Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Synthetic Play #2 | Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance


The reaction to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has confused me. Raiden has suddenly become cool.

He was supposed to do that in Metal Gear Solid 4, and he was only supposed to do that because of the disgusting reaction gamers gave him in 2001 with his debut in Metal Gear Solid 2. Now Platinum Games has seemingly turned him into---

ta-daaaa

Fucking Dante.

Yeah, I know I'm kind of biased given the window of play and affinities at work here specifically, but stick with me for this ride, it'll only take a few minutes.


I feel so sorry for Hideo Kojima now. The poor bastard is trapped by his fanbase and own self-obsessive craft[1]. When he'll finally leave Metal Gear behind him is subject to be seen, but the man clearly has more to give than what has become his magnum opus.

I've felt sorry for Platinum games ever since the infamous 'Capcom Five' turned out as a bust.[2] As a studio, these guys have been making stuff I've always followed and enjoyed for about ten years and it's dragged them through three studios, who the hell knows how many publishers, and probably even more great ideas than the former two combined (and that's just what I know about as a fan).

And I've always felt sorry for poor Raiden. As a character, as a concept, and as a pretty creative endevour by Kojima that was shot down by one of the most repulsive aspects of gaming---gamers.

I haven't bothered picking up Revengeance yet, but after watching a playthrough of the entire game I think I will now. I didn't necessarily doubt Platinum, but they were simply handed a mess to cleanup after Kojima Productions failed to get the concept working right. What it seems we got is a mess---a mostly good mess mind you, but still a mess.

I suppose we'll find out soon just how successful Platinum was with Revengeance[3] but my relevant question here is why? Why this game? Of all the stuff this specific 'gametank' has put out over the years, why do fans suddenly flock to one of their tackiest outings (and make no mistake, Revengeance is a Platinum game first)? The streams were apparently crossed here, as fans of the 'Tactical Espionage Action' games don't seem like the prime candidates for a character action game and vice-versa. In fact, I'd go one step further and say that barring the obvious outliers and overlapping players here, the two are antithetical in terms of what and who they appeal to.
"Some of the ideas that they proposed I was opposed to originally. For example, there’s the scene where Raiden throws the Metal Gear RAY up into the air. I thought, ‘No way. This is ridiculous’. [3]
Narratively, the story is almost a parody of the world it's set in. I would have been far more impressed had
Platinum exercised restraint here rather than implying their identifying shtick is simple over-the-top ludicrousness and a severe penchant for camp[4]. I'm not specifically against either, but Platinum has a very unique flavor with this, and although Metal Gear will often go out of its way to be silly, the two flavors just don't mix for me. I don't like Koolade poured in my coffee. This applies to the design as well. I didn't exactly want a new ultraviolent hack-n-slash, but that's primarily what seems to be on the plate here. Had they gone and made the Tenchu design[5] actually more competent, I would have been far more impressed. Why not reserve that craziness for the likes of Bayonetta, where it fits? Shoehorning it into a world like Metal Gear is like having a baby pee into a dying (albeit fetishistic) woman's mouth[6].

Understand that the ire here stems not from the fact that it's a bad game, but that it's a little too good at what it does with where it's at, and because of that a rather odd hype-train has manifested itself. I don't like hype-trains; more often than not, the destination is unknown and the train itself is a shoddy piece of work.  They also worry me because once they get going---especially in this industry, they're unstoppable[7] and they'll cause massive damage wherever they go. The passengers on this particular PlatPro hype train exhibit the qualities common to all passengers of all hype-trains:
  • There is no room for middle ground judgment. It either has to be fucking amazing or goddamn terrible. Keep in mind that proponents and detractors are all passengers on the same shitstorm. [8]
  • Near drug-induced highs and alcoholic lows in regards to responses of optimistic and pessimistic thought patterns.
  • Dogmatic adherence for an echo chamber and virulent reaction to any kind of criticism.
Expressing mere dissonance for someone as a fan of both developers/genre/series and their particular mechanics in terms of playstyle? Go figure. I've noticed that this is rarely the case with the fervor I've seen. Fans of one were generally not fans of the other. Some cases saw favor with one at some twisted agenda for why the other shouldn't exist, could be fixed, or turned into what they wanted entirely. Fans of both are an even more convoluted bunch to look at.

The reason why I noticed this instantly is because of how jarring and earnest the compare/contrast makes with DmC and how the fanbase treated that. It's a perfect addendum to this---problem I guess I'd call it? Take the writing exhibited by both games; crass, penchant for profanity, over-the-top scenarios and one liners. Which one takes the fall for lack of quality here? Why is that exactly? There are some practical reasons, but they don't account for the total miasma of the situation.
"On the outside Kojima may seem like an unbridled, free-thinking creator, but he had to show real restraint when advising Platinum during Rising’s development. The project has already fallen apart once, and he couldn’t afford for it to collapse again."[3][9]
One fanbase in particular is fucking fascinating because as a general rule I've always regarded fans of character action titles as mere junkies in terms of how they engage their experience with the game (myself included at times). This adds a rather intriguing facet to them and there's just no unseeing it. There's typically no self-reflection or thought applied to the experience, just mindless synesthesia. In their case it's almost as if the hype and praise for this game is driven by a sheer force of determination to mock the Metal Gear series at large in a very passive-aggressive way, and I've always found it weird how much of a grudge some people hold towards games like Metal Gear.


Still though, I'm surprised at how conflicted I am about the game. On one hand, it's from two personally acclaimed studios that have a noted reverence for the West and its culture, one being a master of character action mechanics. On the other hand, while not being the narrative interloper some critics initially painted it as, it doesn't even try and thus the game just comes off as an odd pairing for what would seem to be a match made in---Japan. Who knows though, if it will play a role down the line in getting Kojima the fuck away from Metal Gear and to something else unrelated, the tradeoff will be worth it then. As an in and of itself kind of thing though---er, I'll just go cut stuff in half and pretend the problem will go away.[10]
"He's gotta do something entirely new, that's not going back to Zone of the Enders. Wouldn't you rather see him---what is the game that he's been wanting to make that convinced him over and over again that he needs to stop making Metal Gear and do something else? What's that game?"[11]
Maybe you fuckers really did just need somebody whose hair was white.




1. Note, that that last bit is very much an assumption on my part, speaking as an artist and the dilemma we sometimes face with letting our concepts go.

2. "Despite the relative failure of the project as a whole, the individual games of the Capcom Five had a lasting impact on game design." [Link]

3. “!” – The Hideo Kojima Interview, and to be fair it's not like he was an overhead director on Revengeance, but as the interview suggests he definitely had a personal investment in advising how it turned out. [Link]

4.  Seriously, that final boss battle, what. the. fuck?

5. These games and their ilk still haven't seen a worthwhile proof of concept, only proven that it's a worthwhile path to embark on. [Link]

6. Go with the other metaphor if that one makes you uncomfortable. >:D

7. Sorry mate, couldn't resist. [Link]

8. Isn't this the basis for the same bullshit behind the ever-sliding game review scale?

9. Compromise is necessary, but still a very ugly mistress:

“But, when they actually put it into the game and I had a chance to play it, it felt really good in that context. My job became not necessarily to fight with them – although we did have our disagreements – but I just had to move that line a little bit, and get the best out of Platinum as best as possible.”

10.  I might be back after I acquire the game for myself, but unless my hands-on time is just fucking phenomenal (and it doesn't look like it will be), don't expect it.

11. Shawn Elliot, 1UP Yours 2008. [Link]