First it was Twin Peaks without David Lynch, now it’s Metal Gear Solid without Hideo Kojima. Konami say they’ll continue the series without the veteran developer, who recently left the company under mysterious circumstances. But Hideo Kojima IS Metal Gear Solid, and without him it’ll be a shadow of its former self.
To credit Kojima entirely for the quality and success of Metal Gear Solid does a disservice to the hundreds of talented artists, coders, actors, musicians, and producers who have poured their souls into the series over the years. But Kojima—who could be considered one of the few true video game auteurs—has final say on everything, and you can sense this in every single one of his games.
Mention Kojima to some people and you’ll hear the same tired old patter about his long cut-scenes, or how he’s more frustrated filmmaker than game designer. But that is, in the parlance of our times, bollocks. Anyone who’s actually played a Metal Gear game will know they’re defined as much by their rich, systems-driven stealth as they are by their ludicrous stories and indulgent cinematics.
But I digress. I’ve already written at length about why Kojima is the master. I’m not actually that bothered by him leaving Metal Gear behind, because the series has had a good run. As far as I’m concerned, he peaked with Snake Eater. But I am bothered by Konami prancing around with its corpse like a scene from Weekend at Bernie's. They should step back and let it die with its creator’s departure.
They won’t, of course. It’s their biggest franchise, and they still own the rights to it. But any Metal Gear games they make from now on will be poor imitations—even if they’re good. They could make a perfectly good stealth game set in that universe, but it won’t feel the same without Kojima’s idiosyncratic touch.
“But what about Metal Gear Rising?” you’re probably shouting at your monitor. “Kojima wasn’t involved in that, and it was rad as hell.” Yeah, Rising is amazing, but it’s not a Metal Gear game. Not really. It’s a fast-paced action brawler set in the Metal Gear Solid universe. It’s entirely possible for talented studios like Platinum to make worthy spin-offs, but they’ll never be true Metal Gear games.
For balance, there are examples of new creative leads taking over an established series and making it their own. James Cameron’s take on Alien couldn’t be more different from Ridley Scott’s original vision, but it’s still awesome. So that’s all we can hope for with Metal Gear. That Konami hand the reins over to someone who can do the series justice. It’ll never be the same, but at least it won’t suck.
I can’t help but think about what happened to Silent Hill. Team Silent were disbanded by Konami, but the sequels continued without them. The result was a series of disappointing horror/action games that didn’t come close to capturing the disturbing, subversive quality of the early chapters. They were fine, but they weren’t Silent Hill. I’d rather see Metal Gear Solid die than suffer the same fate.
But it won’t die. There will be more Metal Gear games, and Kojima won’t be directing them. All we can do is pray they don’t tarnish the series’ good name. As for Kojima, who knows what he’ll do next. I’d love to see him start his own indie studio. Someone as wildly creative as him would thrive in that environment, I think.
If he did, it would mirror the story of Big Boss. He abandoned the United States to form his own private nation of soldiers, free from the meddling of the government. Kojima should do the same, forming his own army of ‘developers without borders’, and he should do it on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean.