Thursday, April 24, 2014

Touring 'Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes'

Image from PopMatters
This week at PopMatters, I take a metaphorical tour Snake’s latest home: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.

The video game as a house metaphor might be a bit convoluted, but it’s nothing compared to the absurd labyrinth that is the Metal Gear story. Each game in the series is home to increasingly streamlined mechanics and increasingly ridiculous plot lines. It’s kind of like visiting a friend who has moved into a sleek new high-rise apartment and finding that they have decorated the wall with that same ratty old “dogs playing poker” poster they’ve had since freshman year of college. The structure itself is developed, but the things that fill it remain immature.

Immaturity isn’t necessarily bad, though. I’m one of those folks who really likes it when Metal Gear veers off the deep end. Give me those AI constructs, shape shifters, and nano machines. Ground Zeroes has some of that, but the game’s treatment of sexuality and violence isn’t so much goofy as it is gross. The violence against Paz in particular doesn’t feel earned: the story never develops her character, which means that the abuse levied upon her is only a tool used to push forward the story. The kind of torture porn on display certainly doesn’t augur well for the already-controversial treatment of women in the forthcoming Phantom Pain.

At the same time, all the gameplay changes Kojima Productions has made are excellent. Paring down HUD elements, contextual actions, and judicious use of a slow down demonstrate what a highly technical modern stealth game can be. It creates a situation of extreme juxtaposition between the game’s progressive systems and its regressive story.

It leaves me both anticipating and dreading The Phantom Pain. All signs point to it being the equivalent of a grand mansion, but I’m a bit worried about stepping through the front door and seeing what what Kojima has hung on the walls.

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