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 time, we turned off the game and started again, leaving us to wonder if we’ll ever be able to beat Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater…
The entire Codec Crew in Snake Eater are delightful, so far! The Boss and Naked Snake have a fascinating relationship, and I look forward to see it developing, but Major Zero and Para-Medic are just cool characters to hang out with. It’s nice, after the trip down the self-referential hole that was Sons of Liberty for Snake Eater to present you with some characters that don’t have any obvious purpose other than to be cool characters. They are analogues to characters in the other games, but being analogues doesn’t appear to be the central focus of their being.
Major Zero is just a British Spy Dude, and that’s excellent, but the true standout of the crew is Para-Medic, who exists to spew facts about old movies and talk directly to the player as a person playing a video game in 2004. As much as Mei Ling is fantastic, this has to be my favourite save gimmick, because it contextualises the tone of Metal Gear incredibly well (as another silly fun story with a serious anti-nuke message), and also because it serves as advocacy for how awesome old movies are. It goes against all common writing wisdom to insert a character into your work solely to sing the praises of something you love, but it comes across as the most earnest thing. I should find the original Japanese version of Godzill! I will!
Plus the dig about “hey one day you’ll be able to play movies!” is hilarious, I’d like to congratulate the team for that.
AHHHHHHHH IT’S BABY OCELOT AHHHHH OMG AHHHHHHHH
Look at baby Ocelot, he’s a baby, he hasn’t even realised he’s meant to use a revolver yet! I was wondering two things going into the Ocelot scene, and they were:
- When is this game going to truly kick off?
- I wonder how much it’s going to be a series of references to future events?
The answers were: right goddamn now and almost all of it. We’re treated to a good long cutscene in which Ocelot and Snake showdown for the first time, Snake giving Ocelot the idea to switch to the revolver, and the two leaving each other with the kind of respect you only see from the first meetings of antagonists in a prequel. Was the person who just tried to kill you suspiciously familiar with you and left you alive for no real reason? Congratulations, you are starring in a prequel with someone you will later fight.
More fascinating than young Ocelot’s appearance, however, is the reveal of Snake Eater’s core plot: Russian Civil War. Which begs the question, if Sons of Liberty was a takedown of America, as well as its capitalist and individualist society, is Snake Eater going to be a similar analysis of Russian society? Obviously, 1964 is the year in which Khrushchev is replaced by Brezhnev and Kosygin – this early cutscene sets up that power struggle as the machinations of Colonel Volgin, commander of the GRU. I assume the game takes place as Khrushchev is still in power, and the events we are about to see play out are going to be the decisive
It’s a little strange, framing the later conflicts of the Cold War as mere lies to be filled in with the new truth of Metal Gear, but it’s par for the course. The last game did have the reveal that the ideological concept of America gained sentience.
I’m still wary because of the ties to real events, alternate history Cold War fiction so often promotes a harmful view of that conflict, serving essentially as a subtle form of American Propaganda, but this is Metal Gear so at least I don’t have to worry about that in any way shape or form. But I do think that, as a crucial era of history that still sits so close to us, we have a responsibility to portray it and contextualise it in an honest manner. The Cold War was in many ways a war of propaganda in and of itself (it was also a real and bloody war, I do not intend to downplay the human cost of these awful years), and in that way it continues to this day. Just look at the cultural understanding of what socialism is and how far it is from any actually held left wing ideology.
Metal Gear is Metal Gear though, so like I said, I highly doubt the sequel to one of the most pointedly anti-capitalist works is going to be a work of capitalist propaganda, if anything it’s currently showing the ways that individual moves for power pathed the way for the Soviet Union to collapse, but I feel strange. Maybe it’s just because I learned about this period of history in school, and seeing Real World Things that I learned about and Metal Gear Bullshit rubbing up against each other is just going to be weird until the credits roll.
Any dissonance usually parts by then.
How Do I Open The Gate?
Sokolov just ran away. I’ve been trying to get through this gate for half an hour, where is it? WHERE DO I GO?
TELL ME WHERE PEOPLE
(don’t, if you’re reading this I found the way out)
(I just wanted you to know my pain)
I’m A Fool
You don’t go through the gate. You go back to the rope bridge.
Everything happened all at once and I’m kind of left spinning at the whole thing. Snake Eater starts really low on objectives and antagonists, as far as Metal Gear games go, it drops you into Russia and says go find a guy. There’s no team, there’s no Big Bad, there’s none of the obvious Metal Gear things that usually come in that initial briefing. You don’t even get the goal of photographing Ray inside the Tanker that you do in Sons of Liberty.
They save all that for this one cutscene, in which The Boss reveals herself to have defected to the Soviet Union, and Volgin shows his face. I love The Boss’ sad attitude towards Snake, acting like he’ll understand one day why she made this choice, but he’s too naive now. And given what we know about what Big Boss does, we know that she’s right.
Cobra Squad, The Boss’ requisite team of superpowered soldiers sure are ridiculous at first impression, and they seem to have a kind of natural theme? The Boss herself can control the weather, there’s a man who can command a swarm of bees, and Volgin summons lightning in order to charge up his makeshift knuckle duster made of Bullets. This makes sense, given that it’s the sixties and Metal Gear can no longer rely on its technological nonsense that it so loves. It didn’t reveal the powers and characters of all the Cobra Squad, it kind of lets them sit in the distance, ominous, letting you know that hey: you’re gonna have some boss fights in this game.
Having The Boss’ close personal ties to Snake be revealed pretty much from the off is going to colour the rest of the story in a light that I can get behind. So much of Metal Gear’s storytelling has been based on lategame twists, and whilst I’m sure that never changes, having the question not be “who are they to me?” and instead me “why did they do this to me?” is a monumental emotional change in the storytelling. I think I said earlier how I expected Snake Eater to be a more quietly sad game than any of the others, and it’s already proving true.
And. And! We catch our first glimpse at a Metal Gear here, which is far earlier than I ever expected, and far much more like a Metal Gear than I expected. The words aren’t used, but it’s definitely a Nuclear Tank that operates on its own and launches intercontinental missiles. Snake may not have said it, but I certainly growled “Metal Gear?!”
In many ways, its an identical first act structure to Sons of Liberty, the initial mission with the propulsive end of act cutscene, but I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s not about to follow this up with a Raiden style “fuck you” moment of its own.
Maybe I just play the rest of the game from this shallow pool of water with a broken arm. I hope I don’t do that though, that would be sad.
I’m lying with my arm broken by some rocks and I need to fix myself sharpish. Maybe I’ll get out of that jam and go in search of revenge?
Next: We're still in a dream, Snake Eater…