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Make it a (Virtual) Reality: Metal Gear Solid

Your back is against the wall, both literally and figuratively. You’ve made it past the first guard, virtually tip-toeing your way around him as he continued to sleep on the job. Now you’re pressed up against a container, planning your next move. You decide to risk a quick peek out in front, inching your head slowly around the corner. Two more enemies, one standing meters away. You run your hand up against the wall and lightly tap it, gaining his attention. As he heads toward you, you sneak around the other way until your footsteps make an unexpected splash. You look down to see your foot making ripples in a puddle. The guard’s footstep’s quicken. It’s time to run.

MetalGearSolid_1Metal Gear Solid is actually one of the first virtual reality (VR) videogames. No, creator Hideo Kojima’s PlayStation classic didn’t support the Oculus Rift headset 15 years before it became a reality, but the title offered a VR training mode that put iconic protagonist Snake into a virtual training exercise. The idea was expanded upon in the sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, which discussed VR’s efficiency as a combat simulator. Now it’s time for things to come full circle; with the recent release of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, publisher Konami should take a serious look at moving Snake’s adventures into the VR realm.

Of course, there is an elephant in the room when it comes to Metal Gear Solid and VR. Kojima’s serious is infamous for its long, drawn-out cutscenes that can often last upwards of half an hour. They’re a vital part of the franchise, but it’s well documented that cutscenes don’t work well in VR thanks to constant camera cuts and a fixed view. A straight VR port of a title like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots could be disastrous without proper optimisation.

Fortunately, we can find solutions to these problems within the titles themselves. A handful of cutscenes in the franchise’s history place the player in Snake’s view. You can look around while other characters talk and sometimes even interact with the environment. Expanding on that concept would be ideal for VR. Kojima also lets users control the camera somewhat in later titles, allowing them to zoom in during cutscenes, which is perhaps a sign that head-tracking could also be implemented. Perhaps instead of tasking us with sitting and listening to 15 minute codec conversations, they could play out  in-game.

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Should Konami overcome this barrier then Metal Gear Solid would no doubt prove to be an incredibly immersive VR experience. The series already boasts a range of features that would fit in well with the technology. The binoculars, for example, are usually the best way to get a good view of an area in front of you. Pulling them out and using the Oculus Rift’s head tracking to survey the area could create a seamless sense of immersion. VR could then be used as you sneak through the area, letting to peek out from behind walls, being careful not to expose yourself or sit inside a cardboard box using tiny holes to look for passing enemies.

When it comes to action, it’s already obvious how VR enhances firefights and action sequences. But imagine sneaking up behind an enemy as quietly as possible to hold them up. Or having to quickly scan your environment to look for exist strategies when things go pear shaped.

It could also provide a new twist on many of the series’ staple boss fights. Everyone remembers their first battle with The End in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. It’s a marathon match in which you have to live and breath the environment, checking the forest floor or tracks, blending into tall grass and hunting small animals for sources of food. Ideas such as these a ripe for a VR translation, letting us getting our John Rambo on more than ever before. You just have to image taking in the scale of Metal Gear REX as you stand at its feet to get excited.

The stealth genre holds some of the most exciting potential for VR and the Metal Gear Solid franchise is the perfect host to realise that. Hideo Kojima has made it clear that he wants to take the series in bold new directions with Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The newly-implemented FOX Engine that the titles run on provides a stunning sense of realism. VR provides the opportunity to enhance both the immersion and mechanics that this series already prides itself on. Let’s hope it’s not too long before this becomes reality.

‘Make it a (virtual) Reality’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes the videogames we already know and love and looks at how virtual reality (VR) could enhance them. From retro classics to modern blockbusters, we examine the pros and cons of bringing a franchise to VR headsets.