Looking back, it’s downright embarrassing that none of us, at AlienLion, managed to immediately connect the above Phantom Pain trailer to Metal Gear Solid, when it debuted on VGA X. Sure, someone half-heartedly pointed out the fact that the main dude’s mullet looked eerily similar to Snake’s, before getting hushed out of the room, but we didn’t even suspect that it could be a fake trailer for MGS, even after seeing Kojima’s troll face immediately follow the premiere .
We guess that it’s still not a fact that Phantom Pain is the next Metal Gear Solid but it’s probably safe to assume that it is closely related in some way. Well, we wish it weren’t for these three reasons:
3. The Concept
For all we know, Phantom Pain is a story of what happens to a man when he gets hospitalized without health insurance, but the trailer definitely showed whatever was going on in the form of a dramatic supernatural psychological thriller/survival horror game, overloaded with crazy pills. You might want to actually re-read that last sentence because it contains massive amounts of win.
First, with even Dead Space going the way of Lost Planet, we have a dire shortage of decent survival horror games that are neither combat-oriented enough to warrant a freaking multiplayer mode nor about zombies. And Phantom Pain certainly looks like a clear cut case of a desperate and terrifying struggle for survival, despite all the weirdness…
It would actually be rather refreshing to play as a more helpless protagonist than the usual guy with a gun, finding yourself constantly staring into things like someone else’s gun barrel, or ass crack or some other unpleasantness, armed with nothing but a hook attached to your stump.
And not only that, you’d be high on pills throughout, which could bring a very interesting element to a horror experience as well. Think Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem here and all the crazy ways the various drug effects could play tricks on you.
With a setup like that, literally everything could go. At one moment, we could be ducking fire of some spec ops death squad, and the very next, we could be encountering a flying whale, chomping on a helicopter. It would all be crazy but it would all fit and make us wonder just what in the fuck is going on, eagerly awaiting answers! Bring it on, we say!
2. The Tone
Based on a purely personal observation, few people seem to have great things to say about the trailer, if taken strictly as a debut of a new game. Some didn’t know what to make of it, demanding some damn answers, for a change, instead of the endless questioning; while others felt like it dragged on. Not us. We absolutely loved the execution.
For one, it’s always a success when a video game presents itself in such an unquestionably serious tone but does not come off cheesy in the least. The trailer puts us into a very identifiable setting that isn’t some weird-ass spooky town or a scary-dark space station but a bright hospital with real doctors, and then it builds tension from then on, ratcheting up the fucked up to ridiculous levels.
What impressed the most was the very smooth transitions between the batshit insanity and the subtlety. In contrast to the very one-note Beyond trailer, for example, it gave off an inspired playfulness and competence. We didn’t just have a direct lead-up to an expected pay off; we went on a rollercoaster ride of flaming unicorns and shady things that you probably didn’t even notice immediately.
The Snake mullet dude found himself confronting human enemies on a quest to exterminate every living thing inside the hospital, before it all very naturally exploded into the stuff you’d normally see during a shroom-induced stroke, before he was finally cornered by the now-apparently-supernatural hospital security… while in the background…
There are layers, hints and signs throughout, from the floating feathers, to the floating… whatever the fuck that horrific things is. The Phantom Pain does not strike us as an experience that relies on sudden startles, which was the main philosophy behind Dead Space 2, a still decent sequel to one of the only quality horror game series around. It has that Silent Hill vibe that got us all to love the series before it gradually made its way to Silent Hill: Revelations.
After it was confirmed that Phantom Pain was Kojima’s doing, we got even more excited and hopeful. Love him or hate him, one thing you cannot accuse this guy of is being bland. Because of this, we’ve previously expressed our desire to see him move on from Metal Gear Solid onto something fresh and different but what could be more perfect than a horror project?
Think about it. This is the man who put so much crazy into his espionage series that a guy who shoots hornets out of his body doesn’t even stand out as the most ridiculous/unique character in the series. Imagine if Kojima pulled a Psycho Mantis in a horror game. Remember, that’s the guy who shook your controller and read your mind by accessing your memory card…
But Psycho Mantis isn’t even the craziest idea the dude has ever had. When he was working on Snatcher, back in the 80’s, he wanted to put a secret message on the game disks that would be printed with a special ink, which would only become visible when heated with your computer’s body. Just imagine playing a horror game, and right as you are about to take that bathroom break, a message informs you that something will be watching you poop.
And I know what you’re thinking. How often does someone just take out a disk and look at it while its’ still warm. Well, that special ink we mentioned wouldn’t only display a message, it would also produce the smell of blood… “or something like that”.
Seriously, Ground Zeroes looks amazing and has all the wacky ingredients to keep the series relevant and fresh. However, we cannot help but feel like the gaming world is missing out by not getting a Kojima project that allows him to go completely insane, which makes a horror game that features a location with a constant access to every drug known to man about the most perfect fit.