The Metal Gear Diaries #5: Kojima Hates You

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 infiltrated the Tanker with the help of our boyfriend Otacon, this time we’re going to see what Sons of Liberty is, as we meet Raiden…

Setpiece By Setpiece

Moving past that explosive gate feels like a turning point. The corridors get darker, and longer, but ever increasingly claustrophobic. There’s a forced fight with a group of guards, an assault that’s far more a standard shoot-out than anything else, save for probably the communication tower in Twin Snakes. But while that is a cathartic moment (a catharsis which the game goes out of its way to criticize), this was far more awkward and just… a shooter. It was weird! It felt a little purposeless considering how effective the Olga fight was, but hey ho.

It’s followed by perhaps the goofiest stealth sequence I’ve ever played, in which you sneak through three rooms of marines, in order to make your way to Metal Gear Ray and snap some photos. But they’re all watching their commander give a speech, either on massive projected screens, or in person in front of the mech.

I loved it because it was specifically designed to bring attention to the nonsense of the situation occurring. Not to undercut it, because Metal Gear is far too earnest about its themes to do such a thing, but just to let you know that it knows. The fact that I see the beam of a projector, and instinctively know I have to crawl under it, is funny. As I move through, these moments just get increasingly ludicrous, with crowds of Marines turning because the projector shuts off and switches, or the commander stopping half-way to make his Marines do some stretches.

It’s the game yelling “WHAT IS THIS BULLSHIT” at itself, a hilarious bit of comic relief built into the play itself, which is a great bit of pacing, especially as I’m playing this game slowly. The pacing of Metal Gear is one of its most effective elements, I’m coming to really appreciate it.

ALSO THERE’S A CARTOON OTACON AND HE’S ADORABLE I JUST WANT TO TAKE HIM HOME AND PUT HIM ON MY COMPUTER AND TALK TO HIM AHHHHHHHHHHH SO CUTE

The Return Of The BROTHERRRRRRRRRRR

Well.

What the fuck.

I’m writing this entry with the game paused on the post-cutscene save screen, because I need to get down some kind of reaction to what in the hell just happened, because damn. The Tanker sunk, Snake’s apparently drowned? But he’s definitely been framed for this fuck up, in a move planned by Solidus and executed by the shared consciousness of Liquid Snake and Revolver Ocelot. THE SHARED CONCIOUSNESS. (People hated this? How?!)

As a moment of pulling the rug out from under you, it’s an excellent ending to what I assume is the prologue of Sons Of Liberty. It’s not that far off from the RPG trope of your town burning down in order to propel the story forward and reveal the true stakes and scope of the world at play. For a moment that I’d expected to be a very aggressive subversion of audience expectation, it’s really just foundational, 101 storytelling.

It reminds me of “No Russian,” the infamous level of Modern Warfare 2, again built to be this rug-pulling moment in a sequel that expands the scope and kicks the story into action. It focuses on the antagonistic Russian forces setting up the American protagonist to take a fall and implicate them in not-good shit in order to catalyse world reaction against the Americans. But MW2 uses it to kickstart a jingoistic tale of false flags and blood drenched Americana, whereas this could not be farther from the case here.

Honestly, it’s astounding just how pointed Sons of Liberty’s anti-American rhetoric is getting in the early stages. I kind of know about the Patriots, and I know Solidus is the President, but right from the start the game contextualises all these ideas in a really grounded context. The character of the Colonel exists deliver a critique of American cold war rhetoric, to shatter the conflation of capitalism and freedom. Ocelot’s betrayal then frames the idea of the cold war as somehow petty and beneath him, and the very real century long world conflict becomes a mere stepping stone to the conflict between Ocelot/Liquid and Snake, acting as mythic figures treating the world as their plaything.

I could probably ramble for an entire thousand words about this cutscene alone, but I won’t because I need to play the game. I’m so excited to see what happens next, because I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop in terms of Kojima raising his middle finger to his fans. Even as a rug-pulling moment, it has still been peak fanservice, because did I mention that Revolver Ocelot and Liquid Snake are now a shared consciousness?!>>!!>>!>!!???!?!!1—

This game’s a delight so far, let’s carry on!

Enter: Raiden

Oh! Okay, I don’t wonder anymore.

The intro to Big Shell is designed to suck the air out of the room. And I’m not going to lie – it kind of does! The tanker section is so propulsive, that prior scene such a fantastic shift into gear for the story, that stepping back into this completely different character with little to no understanding of what’s going on is a jarring shift to say the least.

Plus, whilst the Tanker section features the direct callbacks to Metal Gear Solid in aesthetic choices – the Game Over screen, Otacon, Solid Snake; the entire introduction of Big Shell is far more overtly a riff on the introduction of the design of Metal Gear Solid. It’s got the long exposition dump, it’s got the room with water, it’s got the elevator up to the surface where the main character is revealed. It’s what you want, and fuck you, Kojima’s gonna give it to you. Now see how you like it.

Raiden is the most obvious audience surrogate character that I’ve ever seen – his existence makes VR Missions canon! He’s trained in these simulations, and is convinced that makes him ready for the real thing – but Campbell is not convinced. Raiden’s the player (duh, I feel shitty writing this out because of how obvious it is), desperate for his chance to play at being Solid Snake, and through him we get to see what Kojima thinks of his audience.

The key difference between him and Snake – apart from Raiden being peak anime prettyboy – is Raiden’s attachment to others. Rose cares for him, and he cares for her, and I have no doubt that will prove to be his undoing in some way. Raiden is the anti-Snake, but he desperately wants to be Snake, and this is clear to everyone but him. He is not cut out for this one bit, and I’m interested to see how all this stuff plays out, because I’m going off the introduction alone, and I don’t really know how the meta elements of MGS work besides “Kojima Hates You.”

For as deliberately underwhelming a sequence as it is, it makes sure to throw in some hooks beyond “okay, you’re Snake now, deal with it.” Solid Snake is the supposed leader of the terrorists (what), but you also see him take out the guards ahead of you and ride the lift (also what), which functions mostly as the wink and nod from the team to say “there is going to be something at the end of this ride, keep going.”

Which is what I shall do!

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Anyway, I’m interested to see where this goes. I’m half expecting that Sons of Liberty is going to be a not all that great game in order to prove a point, but I doubt something such as that would lead it to have the reaction that it inspires. It’s not going to be a tauntingly empty MGS-riff for long, it’ll take us into places far more provocative, and I’m ready to see what they are.

Next: we sneak our way into Big Shell…