Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and the Trouble With Tone

The problem with the controversially brutal material in Hideo Kojima's latest Metal Gear isn't the content itself – it's everything else that surrounds it.

Article by Jeremy Parish, .

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes has a problem.

Well, it has a few problems, depending on whom you ask. Some people can't get over the fact that Konami expects them to pay $30 for what amounts to a demo, understandably enough. Others dislike the way the game so willingly forsakes many unique mechanics and conventions of the series in favor of more standardized features (regenerating health, for example) – though in many cases, Ground Zeroes makes changes because the old ways were clunky and obsolete. You no longer need to fuss with your camouflage index because you can tell at a glance if you're exposed, for example.

No, the real problem with Ground Zeroes comes from a conflict that's been brewing beneath the surface of the Metal Gear franchise for ages: Its wild, whiplashing narrative tone.

It's a problem that goes way back.

The Metal Gear games straddle a wide range of influences, embracing meticulous Tom Clancy-style political turmoil, Hollywood by way of producer Hideo Kojima's favorite movies, and broad-strokes comedy all at once. It's the saga of a super-soldier clone named "Solid Snake" and his father "Big Boss" who each play a key role in the balance of global power in the wake of Cold War by means of giant, walking tanks that fire nuclear weapons. The series' awkward verbal tics ("Metal Gear!?") have become running in-jokes. Bad guys possess bizarre mystical powers and reveal their heart-wrenching backstories as they die. At one point, a talking hand spouted campy threats.

Ground Zeroes maintains this grand tradition of comic book wackiness. It features a villain named "Skull Face" who gestures grandly and speaks in hokey action movie clichés. His nebulous scheme seems to revolve around taking the logo of Big Boss' former special ops unit – FOX Unit – and mirroring the artwork to turn it into "XOF." It's all utterly ludicrous, and new lead voice actor Kiefer Sutherland mumbling his way through the story doesn't exactly help sell it.

Yet it tries so hard to be deadly serious. (Ending spoilers ahead.) At the end of Ground Zeroes, the game's sole female character – a young woman named Paz – leaps out of a helicopter and immediately explodes due to a bomb Skull Face evidently implanted into her genitals while he tortured her. If you explore the game and uncover hidden audio recordings, it comes to light that both she and Chico, her former ally under Big Boss' command in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, were beaten, tortured, and raped while in confinement by Skull Face's XOF organization. Unlike in previous Metal Gear games, there's no ambiguity on this point, as the abuses that Chico and Paz suffer are presented in detail via audio logs rather than simply referred to in oblique terms.

The action goes down smoother than ever, but the story may not be so appealing to everyone.

It's a pretty miserable conclusion to Paz's story in particular – a character seemingly created entirely for the sake of being abused. In her introduction in Peace Walker, we learn that her body is covered with scars resulting from extensive torture. And in that moment, Metal Gear's tendency toward ill-considered collisions of story and presentation shines for all to see: As Paz shudders while others discuss her misfortunes, the game provides the player with the opportunity to "examine" her quivering body through an interactive cutscene that allows you to strip her to her underwear and zoom in on her injuries – or on other details, if you prefer. It's a strange, uncomfortable design choice. Peace Walker's interactive cut scenes come few and far between, and for the first of them to allow you to ogle a vulnerable, damaged young woman feels like tasteless voyeurism.

Paz's treatment in Ground Zeroes, then, simply brings her awful narrative arc to its horrible conclusion. Sure, Paz is no angel – she works as a double agent and plays the role of Peace Walker's final boss – but her treatment across the two games borders on vile. The fact that Chico, an underaged boy, is taken down the same path (beaten, raped, forced to torture and rape Paz in turn, then mutilated with steel bolts through his Achilles tendons) makes it all the worse. It sits at odds with both the game's legacy of comic book plotting and its clunky present-day dialogue.

But in a way, this gruesome turn makes a sort of sense entirely because of the series' comic book vibe. Violence, torture, and sexual abuse constitute the same road that comic books tend to travel when their creative leads decide these stories about muscle men in colorful tights suddenly need to be taken seriously. Alan Moore's Watchmen marks the jumping-off point for the American comics industry's drive to maturation, and not coincidentally one of its key backstory elements involves the attempted rape of adventuress Silk Specter by her mercenary ally, the Comedian.

When you have a villain that looks like Darth Vader, you kind of expect his actions to be equally lightweight.

That sequence worked within the context of Watchmen; Moore presented the idea of vigilantes who dressed in bright spandex with an unflinchingly blunt perspective and backed it up with literary prose and rich visual symbolism alike. In the grand scheme of Watchmen, where masked "heroes" seemed to result from mental illness and repression – from the Nite Owl's emotional emptiness and Rorschach's right-wing sociopathy to bygone crusaders whose homosexuality led to their deaths as the result of apparent hate crimes – the Comedian's attempted crime against his comrade didn't feel out of place. Furthermore, that violent encounter wasn't the end of Silk Specter's tale; she played an important role in the series, and her relationship with the Comedian (a complex thing in and of itself) was only a part of her story.

Unfortunately, Ground Zeroes lacks Watchmen's narrative coherence. For every stroke of brilliance that appears in Kojima's writing, you'll find several poorly explained plot twists, countless examples of tin-eared dialogue, and a few nebulous character motivations for good measure. Metal Gear's approach to these subjects instead has much more in common with comics that look to Watchmen for tone and plot ideas without taking the time to imitate Moore's extravagantly dense plotting or, worse, the undercurrent of contempt for cheap violence in fiction that permeates Moore's book. Ground Zeroes continues Metal Gear's comic book legacy, but it's less Watchmen and more like Identity Crisis or Ultimatum: Grim, yet lacking the narrative chops necessary to justify its bleak tone.

Comics also give us the term "Cerebus syndrome," a reference to Dave Sims' long-running graphic novel series, which went from zany Conan the Barbarian satire to extensive and often bizarre treatises on the evils of religion and women. In general terms, "Cerebus syndrome" refers to the tendency of humorous works to slowly become more serious in tone as their creators invest more of themselves and their perspective into their creations. Sometimes it works, as with Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, but usually it doesn't. Here, it doesn't work. But Kojima is in his 50s now, and Metal Gear is his magnum opus. Small wonder he would want it to become something more meaningful. Sometimes, though, it's good to know when to cut your losses.

The diabolical plan in action.

The sort of dark content Metal Gear has begun to dabble in with increasing frequency certainly isn't without its place. The series revolves around warfare, and America's private wars of the latter 20th century in particular, and truly horrible things happen in the wake of wars. I do question, however, whether the place for it is Metal Gear. I have a difficult time swallowing detailed accounts of human rights violations and sequences explicitly featuring a doctor rummaging around in a girl's intestines for a bomb when it's coming from the same series that has given us nonsense like: Grizzled war heroes bumbling about in cardboard boxes; public urination for comedic effect; promotional videos capped off with ejaculation jokes; a mad Russian riding a nuclear tank in idiotic little circles before being fried by lightning; and so forth.

