1. Fantastically long-winded cutscenes
This is an admittedly easy target, but it’s still one of the most valid – and most-repeated – complaints that can be leveled against Metal Gear as a franchise. A poster child for the idea that Japanese developers are more interested in making movies than games, Metal Gear is notorious for making players spend as much time sitting through long, exposition-heavy cutscenes and codec conversations as they do actually playing the game. Those cutscenes don’t always have much to do with the plot, either, frequently digressing into historical background or musings on the military-industrial complex.
This approach reached a fever pitch in Metal Gear Solid 4, which tried to make up for its lengthier, more dialogue-heavy cutscenes by actually letting you drive the little Metal Gear Mk. II robot around inside of them, hunting for items (and being totally unable to affect the cutscene in any real way). More recently, the series appears to have finally gotten its shit together, as the cutscenes in Portable Ops and Peace Walker never felt overly long – but let’s wait and see what happens when the series returns to a non-handheld platform before we declare this one fixed.
2. The Raiden bait-and-switch
It’s hard to think of a game that was as strongly anticipated pre-release, and then almost as strongly reviled post-release, as Metal Gear Solid 2. And it was all over one little flaw: it didn’t star Solid Snake. Instead, MGS2 forced us to play through its story as whiny, self-absorbed pretty-boy Raiden. Making matters worse, creator Hideo Kojima had deliberately misled fans about the switch, never indicating that there would be a new protagonist just so he could surprise players with it.
The surprise was pulled off beautifully, but it turned out that a lot of Metal Gear fans don’t like surprises – especially not when they involve a beloved main character being absent for much of the game. Eventually, people got over it, but Raiden remains the only Metal Gear hero who had to be completely redesigned as an impossibly badass cyborg ninja before anyone would even consider liking him as a character.
3. Your enemies are colossal morons
Call this one a concession to fun gameplay, but if we were guarding a top-secret facility, and we spotted some old guy who wasn’t supposed to be there, we wouldn’t give the all-clear after a sweep of the immediate area turned up nothing but a suspiciously open vent and a cardboard box that wasn’t there a minute ago.
4. The story’s more needlessly convoluted than Lost
Metal Gear’s story, rife as it is with betrayals and secret conspiracies, has never exactly been straightforward. Beginning with MGS2, however, its complexity became preposterously hard to follow, continually delving into weird aspects of the characters’ backstories and tossing up red herrings and confusing new developments. There were multiple conspiracies to keep track of (The Patriots? The Philosophers? The Sons of Liberty? La lu li le lo?), each with several hidden puppet-masters. Certain major plot points actually made less sense when they were explained. (Ocelot tricked himself into believing he was being taken over by Liquid Snake’s arm, just to mislead the Patriots? That’s… creative.)
Then there’s all the weird supernatural stuff, like the ghostly Sorrow, the surreal Psycho Mantis encounter and the bee-filled The Pain. That’s not to mention all the characters who can’t seem to stay dead no matter how many times we see them “die.” As the series continues to break its own rules, muddle its own continuity and become increasingly silly and hard to keep track of, we can’t shake the feeling that Kojima’s doing it just to mess with us.
5. Don’t like PSP? Too bad
For the past 13 years, Metal Gear Solid has become closely associated with the PlayStation brand, so it isn’t exactly surprising that there would be Metal Gear games on the PSP. What is surprising is that two of those games would be must-play, canonical chapters in the franchise, meaning that if you’re not a fan of the ever-less-appealing PSP, or of the idea of playing huge adventure games on a handheld, you’re left out in the cold.
Honestly, though, we’d probably find the idea a lot more appealing if it weren’t for the fact that Peace Walker ditched Metal Gear’s tradition of solo sneakery in exchange for a four-player approach that’s much closer to the Monster Hunter games. And, like in Monster Hunter, you’re going to have an awfully hard time bringing down Peace Walker’s huge bosses without ad-hoc help. Is it still possible to fight them on your own? Sure, but bringing friends along means a serious advantage – as well as a fundamental betrayal of everything Metal Gear has previously stood for.