From the Phantom Pain build up since VGA 2012 to the recent culmination of it all in Metal Gear Solid V reveal in GDC 2013, Hideo Kojima has been creating a lot of confusion with his recent mischievous antics of secrecy and false advertising.
Not just content with advertising a fake development studio named; Moby Dick Studio, to keep his charade for Phantom pain going, Kojima also went forward to orchestrate an interview with Joakim Morgen, the alleged CEO of the said studio.
Now finally revealed; the mysterious ‘Phantom Pain’ has been shown to be the part of Metal Gear Solid V. Moreover in a recent interview, we discover that Kojima had been planning this charade for the past 2 years, showing that Hideo Kojima is quite dedicated in his agendas of deception.
What’s more, according to recent reports, David Hayter won’t be reprising his gravelly vocal prowess for Metal Gear Solid V. Taking this news out of the mere realm of speculation, both Kojima and Hayter have hinted towards this in recent interview.
This revelation has also ruffled a lot of feathers as most of the English speaking audience directly associate Hayter’s voice with that of Snake and seeing someone else do the honors would just feel out of place. Of course, knowing Kojima, this could all be a ruse.
In lieu of all this, it should be clear by now that Hideo Kojima loves to pull the rug from under his fans’ feet. Thus seems to be an appropriate time to take a deeper look into Hideo Kojima’s tradition of trickery that has brought us into this present junction.
Top 5 Ways Hideo Kojima Tricked Players in Metal Gear Series
Following are the top five instances in which the Metal Gear games surprised and subverted my expectations over the years. Needless to say; expect all sorts of spoilers from past Metal Gear games.
The entries are organized with respect to the impact they had on me while I played the particular game for the first time as well as the difference between what I was anticipating and what I actually got to experience.
Each entry on this list is accompanied by the name of the game in which the instance took place, the year of its release as well as a phrase that can encapsulate my reaction from experiencing the trickery.
5# Big Boss
- Game: Metal Gear
- Year: 1987
- Response: “Et tu, Brute?”
Let’s start with a classic; the twist that started it all. Big reveal of Big Boss, the leader of Fox Hound, as the head of Outer Heaven.
From the start of the game, you, the player, have to live through the main protagonist; Solid Snake, a rookie to the Special Forces unit Fox Hound. As the game begins, the best operative of your group; Gray Fox, has gone missing and you, a rookie, have to rescue him and finish his mission.
Your entire goal was to infiltrate the military complex; Outer Heaven, with only, over the radio, help of Big Boss, who was your Commanding Officer for the entire mission.
So when your one true confidant and the person who actually sent to into the mission, turns out to be the man who orchestrated the whole mess to begin with, Snake isn’t the only one who is left flabbergasted.
It was a twist that left every player dumbfounded, as no one expected the lovable, Sean Connery lookalike, CO to be the “legendary mercenary” that was the founder and leader of Outer Heaven.
The reason why this is at number 5 is due to the limited surprise factor of the final reveal. Sure, for the most of the game, you are unaware that your commanding officer is your main antagonist but the manner in which the game handled the reveal was a slow build. The swerve itself wasn’t sudden expose.
The game alludes to it several times during the campaign, but as you near the end it showers you with blatantly obvious clues that make you realize that all is not right with the good old Big Boss. The issue becomes fairly obvious when Big Boss starts telling Snake to quit the mission and then tells the player to switch off their console.
Even with its deliberate reveal, the impact of the actual twist on the series cannot be overstated. This was the catalyst for all the twists and turns the series would eventually deliver and something that the franchise is still known for.
The domino effect of this trickery can be traced to Metal Gear 2’s Gray Fox betrayal, MGS’s Master Miller reveal, MGS 2’s Solid-Solidus dilemma, MGS 3’s Boss betrayal, MGS4’s Ocelot reveal and MGS: Peace Walker’s situation with Paz. Each and every one of those examples can be traced to the instance when Big Boss was revealed to be the main bad guy of the game.
And yes, sure his codename should have been a dead giveaway, but hey, in those days we didn’t know any better and were innocent to the wiles of Kojima-san.
4# The End
- Game: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
- Year: 2004
- Response: “Wait, What?”
The End is a hundred-year-old member of the Cobra Unit who is called “the father of modern sniping”. He waits for Snake in the Sokrovenno forest to engage him in an epic snipping battle.
And what an epic battle it turns out to be. Unlike other battles, the boss fight with the End is a deliberate, slow and tense hide and seek, sniping duel that can easily take players hour plus to finish. The fight takes place in an area spanning three zones; Sokrovenno North, South and West, a thick forest divided into a river, a plateau, and a clearing.
The fight was filled with little tricks. You could capture The End’s parrot and set it free so that it follows back to its master and reveal his location, or just kill the bird to infuriate the ancient sniper thereby making him reckless, and you could even use the KONAMI CODE (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Square, Triangle) to reveal the location of The End on your map.
However, the best tricks were saved for how many ways players could get through the fight. Kill End before the battle. Save the game during the battle only to get captured by him as you resume play. And if you wait too long, to get back to the game, the End just dies of old age, off screen.
