There I was, sat sipping a cup of steaming hot tea (milk, four sugars) and stroking my cat on a warm August morning. I was in my pyjamas, perusing Facebook and trying to keep up to date with who was posting thinly veiled shade about who. I had ‘Let’s Dance’ by David Bowie rocking through the surround sound, and I could smell the jalapeño grilled cheese sandwiches that were browning off in the George Foreman. All in all, it was one of my better Wednesday mornings.
As I thumbed the screen of my phone to scroll through Facebook I saw that there was a trailer for a new Metal Gear game. “A new Metal Gear game?” I thought to myself. “But I love Metal Gear!” And so I watched the trailer for Metal Gear Survive. Suddenly, David Bowie sounded like David Essex, I spilled my boiling hot tea on my crotch, and my cat coiled out a stinking, semi-liquid shite on my brand spanking new rug.
There’s no point mincing words here: Metal Gear Survive looks like absolute arse.
But since someone asked me to write something about this, and presumably they wanted more than an account of my Wednesday morning and a one sentence deconstruction of a couple of minutes of trailer footage, let’s pad this out with some actual thoughts about why Metal Gear Survive is an idea so asinine that only Konami could have come up with it.
Konami wants to earn back your trust
Less than one month previous, a Konami representative named Ben went on Reddit to try and calm down some of the most venomous detractors of his company on the Internet. You see, just in case you didn’t know, people hate Konami because they’ve run beloved franchises like Castlevania and Silent Hill into the ground, and then they had a much publicized falling out with Metal Gear Solid creator and all round cool dude, Hideo Kojima.
Konami’s treatment of Kojima in 2015 was nothing short of jaw-droppingly insulting. After a twenty-plus year career making games for Konami that ranged from pretty good to all time classics, and despite the fact that he was the creative force behind the only Konami franchise that actually mattered in 2015, Hideo Kojima was publicly ostracized by his own company. His studio was shut down. He was removed from pressers for the then-upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. And in what is surely the biggest dick move the gaming industry has seen in recent memory, he wasn’t even allowed to attend the Video Game Awards to collect a gong for his work on Metal Gear Solid V under threat of lawyer intervention.
Ben, if that’s even his real name, attempted to allay the fears (and hatred) of gamers on the Internet thanks to the very public mistakes that Konami had made in the previous year, by doing a Q&A session and trying his best to put a positive spin on things. You’ve got to feel for poor Ben. Being the PR guy for Konami is second only to being in charge of the public relations for Donald Trump when it comes to thankless jobs within that industry. Still, he tried his best to let gamers know that Konami wasn’t the most evil company in the world, and that they cared very much about winning their fans over. “We’ll earn back your trust,” he said.
Either Ben didn’t know what Konami was planning, or he was laughing hysterically while he typed, “We’ll earn back your trust.” Metal Gear Survive isn’t the first step towards winning disenfranchised fans back; it’s like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.
‘Metal Gear Survive’ seems like an incredibly misguided idea
Metal Gear Solid was a series that was crafted with an incredible amount of care and attention to detail, and with a story-line that spanned decades both in the fictional world and in ours. Sure, the story was more confusing than the Kardashian family tree, but gamers ate that up – if you’re a Metal Gear fan then you’re a Metal Gear fan.
Upsetting the legions of fans that the franchise has via shocking treatment of their hero is a bad start. Announcing that you’re going to continue the Metal Gear series without that man at the helm didn’t make things any better. But then announcing that the first post-Kojima game in the Metal Gear series would be an online multiplayer survival game in which you have to fight zombies with triangles for heads is basically like waving a red flag in front of a bull. It’s like Megadeth releasing an album of nursery rhymes, or making an Indiana Jones movie like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. You shouldn’t attempt things like that with an established franchise, and you especially shouldn’t do it while every eye in the industry is watching you and waiting for you to cock everything up.
The story goes that during the events of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, a wormhole to another dimension inexplicably opens and sucks in some of the soldiers from Mother Base. Trapped in this alternate reality and hunted by zombie things, the soldiers must band together to something something something. I’ve always enjoyed the bonkers story of the Metal Gear series, but at no point did Hideo Kojima ever open a doorway to a parallel universe in which triangle headed monsters are on the top of the food chain. A fat, wine glugging terrorist on roller skates I can live with. This, I fear, is too much.
What makes it worse is that if they’re going to go with a cheap and nasty multiplayer game to try and make some quick bucks out of Metal Gear, why didn’t they just go a more sensible route and make this a VR Training game or something? Why attach it to the established canon? All that’s going to do is annoy fans of the series and make them less likely to buy the wares you’re peddling. Think, Konami. Think.
