Hideo Kojima recently mused that he’d like to play a remake of the 1998 PlayStation classic Metal Gear Solid with an open world. The only thing holding it back is the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.
There’s something sacred about it that I think could be disturbed by such a game: Shadow Moses.
Metal Gear Solid is home to one of the most iconic playing fields in gaming, Shadow Moses Island, a fictional addition to Alaska. I’m not alone when I say that I fell in love with it the very first time I played this game. In recent times, I’ve begun playing once again, and I can’t help but admire Kojima and Konami’s work. There’s the special buzz that comes from being incredibly familiar with it.
Familiarity leads to love and memorability, and you couldn’t get through Metal Gear Solid without being familiar with Shadow Moses. Konami made sure players were intimately familiar with every inch of this place. Most areas, I’ve realized in retrospect, were pretty small, especially by today’s standards. But did they suffer because of it? Quite the opposite, they thrived. Konami built up instead of out with its use of staircases and multi-floor levels, as well as different sort-of narrow floors of the same building. Compared with a lot of modern games, Metal Gear Solid had you working in some tight spaces. And it was a richer game for it.
Being made to traverse the same places a few times led to players becoming subconsciously aware of the little tricks to navigation, making the location all the more endearing.
Heck, did you play the demo before that game came out? As someone who did, and who had a lot of friends we did, allow me to testify that pretty much all of us put more time into that demo than we did several full games. It was only that first tiny landing area up to meeting the DARPA Chief, so a lot of ground was covered even though none of the individual areas were big. Deceptive, eh? Genius, too.
There was good reason to explore the whole area — guns over here, ammo over there, little bonus cinemas in one corner, subtle story details in another. Then again, collectibles and side content are in open worlds too. I love me some Elder Scrolls, and more recently, Borderlands 2 earned a permanent spot in my heart. My favorite thing in an MMORPG is getting out and looking at the awesome environments. Even when they’re empty, they can be amazing, as shown in Shadow of the Colossus. I don’t deny that open worlds can be awesome. My concern is that the great ones I’ve listed above the exception more often than the rule.
Worse, Metal Gear Solid‘s story requires players to retread the same areas several times. While it could be the case that a bigger area is more fun to see several times, in the special case of this phenomenal game, the size felt perfect to begin with. It doesn’t feel like making it bigger would make it more fun to play. Heck, I don’t even remember MGS2‘s Big Shell nearly as well as Shadow Moses.
The GameCube’s Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes was a rather divisive title which brought Metal Gear Solid 2 style gameplay into Metal Gear Solid‘s world, and the addition was practically game-breaking. I highly enjoyed the game despite the change, but a lot of people didn’t. I see Kojima as both very skilled and pretty lucky to make such a huge, fundamental change and end up with a game as good as Twin Snakes.
I could, of course, be totally wrong.
Konami did genius things with this game the first time around, so there’s nothing to stop them from doing it again. Maybe the open world could offer new, quicker routes to run back and grab the Nikita and the Sniper Rifle? If anyone can find a way, Hideo Kojima might be the man to do it.
As well, the original will still exist, regardless of whatever remakes come out. He could make it a rhythm game teaming up with Hatsune Miku (hey, Sega, maybe you could snag some more money that way?). Crazy as that would be and as mad as some people would get, it wouldn’t erase the existence of the original. I realize this.
If , if, if some time does suddenly free itself up for Kojima’s team, I’d rather they focus on a new Zone of the Enders, or if we need to remake something, going for Policenauts. Then again, as a creator, ambition is very important. A developer and director should work on projects that interest them. A creator being obligated to work on something that doesn’t make the heart race can lead to an inferior product. So while I know what I might prefer, I’m also not going to go so far as to tell the man what is best.