There was a Metal Gear game released this month. And for the first time that I can recall, people were not excited about that fact. Metal Gear game releases feel like significant moments in games history, so why did this one feel like it went over like a lead balloon? Metal Gear Survive’s release is being met with absolute vitriol and general unenthusiasm with many fans of the series. The source of this fierce dissent is the fans’ perceived exploitation of the storied franchise to fit a style of game that is so far removed from what they know as a Metal Gear game.
The idea of an exclusively online Metal Gear with an emphasis on co-op and crafting elements does seem out of the typical MGS wheelhouse. Sure, some survival elements were included in MGS3, R&D crafting and the open world were the foundation of MGSV. And while multiplayer has been in the games since MGS3: Subsistence, it was never the series’ strong suit.
Metal Gear Online has always been a complementary experience Konami added in to attract a western audience or sell DLC items. Metal Gear fans come for the single-player story experience that is structured in such a way that the plot and whatever action the player is performing is advancing that plot in a deliberately paced and gradually more difficult fashion. Fans assumed that the dimension-hopping story in this always-online game would not be satisfying for them, and the absence of series creator Hideo Kojima pretty much made dissatisfaction with plot elements inevitable.
Konami needs the Metal Gear franchise to do well. They probably know this, but want to make more money off of each player if they can offer more items through an in-game store on top of the retail price. The traditional Metal Gear game does not work for Konami anymore.
Despite this, many folks have been clamoring for a remake/remaster of previous games in the Metal Gear Solid series. While this may not fit Konami’s desire for games with a carrot to dangle in front of the player constantly, there may really only be one way for the company to win back a passionate, and lucrative, fanbase.
In late 2016, Konami released Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater as a pachislot adaptation and sparked serious outrage among fans who started seeing the detail and work that went into creating this themed gambling machine.
As long as the player kept dumping coins in, the player would see fully HD remastered cutscenes from the game as the story progressed. The scenes retained their original Japanese voice-over work but had incredible textures, detail, and lighting. Since 2015 when Silent Hills got canceled, Konami has been leaning heavily into the pachislot division of their business. While this might leave fans incensed, it is a clear indicator that people want these old games to be fully realized on modern hardware in their proprietary FOX Engine.
Konami still uses FOX for their Pro Evolution Soccer series and MG: Survive but has not yet licensed it out to other developers. Since Konami develops a large majority of their games using internal teams, it’s a safe bet that they want to keep this kind of engine tech away from companies they have no personal investment in. That might be the biggest obstacle, but the potential sales that a fully remade Metal Gear Solid game with the FOX Engine could generate has to be enticing for them even if they do not have the resources to make it internally.
This could serve a similar purpose to the recent Shadow of the Colossus remake. The remake retains the spirit of the original while modernizing some aged aspects on top of the visuals. Of course, creating games isn’t nearly as simple as people make it out to be, and I want to avoid playing armchair game designer as much as possible when articulating this idea. I am not aware of the limitations of the FOX Engine, but given its versatile use in P.T. and PES games, I have to believe that an old MGS game with re-built assets, textures, and lighting is in the realm of possibility. The idea of experiencing one of the earlier game’s stories in a cutting-edge engine and redone cutscenes would appease fans and attract newcomers due to this new accessibility. The Shadow of the Colossus remake has given those curious folks a reason to play with a more modern game playing experience, Metal Gear could easily capture that same demographic with a similar revision.
There is precedent for Konami handing over the license to a third-party developer for the purpose of remaking a Metal Gear game. In 2003, Silicon Knights was commissioned for a remake of the first Metal Gear Solid which released as Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes on Gamecube. The game was created to be more congruent with the gameplay experience of Metal Gear Solid 2 and also contained re-recorded dialogue and cutscenes directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, a Japanese film director.
The remake was well-received by most critics for the new controls and visual upgrades, but many fans took umbrage with certain aspects that were changed. Many of the new cutscenes included new sequences such as Snake doing flips off missiles and Ocelot flirting with Sniper Wolf, as well as new voice actors that didn’t gel well with fans of the first game. There was also a 3DS port of MGS3 that added camera support for custom camouflage and crouch walking, although this was done by Konami in-house.
A remake that retains the original voice-over audio while revamping the visuals and gameplay would no doubt be a hit with fans. The MGS3 pachislot adaption retained the original Japanese audio but added a new graphics engine and cinematic camera angles that give it an amazing flair and style the original game was lacking. The scenes from the pachislot machine might be pre-rendered and not intended to replicate gameplay sections from the original game, but it certainly seems that the FOX engine would be capable of similar quality cutscenes. The shadowing and bloom lighting seems a bit tough to render in real-time but an experience that stays true to what fans expect from the older games while modernizing some of the more dated aspects would win Konami the favor of the MGS fanbase.
The company might not have made the best move funding Metal Gear Survive’s development, but there is ample time to make amends with passionate Metal Gear supporters.