I’m Not Good at Titles — Open Worlds in Video Games

So, that is one ugly sonofabitch. I drew that guy like 3 times before I got his face looking like it should actually belong to his body. The third of which may or may not have been 15 minutes before this page went live…

So I was going to put up reviews of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and Infamous Second Son this week. This very quickly became a large and unwieldy post that needed to be split into two. But while I was at work today I actually thought about how both games are “Open World” games but they actually both go about this in completely different ways. While I do love to opine, I thought it might be more interesting to talk about how these games kind of compliment each other.

Also, I learned how to put things behind a little clicky “continue reading” link so that our main page isn’t super cluttered with extra-wordiness!! See below.

First off, Infamous is HUGE compared to Metal Gear. Infamous gives you the whole of Seattle to run around in and mess with. You want the Space Needle? You got it. You want a fully-functioning tram system and random pedestrians running around? Done. You want loads of guys to shoot your pew-pew powers at? It’s all there. The Seattle of Infamous is a city that’s huge, but sparse. There’s very little to do other than what you’re told you can do. Sure if you want to spend a few hours exploring you’re absolutely given the space and tools to do so, but you’re not going to find much. The map marks everything you can interact with and that’s relegated to your missions, side missions and people on the street you can mess with. With the exception of some cleverly hidden-in-plain-view easter eggs, you’re not going to find much else to do. The game is predominantly a “Go here, do this, now go here and do this” affair. But Infamous is still a blast to play because of perfectly balanced and implemented power sets, set pieces during the campaign that are truly impressive and a feeling that you’re discovering and shaping the world around you. You never feel like the world could be bigger, you never feel like there isn’t something to do, even if it’s just collecting bullshit. It’s kind of an amalgam of the best open world games out there. It’s a little bit of GTA, a little bit of Crackdown and a little bit of Spider-Man 2 for the PS2 (say what you will there is still no other game that made it so fun to get around a city.)

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, on the other hand, gives you a modestly sized area that is still brimming with things to do. The entirety of the game takes place in Omega Base. Which is maybe, maybe 20% the size of the playground you’re given in Infamous. But running around inside it you get the feeling that this world is 100% more “real” than Infamous. “Real” in the sense that what you’re doing has weight, not just because you don’t have superpowers. You get the feeling that while the objective of the mission may still be “go here, do this” you have so much more freedom as to how you can go about that. In Infamous a lot of that choice is based around which power you’re going to use to complete your objective or if you’re going to pick the good or evil karma option. But in Metal Gear you’re given a world full of variables that you can directly control. So much of the game’s potential lies in the missions you unlock after you beat the main mission, but even that first mission is full of experimentation potential. Enemies react realistically to what you throw at them and the game reacts realistically to how you decide you want to complete it.

An Example:

You’re in the middle of Omega Base. It’s raining, making it easier for you to retreat and hide if you’re spotted. You’re safely behind cover when you spot an enemy guard. Do you tranquilize him and hide the body? Do you sneak up behind him, interrogate him for useful information and then kill him? Riddle his body with bullets and deal with whomever else that might alarm? Crawl into the bed of the truck he’s about to get into and ride around the base? Hop into a nearby anti-aircraft gun and blow him and anyone else who comes to his aid up? Or do you just…leave him alone, letting him think you were never even there and move on to your objective?

The answer is yes.

Now I  just get excitable as to choice — I like to keep my options open, and while the Metal Gear franchise has always relied on stealth, any of those options and so many more are the “correct” way to play Ground Zeroes. The best example I can give for how the game changes depending on you is super spoilery so I’ll be vague. Your first mission tasks you with rescuing Paz and Chico, two members of Big Boss’ private military who defected, were captured and are now prisoners within Omega Base. You’re given orders as to which one to rescue first, and that person gives you information about where to find the other so you can rescue them as well. You can actually do this entire mission backwards and not only does that effect what you’re told when you rescue the person you were supposed to get to first, it changes the way the end conflict unfolds completely. Omega Base may be small, but it is mighty.

It might seem like Metal Gear is showing Infamous up. Smaller world, more to do. But really I think they work together to show that while open-world games are becoming more and more common, they’re also becoming more capable of allowing for true freedom to do what you want, any way you want to while still being huge and pretty. Infamous is the huge, super-powered empowerment fantasy and Metal Gear is the smaller, more thought-provoking dissection of choice. They support each other.

Honestly, I’m really hoping that all of this comes to a head with Watch_Dogs and we get a gorgeous, massive open world where what you can do is more varied than just option a or b.

As always, thanks for reading!