D Bag Matinee: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

A brief warning for those die-hard Metal Gear fans out there: I know most of you (ok, all of you) don’t play this series for the story, but still–try not to take offense at my cluelessness here. I’ve only played MGS 2. And c’mon this shit is all super confusing. With that out of the way, let’s roll the video!

We open with some faux hand-held camerawork and some amazingly emotional pop music from a band I can’t quite recognize. Not sure if these graphics are in-game or not, but they—OMIGOD SOLID SNAKE IS DEAD. Oh, ok actually he’s in a coma. Hideo Kojima got my attention with that one, I’ll admit it. Now he’s in a helicopter flying low over water in a rainstorm. Wait, is this a flashback? A flashforward? Just what the hell is going on here? Oh right, it’s a Metal Gear Solid game so it’s not going to make any goddamn sense at all. Moving on. There are some awesome weather effects going on here; I know it’s CG and not representative of gameplay, but goddamn.

There’s a glimpse of the bad guy who looks like Red Skull from the Captain America series. Wait, a coin is being flipped–is he supposed to be Two Face? Whatever’s going on, I know he’s bad news. And two minutes in we have our first explosion! I’m surprised it took that long. And we finally get a look at some gameplay footage set to the same song only it’s somehow better now. The gameplay really does look fantastic; I don’t even have anything snarky to say–lots of bros in hospital gowns getting blown to hell with this haunting music that I now realize is being performed by everyone’s favorite 90s glam-grunge band, Garbage.

Ok, well this song might be setting the mood, but this singing really blows. Meanwhile, lots of death occurring here. A shot of Snake’s bloodied and grizzled mug confirms that our hero has indeed seen far better days than this one. So this is actually looking rather subdued compared to the usual incoherent insanity that the MGS series is known for—and scratch that, a giant fire whale just came bursting forth from the ground and swallowed someone. And now there’s a flaming horse with fire wings because, you know, why not? Kojima must’ve been coming down off a particularly depressing acid trip when he storyboarded this shit.

Back to the hospital. So this was all a flashback while gimpy Snake recovers? Oh shit! Snake lost his arm! He’s got a prosthesis straight outta The Fugitive! And that movie came out in 1993! There surely has to be some absurdly high-tech future arm for our hero, right? Kojima can’t possibly let Deus Ex upstage him, can he? Well that’s a nice (bizarre) touch: Garbage got an MTV-style shoutout via the music video info in the lower right-hand corner. I wonder who paid who in this scenario…

So we’re five minutes into this incomprehensible fever dream of a videogame trailer and the song has finally ended and it looks like we’re actually going to get some legitimate fucking story here. Snake’s been in a coma for 9 years–WHAAA?! AND BOOM, WE GET HIT WITH THE TITLES: METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN. Ok, so I guess that “phantom pain” bit is being taken pretty literally here. Cut to credits. Oh wait! There’s more,  because of course there is! Solid Snake is out of the hospital, sitting atop what looks to be a pretty rad chopper and chomping on a cigar and he’s got an absurdly high-tech future arm!!! That means everything’s going to be fine…right? Jesus, that was depressing.

While it’s far too early to judge the gameplay merits of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I can unequivocally state that Hideo Kojima’s latest chapter in the popular series will once again set the bar for all things presentation-related, be it art design, technical proficiency, sound design or cinematics. Kojima may not know how to tell a coherent, straightforward story (or perhaps he just has no interest in doing so), but he sure as hell knows how to package one – the rain-soaked gun battle midway through the trailer is all the evidence required. The line between videogames and traditional cinema has blurred in recent years, what with the emphasis on cutscenes and emotional involvement of the player, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain looks poised to lead the charge into the next generation of consoles.

It’s not going out on a limb to say that the actual game will likely be excellent, but for now all we have to judge is a six-minute trailer. And judge it we shall! The trailer delivers with an obscenely slick presentation and thus accomplishes its lone goal: getting gamers hyped for the Snake’s next adventure. Maybe next time Kojima could just give us a clue as to what the hell is actually going on. Bring on the inevitable second trailer! 4 out of 5 stars.


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