In typical Hideo Kojima fashion, we’ve been teased with information on the next Metal Gear Solid game over the last few months, but there’s nothing concrete out there. First we were told The Phantom Pain was a new development by Moby Dick Studios, then the big reveal that it was MGS V (not sure if anyone was really surprised by that), and then that Metal Gear Ground Zeroes was in the intro to The Phantom Pain. Over the last two weeks there have been new gameplay videos and further information on characters and voice actors, but still nothing that tells us when it’s coming and how. I thought I’d take this chance to look at what’s known, what’s speculated, and what might be hidden.
What’s been confirmed is that there are two Metal Gear Solid games in development and that Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is the prologue to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Quite why there are two games in development at the same time isn’t fully clear, but I don’t expect that it’s because there’s not enough room in one game to tell the story. Hideo hinted a long while back that episodic development might be the way forward, using the sales of the first instalment to fund the production of the next, so could we be in for several shorter MGS games over the next few years? And if that’s the case, is The Phantom Pain only the first full chapter in the continuing story of Big Boss? There are two separate entries on the official Konami MGS site (it’s a bugger to find if you go through the main webpage!), and recently ShopTo.net have put listings up for both games even though release dates are not yet known. Konami have Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain as a PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 release, whilst ShopTo adds the PS4 and Xbox One versions which we know are being worked on through Kojima’s interviews, the recent game expo’s and trade shows, and the information that’s being very slowly drip fed. According to the information out there, the only real difference between the different generations is the targeted 60 frames per second for PS4/Xbox One, and that the newer consoles will have fancier lighting and shading. They are being reported as identical gameplay regardless of which version you go with.
We’d been told in most of the non-gameplay videos that the footage was from a PC running the same hardware as the next gen consoles, and this makes the new Fox Engine looks absolutely amazing. In much the same way it seems the GTA V screenshots were produced, I expect the current gen console versions to look quite a bit different to the gameplay footage we’ve seen, and the Tokyo Game Show gameplay demo seems to support this (unless I’ve just been getting really poor quality videos!). But don’t take that the wrong way, I think we’ll still end up with a great looking game. What is promising is that if everything lives up to the visuals we’ve seen in the stills and cutscene videos (and can’t think of when it hasn’t with an MGS game), we’re in for a lighting and particle effect treat on PS4 and Xbox One, but maybe not the increased level of detail and scenery interaction we might get if it was a next gen only title. Watch some of the most recent footage from the PS4, it’s great gameplay and very slick, but is the environment what you really expect from the next graphical leap? It’s worth also noting that Wii U and PC aren’t getting a look in according to the blurb, though I’d expect it to appear on PC at the same time as the consoles, but not the doomed Nintendo machine.
This raises an interesting question about whether we’re seeing the cross generational games being hampered at this stage, or if it’s scalable game engines that are being thought about by the devs. Go back 7 years and look at the progression we’ve seen from Splinter Cell: Double Agent (a cross-gen title) and Splinter Cell: Blacklist, it’s been a massive improvement from what was essentially a port with some different missions to a well crafted and good looking action game. We’ve also seen the evolution of scalable game engines this generation with the work at Criterion and Guerilla. Both have released products on the PS Vita that near matches the PS3 versions. Need For Speed is only slightly scaled back in terms of traffic and textures, Killzone: Mercenary is running on the PS3 engine with some clever tweaks to help it deliver a very similar performance. I think the evidence so far is that we’re not going to see the shoddy ports from one generation to another this time, and Battlefield 4 along with Call of Duty Ghosts will be the first tests.
Both games are open world adventures which gives us quite a departure from the previous Metal Gear Solid games. Whilst MGS4 gave you the option now and again to bypass a fight or get stuck in, since MGS2 the only real choices have been whether you go lethal or not. It’s quite hard to imagine what this could be like. I’ve always wanted more freedom to be bad ass with Snake, but when things have gone wrong in the past they go badly wrong. MGS has always been renowned as unforgiving, and damn near impossible on the hardest difficulties (hats off to you if you’ve platinum’d MGS4!). Will having to produce situations where there are multiple approaches dilute that? I’m hoping it’s more in the vein of the open-ended Far Cry approach, but with the solid stealth mechanics we know and love. The fluidity of the most recent Splinter Cell game would be welcome too, and some of the gameplay previews make it look like this is the direction things are going in (especially with the on-trend enemy marking feature). Will that change how we feel about the series? We’re used to tightly scripted scenarios that the director wants us to experience in a particular way, this is going to be a bit of a different beast. What sounds really interesting though is that the linearity has been removed and you’ll be free to tackle objectives in any order. Travel between destinations is possible in vehicles or on horseback, and this should open up even more assault options if you decide not to take the stealth approach, or at least I hope. If you have to use a plane to get around then you can bet that the world isn’t small! I’m also interested in the day/night and weather cycles, the promise these have for creating unique player situations for dealing with objectives could be phenomenal. Do you go under cover of darkness, during the day in a storm, wait until dusk and it’s dinner time, or early morning when all the guards are in the shower? The attention to detail we’ve seen in the past throws up so many opportunities if these types of things are capitalised on instead of fixed patrol routes no matter what way you tackle it.
So it’s showing huge potential in terms of technical scope and physical scale, but what about the classic MGS story and characters, and when will it be out? Part II of this article covers that in more detail, both with the facts and a healthy dose of speculation. We’d love to here your thoughts on the new games, drop us a message in the comments below or head to the About Us section for the email details.