Kojima seemingly wants Metal Gear to be zany and deeply serious all at once – hence his constant use of Joan Baez's political protest song "Here's to You" to underscore Big Boss' seeming betrayal by the American government – but it just doesn't work. When Kojima's "meaningful message" ambitions took the form of lectures on nuclear proliferation from a woman with a silly get-moose-and-squirrel accent, it felt congruous with the rest of the goofiness on parade. Nearly every Metal Gear game features an interactive torture sequence, but this inevitably amounts to an antiseptic minigame in which you mash a button as a bad guy electrocutes the hero. Ground Zeroes removes the interactivity, yet it takes Metal Gear in a direction the series as a whole lacks the gravitas to support.

The real problem, I think, boils down to Metal Gear suffocating under the weight of its own legacy. If Kojima had presented Ground Zeroes as a new property, free of 27 years of schlocky narrative and dumb character names, he could probably sell the game's darker plot details with just a bit of refinement to the dialogue. Besides the grandiose posturing of its villain, Ground Zeroes maintains a fairly serious tone throughout. But then you remember the main character is called Big Boss... and that his chief advisor is destined to be murdered and impersonated by a man who offers tips on ergonomic gaming via radio... and that his top scientist will have grown children who wet their pants at the first sign of personal danger... and that Big Boss' cloned son will briefly hook up with a woman who eventually marries a joke character with chronic diarrhea... and the list goes on. Quite simply, all of this does not constitute a framework for a serious discourse on the brutality of the imperialist military-industrial complex.

"I'd like to apologize in advance for what my clone-son is going to do to you off-camera in about 30 years."

This is hardly the first time Metal Gear has run afoul of its own ludicrous history. When it came time to wrap up the saga (or so we thought) with Metal Gear Solid 4, Kojima had to contend with a spaghetti bowl of dangling plot ends. His solution, wisely, was to say, "Don't take it too seriously." Instead of taking an slavishly faithful approach, he instead glossed over the specifics. Loose ends were hand-waved with nanomachines, Big Boss made peace with Solid Snake and longtime rival Zero, and things wound down about as well as they could be expected to. Sometimes MGS4 played things straight, but always within an overarching context that demanded suspension of disbelief. This time around, though, Kojima appears to have gone the opposite direction and embraced deadly seriousness.

It doesn't work. There's simply too much ridiculous baggage attached to Metal Gear for anyone who's been following the series for any amount of time to tag along as the narrative jumps headfirst into a world of explicit gang rape and child mutilation. I haven't given up on the series just yet, though; I'm curious to see if Ground Zeroes proves to be an ill-advised blip, or if its darker tone represents a new status quo for the franchise. I can't shake the impression that Kojima has crossed the Rubicon here, and if that turns out to be the case, I'll quite likely part ways with the series after Ground Zeroes' follow-up, The Phantom Pain. It certainly wouldn't be the first beloved franchise I've given up on after its stewards chose to salt the earth in the name of edgy maturity without the substance to back up those ambitions. Still, having been following the series for the better part of my life, I really hope it doesn't come to that.

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Comments 59

  • Avatar for SDC3 #1 SDC3 3 years ago
    Meryl's comment about the "pain and shame" she endured during her torture in MGS1 worked just fine to convey the same core concepts of torture and rape in wartime, and treated the subject with more respect.
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  • Avatar for renatocosta90 #2 renatocosta90 3 years ago
    Fantastic piece!
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  • Avatar for tak-kun #3 tak-kun 3 years ago
    I was quite young when the Solid series started but to me it has always had grotesque, disturbing, violent moments not found in any other games.

    I played The Twin Snakes first and I remember being quite uncomfortable with moments like Grey Fox dismembering all those soldiers and Sniper Wolf shooting Meryl's limbs one by one while she lay there helplessly.

    The torture scene in MGS3 with the garbage bag, electrocution, and blinding still shocked me even though I was quite a bit older then.

    So to me it's nothing new. I can't say I ever enjoyed that whiplash between zany and serious. If Kojima's committing one way, I'm on board to see where he goes with it in The Phantom Pain.
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  • Avatar for YangusKhan #4 YangusKhan 3 years ago
    Whenever this gets discussed in relation to MGS, I always think of that scene from Full Metal Jacket:

    "You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?"

    "I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir."
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  • Avatar for SDC3 #5 SDC3 3 years ago
    @captainN2 While I agree with Parish's assessment, Paz is actually around 24 when the scene takes place rather than 14.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #6 Ohoni 3 years ago
    These sorts of plot elements don't appeal to me, and I personally avoid games that feature them, but I think it's up to the developer to decide the story he wants to tell, and up to the audience to decide whether they want to play out that story.

    I don't know, I feel that it's fair to make note of things like rape in a review, so that people have fair warning to avoid it if it's a subject that they want to avoid at all costs, but I don't know about "issues advocacy" style pieces on the subject. I get that a reviewer can personally be bothered by it and that might affect their personal experience with the game, but I don't think they should be judging for other people how the work should be viewed, that should be left to the consumer.

    Articles like this, even when they are well considered and executed, come off more as an "open letter" or blog post than an artifact of journalism. If the point of the piece is that Kojima done wrong and should do better next time, I think the better place for it is a letter to Konami or to Kojima personally, not the front page of a gaming news site. The gaming news site should be about what the gaming customer can do.
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  • Avatar for docexe #7 docexe 3 years ago
    @captainN2 Disclaimer: I haven’t played Ground Zeroes yet, although I inevitably ended spoiling myself details of the plot.

    I have to say I was puzzled by the outrage over Quiet design, mostly because she was far from being the first ridiculously sexualized character in the series. Not to mention that, if we have to be honest, the series has always included a certain theme of sexual deviancy and fetishistic elements. That being said, the description of what happens to Paz and Chico here is… Well, even if you are only exposed to that through the audio logs, I’m genuinely starting to wonder if Kojima is going too far with his excesses, and if he is starting to suffer the same issues that affected the narrative work of Frank Miller in his later years, where he seemed more concerned with shocking his readers, indulging in his fetishes and preaching his political viewpoint, rather than with telling a good story.

    In all honesty, since the PSOne, Metal Gear has been a deconstructive parody of military fiction, alternating between serious and gruesome moments with over the top zaniness. It has not been always successful (with MGS2 and MGS4 being the worst offenders), but it still managed to handle those disparaging tones in a mostly competent manner. In that sense, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the Phantom Pain until I play the complete game. But right now I’m starting to get worried.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #8 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    @Ohoni This wasn't a review, it was critical discussion. Kat Bailey wrote our review. I always feel a little disappointed when people say there's no place for talking about the content of games beyond previews/reviews. Might as well just take the medium out behind the woodshed and crack its kneecaps with a hammer.
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  • Avatar for TernBird #9 TernBird 3 years ago
    @Ohoni So, where would that leave critical discussion of video games? Fact is, we can't have an art form without critical discussion.
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  • Avatar for eodx9000 #10 eodx9000 3 years ago
    So you're criticizing the game for what? Because it takes something you're offended by, making it into satire? Or it takes itself seriously when YOU don't think it should?

