The Metal Gear Diaries #32: Mixed Messages

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 made our way through the end of Act Two: Solid Sun, and today are heading into the Third Act: Third Sun!

Sunny

They call these segments Mission Briefings, but they’re really not. Hell, this third one hardly focuses on Solid Snake, instead choosing to highlight various characters and develop them a little more. I love that the act based mission structure allows for there to be far more downtime between characters, and we see them just interact with each other in a quiet and calm state. One, it gives the story a real sense of scope, not in terms of the wide-reaching consequences of these epic missions, but in terms of the sheer totality of how much these characters are affected by this. Guns of the Patriots is, I would say, at its best in moments of difficult contemplation, when characters are unable to effect the change they wish, and must come to terms with their situation.

Act Three’s briefing begins with Sunny and Naomi bonding, in a way that I think was written by someone who has never actually watched human beings bond, through Gilbert and Sullivaning the periodic table! Metal Gear has never been realistic with its character interactions, but that hasn’t usually been a problem due to the heightened nature of the situations. But in this downtime – which I love, don’t get me wrong – we see the limits of the series’ writing style. It’s forced, it’s goofy, it’s awkward and with very little sense of flow or voice in the characters. But it’s always earnest, and it’s always functional – the surface level might be awkward but it just works. I can’t believe I didn’t think of the connection until this moment, but the writing across the entire series is basically the western translation of Final Fantasy VII.

I feel bad for Sunny. I like her character a lot, she’s pretty much the heart of the Guns of the Patriots crew. Everyone else is older and more cynical, and specifically each with blood on their hands. Otacon designed Ray, Naomi designed seemingly everything else and Snake is Snake. But Sunny’s young, Sunny’s not yet had the chance to create sins to pass on, and is instead dealing with the sins of her guardians being passed on to her. I do like that here in the final entry, one of the new central characters is an adopted child, considering how this series began by arguing if people’s fates were determined by genes.

Sunny’s character is informed by her mother, Olga, remembered in this game as a hero, but it’s clear that her main influence is Otacon. Hal is now a dad, for all intents and purposes, and Sunny is inheriting her personality, interests and demeanour from him. She’s her own person, though, and is rubbing off on Otacon just as much as he is on her. It’s almost – almost – a healthy family dynamic. In a Metal Gear game! It’s a nice little touch that pushes Metal Gear away from some of its earlier deterministic themes.

Big Boss Lives!!!

Ahhhhhhh there’s a lot of ridiculous bombshells in the main portion of the briefing, which isn’t surprising as it goes on for about a decade, but then again so does everything in Metal Gear, if it was concise we wouldn’t be on our thirty-second diary entry. I knew that Big Boss was still alive, because I know he shows up, but I didn’t expect it to be dropped so casually. We’re going to get the currently comatose and brain dead Big Boss from “Eastern Europe” (this game has a phobia of naming its locations, apparently), and I expect this mission to bring with it one heck of a lot of revelation.

One thing that seems strange is that Big Boss’ DNA is the key to the SOP system. Big Boss isn’t a member of The Patriots, he’s fighting against them, he’s the first one in the series who saw all that and said “burn it all down.” When I started the series, I always expected Big Boss to be revealed as the ultimate leader of The Patriots, and the True Big Bad of everything, but that assumption is based on a foundation of not knowing what the fuck Metal Gear is. And now that I do know what Metal Gear is, I can’t imagine that happening, so I’m looking forward to what the actual answer is. I’m sure it’ll change back and forth a thousand times after this anyway.

Though! Speaking of Metal Gear’s deterministic themes and its use of DNA, I really liked the reveal that neither Snake nor Liquid are a 100% match for Big Boss, but Solidus on the other hand is. It puts all of their roles within the stories in a nice perspective – Liquid’s form of rebellion has always been cruel, whereas Solidus’ rebellion against the Patriots was far more morally grey and by the time Raiden took him down, Sons of Liberty had made it clear that he wasn’t the bad guy here. Positioning Liquid as something slightly out of line with Big Boss’ legacy (and Solid Snake similarly in the other direction), and tying Big Boss and Solidus together through Metal Gear’s weird interpretation of genetics gives extra depth to the dynamics of the Snakes as a unit.

I hope that soon the game introduces an antagonist other than Liquid, however, because he’s easily the least nuanced of all the Snakes, and his position as Head Antagonist right now just means I’m waiting for how The Patriots are going to play into all this. I’m waiting for the game to bring in the Sons of Liberty a little, and start tackling the systemic problems that game raised. Like, this is a sequel to a game of which the villain was the systems and ideals of America made sentient. At some point, I know the game is going to get into that, and I’m just sitting here on the edge of my seat getting ready for the time.

Fixing Raiden

It hurts to see Raiden this way. He’s being treated less like an ailing Human and more like a broken machine, who cannot be repaired without the right equipment. Luckily, the equipment that he needs is next door to Big Boss’ corpse! Hooray!

I’m honestly a little surprised at just how strong an emotional connection I formed with Raiden in 2, because god did I hate him at the start. I wonder how he’s going to play into the rest of the game, considering his whole point is that he has literally nothing to do with the overarching plot of Metal Gear. He’s an irrelevant character in the eyes of The Patriots, in the eyes of Snake and Otacon and everyone else. He mattered in 2 in so much as he was useful to The Patriots and the situation, but that game ended with him being set free from the need to be Solid Snake, the need to keep playing, and he could go back to his life.

That didn’t happen, and now he’s lying in a bed, ready to get patched up presumably so he can have another fight with Vamp later.

They’re Gonna Bone

Otacon and Naomi’s flirting is excruciating. It is bone chillingly cringeworthy, it pours glass through my pours and into my heart, rendering me unable to move, breathe or ever accept happiness in my life again. It is the kind of pain that only that is only rivalled by the time I broke my arm, which I need to stop writing about because I can feel a pain in that arm right now, a phantom pain, if you will.

Anyway, aside from acting out the entire arc of Ross and Rachel in friends in a single cutscene, they also bring up E.E. (lolllllll), and discuss Sunny a little more. I like how the game links Sunny and Otacon together, even if I think the pointed attack on the player through their characterisation is a bit silly. They’re two characters who find or found meaning primarily through this world of unreality, who stare into a screen in order to fill a hole that cannot be filled this way. Otacon is shocked that Naomi would even be worried about Sunny – after all, Sunny herself has never expressed an intention of leaving the Nomad, so she has to be doing fine, right? (Let it never be said that Metal Gear is a series of Good Dads).

Otacon’s speech about the exploitation of science-holics for evil – yes, I know – coming right after this, serves to greater interrogate his complicity in the awful things that have occurred. The game is essentially talking to the player, and says hey if you’re just playing video games and don’t know shit about the world, that ain’t any excuse to be an asshole.

And then immediately after critiquing the immaturity of its audience, its medium and its genre, the game cuts to a nice boob shot of Naomi, the hot hot girl who wants to make out with the sad sad nerd.

Dammit, I just don’t know sometimes.

*

We’re going to Eastern Europe! We have landing clearance and everything, so that’s what’s happening next time. I’m excited to see the thrust of Act Three’s play, because Guns of the Patriots has been incredibly successful at tying its play into its ideas and making it a central part of the experience. Which is cool, because I’d heard this was the most “just a movie” of a series which has been consistently described as “just a movie.” But now that I’m coming to the end, I couldn’t disagree more.

I’ll see everybody next time, as we land in Eastern Europe!