I’m psyched for the Metal Gear Solid 3 remake for two reasons: this entry in the series has never been playable on PC, and it’s the pinnacle of what Metal Gear Solid was up until MGS5. That open world, less-narrative-focused capstone to the Metal Gear saga is a peerless stealth game, but MGS3 is really the pinnacle of the form Kojima was working in from 1998 to 2008, with the first four games. Today’s CG reveal trailer, though, didn’t really feel much like Metal Gear—at least not in the style of Hideo Kojima.
This short trailer reminded me just how much control Kojima exerted over the Metal Gear series, down to how they were presented at big industry events like E3. In the early 2000s, E3 press conferences were still stuffy affairs with businessmen in big suits talking about sales figures and audience demographics between game trailers. Konami certainly wasn’t exempt, but the trailers Kojima brought with him were clearly designed to be events in a way other game trailers at the time just weren’t.
The original MGS 3 trailer was not just a two minute hype reel. It was a gameplay showcase, a comedy, and a graphics engine flex all in one. Kojima was seemingly less interested in revealing the game’s existence than he was making a mini movie that conveyed its tone. Over time his obsession with Hollywood has worn thin for me—I really do not care that he’s gotten Elle Fanning and his other favorite Hollywood celebs to star in Death Stranding 2—but in 2003, nobody else was showing games this way.
I feel confident saying Metal Gear Solid 3 wasn’t just the pinnacle of Metal Gear: it was also the pinnacle of E3 game reveals. It just keeps going, abruptly shifting tones from suspense to action to farce and back again, including meta jokes about Grand Theft Auto and more fake-out endings than that year’s Return of the King.
As a piece of short-form storytelling it holds up really well 20 years later. It reveals little about the game as a whole, not giving up story details or even showing an actual stretch of the game in the way that a traditional “vertical slice” demo would. Instead the MGS3 trailer is more like an official work of machinima, crafting its own out of context battles to show off a bunch of Snake’s new moves… including snake eating.
Konami says the remake will be “a faithful recreation of the original story and game design,” so I’m hopeful that everything that made Metal Gear Solid 3 great will still be there. The jungle stealth and environmental systems hinted at the depth MGS5 would later blow wide open. A couple of boss fights are genuine all-timers, including the open-ended sniper battle against The End. What I love most about Metal Gear Solid 3, though, is how well the Cold War and nuclear arms race fit Kojima’s style of political commentary. The setting allows for a certain degree of old spy movie camp while pulling back from the convoluted digital age politics of Metal Gear Solid 2. The 2003 MGS3 trailer—and its also superb 2004 follow-up, which shows off far more of the story—both reveled in that tone.
Is this kind of game reveal outright extinct in 2023? If not, it’s certainly endangered. We’re lucky if a reveal includes gameplay rather than an overly polished CG particle fest set to a pop song. Even in the best cases, today’s manicured gameplay trailers aren’t distinct creative works worth watching in a decade or two.
Today’s Metal Gear Solid 3 remake reveal certainly won’t be worth watching years from now, either. Perhaps there was no need for it to be—after all, it was going to be tough to outdo the original. But going full CG here has real “didn’t even try” energy, especially as it’s the first Metal Gear anything Konami has released since the 2018 disaster Metal Gear Survive. I don’t think it’s hero worship to say that Kojima never would’ve released a trailer this pedestrian. It at least would’ve undercut the tension with some silly text popping up on screen.