Metal Gear Survive is a game that makes no sense on any conceivable level. Sure, they’re going after multiplayer because it’s an easier way to make money. That’s lame, but fine. But who is it for? If it’s for Metal Gear fans then you’re surely just pissing them off by taking the series they love in a direction like this, and if it’s for other gamers then why cheapen the Metal Gear brand by attaching its name to this in the first place? The whole idea just seems incredibly misguided, and one that seems bound to do more harm than good to the biggest stick that Konami has to wield within the gaming industry.
There are way smarter directions to take the series
The smartest thing to do with Metal Gear Solid at this point is to leave it alone. Fans are already skeptical of anything Konami will release without the involvement of Hideo Kojima. But hey, if you absolutely must release more Metal Gear games then why not take the easy way out and just remake the old ones? That way, the stories are already done, and you’ve already got an engine in which to give those now-ancient looking games a fresh lick of paint. People would buy those games in droves, and if they’re good then maybe Konami can build up a little good will with fans of the series that are feeling alienated. And then when the time comes to make a new game in the series, maybe people will be a little more receptive to the idea.
Of course, Konami being Konami, they decided to turn a thoughtful, if somewhat ridiculous stealth action series into what looks like Resident Evil Umbrella Corps with slightly shittier zombies.
Who in pluperfect hell thought this was a good idea? How can you even see any sort of correlation between making Metal Gear a zombie survival game, and a good idea? There’s only two possible explanations. Either a) Konami are the utterly tone deaf company that many within the gaming industry believe them to be, and they have absolutely no idea what to do with Metal Gear Solid beyond monetize it via crummy slot machines and presumably micro-transaction laden online shooters, or b) they’re doing it specifically to annoy us.
Konami isn’t doing this just to upset you
While it’s more likely that Konami just don’t know what they’re doing with Metal Gear and think they’re best off bleeding as much money out of the franchise as they can until people completely abandon it like they did with Castlevania, the decision to turn the series into an online survival game is so spectacularly bereft of logic that it would actually make more sense if the company was doing this as a massive middle finger to the fans. People have been giving Konami all kinds of smack-talk over their treatment of Hideo Kojima as well as other perceived offenses, and announcing Metal Gear Survive is an absolutely perfect way of getting one over on them, whether it’s intentional or accidental.
The truth is that they’re almost certainly not just doing this to upset you. Konami are not the pantomime villains that many on the Internet would have you believe. Have they made some mistakes? Sure, they have. But finding a big company that hasn’t made mistakes or left some employees feeling burned is rarer than rocking horse shit.
Konami are a big company, and big companies like money. They see a valuable franchise and they want to make money from it, and after the troubled nature of the development of Metal Gear Solid V, they probably want to go a route that is far removed from the enormous, single player extravaganza that was The Phantom Pain. They’re choosing to make a smaller, cheaper game, and hope that they’ll be able to make some profit in the end. That doesn’t make them SPECTRE.
What’s best for consumers and what’s best for publishers is rarely in sync, which is why instead of EA releasing Madden as a service and simply updating the rosters and offering a few gameplay tweaks as a paid update every year, they release a new, full priced version of the game annually with little to distinguish each iteration knowing that people will still buy it. It’s why Microsoft continue to make Halo and Gears of War games despite both series’ reaching fairly logical conclusions during the last console generation, and why Sony are wheeling Kratos back out for the four-hundredth time in yet another God of War game.
Art and money rarely go hand in hand
The entertainment industry has forever been walking on a perilous tightrope that lies strictly across the border between artistic integrity and money-chasing chunder. Whether it’s bands going pop in the hope of a little more radio air-time, or cash-grab movie sequels that have no reason to exist beyond putting arses in cinema seats, show business is just what its name implies; a business. You don’t win friends with salad, and unfortunately, it’s far easier to trick people into paying for dross than it is to hope they’ll be smart enough to appreciate quality.
A quick glance at the Hollywood box-office will tell you that Suicide Squad, a movie that is being given all the critical acclaim of a freshly filled colostomy bag, is sitting pretty at the top of the highest grossing movies list, while vastly superior cinematic offerings languish and struggle to recoup their investment costs. Should Warner Bros. really be blamed for recognizing that slapping any old superheroes into a movie is a more financially viable option than taking the time to come up with new and interesting ideas? They exist to make money, and the longer people keep going to see these abysmal DC Comics movies then the less imperative WB have to start making good ones. The same can be said for all facets of the entertainment industry, including, yes, video games.
