EDIT 3/7/13: Check this out! http://operationrainfall.com/etsu-tamari-on-mgr-revengeance-story-changes/
I think the reason there are so many Metal Gear Solid games set in the past is because Kojima has a genuine interest in history.
Games like Snake Eater and Peace Walker are pieces of historical fiction. The Cold War makes for a good setting because of all of the opportunities for espionage.
But also because it was an era in human history when films started to reflect the fears of society instead of repressing them. From The Day the Earth Stood Still to Godzilla to On the Beach, people everywhere started to understand that the future was as terrifying as it was promising.
Kojima has demonstrated his love for film from the beginning of his career, with his Michael Biehn-ish Solid Snake and his Sean Connery-esque Big Boss. That love is made more obvious in Snake Eater and Peace Walker, where characters actually start bringing up specific movies. One character even mentions actually being inspired by moves like Dr. Stranglove and 2001.
Kojima is basically wearing his greatest desire on his sleeve. He wants all video games to start capturing the zeitgeist of the era, as movies did during the Cold War.
As the Metal Gear series has been doing all this time. From the Genome Project to the Patriot Act to the War on Terror, Metal Gear has been unique amongst most games for actually kind of wanting to say something about the world.
So it’s not surprising that Kojima wanted Revengeance to star, not Raiden, but the cybernetic ninja Gray Fox. Seeing as he doesn’t make it through Metal Gear Solid, a game starring Gray Fox would certainly have to be set earlier in his life – another prequel.
Considering this initial idea, and the presence of Kojima’s upcoming Ground Zeroes, I think he knows that the Cold War has the richest veins for him to tap into.
The only other option is to keep going into the future. And well, considering how Metal Gear Solid 4 ended, there are only so many ways to take the story without it becoming more crazy and less relatable to anything he’s interested in addressing.
Revengeance is definitely a Metal Gear game. But it’s not a Kojima game. It, too, addresses real world concerns, but it also removes what little subtlety remained in the series’ storytelling.
September 11, 2001 is mentioned. What’s “wrong with America” is specifically addressed. It’s pretty silly but, at the same time, at least it’s something.
Another weird thing about Revengeance is that it’s a little contradictory to the rest of the series. Metal Gear Solid on the whole is anti-war – there’s always a non-lethal solution to a problem in most of the games. That’s patently untrue in Revengeance, a game based on cutting people into multiple pieces. Raiden’s violent nature is addressed eventually, almost to a satisfactory degree, but most of the cast is still pretty gleeful about his killing prowess.
But, hey, it’s an action game!
The funny thing is, even though there’s a huge emphasis based on cutting things in half, the most fun parts of the game are the boss fights during which you use bullet-time Free Blade mode to find the enemy’s weakpoint and cut through their defense. Most of the boss fights are based on surviving while you figure out what the trick is. In that way, it’s a lot like a Metal Gear game.
The rest of the game is fun, to be sure, fast and frictive, but it’s a lot more mindless in comparison. In fighting regular enemies, I was rarely ever careful with my selection of attacks. I was never super concerned with juggling or crowd control. My whole thing was just, “I gotta hurt these guys enough until I can cut them in half.”
According to the game, all cyborgs have a glowing spine in them, and if you can cut it out of them and grab it before it hits the floor and goes splat, you can absorb its Glowing Spine Juice. It doesn’t make any sense, but it makes for a super interesting mechanic. Not only does absorbing these electrolytes give you sweet points, it also restores your health and Super Slow Down Energy completely.
It’s a super neat idea, linking your ability to heal to your killing prowess. But it’s basically undermined by the fact that, well, you can also heal by just picking up healing stuff that’s lying around. They work like Rations do in the other Metal Gear games – if you have at least one, you’ll be healed when your life is reduced to zero.
Of all the mechanics that made the transition to Revengeance, this didn’t need to be one of them. If my life depended on my accuracy, I would take super great care in killing my enemies with efficacy and seek to improve my skills. Instead, there was always a safety net there.
Consumable items on the whole are not necessary, but they’re present anyway. It seems silly to build a game on lightning-quick slice-and-dice action, and then have sub-weapons that you have to stand still and point to use. Exploding things just doesn’t feel as fun as cutting them. The only time they’re fun to use is in VR Training Missions, which makes you use them in a context that is never repeated in the main game.
The sub-weapons in Revengeance stand in great contrast to the arsenal at your disposal in Kojima’s other great action production, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. Honestly, ZoE’s combat on the whole is more thoughtful while being every bit as quick.
I was most thoughtful during some of the stealth sequences where some big bruisers were involved. Most of the time, though, being discovered is merely a nuisance – and in some cases, a blessing, because it means more butts to cut!!
I sound super down on it, but it’s definitely worth playing. Most of the set pieces are pretty engaging, some of the new characters are actually interesting, all the boss fights are great, and it’s super fast paced. My final time was about 5 hours, not counting deaths!
That said – though they’re KIIIINDA like apples are oranges – if you want to play an action game and don’t care one way or the other about Metal Gear, go for DmC. I find it more cohesive and, frankly, prettier.
SPEAKING OF TORCH-PASSING
I think Team Silent knew when it was time to stop making Silent Hill games and why.
Games in a series, by nature, have a lot of shared aspects. If you are able to expect what’s about to happen, because it happened before, and then it happens, it’s not scary or special.
Some of the shabbier Silent Hills have simply taken the same formula and slipped in a slightly different story. What I thought was brilliant about Shattered Memories is that it took a story that’s been told before and completely changed the formula, ultimately changing the nature of the story as well.
The important thing in the best Silent Hill games is a simple story [beneath all the dense symbolism]. Go to Silent Hill, find your daughter. Go to Silent Hill, find your wife. The scary thing is that you know you can’t leave until you’ve done what you came to do.
In Downpour, your presence in Silent Hill is basically an accident. Your goal is to get out. I mean… alright. The problem with that is you KNOW you’re not going to get out until the game wants you to, so there isn’t, like… an important thing to do. It’s basically like the Haunted Mansion.
It’s got a lousy aesthetic. The dumbass monsters, the Haunted Mansion menu designs (complete with woman screaming for no reason??), the not-that-shitty but super-repetitive soundtrack.
The stuff I liked best were the moments where the game’s environment would warp to deceive your understanding of its layout – a clever idea and an actually impressive technical trick.
I also like the few scares that manifest in places while you’re not looking, even if you JUST searched there. It’s a great way to prove that, even with full control of the camera, you’re not in control of your reality.
But most of those stop happening towards the end. In fact, the end is pretty predictable. Whereas every other Silent Hill kind of goes crazy at the climax, Downpour basically sticks with the Real World/Other World formula to the end.
I… yeah, I dunno. I fucking hate Silent Hill fans. They complained about a lack of combat in Shattered Memores, so, OH JOY!! They added it back in for Downpour!!!
BECAUSE FIGHTING IS MY FAVORITE PART OF SILENT HILL GAMES
I LOVE IT SO MUCH
Because, like, running from your fears and transgressions isn’t what Silent Hill is about at all.
It’s about shooting something six times with a handgun or twice with a shotgun.
THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT
Hey, you know what should be in the next Silent Hill?
There should never be another Silent Hill.
You know why?
Because Silent Hill: Book of Memories exists.
You can tell Book of Memories is a Silent Hill game because there’s rusty metal and shambling monsters everywhere.
Whatever. If we couldn’t appreciate Shattered Memories, this is what we deserve.