    I find the article incredibly incoherent, if not laughable, but more importantly along with many of the comments an example of what's wrong with the western community: there's always someone to complain about being offended, demanding that their [arbitrary] feelings be respected.
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  • Avatar for GameALot #11 GameALot 3 years ago
    It's immature at times (intentionally), but at least it actually addresses real issues of war rather than games like Splinter Cell or Call of Duty where it's all about killing the terrorists for the exceptional 'Merica. I think it'd be difficult to attract a large enough audience without a comic-book/movie influence since a lot of people who are into things like history and documentaries tend not to play games (which is their loss).Edited March 2014 by GameALot
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  • Avatar for DogNozzle #12 DogNozzle 3 years ago
    @GameALot This is a good point IMO. As bizarro as the tone in the game sounds (haven't played it yet), I'm having a hard time imagining how a game would address such ugly issues without just being unbearably grim.
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  • Avatar for Venser #13 Venser 3 years ago
    Great article, but I mostly disagree with you. That said, I think it's important to talk about these things because games need that if we're ever going to start taking them seriously.

    I guess I just have an easier time separating each individual MGS titles as its own thing in my head that the tonal whiplash you talked about here fails to even register with me. Heck, even as individual games the tonal stuff never bothered me. Up until this entry they've mostly been silly games with some serious stuff thrown in. Experimenting with erratic tone has always been Kojima's trademark and it's never made it any harder for me to take his work more seriously when he asks me to, mostly because Kojima seems to be doing this on purpose. (Remember that codec call with Paramedic about Godzilla, "It's mostly mindless fun, but it's got a serious anti-nuke message" I always felt like that and a few other things were Kojima's little wink wink kind of gesture to the audience) Heck, Sons of Liberty is, in part, a straight up self-parody about Kojima recycling plot elements between Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake and the original Metal Gear Solid.

    As far as the content here goes, I think Kojima did a better job setting up the thematic framework here than people are giving him credit. He drew a line connecting red scare paranoia of the coldwar with the Islamaphobia of our current era during the ending of Peace Walker. He continues that idea here by making a game essentially about Guantanamo Bay but set during the Cold War. He uses "Here's to You" to draw another line between both of those ideas back to the trial and execution of Sacco and Venzetti and then directly links all those idea to what the US Government has allowed to happen in Guantanamo Bay.

    No, I'm not saying to goes off without a hitch, it needs to be talked about and there's a lot of good ideas being expressed on both sides of that conversation on how to handle this kind of material. That said, in a medium where most of the boldest stories so far seem to be about CHARACTERS YOU CAN RELATE TO and then letting the players emotional response fill in the gaps for lack of anything more meaningful to enrich the experience, I'm glad Kojima came in with a game that's at least TRYING to make about a statement on something that's relevant to the world I live in.

    As a statement it worked for me because, as someone who was too young and too stupid to care about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib when it was a big story in the news, this game made me a lot more interested in learning about the topic, and the game itself has been a solid experience that far outlived the 10 MINUTE DEMO talk that surrounded the game, so mission accomplished on Kojima’s part for me.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #14 Ohoni 3 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Yeah, I don't know, I guess I just don't particularly like critical discussions about games in this style, especially when hosted on a gaming news site. Again, if it's a personal blog, maybe, somethign that just says "this is what I, as a private citizen think, take it for what you will, but being hosted on a gaming news site raises the profile of the article above personal opinion, and I don't think it deserves that.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #15 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago
    I've long ago just filed Kojima into the "Don't give a fuck any more" box. Probably feels the careers of everyone under him at his studio (who'd suffer the horror of doing SMARTPHONE GAMES in Konami's salt mines without him making MGSs). Been the only thing motivating him since MGS3, and it shows; stuff just doesn't fit togetherany more, even if the parts are OK outside of in situ.Edited March 2014 by SatelliteOfLove
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  • Avatar for Venser #16 Venser 3 years ago
    @captainN2 Oh, I agree, which is why I personally stated my case on why I think he did the legwork to make the material work. Like I said, it doesn't go off without a hitch, but he tied the disturbing content to so many instances of our actual society allowing truely horrific things to happen in the name of maintaining the status quo that I feel like the end result works better than he's being given credit for.

    And just to put this out there because I see it a lot, anyone who defends it because "IT MAKES THE BAD GUY SEEM BAD" is part of the problem, because it's trying to validate the use of rape because it furthers the story of a male character . I don’t personally think the content exists just to fill that purpose though, I kind of had an idea what Skull Face’s deal was the moment I saw he was a disfigured dude named “Skull Face” and he led a unit that’s the inverse of Snake’s old unit. That argument also strips the game down and ignores the broad strokes of the its overarching theme of linking all these disparate occurrences over America history and saying they’re the same thing, no matter what you call it or how you try to excuse it.

    Regarding some stuff in one of your previous posts, I didn't think there was all that much humor in Ground Zeroes to be honest. The core mission is pretty devoid of it except for the location of the last XOF patch. Most of the game's humor appears in the margins of the game during stuff like the Kojima cameo at the end of one of the Side Ops and whichever bonus mission you got on your console of choice. As in, the content that probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the format the game was released in, that's a problem in and of itself (we need to figure out how to let this medium more freely move away from the $60, must compete with AAA business model that probably necessitated the production of that content) But the actual story portion of the game where all this stuff happens? Not all too much in the way of humor.

    I don't think the game really revelled in the torture either. If you go save Paz first, instead of Chico (which most people don't do or at least usually won't do until your second play through of the mission) you can actually run upon a group of guards on the base having a conversation about what was done to Paz and EVEN THEY seem to realize how troubling it was and how bad it would be if the details of that got out.

    But like I said in my last post, having these conversations is how the medium will grow. I personally think Ground Zeroes, as a stand alone work, stands up to scrutiny far better than most games do, but everyone brings their own opinions and history that informs them to the table and much of that is relevant to the conversation.

