Note: The effervescent Ed Smith made his debut on Playthroughline with a no-holds-barred beatdown of Red Dead Redemption and now he enters the ring again to face 1998's Metal Gear Solid. The result is a tad different from what you might have come to expect from the Scripts on this site. Please do find out for yourself, and afterwards, if you're eager for a more direct appraisal of the Metal Gear franchise from Ed, there's some of that below. It's quite direct.
Hideo Kojima is a sexist, untalented, copycat hack whose status within the gaming industry is nothing more than proof of what dire straits videogames are in. His games are clumsy to play, aesthetically derivative and written like fan fiction. And in the words of Agness Kaku, who worked as the Japanese-English translator on Metal Gear Solid 2, Kojima "wouldn't last a morning in a network TV writers' room." His "visionary" Metal Gear series is the worst kind of knowing, thematically empty trash, and if this is all it takes to be crowned a genius, somebody ought to telephone the past and tell Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton not to bother. Just rope together some stealth mechanics, a cardboard box and a guy who shits and pisses himself every game.
Do I like the original Metal Gear Solid? Despite everything, yes, in a way. Intentionally or not, it's definitely a funny game. Interesting, too. We complain today about videogames holding our hands too tightly, and leading us by the nose, and you can trace that back to Metal Gear Solid. Every few moments the game stops and explains to you what's going on, what's next and what to do. From the guards' range of vision to the alert-caution-safe states of play, everything is concretely and conveniently telegraphed.
In 1998 this was intelligent, revolutionary design. In hindsight, it was the beginning of something perhaps quite ugly, a generation of games where the opaque, the cerebral, the interpretative have no place, and everything must be laid flat, as in the rule book accompanying a brand new chess set. I like Metal Gear Solid as a historical artefact. I like it for its – again, intentional or not – absurdity and stupidity.
I once read a mixed review for Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, describing it as what happens when creatives gain unchecked control. Largely, that's how I look at Metal Gear Solid. For better or worse (worse), it's Kojima's baby, and even if I don't care for it, I can't help but want to prod it, poke it and examine the product of immaculate conception.
But Metal Gear Solid remains emblematic of the worst extremes of videogames. It has an obsession with lore, the same obsession as Final Fantasy, Gears of War, Halo and countless other games - the same obsession which simply prevents interesting writing. And it hates women. Meryl is a grotesque combination of tropes, a sex object and a damsel disguised as kick-ass and "strong." Sniper Wolf is sexy, and dangerous because of it. Mei Ling is a flirt and Naomi is a traitor. Nastasha Romanenko is given nothing to do.
Unlike a lot of games, especially of its time, Metal Gear Solid matches story with play: everyone, from the player, to Snake, to his handlers on the codec and their bosses in Washington, is sneaking around in Metal Gear Solid, and there's poetry to that. But Metal Gear Solid is rarely, truly seductive. Given the even worse Kojima games that followed, it feels like a kind of patient zero – like Snake, carrying the FoxDie virus. And it's just so stupid. For every vibrant set-piece, every deft matching of story to interaction, Metal Gear Solid is a slap in the face to women everywhere. God knows how Hideo Kojima ever gained his reputation.