When Hideo Kojima created Metal Gear in 1987 with the intent of producing a more thoughtful, stealth alternative to the action games of the time, he never thought that 25 years later he would still be working on the franchise. After all, he swore that 2008’s Metal Gear Solid 4 would be the last in the franchise. Since then, he wrote and directed 2010’s Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, is serving as executive producer of the upcoming Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and now he's officially working on the next entry in the saga, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes.
At Metal Gear Solid’s 25th Anniversary event at PAX, Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima officially unveiled the fifth main console entry in the Metal Gear Solid saga. The roughly 15-minute demo, running on Kojima Productions' new “Fox Engine”, featured real-time cutscenes with seamless transitions to open-world gameplay and some seriously impressive graphics, which according to Kojima would be able to run on the current generation of console hardware.
Hardcore Metal Gear fans should be able to roughly piece together what’s going on based on the trailer, but others may be a little lost due to the series' infamously convoluted narrative. Below, we break out the important bits of the revealed trailer, filling you in on what’s what and offering conjecture over what the unknown elements could be.
The Return of Big Boss
The teaser image released earlier featured Snake’s legendary figure, though his eyes were covered by a pair of night vision goggles. To some, this created some uncertainty over whether or not this was a young Solid Snake, or his legendary father, Big Boss. The trailer cleared any doubts, however, showing an older, grizzled, eyepatch-donning gentlemen who was clearly Big Boss, though without his trademark headband (abandoning it in the wake of events that occurred Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker).
When is does it take place?
Snake/Big Boss is sporting almost all grey hairs this time around, meaning it definitely takes place after the events of Peace Walker but before the events of the original Metal Gear. Big Boss appears to still be the leader of Militaires Sans Frontières (MSF), judging from the “army without a nation comment” made during the trailer’s opening monologue.
As for specific dates, a little more speculation is required. Metal Gear Solid 4 revealed that the birth of The Patriots, the “Illuminati”-esque secret society that appeared throughout the series, resulted in a rift between Big Boss and his former commander, Zero. Judging from the title Ground Zeroes, this new MGS entry could be exploring the height of that conflict.
The appearance of Chico (the boy in the cell) helps narrow down the timeframe of the game, appearing only a couple of years older than his appearance in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Based on this information, it’s safe to assume that Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes will take place between 1976 and 1978.
Paz and Cipher
The opening of the trailer features a voice over from Big Boss mentioning the fallout between the MSF and Paz, a teenaged double agent working for Cipher, a.k.a. The Patriots, who attempted to persuade Big Boss to join their cause. After Snake declined, Cipher attempted to frame him and the MSF by hijacking a Metal Gear and pinning a nuclear strike on them.
With Ground Zeroes, tensions between the MSF and Cipher are surely going to escalate, with the game perhaps showcasing an all-out war between the two parties. With the game set to feature completely open-world gameplay, this could create some incredibly captivating gameplay scenarios.
The Man with the snake skin
Snakes are one of the most common symbols throughout the Metal Gear franchise, being the moniker for three of the series protagonists (Solid Snake, Raiden, and Naked Snake), as well as three of its antagonists (Liquid Snake, Solidus Snake, and Python). As the trailer shows, a fourth may be entering the villains category - a mysterious man in a black trench coat and fedora, whose skin has a scaled, leathery quality, much like that of a snake’s.
Of all the new elements introduced in the trailer, this man’s presence is easily the most mysterious. Apparently the leader of “XOF” (a reference to FOX, Big Boss’s former unit), the trailer featured him talking to Chico in his cell, asking him “what it felt like to be a traitor”. What could this man’s role be?
When is it coming out?
Kojima did not reveal a specific release date for Ground Zeroes, but did confirm it would be releasing for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Being that the consensus is that the next generation of consoles will start either Holiday 2013 or sometime in 2014, I think it’s completely reasonable to say that we could possibly see Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes by Summer 2013. However, this will put it only a few months after the confirmed February release for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, so Konami will possibly give it a little more time for fans to get hungry for Metal Gear again.
Like most of Kojima’s teasers, Ground Zeroes gives us a taste of what’s to come while using vagueness (and possibly misdirection) to keep us guessing. Needless to say, however, the Ground Zeroes reveal is easily the highlight of PAX Prime 2012, and we can’t wait to uncover more.