Established franchises, even ones that are running out of steam, are more likely to make money than a brand new idea is, and the new IP that do make huge splashes are just destined to be sequel fodder further down the line anyway. I, like many other people, have no problem with sequels in gaming generally, as unlike in other mediums, video game sequels have a reason to exist beyond following up the story. While “Schindler’s List 2” is obviously a bad idea because Spielberg said everything that needed to be said with the first movie, video game sequels generally improve upon their predecessors because of the nature of an interactive medium.
Video game sequels are generally a good idea
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves didn’t really expand on the story of the first game in any way that mattered, but it was in the other, interactive areas that it made huge strides and promptly has gone down in history as one of the best games money can buy. While movie sequels are almost universally lesser pieces than the originals they spawned from, video game sequels frequently outdo their origins thanks to improving technology and lessons learned by the developer the first time round.
Sequels, inherently, are not a bad thing, but slapping a big name on anything you can to try and make a quick buck rarely works out well. The Metal Gear Solid series was already five games deep by the time Hideo Kojima and Konami parted ways, and that’s without counting the two portable games and a few spin-offs. Not all the games were golden, but the series generally maintained a high-level of quality, and whatever you think of the story in the final entry in the series, The Phantom Pain – it’s absolute tripe, by the way – the fact remains that it was one of the most critically acclaimed games of 2015 and a perfectly acceptable place for the series to end.
Creating any sequel to Metal Gear Solid after The Phantom Pain seems wholly unnecessary (as, to be fair, was making one after Guns of the Patriots) but if you’re going to do it then you need to be careful about how you approach it. With any beloved property, a change in direction will come under a lot of scrutiny, particularly in today’s age of anyone with an Internet connection having a voice that can be heard globally. Just ask Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy, who were faced with an almost unprecedented level of backlash thanks to the female-led Ghostbusters reboot having girls doing man’s work, or being tonally inconsistent with the original movie, depending on who you ask.
That’s why the decision to make Metal Gear Survive seems so completely and utterly bonkers. Here, we’ve got a company that is already under the spotlight for allegedly mistreating employees and for publicly causing trouble for a beloved figure within the video game industry. A company that has previously ruined much loved franchises through repeated misuse of the properties. A company that is well known for their archaic and draconian practices in relation to figures within the media who have ever spoken ill of them.
And to then, despite all that, take an adored single-player, story-focused series like Metal Gear Solid and turn it into an online, multiplayer zombie game that bears no resemblance to the rest of the series… well, it’s exactly what it is. It’s tacking the Metal Gear name onto a game that has no business having any association with the series in order to try and wring the last few drops of profit out of the proverbial wet towel that is Metal Gear Solid.
Metal Gear Survive seems destined to backfire
You can’t blame Konami for wanting to make money out of a franchise that they own the rights to, whether you agree with that decision on an artistic level or not. They pay people’s wages. They exist to turn a profit. What’s mind-boggling is that the manner in which they’ve decided to approach this next entry into the Metal Gear franchise seems spectacularly short-sighted and ill-advised.
Metal Gear is still a series that holds a lot of stock with gamers, and one that a lot of people would still play even if new entries in the series didn’t involve Hideo Kojima. But Survive looks like a throwaway multiplayer cash grab, and given the drastic change in tone compared to previous Metal Gear games, it surely stands to pose more risk to the value of the franchise than potential rewards can justify.
The problem with Metal Gear Survive isn’t that Konami are out to ruin your favourite series, or that they’re run by power-hungry, spiteful supervillains. If you think that then just don’t play the game. It’s not a big deal. The problem is that Konami just don’t appear to know what to do with Metal Gear Solid, and so they appear to be doing what they did with other once-loved franchises. Konami killed Castlevania. They turned Silent Hill into a joke. And now the writing is on the wall for Metal Gear Solid thanks to more misguided use of a valuable IP.
Maybe we’re all wrong, and maybe Metal Gear Survive will be the best game of all time. Perhaps it’ll get perfect tens across the board and Konami will earn back the trust of gamers around the globe. Hey, it could be the beginning of a new spin-off franchise that is one day as beloved as the Solid series is. Maybe it’ll be so good that there’ll be peace in the middle east and U2 will stop making music. Who knows? But from the outside looking in, choosing to do this with the Metal Gear name at a time when confidence in Konami from gamers like you and me is at an all time low, seems like a sure-fire way of killing off the only truly relevant franchise in the dwindling Konami portfolio. And for Konami, that could be a problem that forces them out of the gaming industry, all of their own making.