Response blog to my first impressions here we go. Spoilers.
Playing with expectations
"I mean, the idea of Big Boss having a different face for every player, his story being somehow more personal in that customization even if his character stays defined--there's power there. If this story is about power corrupting, wouldn't it be crazy to choose the face of the guy?"
Hi past me! So, the character you created was indeed Big Boss disguising himself. He's pretending to be the medic who blew up with him in the helicopter. Crazy. I know.
You play the whole game as Big Boss faced medic guy, taking on the burden of heroism, and history, because of 10 years of hypnosis. Ocelot knew the whole time.
I feel like this works, and it justifies not being able to play as that older black gentleman I chose because people would know I wasn't Big Boss.
The idea of whether our true identity really matters, of what it would be like to be an average person thrust into extraordinary power, is a good one.
The fact that medic guy both chooses to do great things like save Otacon and terrible things like shoot all of his men or use torture is interesting, as is his final incarnation as a boss fight in the second game.
Quiet had clothes!
Oh, oh my friend, only for that small amount of time. You see, Quiet is a photosynthetic science experiment that takes in her energy through the sunlight. I guess that happened after this spy version of her was set on fire by you.
She's a great character! She has a real moral quandary about speaking and spreading the pathogen or staying, well, quiet and protecting the base. She's like the new Ocelot--she's more loyal to Snake and to some larger cause than what she appears. She's brutal and skilled. She's intelligent and caring.
She also wears only a cloth bra, likes to lie in seductive poses and shower in front of you, is nearly raped in her final sequence to justify her being pantsless for the fight--she was finally full clothed, and she defines her story and her purpose as protecting Snake, not following what she wants or needs. She's more a cipher than a person in a lot of ways.
Quiet is what happens when some interesting writing meets absolute sexism and laziness. She's the most useful and interesting buddy, she has the most character development of anyone, but her depiction objectifies her in a way that problematizes all of that.
You liked that sequence? How about playing through it exactly the same way in order to get to the reveal that you were the medic? Seems like they could have fast forwarded some of that? Yeah, yeah they could have.
The real game, the open world stealth and collecting of soldiers, kept my interest.
It's a unique game where realism isn't the point--all of these bases, this entire land, is so clearly designed, so created for my experience--none of this feels real. And that's okay. Because the edge of rediculousness, the robot with little grocery cart wheels, the dog with a stealth knife, the music tapes and the names of soldiers and the collect 'em all approach to humanity--it's wacky in a way that drives the player forward.
But what are the social implications of these systems?
It is inherently creepy that I'm being asked to put people to sleep and capture them against their will. But the text also clearly indicates that Ocelot is, if not torturing them, at the very least keeping them in solitary confinement until they agree to join the band. Indentured servitude bordering on modern slavery is a really fucked mechanic.
I'm not sure if it knows it is fucked. It seems like the whole game is about how you're pretty much an asshole working for the highest bidder for your own ends, and within the context sometimes you make good moves, and you do save the world a bit, but mostly you're going into Afghanistan and Angola to build a world dominating army.
There isn't contradiction here if our final reading is that this is a game about doing great evil for unjustifiable reasons. Skullface wants to kill native English speakers--he's an anti-colonialist. I mean, that's not really that effective--the dutch, the french, the Spanish all colonized and enslaved too, but at least as a motivation for a villain it's more complex.
Still, the mechanic is deeply fun and rewarding while being ethically wrong. There's a valuable statement about war profiteering there. Hopefully it wasn't lost on people.
Yup, guess that boy is just telekinetic. Giant robot first man thing. The burning reincarnation of MGS3 guy.
Plus, you have the skulls who are magic through genetic alteration.
This game, again, isn't aiming for realism. MGS has always aimed for metaphor over reality.
Little Mantis boy and little Liquid are abused kids fighting back. The whole child soldier aspect, and setting the game in actual Angola, is pretty brave, and handled with more care than Quiet certainly is. You don't recruit them to fight--they go to school, they help out--that's ethical writing, and shows where the crew draw the line.
Clever, impressive Kojima
The medic story worked for me, even if the execution with replaying that whole scene was flat. It worked as a surprise and it worked thematically.
The story is ultimately anti-nuclear, anti-colonialist, pro-linguistics, pro diversity. There's a lot of good here.
For the first time, what I was doing in a metal gear game felt like wholly my choice and deeply connected to the overall themes of the game. It's like the walk through the dead soldiers scene writ large. How will you choose to do this? There are always lots of options, and all are valid, but some will make you feel awful.
Immature, contradictory Kojima
The game is anti-woman. That sucks. I mean, it's essentially all men all the time. Quiet is the only major female character. None of the kids are girls. Despite Big Boss seeing Eva as the best soldier in MGS3, he just doesn't have women around him. Dumb man.
I have an invisible super woman who can leap up cliffs. Why can't I fast travel? Navigating the world becomes a chore.
The base is incredibly boring. You want me to come back, but there's no incentive to explore when target shooting minigames are the only activity. You want me to care about these people and this place so when tons die to a pathogen? You make it feel like home. The base feels dead, no matter my creepy fight club brain washed servants happily taking my punches.
This is a singular game. It's both deeply brilliant and deeply flawed. I don't care about the online part. Konami is a horrible company that represents what an industry without unions can become. The games workers must unionize. Everything will be better.
There's missions I haven't done and more to see, but I'm good for now.