The Metal Gear Diaries #15: Sex With Guns, Gunsex

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 escaped and left us for dead, so we have one week to clear our name. Now, we’ve landed back at the facility, ready to begin Operation: Snake Eater…

Nightime

The sound design in Snake Eater is phenomenal. Silence is so key to the feel of moving through the jungle, amplifying every single press of my foot echoing through the trees, and the birds flying away from me as I approach. At once, it creates an atmosphere both serene and oppressive, calm in the moments of isolation and instantly tense when soldiers arrive.

Honestly, it’s great to see Metal Gear Solid nail this outdoor atmosphere so expertly when up until now it had been a game of steel walkways and metal crates. If anything, the atmosphere in Snake Eater is more assured than anything that came before. Big Shell had its Oceanside aesthetic, the wind blowing and bird perching, but it never managed to feel as coherent as it is here.

The Russian jungle feels so much more hostile in the night, too. Without light to peer through the trees, the environment becomes obscure, and it becomes impossible to tell at distance the difference between a threat and harmless wildlife. Hunting out for items is impossible when I can’t scan them out from the environment at a glance.

Let’s get to where we need to go. This is unsettling.

And The Horse She Rode In On

Hahaha, Snake just runs into a horse because why wouldn’t there be a horse there? Rather than assume the presence of a horse means that an enemy is nearby, he instead tries to pet it, because Naked Snake is a being of pure love and joy. LOOK AT HIM PET THAT HORSE. What a good horse. More petting in games please and thank you, in 4 can Old Snake stroke a cat?

I’m shocked that we have such an early confrontation between The Boss and Naked Snake. I was certain that we’d not be seeing her at least til the second half of the game, and probably towards the rear of that. But no, here she is, dispensing melancholy wisdom to our poor Snake, who wants nothing more than to not have to kill his mentor.

But this time he gets thoroughly trounced, again, The Boss is stronger than him and could kill him with a thought if she wanted to. I love all of her dialogue in this game, it’s filled with so much more emotion than Metal Gear’s usual foreshadowing, not least because we know the discoveries that lie ahead for Naked Snake. She hints at the existence of greater forces (The Patriots, probably!), and bemoans Snake’s naieve view of warfare. We know the end of Big Boss’ path, and we know how the world ‘works’ in Metal Gear; Snake Eater uses the audience knowledge to colour its mystery with a far more emotional and tragic tone, and I’m really into it.

I’m Scared

I made it to the place where we found Sokolov before, and I’m scared out of my damn mind. Something’s going to jump out of me. I just know it. I’m going to look at this furnace and a dentist is going to slash my throat off.

Oh shit – the door shut behind me.

Save me. Save me please.

Help.

Eva Fallen In Love With Someone

God dammit, Kojima.

Eva’s introduction starts excellently, this tense scene right out of a horror movie, building up to the most indulgent fanservice climax as Snake yells “WHO ARE THE PATRIOTS?!?” over and over. And then she proceeds to strip down, as I can press R1 to look at that titty, while Snake gives a boyish giddy grin. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

I mean, it’s to be expected, Twin Snakes had all the awkward awful flirting you could want, and the stuff with Meryl certainly fits within this mold, but it’s still a shame to see it return. It’s just not what I come to Metal Gear for, because after all the only couple that matter are Snake and Otacon, video game boyfriends for life.

Plus, this scene comes after a bunch with The Boss, the series’ best female character so far, and I had been thinking for just a moment if this was going to signal a brief upward trend in Metal Gear’s relationship to women, but alas it was not to be. And it’s not like The Boss isn’t in the same writing zone as this, The Boss holds a maternal role and is thus sexless and her writing focuses entirely on Snake’s need for her approval. Eva holds a love-interest role, and is thus strong, feisty and sexual, but seemingly only in ways that centre on helping Snake.

I like to call this: the Steven Moffat approach to writing, and by god it hurts to bring that comparison in to a game series I like a lot so far.

That said, the scene where they totally fuck through their intimate and extreme descriptions of military hardware was hilarious, I can’t be hating too much today. Plus, considering Snake Eater is just a Bond Movie, Eva’s character is completely to be expected in its genre pastiche. Not saying that excuses the way she’s presented, but it does give it some historical context at least.

