Peace Walker breathed new life into Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series of stealth-action titles. In an ironic twist, it ended up with a greater level of adoration than its direct predecessor, Metal Gear Solid 4, despite having significantly less hype surrounding its release and a downgrade in visuals owing to the PlayStation Portable’s inferior hardware. The game reached an even larger audience once it became a cross-platform title packaged with Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3 on the HD Collection. Feeling rejuvenated from the ill will he bore towards the development process of Metal Gear Solid 4, Mr. Kojima expressed interest in releasing the next installment, titled Ground Zeroes, as an immediate follow-up to Peace Walker on either the PlayStation Portable or the PlayStation 3. However, due to a combination of numerous delays surround Metal Gear Rising, a spinoff sequel to Metal Gear Solid 4, and AAA gaming being a few years away from starting a new console generation, it was decided that Ground Zeroes would bridge the gap.
In March of 2012, Mr. Kojima spoke at a Q&A to mark the inclusion of Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2 in the Smithsonian’s “Art of Video Games” exhibit. He stated that he and his staff were working on a project he believed would become the shining moment for both his career and the Metal Gear series. This new game was to deal with taboo issues while still being fun to play. In August of the same year, a new Metal Gear installment dubbed Ground Zeroes made an appearance at an event that celebrated the series’ twenty-fifth anniversary. Mr. Kojima referred to Ground Zeroes as a prologue to a bigger title, and that it would involve open-world gameplay. In December, a new trailer for a game titled The Phantom Pain surfaced at the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards. This game was apparently being developed by a Swedish company named Moby Dick Studio, but astute fans took notes of various hints and deduced that Kojima Productions made the trailer. Although Mr. Kojima equivocated when asked about this, he eventually confirmed the theory in March of 2013 when he revealed the full name of the project: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. This led to a fair bit of confusion, as many people thought that Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain had been combined into a single game before Mr. Kojima stated that they were still intended to be separate experiences. The reason behind this was to gain feedback about the quality of the game’s engine.
After a lengthy development cycle, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes was released in 2014 to a mixed reception. Although many critics praised the gameplay, fans weren’t thrilled about the prospect of paying forty dollars for what was essentially a tech demo whose main campaign could be completed in less than two hours. Mr. Kojima assured the public that The Phantom Pain would be two-hundred times larger than Ground Zeroes, and that the best was yet to come. One year after the release of Ground Zeroes, Konami announced that they were undergoing a corporate restructuring. As a majority of their income came from their line of pachinko machines, their game development divisions became less lucrative for them as the 2010s progressed. This infamously resulted in Silent Hills, the ninth installment of their famous survival horror franchise, being abruptly canceled and them parting ways with Mr. Kojima and his personal studio. Despite all of this turmoil, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain saw the light of day in September of 2015. Just like its two predecessors, it managed to amass universal critical acclaim from countless gaming publications such as Famitsu, GameSpot, and IGN. Was it truly able to escape Konami’s tumultuous atmosphere unscathed and shine as one of the decade’s highlights?