The Metal Gear Diaries #14: Still In A Dream

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, The Boss betrayed us, and we Skyfalled off a bridge and broke every bone in our body. Now, we’re going to fix ourselves with the power of healing items in menus.

Healing

Dear God, I’m glad I’m playing on easy and touristing my way through. These survival systems are intense. And one day I’d love to see them! But for now, let’s patch ourselves up and move along.

The CURE system itself seems like overkill to me, the amount of things you need to keep track of in order to heal each wound is incredibly high, and they all put drains on multiple resources. Though, outside of this scripted instance I doubt I’ll have to heal this many wounds at once again, so maybe it wouldn’t actually end up being as bad as it looks.

It is a good way of making you feel fragile, of adding a routine into the process of healing; the act of complicating it more than just a single health bar in and of itself makes Snake feel more like a living, breaking human being, regardless of how abstracted it is. In fact, I’d say because of how abstracted it is. So much of Snake Eater’s approach to its systems is to provide a deliberately abstracted situation that has the effect of conveying tension and fragility without attempting to represent any of that literally. It’s all bars and resources and menus, but it most definitely works.

Russian Attack

I love the shots of The Boss and Naked Snake reaching out to each other as they fly away. They’ve already filled that relationship with a tragic pathos that they’ve not been able to get out of any other in Metal Gear. I just want them to hug and hang out, watch movies and then leave, respecting each other. They’re relationship’s far too maternal for them to hook up, obviously, but I’m sure that hasn’t stopped the internet.

Volgin launching a nuke on Russian soil was unexpected, because I thought the worst of it was over, and we only had to pick up the pieces. This is striking as I believe it’s the first actual nuclear blast in a Metal Gear game, which is a little odd for one of the most fervently anti-nuclear games I’ve ever played. The moment when it happens is appropriately shocking and shows Volgin to be an impulsive leader; it’s clear that was not a planned action.

Ocelot getting to act as the voice of reason brings excellent little touches to his character. He’s always been playing the long game in this series, working for The Patriots, feeding false information to Solidus, and it’s good to see that coming through in his early character. He can’t stand purposeless violence, violence that isn’t exact and deliberate, violence that isn’t explicitly designed to further a goal.

The ripples of the nuke fade away, and what comes next is still unkown.

Holy Shit, That Theme Tune

SNAKE EAT-EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER

They really went all out on this one, didn’t they? Just the most amazing in your face Bond Theme with powerful horns and awesome abstract Snake visualisers. It’s a better bond theme than probably 80% of bond themes, when you consider that Bond Themes include this.

I’ve got a massive smile on my face. I mean, that final horn sting? Who wrote this, I need to look it up when I’m done. They got the tone spot on.

This game is excellent, let’s carry on!

Phone Call

Huh.

That’s something I definitely didn’t expect: an actual phone call between Khrushchev and President Johnson. Up until now, Snake Eater had been riding the line of history, inserting its fictional events and characters in between the real ones, and the tension that comes with the game’s Alternate History storytelling is my most talked about element during the last few posts, and I haven’t exactly been fully positive.

I think I’m onboard now. There’s something distancing about bringing in these two as Metal Gear characters, hearing Metal Gear dialogue come out of their mouths, that addresses the alternate history tension head on. It positions the Russian Premier as Metal Gear Khrushchev, and fully removes any sense that the story of Snake Eater is revealing the real story. Not that Metal Gear was ever doing that, I just think that establishing these real people as capital C Characters within the story is a far more honest act than sidestepping the issue, and definitely the right move.

The phone call itself is fascinating, because it’s a look at the people in charge, the people that so far have remained off screen in these games. So committed is Metal Gear Solid to portraying the effects of war on the Soldier, that a pull back to the people in power is a rarity for the series, and certainly frames Operation: Snake Eater in a different light than the other missions.

Clear Our Name

It’s all in service of setting up the stakes, and the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. I mean, they’re not, you’re going in to stop a nuclear launch as per usual, but they’ve been given a greater clarity and context than in either The Twin Snakes or Sons of Liberty. With The Boss’ betrayal last time, I’ve got a clear emotional hook into my mission, and with the political situation, I understand the wider context perfectly.

It gets the tone of an early Bond movie so spot on, with completing the mission and stopping the bad guy less important than navigating this knife edge relationship with the world on the brink. Naked Snake has to take out The Boss to clear his own name, he has to rescue Sokolov and destroy Soghod at the orders of America, and he has to take out Volgin at the orders of Khrushchev. And stepping an inch out of line in any one of these conflicts of interest could lead to world destruction.

And as we drop into Russia from orbit (this game is set in the past), we get the traditional eight-objective overload that comes from entering the main mission in a Metal Gear game. My ears perked up as I recognised the name EVA, who I know ends up getting naked with Naked Snake at the end of the game (she should be so lucky). I’ve never heard of ADAM before though, so he’s probably going to die.

Their characters sound fascinating, US moles who have been working their way up Russian ranks, and have been immersed in Russian culture and military systems for years. I wonder how much their characters are going to explore this duality or how much I’m setting myself up with false hope here. It’s happened before!

La-Lie-Lu-Le-Lo

FUCK

OH SHIT

AHHHHHHHHHHHH

You better believe that I made a noise when Major Zero just casually dropped “Who Are The Patriots?” and “La-Lie-Lu-Le-Lo” as Snake’s codewords. Where is this game going? What’s gonna happen? I’m on the edge of my seat now.

Here we go. Here we fuckin’ go.

*

I doubt I’m going to end up liking Snake Eater more than Sons of Liberty, because the ending of Sons of Liberty spoke to me in a highly personal way that games don’t manage to do very often, but I really love what Snake Eater is so far. It’s such an earnest genre work that wears the love of its inspirations so brazenly on its sleeve. It’s excellent.

And I’m probably barely a quarter of the way into it. I’ve just started the second act! This game has so much more to reveal to me, and I feel giddy standing on the edge of it. Metal Gear has always been excellent at the final-plot point explosion, but with each game it improves its crafting of the setup and the story flow. I’m so glad I took this ridiculous journey, and I’m pretty happy you’re all taking it with me.

Next: we commence Operation: Snake Eater…