Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Ground Zeroes is Only Worth What You'll Pay For It

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 22 Apr 2014 12:00
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Forgive me for stating the obvious, but there's something very odd about the Metal Gear series. Unique might be a better word. Not just in terms of content, but also in the way we perceive it, and the way it is treated by the world around it. Metal Gear is like the weird kid who hangs around with your circle of schoolfriends and is tolerated because he does entertaining things, like the time he punted a sleepy bullfrog into the girl's changing rooms. At other times, though, he might claim to have transformed into a velociraptor, or spend an entire lunch hour explaining that Star Wars doesn't actually have any plot holes if you pay attention to the expanded universe, and in these cases everyone just smiles and nods and makes a circular gesture with their finger near the side of their head.

But from the point of view of the weird kid, he commands respect from his peers. Willfully he deludes himself with the idea that people aren't actually laughing at him behind their hands, and builds this notion that he is actually some kind of legendary wit and visionary genius, an idea that festers as it is repeatedly enforced by his 'friends' in the hope that he does more funny things. The internet, where sarcasm is even harder for the mentally abnormal to detect, is something of a breeding ground for this kind of thing. You only have to Google 'Chris-chan' to learn that.

With their worldview constantly encouraged by those around them, things get awkward when the Weird Kid evolves, Pokemon-style, into Creepy Kid. Their antics become infused with an unchallenged opinion here and a raging hormone there, and the next thing you know, he's drilling a hole in his bedroom wall to spy on his older sister in the shower. In the case of the Metal Gear series, it decided that it needed to apply its imagined creative genius to explore the hideous realities of war. And so we have the situation with MGS5: Ground Zeroes, in which a young woman is imprisoned in a Guantanamo Bay-style camp, implied to have been raped, and then has a couple of bombs shoved right up her. And while I don't think any subject matter is too dark to be explored in a video game, when it's placed alongside a villain who is basically just Skeletor, it comes across like it's being treated a bit facetiously, and with not a trace of satire.

But we tend not to call the Metal Gear series out when it does this sort of thing. Not the way we would if someone we used to genuinely respect and admire did it. Just as we try to ignore the Weird Kid, when their creepy antics would lead to massive scandal if they were committed by, say, the head cheerleader. I think, partly, we all feel responsible for the stupid shit Metal Gear does. It's our own fault for encouraging it. We should have pulled back on the leash while we were still on the thin end of the wedge, and told it things like "45 minutes is not an acceptable length for a back-and-forth expositional dialogue scene" or "Tell that woman to zip the front of her jumpsuit up, for fuck's sake. She'll get sunburnt at best."

You see, when Platinum Games stepped in to make Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, you can tell immediately that it doesn't fit with the rest of the series, even disregarding the fact that it's a fast-paced hack-and-slash as opposed to a stealth-survival-shooter. It's because it has one thing underlying it that Metal Gear as a whole lacks - self-awareness. And that absence is something that cannot be simulated, for it lies at the core of the series. You can see it everywhere, in both the hilariously mad parts that make the games endearing, and the increasing trend towards the creepy.

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