As of this writing, The Avengers has grossed over a billion dollars across the world. While part of this is no doubt due to the current raging erection everyone has for superhero films, a big reason The Avengers is also lauded by critics and fans everywhere is how true to the spirit of the comics it remained.
Joss Whedon had a nearly impossible task in front of him: how do you take a comic series whose origins date back to 1963 and make it appeal to not only a fan base ready to tear you apart for ruining their story, but also to a prospective new audience who knows nothing of the team of heroes?
Whedon did it, and at the moment, Hideo Kojima has created a similar scenario, albeit distorted and with roles reversed.
I was hesitant from the moment Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was announced three years ago, even when it still held the “Solid” title, establishing it at the time as an interquel, set between the events of the second and fourth game in the series. Metal Gear Solid helped to bring stealth action to prominence at a time when the genre, for all intents and purposes, didn’t exist. Without Solid Snake, we never would have had the exploits of Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell, Gabriel Logan in Syphon Filter or even Jade in Beyond Good & Evil.
So, when it became apparent that Hideo Kojima wanted to take the series in a different direction and shift focus from Solid Snake to Raiden, with a greater emphasis on action as opposed to stealth, I recoiled. I’m a massive fan of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, and the other games that immediately drew comparison to Rising, but after 11 years of utilizing cardboard boxes, stealth camouflage and crocodile heads, I didn’t know what to think about slicing and dicing everything in sight. Thing of it is, with Kojima overseeing the project and developing it with his own studio, I knew it would be a classic tale deserving of the Metal Gear name.
It’s now 2012, and time has not been kind to this project.
Over the course of three years, the game in question has been cancelled, resurrected by another studio, undergone drastic storyline and gameplay changes and even gone so far as to have its name changed. Now known as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, it is considered to be a side-story, not necessarily affecting or even consistent with the main MGS timeline. This is the part that worries me the most, and if you’ll allow me, I’d like to take you on a bit of a personal journey.
In 1998, a day in October came that I had been anticipating for what seemed forever. Metal Gear Solid was finally being released for the Playstation. I had followed coverage of it faithfully in magazines, during a time when press on the internet was still finding its footing. It promised things never before done in video games, and the idea of sticking to the shadows instead of merely shooting everything in sight appealed to what was becoming the elitist prick of a gamer inside me. I greedily tore into the tale of Solid Snake, and finished the game in two sittings. While the gameplay enamored me, it was the story that sticks with me to this very day.
I grew up in a sheltered house, where I was taught that war was the way to go when needed. I knew nothing of different ways of thinking – not because of ignorance, but because I never had the chance to be exposed to the outside world. Hideo Kojima opened my then 13-year-old eyes to things I had never before considered. The ugly face of war. The horror of nuclear weapons. The corruption of politicians, bureaucrats and corporate heads through power and money.
While everyone else my age began to think of entering high school and what hair would look best on them, I began to seek answers for questions I hadn’t before known how to ask – what if we could manipulate people on a genetic level? What is it like to be a soldier? What if somebody actually pushed the “launch” button on a nuclear missile? It was fascinating, scary and real. I started to expect a lot more from stories in games, and began to mature in my tastes. I wondered where Solid Snake would go from there, but I had no idea what Kojima had in store for us.
Let me get this out of the way: Metal Gear Solid 2’s story is not only one of the most underrated of any game ever made, it was also incredibly ahead of its time. If the first MGS held my hand and walked me through a door to new ideas, the sequel grabbed me by the collar, kicked my ass through the door and slammed it shut behind me. Never mind just the dangers of war…we now were introduced to the idea that a secret organization, behind the façade of the White House, controlled every decision made by every government, business and dotcom throughout the country. We were powerless as human beings, our lives as pre-rendered and scripted as the game we were playing. We don’t know any better, so a faceless board of directors decides what we should and should not be exposed to.
In November of 2001, the idea that our fully digital world needed to be maintained by shadowy puppet masters living inside a giant AI named after the Founding Fathers was a stretch. Eleven years later, in the age of post-9/11, two elections, Hurricane Katrina, the $800 billion bailout, Wikileaks and the BP oil spill, a brand new appreciation for the story of Sons of Liberty is what I found thanks to the HD Collection re-release. Not only is it more plausible, it’s closer to reality than any other game of its time. The game garnered a lot of negative attention for Kojima’s supposed bait-and-switch with the introduction of Raiden as a main character, but anyone focused on Snake’s absence throughout much of the narrative is missing the point. Give this game a chance and you will come away wondering just how “free” a citizen you really are.
After surviving another torturous three years, Kojima gave us Snake Eater. We learned where Snake originated, and saw how his father Big Boss was molded into the legendary soldier which made his DNA a billion dollar prize decades later. We were also given what is, for me, the most well-written and developed female character in video games: The Boss. Snake’s mentor, lover, motherly figure and rival all at once, The Boss put to rest any argument that women were not represented prominently in gaming. The end of this deeply personal tale, when we learn what the real motivations for The Boss’s actions are, will forever bring tears streaming down my face every time I watch it.
I’m not going to say a whole lot about the conclusion to the saga, Guns of the Patriots. There are perhaps twenty different moments throughout the game that forced me to reattach my jaw. The only thing I know is that somehow, Kojima managed to take every single question of the hundreds that had been raised throughout the series, a timeline that spanned centuries, and provide an answer for all of them. A magnum opus, the Metal Gear Solid story deserves its place among the works of art in literature and film.
Perhaps, at the end of the day, I shouldn’t be so worried about Revengeance after all. It is, of course, a side story and not meant to be given the same grand treatment as the series that gave birth to it. However, after sharing all this information with you, how could you fault me for wanting an experience on par with everything else? I’ll play a game where Raiden runs around and cuts everything in sight, but when I see the words “Metal Gear,” my expectations are already set to what seems at this point an unreachable standard. Apparently, I’m still that elitist prick from 1998, the seeds planted in my head now fully sprouted and just wanting it all from a game with the Metal Gear moniker.