Yes, players could just completely avoid the lengthy battle by shooting a sleep End in his wheel chair just after a preceding cutscene. Doing so would put The End out of his misery but deprive the players of an epic battle. After doing the said deed, Snake would merely have to navigate the Sokrovenno forest, now populated with couple of Ocelot unit soldiers guarding the area.
What was most surprising about this instance was that there were no cues, quick time events or any clues to indicate that such an action could be done after the specific cutscene as snake is supposed to move forward to the next area, while The End and his wheelchair were hidden behind a patrolling guard. Players who just happened to go back and experiment were rewarded with a big surprise.
As was previously mentioned, players would also get a surprise if they saved the game mid battle and came back after a week or more. Now, normally saving a game mid-battle is not a recourse that one can and does take in many games; this might even seem like a very off-chance situation, but as was mentioned before, the battle with The End is a lengthy one and can last upwards of an hour.
Not only is the battle a lengthy one, but also very frustrating for anyone acting without restraint and patience.
Players have to meticulously scour the area to find The End in three different zones while he is almost completely hidden due to his Moss camouflage in the dense forest and has a habit of healing himself via photosynthesis, all the while try to stay hidden from his scope sight. So it is no surprise that players were expected to save during the battle and leave it to fight another day.
What they found upon returning depended on how much time one put off the fight. If the player took upwards of a week to resume the battle, they would find that The End had passed away due to his old age and Snake is the winner by default. While a source of relief for some, this was a very shocking predicament to have avoided a complete boss battle mid fight.
Knowing about this trick, some players would try to avoid this fight by changing the time of their PS2 system to trick the game into thinking that a week had passed; however, what they didn’t know was that this just put them in line for another surprise.
Changing the system time would occasionally trigger a cutscene where The End would ambush and capture a sleeping Snake and send him to a cell in Graniny Gorky. Thereby making the players escape from the prison, head back to Sokrovenno and restart the boss battle from scratch.
However, even with the chalk full of tricks and its multiple surprise endings, The End boss battle cannot compete with the shock that resulted from the next entry on the list.
3# PAL Keys
- Game: Metal Gear Solid
- Year: 1998
- Response: “Metal Gear?”
The mission to Deactivate Metal Gear Rex turns into a complete failure with a double whammy of deceits.
Towards the end of the game; the terrorist group has activated Metal Gear REX and is in process of getting ready to launch nukes, the player is put in a scramble to somehow deactivate the Bi-pedal monstrosity before the enemy is able to use it.
Fortunately Snake has a PAL key card that can be used for that very purpose, but there is a catch. There are three slots for PAL keys and Snake has to change the PAL key by exposing it to different extremes of temperatures. Players are forced to painstakingly traverse back to past areas and sneak back to control room with the PAL card changed by normal, high and low temperatures.
After putting all that effort into sneaking back and forth, the players are finally able to input PAL keys in all three spots, only to discover that not only had their plan not worked but that it totally backfired. Snake had actually activated Metal Gear REX.
Not only did Snake cause the very thing that he had worked towards all of the game to prevent but his codec confidant; Master Miller was also revealed to be the leader of terrorist group; Liquid Snake in disguise. Players had been made to play right into the hands of the very enemy they thought they were bringing down with their efforts.
This entry earns its keep in the list by the sheer disbelief experienced by the realization that the game had just made you do all that work just to do the exact opposite of what you intended to do.
What makes this instance take precedence over the Big Boss reveal is the second realization that the terrorists’ plan depended on the success, rather than failure, of Snake. That whatever you had been doing throughout the game was working in favour of Liquid Snake’s plan rather than thwarting it.
Even with its high shock value, this entry is eclipsed by another incident that occurs in the first half of the same game.
2# Psycho Mantis
- Game: Metal Gear Solid
- Year: 1998
- Response: “How am I expected to know that?”
What can be trickier than fooling the players into activating the very thing they were trying so hard to stop the whole game? How about a boss that literally reads your inputs and reacts accordingly, thus making all your efforts useless.
At the start of the encounter, Psycho Mantis displays his psychic powers by breaking the fourth wall and addressing the player instead of the character; Snake. He proceeds to list past games played by the Player, the number of times the game had been saved up to that point and moving the controller by the power of rumble (a novel concept in 1998). Then he dares the player to try to beat his psychic powers by commencing the battle.
What ensues is unlike anything that had been done in gaming before. Whether through fisticuffs or shooting the variety of weaponry at their disposal, players were unable to even scratch him as Psycho Mantis managed to dodge each any every move that players could muster.
Compounding the feeling of frustration and helplessness were the occasional instances where the action was interrupted with a blank screen, making the player feel as if their TV video feed was lost or channel had been changed.
Moreover, Mantis also psychically forces Meryl to help him by shooting at Snake and then point a gun at herself, in which case the player is forced to subdue her through non-lethal force, but getting no close to defeating Mantis himself.
