The Metal Gear Diaries #7: Lies, Damn Lies and Metal Gear

The setup for these posts is simple: I've never played a Metal Gear Solid game before, and I want to change that. I'm going to be writing my on-going reactions to the games as I go, and sharing them with the world. The Metal Gear Diaries are somewhere between a full critical essay and twitter gut responses, and will form an honest document of my shock, frustration and surprise at the events of, say it with me now, "Metal Gear?!" They will be packed with spoilers for all Metal Gear games!

Last, we investigated the platform “Big Shell” and now, we’re off to rescue the President…

Need To Know

Psych! No we’re not, because holy shit Gray Fox is here ahhhhh it’s Gray Fox I don’t even care that Gray Fox died, he’s baaaaaaaaaaaaack <3 <3 <3

Okay, he’s not back, but there’s another mystery cyborg ninja, hooked up in exactly the same cyborg ninja gear. I’m glad that cyborg ninja gear is mass-produced in the Metal Gear universe, it’s only fitting for a world where every dotcom has their own Mech. And he gives us a level 2 card (finally! These came so thick and fast in the original, it’s an odd change of pace), as well as filling us in on the fact that everything Raiden’s been told is an obvious, obvious lie.

Immediately, this signals a shift in the game. The level 2 card unlocks doors in the warehouse to supply us with multiple assault rifles, and the concept of wearing enemy uniforms is introduced. It feels like a real expansion of my arsenal, far more immediate than the gradual building of power that has defined the progression of both games so far.

This character knocked me off balance a little bit. There’s so much I don’t know, and there’s so much I do know that is probably wrong. I’m excited to push further into the game and get some answers, because man I’m at that point in the middle of a mystery between the setup and the payoff and I’m waiting for it to be filled.

A Whole Lotta Things Happen All At Once

Well. Once Sons of Liberty stops wasting time, it really doesn’t waste any time. The Shell 1 core sequence is one of my favourite parts of the game so far, with this solid three act ramp from infiltration (sneaking in, disguised) to execution (finding the Directional mic and using it) to pay off (everything is revealed but nothing is revealed ahh!) It’s hard to talk about in this format, because I don’t have the context for where it’s exactly going, so I can’t really do any thematic analysis or anything much more than raise my arms going “I KNOW RIGHT?!”

I’m liking the way the mystery is progressing, because instead of Metal Gear Solid’s amazingly baffling web of lies which all centre on Solid Snake, Raiden is so incidental to the happenings. He’s bumbling into scenarios and having his identity assumed by different factions, because they can’t possibly imagine someone could know so little The mystery is bigger than Raiden, the mystery doesn’t care about Raiden – nobody cares about Raiden! The reveals aren’t just reveals of information, they’re reveals of how little you’ve been considered in this world – this isn’t about you.

I wanna take a quick moment to write up my understanding of things so far, because it’s very muddled and really I have no idea. Okay:

Okay, so there’s the La Li Lu Lie Lo, which seem to be a governmental organisation that secretly runs America? Ames works for them and assumes you’re working for them and have been sent to kill the President. Then there are The Patriots – who might just be the same as the La Li Lu Lie Lo? Ocelot seems worried about the possibility of Patriots retaliating against the Sons of Liberty. And Ocelot, Olga and King (who’s gotta be Solidus, right?) are the leaders of the Sons of Liberty, and are trying to liberate Manhattan and make it a rouge state?

Okay. Yeah. Well, I wonder how much of that is 100% wrong and based on a thousand layers of misinformation! We shall see as we move forward.

Also, from the conversations about Raiden’s past that he’s having with Rose, I’m betting like a fiver that the twist is that Raiden doesn’t exist and is a created tool of some kind. Considering the whole game has thematically been about Raiden’s a) incompetence and b) irrelevance, I assumed at first he was just a guy who was Not Snake, but it’s clear they’re building to some kind of reveal and that’s my guess.

I have to be over half way, right? There’s no way of knowing! Let us proceed to the second shell.

What We’ve All Been Waiting For

I did not proceed to the second shell, because the game exploded. Everything happened! I assumed after the prior scenes of reveals we were in for a little more video game downtime, but I walked through a few doors, shot a sniper through a flag, and suddenly the world exploded.

I say shot a sniper through a flag, what I did was stare at the sniper bridge forever, then twenty minutes in I thought “hey, what if I turned behind me?” Low and behold, behind me was a detonator, and I felt incredibly smart. Then I stood there for twenty minutes not realising I’d missed the first few times I shot a sniper through a flag. Videogames.

Anyway, in the short time since the last check in, Solidus Snake showed up, Metal Gear Ray all but destroyed the base, and most shocking of all, Pliskin was revealed to actually be Solid Snake(!!!!!) I know! Though honestly, my favourite moment of all the reveals was the fact that Otacon was there. I cheered for Otacon, because I’ll always cheer for Otacon, who do you think I am?

Sons of Liberty is not the seventeen car pile up in the final room, because there’s simply just too much going on. It’s clearly more complicated, and I’m waiting for the nonsense that has been advertised to be as one of the most confusing endings in videogames, but so far it’s allowed each plotline to breathe. The pacing of the reveals allows these moments to happen, bounce off of each other, and then re-contextualise the status quo until the next big moment. Which is good, I don’t think MGS could get away with another ending like the first game, because people know what the series is now. They have to deliver and deliver they do.

Another thing I’m incredibly into – and it’s been throughout the game, there’s just not been a good place to mention it in this mammoth series of posts – is how Solid Snake is having his own Metal Gear game, you’re just not allowed to see it. There exists in an alternate universe an identical version of this game plot wise where you see it from Snake’s perspective. And that probably would have been fun and all, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as interesting.

Even discarding the meta elements of Sons of Liberty, Snake’s in a good place. He’s working with Philantrhopy, he’s not got any real internal conflicts at the moment, whereas Raiden is not at all. It’s hard to get a read on him, he doesn’t really have any character traits early on except “bad at things.” But through interacting with Snake he begins to gain an appreciation for the core values of the series. He’s finding something to fight for, a reason to keep going, something to hold onto and keep himself human as he dives further and further into battle.

Plus, Colonel Campbell is consistently referring to the simulation as if it matters anymore, and discarding every logical thing that Raiden says, so if Raiden actually exists I will eat my hat.

Balancing Act

Immediately after the most intense couple of story beats the game’s had so far, comes about twenty minutes of me falling off ledges as I make my way towards Shell 2’s core. They’re fun enough, but I’m getting frustrated at them now – Metal Gear games tension between story and gameplay runs deeper than in most anything I’ve played. Matt plays these games as, and I quote “Kojima Bullshit Delivery Mechanisms,” which is how I played Twin Snakes.

I can see why, because when you have to deal with a bunch of busywork before the next big thing, it can be frustrating. But as stealth games, they’re these really interestingly designed sequences of setpieces, and I’m probably not going to be playing them again any time soon. So I’ll take the slightly longer running time and any annoyance, because the moments where you solve the puzzle rooms are worth it to me, as someone with no intention of ever playing VR missions.

Plus, I can’t change difficulty now. Made my bed, and all that.

*

I love this game. I loved this game at the start, then it got all deliberately meandering, and now I am fully back on board. When I’m finished with this journey, I’m going to go back and read the reactions at the time, and try to put together the reasons people dislike it – because I get the reasons that people do like it! Boy, do I get them.

Next: we’re probably won't save the President, because ten thousand more nonsense things will happen before we can make it.