I’m sure there’ll be more to her revealed as we go. I hope so, at least.

Setpiece

The fight with the Ocelot unit is far more staged than any that have come so far, are we already through the stealth room portion of MGS and into the setpiece sequence? I feel like with each game, the time on standard stealth scenarios has gone down and down and the time on individually crafted setpieces has gone up.

Not that I’m complaining, it’s just bizarre to see a game in which an incredibly strong core gameplay conceit is developed, only to throw it out in favour of hey: shit’s happening now. But hey, that’s why VR missions exists! I wonder if Snake Eater has any bonuses like that, I know Sons of Liberty did but I do not have the time.

Everyone Dunks On Ocelot

Ocelot sucks.

He’s lost every fight that he’s stumbled into, and now he’s got beaten in a shootout with a bike. It’s kind of hilarious just how ineffectual young Ocelot has been (at least in combat), when you consider how important he becomes to the story in later games. Though, he is the very first boss you takedown in MGS, so perhaps this isn’t a surprising turn.

I also gotta admit: I laughed at “he’s still young.” They can’t kill Ocelot, he has to show up later, no matter how much more sense things would make otherwise.

Calculated Risks

I like Naked Snake’s inability to see Eva as someone who is/isn’t trustworthy in the face of Major Zero’s explanation of political espionage. Major Zero sees this as a job, as a game in many ways, one with risks and probabilities, one where the most effective option can be calculated and should be followed. Snake can’t stop seeing Eva as a human being (ironically, after her introductory cutscene), as someone who may or may not be lying to him, another human being. His propensity to establish human connections and define his actions that way is weakening his ability to be a soldier.

At some point, Big Boss is going to become a legendary soldier and transform into a myth himself, presumably by the end of this very mission. But right now, he’s torn between loyalties, unable to truly commit to the mission, because he can’t see the world as a series of objectives. Unlike Solid Snake, who is most definitely capable of this, Naked Snake feels raw and intensely human.

It’s impressive that the game can convey so much difference in character between these two Snakes, whilst keeping their mannerisms, attitudes and design almost identical.

Switching Sides

Good, Snake Eater does elaborate on the interesting elements of Eva’s character, the second that she and Snake talk in Codec. This is somewhat of a common occurrence in Metal Gear, the showy moments are in the cutscenes, but the real thematic depth is in the codec sequences, because there’s no need to rush, and characters can just discuss around the game’s ideas for as long as they feel is right.

Snake’s first thing to ask Eva is, of course, why did she defect? He uses her as a way to understand The Boss, rather than trying to forge a healthy relationship with her as an individual. Eva talks about the lies of nationalism, about cultural imperialism; how things that she’d been taught to believe as inherent truths were simply cultural assumptions ingrained in her by circumstance. Metal Gear has always held war up to be a sad and pointless act, so it follows that Snake Eater is firmly interested in the Cold War as an ideological war, trying to come to grips with how two sides of the world can go head to head over so very little truth.

As is his way at this point, Snake is still confused as to why Eva would question her loyalties, despite the game explaining to him every five seconds, he still can’t fathom why someone wouldn’t remain loyal, why someone would throw away those truths that Snake needs to survive and complete his mission.

And that has to be Snake’s breaking point, right? The moment where the ground falls out from underneath him and he realises that all he’s been fighting for and all he believes in is a lie – literally, due to the existence of the Patriots – but more metaphorically, due to the need to mature and accept culture as something more than a monolithic glob that belongs to you. I don’t think he’s going to be able to make that leap, and when the time comes, he’s going to become Big Boss as we know him, and decide the only solution is to burn the whole system down.

But we shall see! Such a prediction is based on a thousand assumptions and I don’t have anywhere near close to the information yet. I’m excited to see what the inevitable confrontation at the end of Guns of the Patriots is going to represent, ideologically, and what the eventual thematic battle of Metal Gear Solid will be between.

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After this, we’re going to swim around this swamp and look for as many items as we can find. Losing the key-card structure of backtracking, Snake Eater’s search for items becomes a little more labourious and frustrating.

But oh well, such is the way of things.

Next: Boss Fights make their glorious return!