Metal Gear Salad: Hardcore Cooking Espionage

I’ve been arguing (no, that’s a strong word, lets say “debating”) amongst others almost constantly about Metal Gear Solid 4 since its release, about why this game, for me, has really raised the bar for immersion, story, and characterisation. For myself and I’m sure for a number of others, the experience you get from playing MGS4 is heightened massively by a wealth of key moments and plot twists with the ‘wow’ factor back in 1998 and later instalments. All the events have been climaxing to create a war-ridden environment, filled with grunts, roamed by the odd futuristic-Ninja, created by scientists. Snake lurks in the shadows, coasting along walls, faking death with tomato ketchup and sitting in cardboard boxes.

Therein lies MGS’s ‘problem’. I can’t imagine making head or tail of what was going on if I hadn’t played the previous games so much, because this game reeks of information you should have previously learned. For this reason I’d strongly advise against purchasing a PS3 for it until you have your brain tuned-in to the Metal Gear universe. Even if you were to read up on all the characters, you’d probably need to sit down with a list of names, nicknames, pictures and phrases to get all the meaning out of MGS4 that’s packed within it.

Now here’s something to think about: because MGS4 surely alienates people who aren’t familiar with it, does it deserve to be marked down, or less praised than something like Grand Theft Auto 4 that anyone (aged 18 or over) can pick up and play?

We’re a fuming bunch when it comes to film adaptations of the games we love because they rarely stick to the original games content. Imagine the army of Metal Gear-aholics raging over MGS4 because Kojima thought, “Nah, I won’t use information from the old games. New players won’t ‘get it’.”

Picture a bar graph with games, and the higher the bar is, the more brilliant and popular that game is. Grand Theft Auto is right at the top (or indeed any other decent mainstream title). Metal Gear 4 is there too, it’s not quite as good, but it’s close. Now, insert Metal Gear Solid, Sons of Liberty, and Snake Eater underneath MGS4. The history pushes it somewhat higher than the experience you get with one single, detached world in one game. Yeah, a game is a game, we don’t all want to be completely immersed, committed and crying about what goes on (or indeed tied up in a very long cut scene), but that’s what makes it Metal Gear, those are its fundamentals, and when you enjoy them, it’s utter bliss. So back to the imaginary bar graph, if you haven’t played the earlier games, it isn’t that special. Visuals? Phwoar. Music? Wow. But you aren’t experiencing the half of it without it’s rich back story.

Sadly, big-budget games like this aren’t always financially viable, particularly if it remains exclusive to one console. A publisher wants to publish something that will sell by the shedload, it doesn’t have to appeal to fans. In a way, if you can’t afford to shell out on more than one console, this is a good thing, because the bigger games get, the more money needs to be taken back to recuperate expenses, and going multi-format is probably the best way to do that. Sadly I still can’t picture MGS4 coming to the 360, but you never know…

…and for those who manage to make it this far, you’re probably wondering what the point of all that was, and what on earth the title means:

Back in ’98 a friend of my sisters saw my PlayStation games. Her words were: “Metal Gear Salad? Is that some kind of hardcore cooking game?” (Witness the bewildering mind of the non-gamer). But somehow she managed to forsee a future where a simple cooking game has the capacity to take the charts by storm.

So, the rather long awaited point to this post is this; are all games going to eventually devolve into what is simplest, quickest, and cheapest to make? Casual ‘safe’ Zoo Keeper styles that don’t use voice actors, motion capture, or an orchestral score? Casual games are great fun, but the impact of a big-budget title can be mind blowing. I don’t want them to die out.







8 responses to “Metal Gear Salad: Hardcore Cooking Espionage”

  1. Zanveth avatar

    Not a fan of MGS by all means, and although I keep getting #4 recommended to me, I can’t bring myself to purchase it (and a PS3 for that matter,) a friend of mine, described it as the best film he’d ever played.

    As for casual games, I think if you look back to say the dawn of modern gaming (I’m talking the Playstation) then you’ll probably see that despite there being a few casual games around it’s not until this current generation that we seem flooded with them.

    Of course, the developers jobs are made easier by the hardware, take Live Arcade and Wii Ware, both systems which have a few casual games there, sort of games you just pick up, play for 15minutes while your breakfast cooks and then stop.

    Of course, we’ve also seen a huge explosion in boxed casual games, which is probably a sore spot for me as I personally can’t stand them. Sure it’s fine if you get a casual game that actually works well, I suppose Brain Academy is a good example, perhaps Viva Pinata too.

    We’ll never see the big immersive games go though, they simply make to much money (unless your EA and pump out generic sports title 52.) The likes of Bioshock, GTA, Gears, MGS, Final Fantasy and more etc are aimed at the non casual crowd, and at a guess probably sold more than most of the casual titles on the market.

    Only have to look on horizon and see titles like Fallout 3, Diablo III, Starcraft II, Final Fantasy XIII and quite a few more too.

    The mind blowing titles are still here, but I think they just take longer to arrive, although that could be put down to a number of things (increase in development times etc.)