    For example, I actually disagree with the fundamental concept of Parish's article, if there is a problem; it’s with the content more than anything else. Rape is a real thing and we live in a society that is not so much neglectful to rape victims as it is outright hostile. It's really shitty how rape victims are retraumatized constantly because no one understands how triggers are real and need to be considered. I feel like Kojima Productions should have given players the option to omit that content if they wanted to, since all the really grotesque stuff is relegated to supplementary content, similar to how you can opt out of the "No Russian" mission in Modern Warfare 2. I mean, if Call of Duty can let you omit troublesome content and implemented that option tastefully, we all need to step back and consider upping our game.Edited 2 times. Last edited March 2014 by Venser
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #17 Ohoni 3 years ago
    @captainN2 Well, I think it comes down to a game being an interactive experience. It's for the player to interact with it and make up their own mind. I think the role of gaming journalism is to clue players in to features they may enjoy, and features they may not like, but ultimately not deciding for the player whether those elements are good or bad, just laying them out there.

    On the subject of this game, "there are scenes strongly implying sexual assault, that did not mesh well with the overall tone of the game" would be all the page space needed to make the point.

    If the gaming journalist is instead trying to have a dialog with the developer, telling the developer what he did wrong and what he should have done differently, I think that should be kept between the two of them.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #18 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @Ohoni If I understand the thrust of your point, are you not doing the same to this creative work, instead of keeping the discussion between you and Jeremy?

    In the same way that Ground Zeroes is the art created by Kojima and his team, USgamer - while also containing straight news - is the art and content we bring to you the reader. You categorize us as a game news site, but that's not the scope of USgamer. We're a gaming editorial site, and part of that editorial happens to be news. That also includes reviews, guides, trailers, roundtables, and critiques like this.

    Art is not inviolate or sacrosanct, because we all create art in different ways and to say you can't criticize anything at all seems... wrong. Art can be critiqued and should be critiqued publicly. That critique is part of the discussion between individuals and the larger discussion in society. Creation, consumption, feedback. Rinse and repeat.

    For example, without Jeremy's article, you wouldn't have@Venser's passionate disagreement. That furthers the conversation and makes us better as a whole.Edited 2 times. Last edited March 2014 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #19 Ohoni 3 years ago
    @MHWilliams Yeah, that's a fair enough point. I'll take my own advice in future. ;) I suppose I've just become a bit tired of these sorts of inter-industry navel gazing, hand wringing arguments in the public sphere, and it got the better of me. From now on I'll just try to avoid the articles marked "Critical Discussion," they aren't good for my piece of mind. and it's my responsibility as a consumer to avoid them.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #20 Ohoni 3 years ago
    @captainN2 Yes, that's what I said.
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  • Avatar for secularsage #21 secularsage 3 years ago
    Wonderfully done,@jeremy.parish.

    Perhaps the biggest problem with the Metal Gear series is Kojima's obvious addiction to it -- he keeps telling the world he's quitting, but then returns to it and continues to refine the game to be both cutting edge in terms of graphics, gameplay and detail and utterly ridiculous in terms of narrative.

    Ground Zeroes is particularly troublesome because it wants to keep some story details from the canon and discard others... and yet unlike a gritty reboot, it can't shake the silliness of the series because Kojima can't not give in to his addiction to what he's created.

    With that said, I think we'll all be playing MGS games as long as Kojima makes them. They're like the idiot savant of gaming -- as dumb as a summer popcorn movie, and yet infuriatingly brilliant as a game experience.
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  • Avatar for Windwhale #22 Windwhale 3 years ago
    "explodes due to a bomb Skull Face evidently implanted into her genitals while he tortured her"
    Reading this this almost made me threw up! This was like a cold shower, making me question, why I even liked the original Metal Gear Solid in the first place.
    Reminds me a little of my early twenties, when I realized that Frank Miller was actually not a good writer at all (and a narrowminded, hateful person on top of that).
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  • Avatar for Scimarad #23 Scimarad 3 years ago
    Well that's removed any desire I had to play that! Seriously MGS, for every thing I enjoy about the games there's sure to be something else that either makes me roll my eyes or actively annoys me.
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  • Avatar for TernBird #24 TernBird 3 years ago
    @secularsage The sad thing is, when Kojima decides to take five minutes away from Metal Gear, not only can he not stop referencing it, but he also makes great stand-alone titles (Boktai, Snatcher, Policenauts). Then again, I can only imagine how creepy Snatcher's shower scene would be today if Kojima were to make it today...
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #25 brionfoulke91 3 years ago
    Sorry, can I stop you Jeremy? You just said "Watchmen" and "narrative coherence" in the same sentence. Two things that do not belong together. Watchmen is pretty badly written itself.

    The real problem and the real story here with Ground Zeroes seems to be Keifer. You're right that Metal Gear has a campy, comic book tone. That's part of what makes it so entertaining, the juxtaposition of sillyness with serious. I think a key to making this work was David Hayter's performance, he was playing the big bad action hero Kurt Russel style, ala Escape from New York. It was a perfect performance for this style of story. From what I've seen, Keifer's performance is like a 180 on the character, and doesn't fit at all. If there's a real problem with this game's story, I think that's it.
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  • Avatar for Happy-Mask-Salesman #26 Happy-Mask-Salesman 3 years ago
    Well written, Jeremy. I love that this site gives us these kinds of in-depth editorials instead of just paraphrasing press releases all the time.
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  • Avatar for vladshal #27 vladshal 3 years ago
    Jeremy, you guys need to start actively podcasting again!!! Bring back retronauts and some iteration of 1up podcast.
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  • Avatar for eodx9000 #28 eodx9000 3 years ago
    @captainN2 You're exactly the problem; I read a lot, and by reading a lot I've realized how full of shit people like you are.

    You want to ban things because YOU consider them offensive and wrong, and you want to get rid of something you don't find funny because YOU consider them offensive and wrong. Let's do take pedophilia here: it may be immoral, and it may be illegal, but on an objective base there's nothing wrong with it per-se. All you have is a bunch of relative bullshit, not an ounce of objectivity.

    So let's say we start banning/censoring things based on them being offensive (not that we already don't, because we do even now). Who's to say you get to decide anyways? Because I certainly can guarantee you that I'll just be able to say "I told you so" in the end.

    "They began by controlling books of cartoons and then detective books and, of course, films, one way or another, one group or another, political bias, religious prejudice, union pressures; there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves" - Ray Bradbury

    "There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women’s Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme." - Ray Bradbury

    Thanks for the downvotes on my previous comment though. Glad to know there are a bunch of self-righteous trolls even around here.Edited 2 times. Last edited March 2014 by eodx9000
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  • Avatar for Windwhale #29 Windwhale 3 years ago
    @eodx9000 "All you have is a bunch of relative bullshit, not an ounce of objectivity."

    Although I have a feeling that you are not the kind of person to argue on a reasonable basis with, I will try anyway:
    Media (including games) can and do heavily shape the way people think and act. They also have the potential to be directly or indirectly harmful to individuals but also to larger groups. Therefore it is imperative to voice concern and to debate over what content (and the way it is presented) should be acceptable and what not.

