The Metal Gear Diaries #24: Frat Patrol

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 met up with Drebin and decided that we’re going to need his sweet sweet cool awesome super sexy fuck yes guns in order to make our anti-war critique. Metal Gear is a strange house of cards that falls down if you have to explain it to anybody. Today, we’re going to finally meet the informants!

Fragile Collapse

Sneaking through the collapsing building feels like Guns of the Patriots making a mission statement, or justifying itself in an underplayed way. Getting this feeling of the world collapsing around you wasn’t possible on the technology that existed before the power of the mighty cell processor!

But seriously, this opening has been a departure in many ways, but in just as many it’s been justifying and contextualising the reasons for the changes. You’re not sneaking into a base, you’re moving through a warzone with troops fighting against each other. It changes your relationship with the battlefield, the fact that soldiers care about fighting each other, and not just fighting you.

It really hammers home Metal Gear’s continuing ideas of decentralising the player as the most important person in its universe. The games are built around them, but they create a universe which doesn’t care and uses the player characters for its own ends, and as the technology increases the games emphasises more and more elements which place the player as just one small part of a larger world. Before, it was the wildlife and the feeling of being in a natural environment. Here, it’s the sound of the guns that aren’t aimed at you, and the feeling that the floor could just fall out from underneath you.

Come On, Snake

Snake sees a man taking a shit in a canister and thinks “I’ll have that.”

Let it never be said that Metal Gear is not also consistently the stupidest series of videogames ever made.

I Am Not Your Ally

I crouched in the robes of my fellow soldiers in the shadows by the frontline. I waited for the gunshots to stop ringing out, I waited for silence to fall for a brief moment. And when it did, I walked out among the dead, collected the weapons, and returned to wait again.

Once I was satisfied with my bounty, with the profits I reaped from the deaths of others, I pushed forward, and cleared the building in front of me. The rebels who I had been fighting alongside set off a firework and cheered, they had made it, the sacrifices of their brothers were not in vain, and I was their hero.

Fuck me, Metal Gear is brutal sometimes in its portrayal of war as dehumanising and repugnant. It takes systems present all over games, weapon collection, an economy and upgrade system, and infinitely respawning enemies, and combines them into a cohesive whole which loves to make me feel bad about what I’m doing.

Guns of the Patriots is just as much a game about games as Sons of Liberty, except whilst that dealt with ideas of player entitlement and audience expectation, this is a far more striking commentary on the language of shooters specifically. It’s like Spec Ops: The Line, but five years before that game, and at least a year before the games it was directly riffing on.

Two seconds after someone shits in a drum, Metal Gear goes back to imbuing the concept of infinitely respawning enemies with themes of the futility of war and the dehumanisation of its fighters.

These are the hard swings I live for, thank you Metal Gear.

Hiding In The Menu

So, it turns out that all along, as I’ve been saying “huh the story is more streamlined this time, it’s weird there hasn’t been a briefing that explains the concepts at play,” that in the menu sat the exact briefing I was looking for, that explains literally everything. Now I feel like a bit of a dummy.

Luckily, all that I inferred from the main cutscenes is correct, this just gives some more info as to the role of the PMCs and the practical function of the War Economy. It also makes America’s responsibility for the rise of PMCs far more absolute, placing the Manhattan Incident (Big Shell) as the series’ 9/11 analogue, the start of people’s beginning to lose faith in state controlled armies. The independent private military has no ideals or values and so unlike the protection that America “provided” to the rest of the world, these PMCs are reliable.

Also, hey, the game explained what the mission actually is. There’s five PMCs that are really one massive PMC and Liquid Snake controls them all, trying to drown the world in war in order to bring about Big Boss’ ideals of Outer Haven – a world where the soldier will always have a place. What this means in relation to the patriots I don’t quite know, I had up to this point assumed The Patriots had control over the majority of the PMCs and were using these proxy wars to affect the state of the world. But if they’re formed as a response to the control of The Patriots? Who knows!

We’ll see. I’m excited to meet Liquid and see where this game is gonna take me, thematically speaking.

Oh, and this briefing cutscene is also the introduction of Sunny, who is adorable and great. Everyone’s kind of shitty to her, too busy with their Serious War Business, but she’s just trying to make some eggs! She may be terrible at making eggs, but that’s not going to stop her. Just try the eggs, Otacon, don’t be a dick, now.

Rat Patrol

Meryl’s here!

[sitcom audience applause]

I’ve forgotten so much of Meryl and Snake’s relationship from the first game – it was the key relationship of that game, but Snake and Otacon is the one that’s continued, and the amount of things that have happened in the games between are thousandfold. I simply let that information slip from my mind, because I didn’t care all that much in the first place. It centred around Meryl’s inexperience, her status as a rookie who didn’t understand combat in order to highlight the ways that Snake has been affected by being a veteran.

Now, she’s the commander of a FOXHOUND team, someone who fully buys into the ways of being a soldier, but has not become disenfranchised by them. She’s Snake, before Shadow Moses. Before Outer Haven.

And… she kind of sucks? Well, she’s alright, but her team definitely does. Akiba is perhaps the stupidest character ever place within a Metal Gear game, his defining character traits being “is shit” and “needs to shit.” He interrupts the team’s battle pose by doing a little dance, like he’s trying to play it all off and be cool. And the other members just boil down to “has a Mohawk” and “black dude,” so all in all, this does not scream lovingly crafted cast of characters to me.

She talks to Snake about the AT System of ID control, goes into the methods that are used to keep soldiers in line, and my understanding of the state of the world becomes a little clearer. This is where The Patriots are involved, with the SOP program, this failsafe that prevents any PMC from turning on them or doing something unexpected. They have a global killswitch for every weapon on the planet within every single soldier. Liquid can raise an army, but he can’t fire more than a few bullets before he is immediately stripped of his power.

This progression sets the stage for the battle that will, I’m sure, be the focus of this game. The Patriots vs Outer Heaven with Snake and Co caught in the middle. The Soldiers, more violent than ever, more needed than ever, more used than ever. At some point, Liquid will make his move, and attempt to turn his guns on those who would control him and the world. What his move is, I have no idea. We’ll just have to wait and see.

God, this squad though, I wonder how long we’re going to hang around with them. It’s cool to see Meryl again, I guess, but these characters reek of Snow, of hey this is what The West likes, right? Groups of American Soldiers being meatheads? Okay, we’ll put ‘em in, but we’re gonna let you know that we know, that they’re the worst.

*

WE ARE STILL IN ACT ONE. Guns of the Patriots has barely begun, this series is either going to suddenly slingshot to cover two acts in a single post or we’re just going to be here forever. Which will it be? Find out over the coming weeks, as we head down and face Liquid’s… Frogs?

Did I hear that right?

Next: I heard that right.