty, hinting strongly that they are female.
Going on to talk about details in the game's system, Kojima introduced three new additions in MGS4: the Threat Ring, which acts like a radar and alert indicator; The Psyche Meter, which replaces the traditional stamina meter from previous MGS games; and the Baseline Map, which looks like the traditional radar map on the top of the screen but with a resizing circle in the middle that visualizes the presence of Snake. When Snake makes a noise or moves around, the circle gets bigger, which means that he's in an easier-to-discover state. If he crouches or lies on the ground, the circle becomes smaller.
Kojima and art director Shinkawa took their time to mention that there's going to be over 70 weapons in MGS4. What's more, players can customize their weapons by adding parts, such as a scope.
At the end of his presentation, Kojima showed off a trailer for Metal Gear Solid Online, and then announced that the game will be included in MGS4.
"We often get asked whether Metal Gear Solid 4 and Metal Gear Solid Online will be sold separately," said Kojima. "Metal Gear Solid Online will be included in Metal Gear Solid 4, in the form of a 'Starter Pack.' Once the service launches, it'll keep on going with additional new stages, new rules, and so on. So in the end, MGSO will outlast MGS4."
Kojima's ended his presentation after inviting the audience to try out the MGS4 demo at Konami's booth.
As Kojima has said in the past, MGS4 is going to be the last adventure for Solid Snake, and most likely the last in the franchise that he'll direct. The thick Metal Gear Solid booklet given to visitors included some comments from Kojima, who seemed adamant as ever about his decisions.
"Solid Snake's story is really going to end in MGS4," explained Kojima in the booklet. "Using cloning [as a plot device] was really cheating. I wouldn't be working on [MGS4] if I thought there was a sequelï¿½ I've said it numerous times, but Solid Snake fought against a lot of strong foes back on the MSX, so we should've started from scratch when we worked on the PlayStation. But we released it as a sequel, so we had to bring out even stronger enemies. As a result, we had to create an adversary with the same strength [as Snake] and we decided to go with a clone storyline, but that's where things got difficult."
"One of my ideas [for MGS4's ending] was that, since Snake and Otacon are breaking the law in order to fulfill their justice, I was thinking of having them turn themselves in, and for the sake of justice, they'd get convicted and executed by the law," he explained. "But all of my staff went against the idea, so I decided not to go with that."
But even if Snake doesn't get executed at the end of MGS4, Kojima seems firm that he doesn't want Snake back.
"As long as there's a game called MGS5 and it's a game where you sneak around, it doesn't have to be Solid Snake, right? I'd like that to be created by the younger developers," he said. "To put it another way, Solid Snake is one character that I don't want to entrust to other people."
Shuyo Murata, one of the co-directors of MGS4, agreed in the booklet that Solid Snake just wouldn't be authentic if someone aside from Kojima depicted his continuing story.
"When someone other than director Kojima is writing, they can make scripts that sound like Solid Snake," Murata said. "But they can't write up a Solid Snake that's growing up. Snake in MGS4 really grew up [since MGS2], but only director Kojima can write that kind of material."
Whether a new hero will star in MGS5 remains to be seen, but if there's one thing that fans can be certain of, all the unsolved mysteries in the past three MGS installments will be answered in MGS4. "It's the concluding chapter, so we've even went around our own staff members to ask if they wanted anything answered," explained Kojima in the booklet. "It turns out that there's a lot."