    "it may be immoral, and it may be illegal, but on an objective base there's nothing wrong with it per-se"

    There is no such thing as real objectivity. I do hope there is something like common sense, though. But you seem to claim that being indifferent, having no opinion at all is being objective. Which, judging by your obvious rage, is not even true for yourself...Edited March 2014 by Windwhale
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  • Avatar for docexe #30 docexe 3 years ago
    @eodx9000 First a brief clarification: I don’t have any issue whatsoever with depictions of violence and sexuality in games or any other media, even if they are depicted in an exaggerated or over the top manner. I have read, watched and enjoyed many works with extreme levels of violence, sex, black comedy and other material that would scandalize your standard catholic priest or nun. Hell, I even find some of those works cathartic and liberating in some respects. That being said, I do think that, given how delicate certain topics are in real life (like rape for that matter), there is a line where you have to stop with the excess and thread with more caution.

    That being said… Man, I think you are falling into the same trap of self-righteousness that you are attributing to other people, just on the opposite extreme. Basically, your argument boils down to be irate and on the defensive because “how they dare to criticize a game that I don’t find offensive/that I enjoy, even if it presents some serious topics with severe real life repercussions that can be troubling for many people.” You are essentially offended by other people being offended, without stopping to consider that given that these are serious and difficult issues in real life, some people might have very valid reasons beyond what you call “puritanism” to be offended or troubled by the depiction of said issues in this or any other game (or any other form of media for that matter).

    And really, I think you are misinterpreting something completely. The core thesis of this article is “the allusions to rape and torture are inappropriate in this specific game, because given all the over the top silliness of the series as a whole, it is incapable of handling such serious topics with the level of maturity they require”. You can disagree with that argument all you want, another commenter here actually did that while clearly expounding his reasons in a respectful manner. But, please, don’t confuse or misinterpret such kind of criticism with censure or banning. The author of this piece is not asking for the “burning of books” or the banning of this or any other game due to its content, and I’m pretty sure most people in this comment section would not endorse that. If anything, what the author is asking here is the presentation of these and similar topics in a more thoughtful and respectful manner.

    Personally, I disagree with the notion that something as silly and zany as Metal Gear (or mainstream comic books for that matter) can’t handle serious real life issues. I do understand Jeremy’s concerns though, because truth of the matter, many comic books, games and other forms of entertainment that have tried to tackle those issues in a serious manner have done so in very clumsy ways. In that sense, what I have read about the content of Ground Zeroes when it pertains to rape and torture has certainly shocked me. Out of context, it seems very gratuitous and makes me wonder if Kojima has finally gone too far. But I can’t really emit proper judgment on that until I actually play the game as well as the entire Phatom Pain.Edited March 2014 by docexe
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  • Avatar for TernBird #31 TernBird 3 years ago
    @vladshal The Retronauts podcast is still up-and-running, but a lot of the 1Up crew has moved on.
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  • Avatar for eodx9000 #32 eodx9000 3 years ago
    @docexe I said originally,

    "So you're criticizing the game for what? Because it takes something you're offended by, making it into satire? Or it takes itself seriously when YOU don't think it should?

    I find the article incredibly incoherent, if not laughable, but more importantly along with many of the comments an example of what's wrong with the western community: there's always someone to complain about being offended, demanding that their [arbitrary] feelings be respected."

    At no point did I tell anyone to stop doing anything, whereas both this article and many above comments can be shortened down to, "I FIND MGS'S DEPICTION OFFENSIVE, BAN IT!!!"

    Nor, contrary, did I say anything was wrong with finding something offensive per-se. The problem is like with this lot of self-righteous trolls: they inherently think they have any place whatsoever to act upon being offended to the point of demanding censorship.

    No, there is such thing as objectivity. Things that are objectively wrong based on the axiom that the individual owns him or herself; the fact we all have our own tastes, ethics, and morals.

    "Common sense" is an entirely arbitrary concept, but even going by the idea of common sense - what you like is not the same as what someone else likes. That is a pretty common concept to be classified as "common sense", even by your self-righteous standards. Do you not understand that? Do you not understand the fact that people have different tastes, and thus enjoy different things? No, of course you don't. Your lot thinks it has some explicit right to demand that everyone else find nothing but what you approve to be acceptable.

    Nor do you understand that pedophilia along many things is only a recent term that's only shunned in the west out of so-called "cultural" fears. I can prove murder is objectively wrong. Same for stealing and rape. It's quite simple: such actions are based on COERCION, refusing to respect the right of the directly-involved individual. Pedophilia certainly does not involve coercion, only exploitation which by definition is arbitrary.Edited 2 times. Last edited March 2014 by eodx9000
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  • Avatar for docexe #33 docexe 3 years ago
    @eodx9000 Man, sorry to say this, but you argument is hypocritical, pretentious and contradictory. When you say things like “their arbitrary feelings”, or you call people who disagree with you as “self-righteous trolls”, you are effectively not respecting their right to feel offended or to think whatever they want.

    Meanwhile, nothing in this article (and nothing in many if not all of the comments on the article) specifically or implicitly calls for your specific opinion to align with the opinion of the writer, neither for censoring of the game. Can you please point out to me a single line of text in the article that says or implies that “you are a horrible person if you like this game and you should stop doing it” or something like that? If you really feel that way… well, I think that says more about you and your own personal issues than about the article itself.

    As to pedophilia not involving coercion… Are you sure about what you are writing there? That’s a very gross generalization that borders on the absolutely ridiculous! Some of the things that the law defines as pedophilia certainly don’t involve coercion and can be kind of excessive when you think about it (for example, a young couple that is sexually active and it just happens that the guy is 18 years old while his girlfriend is a year younger than him). But to ignore that many cases of pedophilia in the world involve an imbalance of power in the relationship between an adult and a child, with the adult taking advantage of said imbalance to force or deceive the child into doing something that s/he doesn’t want or maybe doesn’t even understand and that can put his/her health and healthy development at risk, all for the personal gratification of the adult… Can you really tell me such thing is not coercion? Dude! Seriously?!Edited March 2014 by docexe
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  • Avatar for #34 3 years ago
    I would encourage you to reconsider you're view on ground zeroes.

    All you're arguments about it not having being able to back up the "seriousness" of it's story all revolve around the previous entries in the series. That's not fair to ground zeroes IMO. Nowhere in the main mission of ground zeroes is there anything silly. Moreover if you completely missed the serious messages of previews metal gear games but all of a sudden NOW you choose to not find this game's "story" not sit well with you, then is it just because of the subject matter this time? Torture? A young female being tortured? Maybe then it's not for you. But these are things that happen/have happened in the real world. I've seen movies "talk" about it. Now ground zeroes is "talking" about it.

    When I play a game, in particular a metal gear game (since each one is so different) I'm judging it on that game alone. So far to me MGSV has not been immature about its subject matter. If it has then please point it out.
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  • Avatar for #35 3 years ago
    Maybe it's just because I'm a psychopath, but as a follower of Metal Gear from the beginning, I like this dark path and love the insanity of Kojima's serious and comedy mix.
    Some get frustrated whereas I think it's genius, his ability to straddle both, sometimes at the same time.

