If rumours are to believed, Metal Gear Solid is in line for some sort of a revival. Multiple reports have claimed that it is one of several Konami properties that’s going to be licensed out to third party developers and that multiple Metal Gear remakes are in development, while Konami’s own comments – who claim that they’re “in deep development of a number of key projects” – have only added fuel to the fire. Not only that, they’ve also seemingly hinted that they might indeed be collaborating with third party devs on future games.
Unsurprisingly, the prospect of Metal Gear Solid coming back from the dead has been met with a wide variety of reactions. There’s general skepticism at the very notion, of course, which is understandable, given how Konami has operated in the last few years. But if we were to move past that and assume for a second that the reports are accurate, there’s still plenty else to consider. For instance, without Hideo Kojima at the helm, would a Metal Gear Solid game even be, well, Metal Gear Solid?
That’s a question that’s come up more than a few times when people have discussed the future of the series, and there’s a very good reason for that. Metal Gear as a franchise is and always has been in a very unique position, where every single mainline game in the series has been directed and led by Kojima, the man who created the series. Kojima, of course, tends to exert a great deal of creative control over his games, whether it’s for the story, the writing, or the gameplay mechanics, so his ideas and his creative vision are very much a crucial part of the identity of each Metal Gear game. So if you take Kojima out of the equation, would Metal Gear still be Metal Gear? Would the series lose its identity? Would it lose what makes it unique, what has set it apart from the rest of the crowd for so long?
It’s not uncommon for video game franchises to keep on continuing, persevering, and thriving even in the absence of those that created them. In fact, that’s not just uncommon, that’s very much the norm. You don’t look at Resident Evil and wonder if it will work without Shinji Mikami, or at The Legend of Zelda and question whether the series will lose its identity if Shigeru Miyamoto were to stop having any input whatsoever on the future of the series. Franchises are, of course, defined by how they start out, and their future growth is informed by their inception, but they’re not beholden to their creators, either.
So why is it that that question is asked about Metal Gear Solid so often? Well, again, it’s not an unfair question to ask. The creation of a video game is a very collaborative process, the result of dozens or hundreds or even thousands of people pooling their technical, artistic, and creative talents together to create a single, cohesive experience. But as much as that is true for Metal Gear as well, specifically where this series is concerned, it’s easy to see Kojima’s hand in almost everything that it does. Yes, of course, Metal Gear games are the product of hundreds of developers working together, but all of those ideas in the final product stem from Kojima himself, who, again, exerts more creative control over his products than most directors in the industry do.
So if a Metal Gear Solid game were to be made without any involvement from Kojima whatsoever, what would that look like? Well, it’s hard to predict something like that until we actually see the (hypothetical) product with our own eyes, but even so, some things are easy to predict. If a developer takes on a new Metal Gear game, they’ll have two options- either put their own stamp on it, or try and follow in Kojima’s footsteps. Of the two, the latter is obviously the safer choice, especially for something as big and beloved as Metal Gear. In fact, even someone who’s looking to put their own stamp on the series would still be doing it within a framework defined by Kojima’s past work.
That’s a risky proposition though, because that’s a fine line to walk. You want your game to be respectful of the series’ past and its identity, you want it to adhere to a certain aesthetic and personality, and you want to make sure that you actually do a good job of trying to emulate the stuff that you’re trying to emulate. But you don’t want to be unoriginal, or stagnant, or creatively bankrupt. Games like God of War’s 2018 soft reboot and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild have definitely struck that balance, so it’s not like it’s an impossible task, but it’s worth remembering that both those games had people calling the shots during development that already had a long history and familiarity with the series. Is that a pre-requisite? Well, no, of course not. But it definitely helps.
An easy out in any such situation, especially in the case of Metal Gear Solid, is remakes. And sure enough, if rumours are to be believed, that is indeed how Konami is choosing to bring the series back, with at least one remake (or maybe even more). If, say, Bluepoint Games hypothetically remakes Metal Gear Solid 1, they have a playbook to follow- they can be much more confident about retaining the series’ offbeat humour, all of its bizarre tendencies, and all of its unique quirks, because their task, first and foremost, is to recreate. Sure, there’s some reimagination involved as well, especially for a game as old as the first Metal Gear Solid, but that’s a far less daunting task than creating something entirely new, completely from scratch.
Metal Gear Solid 1 was a pretty short game, of course, especially by modern standards, so any remake would have to expand on the game with additional story and gameplay content, and that’s where things become tricky again- but again, fleshing out an existing story to make it more consistent with stories in future games rather than having to create something completely new is a much safer task. So if a studio has been tasked with developing a remake, or more than one remake, they can use that to help themselves find their feet, get familiar with the series and its ins and outs, and then maybe, one day in the future, set out to create something completely new for it with much greater confidence.
Metal Gear is a special series, and there’s something very specific that fans want to see it deliver, something that almost no other property in the series has tried delivering, or is even capable of delivering. Expectations are always set when it comes to Metal Gear, to the extent that when even Kojima himself went off-book with Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain, he was met with fierce resistance and backlash, in spite of how good those games were. Being tasked with bringing the franchise back is not exactly an enviable position for a developer, especially if you don’t have Kojima by your side. But if the reports are accurate and someone has really shouldered that responsibility, we’re going to be keeping a keen eye on how they take it on. With cautious optimism, sure, but at the end of the day, the games industry is better when Metal Gear is thriving- so here’s hoping we get back to that point sooner rather than later.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.