Saturday, February 17, 2018

The disappointment of Metal Gear Solid 5

In March of 2014, Kojima Productions published a short "preview" game called Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Prior to its release, the company had published a preview of the opening cinematic of the game, and it's one of the most awesome things I have seen in my entire life, in terms of ambience, visual design, and especially graphics.

These were absolutely stupendous and awesome "next-gen" graphics, before they really even became a thing. The level of cinematic realism is simply mind-boggling. The video is, in fact, so good that many people thought that it was a pre-rendered animation, rather than a real-time in-game cutscene using the game engine itself. Almost nothing like this had been seen before (with a few exceptions).

When the game itself was finally released, we finally got to witness that yes, they were indeed real-time graphics, not a pre-rendered full-motion video. And yes, the game itself, when the player finally gains control of the playable character, is as good-looking.

The graphical design and quality of this game is simply stunning, and it paved its way to many future games using similar "next-gen" graphical effects.

Of course the problem with this game is that it's essentially just a mini-game. A sort of "teaser trailer" for the actual game that was upcoming later, ie. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It consists of one relatively small area, with just a couple of missions to complete. It's essentially a couple of "preview" missions from the actual game. The entire game can be played through in an hour or two for the first time.

But it really rose the hype for the actual game. Obviously everybody, including me, were excited for it to be published, and expecting for it to look at least as good.

Then, in September 2015, over a year later, The Phantom Pain was finally published.

And... it was very underwhelming, compared to Ground Zeroes.

It uses the same game engine, and same assets, and in principle the graphical design is the same... but it just doesn't look nor feel the same.

The major problem with the game is that while it uses the same game engine and graphical resources as Ground Zeroes, it's simply not allowed to "shine" (no pun intended) in the same way.

While Ground Zeroes was located at a high-tech complex, at night, in heavy rain, with bright lights illuminating everything, giving everything that really shiny "next-gen" look, with wet surfaces, lens flares, rain, wind, glares, reflections, and so on, The Phantom Pain is located in a dry desert consisting for the most part of just dry terrain and rocks, and even most of the buildings that there are consist of just stone and wood buildings. No rain, not many bright lights, no wet surfaces. Everything looks dull, washed out, mostly beige, and for the most part without any of the fancy graphical effects that made Ground Zeroes so astonishingly beautiful. The potential for the awesome graphics would be there, but the terrain and architecture design simply doesn't allow the game engine to show it. It just looks dull and boring. (It still looks quite good, technically speaking, but it's just boring.)

Why tease us with such awesome stunning graphics, and then not use them almost at all in the actual game? I don't understand.

I'm a sucker for awesome-looking real-time computer graphics, and I was expecting MGS5: The Phantom Pain to be such an awesome game. But it just isn't. It's boring and disappointing.

It doesn't exactly help that the gameplay itself, while not bad, is a bit tedious and not all that interesting. The same can be said of the story.

I was unable to finish the game. According to Steam, I played the game for 23 hours, before stopping. I doubt I got even to the half-way point in the main storyline. While the first 10-or-so hours were somewhat interesting and challenging, it eventually became too repetitive and boring.

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