    While I don't feel the same as article, I do want to throw in that I I found it a valid and interesting read that I did not skim over. I read with an open mind, just the kind of articles I come to USGamer for.
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  • Avatar for siamesegiant #36 siamesegiant 3 years ago
    @eodx9000 The article isn't calling for anything to be banned. It's just saying that the tone was ill advised in places. Did you actually read the whole thing?
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  • Avatar for Freeden #37 Freeden 3 years ago
    Firstly, Kojima has already gone on record several times in interviews saying that MGS V was going to be a much more serious game, covering things most games did not, including unsettling issues. So, the more unsettling elements here are no surprise.

    Secondly, am I missing something or did the previous games in the MGS series not cover a mix of serious issues and silliness. Perhaps you can't really get any worse than the rape and torture of adolescence, but I would say the series has maintained a very serious tone with sprinklings of silliness thrown in. Yes, the characters are very comic bookish. Yes, a lot in the series is very ridiculous and over the top. But, while the previous games may not have really touched things like rape and child torture, they certainly have touched on some very serious, dark issues. How about a mother giving birth on a battlefield, and then having her child snatched away from her. How about a child soldier whose father tries to kill him. How about being haunted by the memory of all the men you've killed. How about being the product of a soldier created only for war. Or a creator whose tool could be responsible for the massacre of millions. There are so many dark, deep issues and plot threads that the series brings in, that I didn't even flinch over the idea that Kojima was now including the suggestion of rape and torture.

    He did, after all, say these would be more serious, unsettling games. The fact that these more serious issues are included is unsettling, but not surprising and it doesn't feel out of place. Does the game feel different? Sure. But so did MGS compared to Metal Gear. Now, almost 20 years later and the series is changing again. Personally, I see absolutely no problem with this. Even the story and tone. The series is about to enter a very dark period, with our main character about to become the chief villain. The fact that darker, more unsettling issues have been included is no surprise. And the ridiculousness will always be apart of the series. So, I honestly don't see how this is any different from the narrative structure and issues presented in previous games.
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  • Avatar for JamesKM #38 JamesKM 3 years ago
    At this point it's obvious that Kojima is a vile, sexist, disgusting man who obviously gets off to the sick material he creates.

    He must be someone who fantasizes about raping women and probably masturbates to rape porn. Hell, the first MGS game had you peeping on an under-age girl. Her age was changed in the Western release but in the Japanese release she was under-age. He has a sick, sick mind and is nothing but a pervert. Forcing an under-age boy to rape a woman then putting a bomb in her vagina? What kind of sane human being comes up with this stuff.

    He uses "mature" tones as an excuse for his sick fantasies. There is nothing mature about what he does. He wants to explore abuse and rape? So why would you try to make it sexy by allowing you to check out and inspect a tortured woman's body. Why would you turn that into sex appeal?

    You add a mute female soldier into the game who is also abused and you assure fans that you are just trying to tell a mature story. But you dress her up in stockings, a bra, and panties. There is nothing mature about what he does. He is nothing but a sick and twisted person.

    A man who lets you peep on and check out literally every female character that has been in this game does not get to use the 'mature story telling tag' in his games.Edited 4 times. Last edited March 2014 by JamesKM
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  • Avatar for JamesKM #39 JamesKM 3 years ago
    @Freeden Serious tones? He does not explore serious and mature tones he uses it as an excuse to create his sick fantasies. What he does and the way he explores these so-called serious tones is tasteless and disgusting.

    So he adds a tortured and raped woman with scars all over her body. Then he uses her as a sex object to check her out and inspect her abused body.

    He adds a mute, female soldier who was also tortured then he puts her in stockings and a bra.

    His excuse of maturity is thrown out the window with junk like this. A man who lets you peep on and check out literally every female character that has been in this game does not get to use the 'mature story telling tag' in his games. His games are anything but 'mature' and grown-up story telling. The truth is he is clearly sick in the head and looks to be someone who finds rape and abuse towards women a turn on.Edited 4 times. Last edited March 2014 by JamesKM
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  • Avatar for Matt-Liparota #40 Matt-Liparota 3 years ago
    @eodx9000 It sounds like part of the problem is that it's played deadly serious, isn't it? That's not satire. Learn what satire is.
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  • Avatar for eodx9000 #41 eodx9000 3 years ago
    Deleted March 2014 by eodx9000
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  • Avatar for Windwhale #42 Windwhale 3 years ago
    @Freeden While you are right that Kojima always has tried to handle serious issues, the question is: does he handle them well? While he might get points for including those in mainstream AAA games, certain topics require a lot of sensitivity for the subject and a careful way of presenting them. But the things I have read about GZ in this article sound a lot like the developers were aiming for hollow sensationalism, instead of a heartfelt and earnest comment on the wrongdoings of mankind. And sexualizing victims of rape and abuse is just wrong.Edited March 2014 by Windwhale
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #43 Kuni-Nino 3 years ago
    It's disappointing that the comments devolved from a simple disagreement to the outright demonizing of Kojima's character. In terms of dishonest ire, the Internet has no equal.

    Regarding the article, it is well-argued and well-thought out but, ultimately, I just don't agree. MGS has always walked the line between the absurd and the brutal real and it has never failed to resonate with me because -- and I don't know what this says about me -- I can work with the erratic tone. It's always been there, but hiding in boxes, smoking cigs, inspecting posters of gorgeous models never made me lose focus of the gravity of the situation.

    I feel it's Kojima's way of reminding you that it's also a piece of entertainment. Like another commenter posted quoting Para-Medic when she talked about Godzilla: let's remember that you can be fun and still have a message.

    Parts of this article genuinely frighten me. The reasoning behind it seems tight and I can't agree. What happened to Paz and Chico, I felt sorry for them. It didn't feel forced to me. It didn't feel like someone was trying to be sensational. To me, it's the nature of the Metal Gear universe to be that brutal. MGS4 has characters that turned to cannibalism and murdered children. The series has always prided itself from not shying away from certain realities. It's what happened and what continues to happen in war. If I'm interpreting this article correctly though, I think I may be wrong in thinking this stuff has any merit.
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  • Avatar for Venser #44 Venser 3 years ago
    @Windwhale I don't see where the stuff in Ground Zeroes is sexualized. At all. It's the most unsexy thing in a series that even I'll admit has a somewhat spotty history with how it portrays sexuality (most of that comes from stuff like Snake Eater's "look at her boobs" prompts, which I guess are more a joke on the James Bond inspiration but it always felt off to me). It's not played for the enjoyment of anyone. Even the guards who participated in the act can be overheard on the base talking amongst themselves about how unsettling it was.

