Hideo Kojima opened his GDC keynote with an impressive trailer and the news that Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain are actually Metal Gear Solid V.
Kojima, who appeared on stage sporting facial bandages at first, also confirmed the involvement of Hideki Sasaki and Masayuki Suzuki in the project. The main vocal talent seems to be 24 actor Kiefer Sutherland, replacing long-term Snake voice actor and firm fan favourite David Hayter.
The Phantom Pain attracted attention thanks to its strange, and now apparently fictional, front man: Moby Dick Studio's CEO Joakim Mogren. There were rumours of a Metal Connection from the start, not least because the use of the FOX Engine was confirmed, and Joakim is an anagram for Kojima. A trailer for the game, released last year before the MGS V reveal, is below, in which the Melville reference is played upon when Snake's mysterious hospital benefactor asks him to "call me Ishmael."
In a largely technical presentation, fronted predominantly by CG art Director Hideki Sasaki, Technical Director Junji Tago and lighting lead Masayuki Suzuki rather than Kojima himself, the GDC audience was given a deep insight into the inner workings of the FOX engine. The next hour was a tightly developer-centric experience which was closer to a middleware sales pitch or technical demo than the fan-feeding consumer-focus which some were expecting.
Particular attention was paid to the lighting and textural aspects of the new creation system, delving into details such as the angle-dependent appearance of wall textures, hair translucency and the implementation of systems which account for the refraction of light through eyeballs and the accurate representation of cloth.
For the layman, it all amounted to a visual spectacle which fulfilled many of the promises which Kojima had previously made about the addition of Western tech to his own inimitable style and attention to detail. Full of characteristic humour and self-referencing sight gags, the ninety minute presentation set out the stall for Konami's forward-looking focus on what was repeatedly referred to as true photo-realism.
A certain pinch of salt may be necessary to swallow that assessment, but even at close range on a large screen, the fidelity of the environments, materials and faces on show certainly established the FOX engine as a clear major player in the busily confrontational field of next-gen graphical technology.
A self-contained modular system, FOX seems to offer Konami the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with major off-the-shelf players in the middleware market, although it seems unlikely that the engine will be farmed out to any other studios. In fact, Kojima seemed to reference one of the more obvious opponents for the graphical crown in an aside about the nigh-ubiquitous Unreal Engine, pointing out that he wanted to make Metal Gear Solid, not Epic Gear Solid.
In closing the session, it was officially confirmed that the new Los Angeles branch of Kojima Productions, which takes the outfit's iconic Fox logo to a new shade of red, is actively hiring staff to work on both future Metal Gear and other FOX engine games. The studio will occupy 30,000 square feet of space and intends to become the "best in the world," according to its studio head.