Codec Logs: Polygons and Vision Cones



To: Sean Gandert
From: Blake Foley
Subject: RE: I’m Pretty Sure the Surgeon General Wouldn’t Approve

Believe it or not, I’ve known people who play the Metal Gear games and skip the cutscenes and codec conversations. When Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain came out, I recall visiting message boards and seeing people applaud the fact that that game was extremely light on cutscenes compared to previous games in the franchise. We all come to video games for different reasons and I’ve always found that to be one of the cooler things about my favorite hobby, but the idea of playing Metal Gear Solid and skipping the exposition is something I’ve never been able to come to terms with. What even is Metal Gear Solid without the cutscenes and codec conversations?


I’ve heard people claim that the gameplay in Metal Gear Solid is bad. I disagree. But I will say that the game can’t succeed on its gameplay alone. From a modern perspective, Metal Gear Solid‘s stealth is good enough to reenforce the story that Metal Gear Solid is trying to tell. In the original Metal Gear on the MSX2, the stealth gameplay was born out of limitations and the story was wrapped around it. Kojima could’ve easily left those limitations behind him when jumping to the Playstation and made an action game, but he didn’t. He instead used stealth gameplay to frame and—more importantly—pace the story he wanted to tell. When you say that the game isn’t interested in the player having fun, I’d agree[su_tooltip style=”dark” position=”top” shadow=”yes” size=”2″ content=”In subsequent playthroughs of most Metal Gear games, I’d find ways to create my own fun within the gameplay. I’d create challenges, I’d mess with the AI, and I’d play for speed. We’ll get to Metal Gear Solid 2, but that game gave me a whole new toolset for creating my own fun. I’m not proud of my actions… ” behavior=”hover”]1[/su_tooltip]. It shares a lot in common with the survival horror genre in that regard. People criticize old survival horror games for controlling poorly, but clunky controls add to the tension and terror that those games are going for. In Resident Evil, one zombie could be the end of you, and that increases the stakes of each encounter and the tension of the moment. Metal Gear Solid‘s stealth is no different. The game’s rules are clear, but not precise to the point that they can be easily manipulated. Snake is alone without back-up and needs to do the impossible. The gameplay should reflect the tension of that situation, and it does.


That isn’t to say that every one of Metal Gear Solid‘s rough edges were intentional. That would be irresponsible. Kojima and his team were still refining a genre that had yet to go mainstream, and polygonal games were still in their infancy. The early parts of Metal Gear Solid have a steep learning curve that asks a lot of the player. Every time I restart the game, it takes me a while to relearn the game’s quirks and I die half a dozen times on my way to the Tank Hanger. It’s the story and setting that keep pulling me forward. An interesting thing starts to happen: I stop thinking about the controls so much and I start making fewer mistakes. By the time I’ve watched the DARPA Chief die, I’m not thinking about the controls at all. Weirdly, Metal Gear Solid might be better on a second playthrough. I’m curious what you think.

So that brings me back to my question: What would Metal Gear Solid be without the cutscenes and codec conversations? It’s a surprisingly difficult question that might have a weirdly simple answer—it would be a bad video game. But this first question also begs for a follow-up: What would Metal Gear Solid be without the gameplay? My answer here might be more surprising—it would be a bad movie. In my mind, neither could survive on their own. I’ve seen a lot of games try to be like films, and they suffer for it, failing to take advantage of what makes video games great. Some games even seem to feel insecure about what they are. I’ve also seen games shun cinematic presentation in favor of keeping the player immersed in the body of the protagonist. Kojima clearly loves games and he clearly loves films. Metal Gear Solid is what comes of that.


Almost two years ago[su_tooltip style=”dark” position=”top” shadow=”yes”  size=”2″ title=”” content=”Two years? I’m sorry… Tag, you’re it.” behavior=”hover”]2[/su_tooltip] you asked me what sets Metal Gear Solid apart from the franchise’s past and I was frozen by the question. But I think I finally have an answer I’m happy with. While Kojima’s touch can be seen in Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, it isn’t until Metal Gear Solid that we start to see Kojima himself in the art. His love of film, his politics, his philosophy, and his dedication to pushing the boundaries of video games can be seen in every part of it. Even today, in 2018, nothing walks the line that Kojima started walking with Metal Gear Solid. While some of his choices are questionable, the Metal Gear Solid games are never insecure in what they are.


I’m wrapping this up and we’ve still barely talked about the game’s actual plot, characters, and themes. I’d like to know more about what you think of the more fleshed out Solid Snake we meet in the game. He is introduced as the macho grizzled soldier archetype, but over time he begins to show a vulnerability and depth that I’m not used to seeing in video games or the movies that inspired the character. A lot of it is pure cheese (“Can love bloom on the battlefield?”), but it weirdly works. Snake is an omnicapable badass, but also a hopeless romantic.


  1. In subsequent playthroughs of most Metal Gear games, I’d find ways to create my own fun within the gameplay. I’d create challenges, I’d mess with the AI, and I’d play for speed. We’ll get to Metal Gear Solid 2, but that game gave me a whole new toolset for creating my own fun. I’m not proud of my actions…  
  2. Two years? I’m sorry… Tag, you’re it.

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