    I feel like Kojima created a pretty good snapshot of how stuff like this happens in war. Bombs aside (though body bombs are a very real thing) the stuff that happens to Paz isn't far removed from what American troops did to female prisoners in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay (Which Camp Omega is very clearly based on). But he not only reflected that, but how circumstances like the ones created in places like Camp Omega can make ordinarily good people do inhumane, monstrous things (remember what I said about the group of guards you can listen in on.)Think something along the Stanford Prison Experiments, monsters created by circumstance as opposed to any innate leaning in that direction. That's actually far more frightening than a man with a skull face if you ask me.

    Many people commenting about the material have outright ignored the thematic framework of the story, and how the game uses it's setting (both chronological and geographic)and music to relate the red scare of the Cold War to the Islamaphobia of the current era to the unfair Trail an Execution of Saco and Venzetti (showing they are more a unified idea perpetuating throughout history as opposed to isolate occurrences) and then linked all of those occurrences to how we allow places like Guantanamo (and thereby allow human beings to be subjected to subhuman treatment in the name of maintaining the status quo) to continue to exist because we as a society are afraid of the minority. I've already said my piece more in depth on this further down in the comments, so I'll hold off on it repeating myself here.

    Taking this material out of context makes it sound shocking and grotesque for no reason because taking anything out of context makes it sound like it exists for no reason. That's what context is for. In context I see Kojima making a very real comment on something that more people should think about but scant few do.Edited 2 times. Last edited March 2014 by Venser
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  • Avatar for Windwhale #45 Windwhale 3 years ago
    @Venser I was talking about stuff like: "As Paz shudders while others discuss her misfortunes, the game provides the player with the opportunity to "examine" her quivering body through an interactive cutscene that allows you to strip her to her underwear and zoom in on her injuries – or on other details, if you prefer" Bond reference?

    And I am aware that things like body bombs are a real thing, but taking it to extremes (and in that regard a genital bomb still seems pretty sensationalist to me) is not the best way to raise awareness of these problems. Yes, some people might be temporarily shocked, but they are less likely to take these things seriously: Hey, it only is a quirky, violent action game, it just wants to scare you a little - after all, it is just Metal Gear.

    I am all for games that show how ugly and disgusting war actually is. But not in a way that mostly just wants you to have fun blowing up stuff and killing people along the way. It does not work that way. Metal Gear has always had this ambiguity of letting you be this superhero-killing machine, while occasionally telling you that war and nukes are actually a bad thing. Originally I amired that, but the older I got, the more it felt like an alibi to me. Ultimately all the "fun" stuff outweighs the serious elements by far. And the more serious Metal Gear tries to become, the more jarring the discrepancies get.
    @Kuni-Nino Criticizing a developer for putting very questionable elements in a game does not equal demonizing. Come on, please do not use THAT argument. I could equally say that those who defend Kojima simply idolize him blindly (which I do not think to be the case btw) – Would that help the discussion? Not a bit.Edited 2 times. Last edited April 2014 by Windwhale
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #46 Kuni-Nino 3 years ago
    @Windwhale What would you call JamesKM's posts then?
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  • Avatar for Windwhale #47 Windwhale 3 years ago
    @Kuni-Nino I would call them "upset".

    Dishonest ire? I cannot really tell, but I could understand if he was frustrated. I would not agree on everything he says - some of those statements, regarding Kojima's sexual preferences go a bit too far for me.
    He also is a single person - that hardly counts as "the internet".

    On the other hand he has a point: Kojima's games (MGS, Snatcher, Policenauts) generally have a tendency to objectify women in often quite disturbing and tasteless ways.Edited April 2014 by Windwhale
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  • Avatar for alexb #48 alexb 3 years ago
    Ill advised blip? He's been off the reservation since at least MGS4. Kojima saying that it was all a big shaggy dog story and we shouldn't take it seriously in no way salvages the completely incoherent story and tonal whiplash. If anything, it insults you for ever caring.

    One moment we're ruminating on what it means to get old or on the way "war makes beasts of us all," the next, Johnny Sasaki's shitting under an oil drum, or you the player are invited to snap ass shots of mentally ill runway models you've beaten nearly unconscious. Or Ocelot is finger banging all of Prague. Or Raiden is trying to fight with no arms and a sword clenched in his teeth. Or Mount Snakemore pops out of the sea. It's just daft.

    He lost any vestige of self-awareness or sense what's good or bad writing back in 07 or 08 and everybody's been too afraid to admit that until now. He's basically a less talented, less restrained George Lucas at this point, except he thinks he's making Platoon and Apocalypse Now instead of just retreads of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. This is a guy who literally has his characters stand in a circle and chant "Kojima is God" at one point in Peace Walker. He believes his own hype and so he's beyond help.

    The sooner you let Metal Gear go, the sooner it can no longer disappoint you. It had an important role in expanding the boundaries of storytelling in games, but like so many other things, it's had the blessing and the curse of living long enough to become the villain.Edited March 2014 by alexb
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  • Avatar for MissDeviling #49 MissDeviling 3 years ago
    Damn, I was really afraid of this. I feel like SE/Konami/Capcom are taking their games' plots a bit too seriously and could use more eccentric humour. I enjoyed MGS2 and 3 for their silliness, and while having serious moments are good to contrast the comedy, I think developers could really take a step back and ask themselves if what they're making is fun, appropriate, and engaging.
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  • Avatar for docexe #50 docexe 3 years ago
    @Windwhale I think the “vile, sexist, disgusting, pervert, etc.” parts were completely unwarranted. I know a lot of people have trouble separating the author from the rest of the work, but I’m of the personal opinion that regardless of how furious, incensed or frustrated you might feel about a piece of media, you need to draw a line and keep things as respectful as possible when debating it.

    I think is right to feel offended by the content of a work, it’s right to criticize how a work handles certain themes or topics, it’s right to tell the author that putting his/her fetishes on a work might be tasteless or might undermine the themes s/he is trying to convey. Hell, I think is right to say a work it’s a piece of garbage, but when you cross the line and directly throw insults at the author, whether deserved or not, the conversation and debate loses impartiality, gets too close to “personal attack” territory and inevitably turns sour.

    And well, regarding a different tangent that you mentioned, while it isn’t completely successful, I think Metal Gear Solid is one of the few military games that at least tries to support its antiwar message through its gameplay. Being a stealth series, it requires you to take a patient and non-conflict seeking approach, and some games in the series even actively penalize you if you try to play as the stereotypical action movie hero that blows up everything in his path. The story also tries to portray Snake and most of his allies and enemies as incredibly damaged people due to the effects of the war.

