What’s the difference between so-bad-it’s-good and just plain bad? When do bad voice acting, bad translation, and weird capitalisation choices stop becoming a mistake and start becoming an aesthetic?
Hundred Fires brought those questions to mind very quickly. Set in ’60s Cuba, you play as Valero Montenegro, a Cuban mercenary who has more than a passing resemblance to Metal Gear Solid‘s Snake. You’re given orders by John F Kennedy to assassinate a famous Japanese weapons developer. One who wears glasses. Wink wink.
You know the deal. There’s a mini-map, and stealth action incorporating guards with conical vision indicators, who can’t see more than a few meters ahead of them. You must sneak around and … well, actually you really don’t. We just shot the army of generic soldiers in the face and didn’t face any punishment. The enemies here are spectacularly dumb, adhering to their set paths even as friends are loudly shot around them. I also never ran out of bullets. The tension that MGS is famed for just isn’t here.
There’s a part where you have to disguise yourself as a box (ho!) to be transported on a truck. We just shot the guards in the head and then got on the truck. There was no one left to drive. I’d murdered them all. But the cut-scene still triggered and away Valero went.
In fact, by referencing MGS so overtly, Hundred Fires just highlights its own failures. One of the reasons that Metal Gear persists is because Hideo Kojima does something too few game developers do: he takes inspiration from things that aren’t games. MGS on the PlayStation was hugely indebted to film, taking inspiration from John Carpenter and The Great Escape and pushing them through a Japanese game developer’s lens. Hundred Fires simply takes inspiration from MGS. I think creator David Amado FernÃ¡ndez learned the wrong lessons.
It all ends up with something that wears the skin of Metal Gear, and has all the nodding references, but doesn’t scratch the same itch. It’s empty calories. It’s not surprising, really. This is a game mostly created by one person, and one person can only do so much. This brings me to another point.
I completed Hundred Fires: The rising of red star (the game’s weird capitalisation rules, not mine) in 45 minutes. That includes the time it took to make myself a cup of tea. There are extra randomised training missions, and you can do the entire thing again with more weapons, but that simply makes an easy game even easier and shorter. Training missions are only fun when you’ve created a fun sandbox to play in. Otherwise, they’re just more jank.
We’re not against short games, nor episodic ones. But Hundred Fires is a prologue. Sure, it ends on a lovely off-the-wall cliff-hanger but it’s such a small snippet that it’s hard to really recommend.
Even if you’re a massive Metal Gear fan, I can’t recommend Hundred Fires. Simply remember the first game instead. Because that’s all this is. A superficial trigger for memories of better times.