So what turns out to be the big trick to defeating this boss? Unplugging your controller from player 1 port and plugging it to player 2 port of course! The sheer nature of out-of-the-box thinking required to solve this problem was beyond belief at that time. Upon getting defeated numerous time, the players are granted reprieve by the mission CO, Campbell as he breaks the forth wall and hints at the controller swap solution to break the ‘psychic grasp’ of Psycho Mantis.
What makes the Psycho Mantis fight earn its number 2 spot is that, unlike the End boss battle, this whole fight was a trick. It starts with Meryl turning on Snake, Mantis dodging every one of the players’ attacks, Changing screens and the whole solution to the problem requiring an action that is outside the parameters of the game itself. Still to this day I wonder who could have managed to solve the riddle by oneself and what went through that person’s mind.
But even this ingenious boss battle trickery cannot stand the level of deceit pulled off by the incident that earns the #1 entry on this list.
- Game: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Year: 2001
- Response: “La Li Lu Le Lo!!!!?”
Yes, Raiden and Metal Gear Solid 2. While it might seem clichéd, one cannot deny that it is the only logical end to a list about Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear Franchise and Trickery. The reason why you saw this #1 coming a mile away is the same reason why no one saw it coming in 2001.
How Hideo Kojima made the players pine to get their hands on Snake and then tricked them into playing majority of the new game with another character.
Whereas this list is composed of entries where certain instance was a trick, a battle strategy tricked the player, a mission objective turns out to be a trick and a boss battle is a chalk full of tricks, in the case of Metal Gear Solid 2, the whole game was a trick.
The seeds of this massive swerve were planted as far as the E3 2000 trailer of Metal Gear Solid 2, which showed off the game’s new engine, new cover mechanics, new A.I. improvements as well as destructibility and detail in the environment but most importantly, the trailer showed and highlighted the series protagonist Solid Snake in action through all the set pieces showcased in the video.
The charade continued in all the trailers that followed. Each showing Solid Snake in different situations in the game and never showing or making the slightest mention of the actual protagonist; Raiden anywhere.
The trailers even went to the lengths of featuring Solid Snake in the Plant Chapter portions where the game would eventually have Raiden as the controlling character. The interested parties were kept completely in the dark regarding who they would actually get to play in the game.
Sons of Liberty started off fine. Players were handed the control over Solid Snake as they made their way across a floating tanker in search of a Metal Gear. However, mere 2 hours into the 13hour game, the Tanker chapter ends with apparent death of Solid Snake and the chapter is revealed to be a prologue to the actual bulk of the game; Plant Chapter.
In the Plant Chapter, the game picks up 2 years later on ‘Big Shell”, an offshore cleaning facility, and players are again given control over Snake in scuba gear. As they make their way through the short basement level.
Players are greeted with a scene, mirroring the elevator scene from Metal Gear Solid, where Snake takes off his mask to reveal his face and instead of the mullet wielding Solid Snake, players are treated to a pasty, bleach blonde character, who is then told that his codename has been changed from Snake to Raiden.
Unlike the self-confident, war-worn, veteran soldier Solid Snake, Raiden was a self-questioning character on his first mission and his feminine features where diametrically opposite from the gruff exterior of the series regular Snake.
Where Snake had a brooding demeanor, Raiden came off as whinny, where Snake rolled into cover, Raiden cartwheeled to do the same, where Snake had backup from past confidants over his codec, Raiden was burdened by nagging girlfriend as his codec support.
What makes the matter worse is the fact that story reveals that the head of the terrorist group is named Solid Snake and even when that is proven to be false, the actual Solid Snake (under the guise of pseudo name; Pliskin) becomes a supporting character for Raiden.
The game constantly reminds the player of the fact that they are not controlling Snake by bring him up as much as possible. Through the entire game, players are left hopeful of the fact that they might get to control Snake after all, but the game merely continues to tease the players till the very end, without any avail.
Therefore it comes as no surprise that this swerve elicited extreme response from the players and fans of the series and to this day, anyone who had the fortune of playing the game can understand the level of shock, awe and multitude of other emotions that they experienced as the game gave them a narrative equivalent of a punch in the gut.
The move was ballsy, controversial and most importantly; genius. It was something that completely jolted the player from his or her comfort zone and created an astronomical amount of controversy.
Players were outraged by the fact that their beloved Solid Snake was taken away from them early in the game and that they were left to control a character so different from what they wanted and expected out of the game.
Due to this bold narrative punch, the game has been hailed as the first example of postmodern game and artistic expression in video games by several people, including Dr. Chris Zimbaldi. Moreover the nature and magnitude of the swerve has garnered the game multitude of accolades, including being one of the most influential games of the decade, and being praised about the notion that every “videogame story that subverts a player’s expectations owes a debt to the ground broken by Metal Gear Solid 2.”
The aftershocks of this trick can still be felt to this day. Let’s not forget that Ground Zeros has also turned out to be a prologue for Phantom Pain, Kojima has also been pretty shady with the trailers for Metal Gear Solid 5, does that sound familiar?
Perhaps the fact that the Tanker chapter was a prologue to Plant chapter would raise some bells? Should we expect same level of “What the hell?!” from the upcoming iteration of the game as well? Looks like this is something that is for Kojima-san to know and for us to find out.