  2. Michael avatar

    Tch, I don’t think it’ll be that bad graphically on the 360! It’s a good thing mine is currently dead or that would’ve just killed it…

    I’m starting to dislike this distinction between casual and hardcore games and gamers. I can understand it being used as a genre label but not as a whole new thing that is almost separate from the idea of a game. It smacks of snobbery to me. “Oh, you’re a casual gamer? Not a real one?”

    Me, I’m just a gamer. I go both ways, as it were.

    Would Pacman be a casual game?

  3. Emily avatar

    Michael, there’s a number of references in the story that compare the hardware you had on the PS1 to what you’ve got on a PS3, and sixaxis is used for one of the bosses. I’m sure they could find a way round it though!
    Yes, the distinction between a casual and ‘hardcore’ gamer is a bit silly really. You can use the term to describe the games, but to describe a person in that way is a little vague (if you like all kinds of games especially) and there’s definately some snobbery about it!

    But yes Zanveth- GTAIV is definately proof that putting a ton into the game can reap amazing rewards. I think some worry just set in when I saw UK charts recently where “Big Beach” something or other on the Wii was ahead of MGS4 in UK sales. Which is silly really because both games were doing very well anyway.

  4. Zanveth avatar

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s deffinately a place for casual games / gamers in the gaming world. My gripe is that a lot of developers probably could make the epic blockbuster game, but instead churn out nasty casual games (I’m talking the real bad stuff here.)

    As for charts, I suppose problem with them is that they don’t paint a fair representation of the title. MGS should never be compared to games like Big Beach Sports, although I guess that’s how it goes. Have to remember as well, those who wanted MGS 4 probably had it the weekend of release where as Big Beach sports etc will get picked up casually over the week etc

  5. Adam avatar

    To be honest I think labeling someone as “Casual” is justified given that the majority of the casual games market are 35 year old + women who are not hardcore gamers. Not to say that gamers cant be both casual and hardcore, but if you look at the majority of people there is a clear difference between hardcore and casual audiences. This point is almost proven above where Zanveth for example is clearly a hardcore only gamer, where as Michael your obvioually both.

    Having attended a few lecturers from game industry analyists I think that he said there was about 20% of players who were both hardcore and casual gamers, this 20% was mostly made up of males aged 14-30 which I assume is school kids, and young males who use casual games websites at work. Where as the remaining 80% is mostly made up of 30+ males, or more predominantally age 35+ females.

    I think that due to the growth of the casual games market (it’s expected to grow like 15% this year if I remember rightly) there will be more casual games being made as everyone rushes to get some market share. However I think that in the end the casual games market will die down and will most likley become similar to the hardcore games market, with a few big publishers/studios owning the majority of the market. We can see this already begginning to happen as Popcap already has a large share of the casual games market, howeever I do think currentally there is space for a few more big casual game developers.

    I deffinatally dont think casual games will kill off the hardcore industry. What I do think is that games are starting to attract a larger audience. The games insustry at the moment is almost exclusivley made up of made developers, with only 10% of the industry being female (and most of them in producing or marketing roles, rather than actual development). With games such as nintendogs and stuff being developed this is going to bring more girls into the industry, and we can therefore expect to see more games being made by these girls as people tens to make games which they know and love (which is why we get FPS’s and stuff being released every week at the moment).

    So in conclusion I think as more people start coming into the industry, the style of games is going to become more balanced… Yes we’ll still have our FPS’s and Racing games being made by those who love those types of games… But at the same time we will have Pink pony games and stuff. Games like these may even eventually be classified as hardcore as the audience of them becomes more demanding and more skilled, I can see the gap between casual and hardcore becoming vey blurry in the future.

    Anyways thats just my 2c.

  6. Dave avatar

    I just don’t like Nintendo’s shift towards catering for this new market while neglecting, to a degree, the fans who have stuck by the company through thick and thin.

    I like Adam’s comment about the lines between casual and hardcore becoming blurred as the audience matures.

    While some may bemoan the fact that there are more ‘casual’ or ‘kiddie’ titles out there, I think in a way this is giving smaller devs a chance to break the market.

    If their first game on Wii or DS is ‘Dog Hairdresser & Fashion Designer’ and they see modest returns which can fund future, grander projects, then that’s a small victory for the little guy isn’t it?

  7. Michael avatar

    No, don’t get me wrong, I get there is a difference between the two based on time spent playing and, more than that, the type of games played. It’s just the snobbery that comes bundled with that which aggravates me, as if they are somehow lesser than ‘true’ gamers, hardcore gamers.

    What’s arguably the most well known and played game of all time? Would it be Tetris? Would it be a casual game, being simple in design? Have you all played it in one of the forms it’s had?

    Now I know casual games have been around a long time but the boom in popularity means developers are rushing to capitalise on the whole new market that’s grown, perhaps because of Nintendo. I reckon that will settle down as casual gamers become more, hmm, discerning, better able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Some may even grow to become hardcore gamers. As we did.

  8. Cathy Alvarez avatar
    Cathy Alvarez


Leave a Reply