    Granted, it doesn’t work (not entirely) given that it still contains a lot of stylized violence, especially in the cutscenes and boss battles, which also dulls the impact of the portrayal of the characters and their traumas by also presenting them as “incredibly cool warriors”. The intent is there at least, which is more than what can be said of many other games.Edited April 2014 by docexe
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  • Avatar for pregnantbabies #51 pregnantbabies 3 years ago
    I wonder if this "journalist" realised that Kojima tries to make things deliberately silly so the serious stuff hurts more, right? It worked with MGS3 and it obviously worked here.
    If Metal Gear had always had Vagina bombs, child abuse and gang rape, then people wouldn't be so shocked by the end of GZ.

    Kojima willingly made Peace Walker the silliest and most infantile game yet just so Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain hits us even harder.
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  • Avatar for Windwhale #52 Windwhale 3 years ago
    @docexe Just to avoid confusion: I did not write these statements.

    And it is exactly the parts you mentioned, that I found very unfortunate, especially because they detract from the actual arguments. So I guess I agree with you in that regard?
    Having said this, I realize that I do not feel very comfortable discussing other people's posts in such depth, since it only leads to speculation (at least on my part).

    You actually summed up my problem with MGS quite well: "The intent is there at least, which is more than what can be said of many other games"
    Originally I used to think of Metal Gear Solid as progressive, because of just that: It did what other GAMES did not. But compared to the best works in other media it did a very poor job criticizing war. Those messages were buried by all the Hollywood-blockbuster stuff - porbably intentionally, so no potential customers were lost. And I do not think we should go easy on a piece of work, simply because others do an even worse job.Edited April 2014 by Windwhale
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  • Avatar for docexe #53 docexe 3 years ago
    @Windwhale Errr… I’m aware you were not the original poster, just pointing out my feelings on the matter. Sorry if I gave another impression.

    And well, I think the blockbuster elements in MGS have more to do with Kojima wanting to have his cake and eat it, rather than with not driving away customers. He has always showed Hollywood aspirations after all.

    Now, I suppose you are right about not going easy on Metal Gear because other games do it worse, but I’m not sure if discouraging the entire game for trying is the right option either. I suppose it would be better to criticize the elements that don’t work while praising those that do.

    On a related tangent, I don’t necessarily think a big blockbuster action movie has necessarily to be dumb and shallow, some directors have managed to create action movies that are thought provoking or leave a potent message. The key of course is to be sure that the action and violence doesn’t undermine the ideas you are trying to convey.

    For example, Robocop (the original 80’s movie, I have not seen the reboot yet) has exhilarating action sequences and a “cool” cyborg protagonist, yet uses its gratuitous ultraviolence and black comedy to reinforce the theme of the dehumanizing effects from the excesses of capitalism and consumerism and conveys those themes well.

    Granted, most games like Metal Gear are admittedly not there yet.
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  • Avatar for johnpereda90 #54 johnpereda90 3 years ago
    I can understand the rationale behind this concern, but at the same time, it's not really our place to restrict writers or tell them "You can't do this because you didn't do it in previous installments." If writers and creators never tried their hand at tone change, things like "The Dark Knight Returns", "Dragonball Z", the WWE Attitude Era, or the new Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica would never exist.
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  • Avatar for legendaryfrog #55 legendaryfrog 3 years ago
    MGS isnt bad. I understand its really campy, and the racy tape everyone is talking about is filled with lame 'anime zingers'.

    But I can still take this seriously because the game doesn't look like a bunch of polygon ass.

    Even if the last enemy pulls out a rocket with a cartoon face on it, it is still going to be really entertaining.
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  • Avatar for Ralek #56 Ralek 3 years ago
    I think the tone worked in MGS1 and maybe MGS3, but that's about it.
    When I saw the footage of Phantom Pain, for example where horse poop was used to take out enemy jeeps, goats were abducated via the FRS and professional soldiers were distracted - way to long - by cardboard pin-up girls suddenly popping up on the field of battle (not suspicious at all), I kinda felt - once again - that this was way to wanky to fit with the dark tone displayed in other parts of the footage sofar shown, certainly with the tone set in Ground Zeroes.
    The way they designed Quiet is also grating. If you go back and look at e.g. Sniper Wolf in MGS1, the glaring differences in design become rather obvious. Sniper Wolf was sexy, but for different reasons, and she certainl wasn't this kind of oversexed, half-naked Lara Croft blend.
    I will reserve judgement until the final and complete game is out, but I'm not at all into what I've seen sofar. The gameplay looks better than ever, if that makes for a better game, remains to be seen though.
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  • Avatar for DemiurgicSoul #57 DemiurgicSoul 3 years ago
    I always saw Ground Zeroes as a soft reboot. It carries on the story, but with a different tone and refined gameplay.
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  • Avatar for Aleryn #58 Aleryn 3 years ago
    I'd agree with most of that. Well written, thanks. Personally I just play the games for their systems and don't expect much, if anything, from the story.
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  • Avatar for phredofmars #59 phredofmars 2 years ago
    Comic books is a pretty large umbrella. Might want to tone down the dismissiveness about them. There are lots of female main characters these days and a growing number of female writers and artists in the industry.
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  • Avatar for hunterfkennoy07 #60 hunterfkennoy07 2 years ago
    While this was an interesting and well written criticism, I can't help but feel that you are asking the Metal Gear series to be something that it has never been. Skirting the line between serious and zany has always been a mainstay of the series, and honestly, a trademark of its flavor. You seem to criticize the dialogue as opposed to the writing (I could be wrong, but word choice is important for this following reason), and there's a problem with that.

    If we're talking about the DIALOGUE, then yes, I agree that it is standard fare for MGS -- very campy. It is important to remember, however, that this is being translated into English from Japanese. It is so rare that meaningful gravitas is properly conveyed through translation...

    ...but if we're talking about the WRITING (the story, plot, narrative), then I could not disagree more with you about Ground Zeroes. Metal Gear Solid 2 is likely the weirdest entry in the series (maybe following Peace Walker, in my opinion), but the overall themes as they are so ingeniously presented to the player in the final hours of the game are among some of the best in all of video game writing for how it uses the interactive nature of the medium to tell a story which could be told in no other way.

    Regarding the sexualization of Quiet and treatment of characters like Paz, this is something I struggle with as one in academic fields of both Asian Studies and Gender Studies. Yes, it is gratuitous through our own cultural lens. However, I do not believe it is fair to hold Hideo Kojima to the same standards as we do our Western developers (and let's be honest, it could be better on that side of things, as well). While characters like EVA and Quiet have sexualized appearances, I believe their role in the story is far more valuable than eye candy or a well-endowed plot device. Again, it's tough for me to come to that conclusion, since I'm looking through two cultural lenses, here.

    tl;dr, I think Metal Gear has never really had a tone "problem", but a tone "flavor" that not everyone can appreciate or enjoy. And that's fine. However, I would be sorely disappointed if Kojima's personality did not come through in his final product; one that must be as dark as it is in order to serve as a final send-off for a tragic character.

    Good write-up; cheers.
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