The Metal Gear Diaries #35: Fall Dead

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 talked with EVA about the true nature of The Patriots, and now time is about to run out.

Meet: Big Boss

And then suddenly everything happens at once. Naomi disappears, presumably having defected back to Liquid in order to complete his plan, because Otacon isn’t allowed any happiness. The PMCs find you, and begin to converge on your position. So EVA takes Snake outside to meet the man himself: Big Boss. Who isn’t actually brain dead?

He looks like a Skeleton, but I’m sure nanomachines will fix that soon enough. I know Walking, Talking Big Boss is totally a thing in this game so we’ll see how that happens when it does, but for now he’s in a sorry state. Being kept alive because he has to be, because the idea of Big Boss is more important to Zero and the world than the right for his body to pass on naturally.

You guys, I don’t think Kojima wants to make Metal Gear anymore. Is it just me getting that impression?

Lol Gamers, Know What I Mean?

Ohhhh man, EVA’s speech to kick off this setpiece. The PMC’s are closing in and we have to get Big Boss’ body to the canal in order to stop Liquid. To do this, EVA has a small army of now grown child soldiers, all of whom want to grow up and join the PMCs one day. They’ve grown up on FPS games, and hold petty revenges for rival PMCs responsible for the deaths of their friends and family, without any self-awareness about the systemic forces that propel the war economy.

It’s certainly immature and petulant, and far less nuanced than Sons of Liberty’s engagement with player agency and complicity, but fuck me is it scathing. The game literally stops to tell you that your favourite FPS games are funded by the military in order to give you the impression that war is cool and instill an ideology in you that makes you want to sacrifice yourself to benefit their own ends. It’s more than a little hypocritical considering Guns of the Patriots is totally one of those military games (albeit a self-aware one commenting on what those games are and mean), but I gotta admire the sheer arrogance and confidence to pause the game for such a speech.

Damn, Metal Gear, damn.

And then immediately afterwards, EVA dives into the most pure fanservice mode as she repeats her speech from Snake Eater, tells Snake to call her EVA and drives off into the night on her classic motorcycle. And I sit there and think, fuck yeah, this is cool, this is fucking cool.

Metal Gear’s reach will always exceed its grasp, and for the most part, that’s okay.

The Chase

Fffffff, and then you literally just do the Groznyj Grad chase but with better cinematography and pacing. This entire section of the game is the most naked “HEY, REMEMBER THIS” so far, and this game has been pretty heavy on that before now. But damn, I can’t lie, it’s working on me.

I don’t even think this bit of the game is particularly well designed. The cinematography in the chase is excellent, but it switches incredibly fast and there’s no consistency in the way that you lock into over the shoulder view. This makes aiming a matter of luck in far too many instances, as you fight against your movement and weight in order to hit any of the targets that pass. Which, to be fair, would be exactly what would happen if I had to shoot an SMG on the back of a moving motorcycle, but it’s not going for a realistic effect.

The sequence is designed to make you feel awesome, to give the rush of a kinetic chase scene in an action movie, it’s a fanservice laden catharsis offering you something you’ve been waiting for. EVA keeps calling out to Snake, either insulting him or praising him in ways that remind you of her character, of Snake Eater, and of their relationship. And the effect of this sequence’s narrative is so strong that it overcomes how clunky and awkward it is to play.

It’s remarkable that this act has had absoloutely zero straight up Metal Gear gameplay, though. We’re probably going to have to fight that boss soon, but maybe Acts One and Two really are the meat of this game in a the sense that they contain the bulk of the play, and we’re just gonna fly through til the end. I wouldn’t be surprised, given the pacing of Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater, but we’ll see.

I Need You

I don’t really care if I’m weak for this, I got a little teary eyed when Snake bent down over an injured EVA and said, “I need you.” This sequence doesn’t seem to offer much reason for Old Snake and EVA’s encounter playing out identically to Naked Snake and hers except to deliver feels, as they are called, but it’s certainly effective at that.

Plus, it connects Snake to Naked Snake in this tangible way. EVA is Snake’s connection to Big Boss just as he is her connection to him. It’s nonsense, but it’s perfect for the operatic melodrama that Metal Gear is, especially in this bombastic final chapter. This story that has played out across generations, seemingly destined to repeat itself endlessly until the cycle can one day be broken. It’s indulgent and silly, but goddamit, it just feels right.

I also appreciate the sombre tone this scene takes at the end. Our heroes are in a bad place, their escape cut short and the enemy approaching. An old woman sits bleeding out against a wall, a single rifle in her hand, while an old man aches as he walks his way to the stairs. These are spent people, the weight of their tragic, epic lifetimes bearing down of them, and now they are at the end of their journey. And after all the callbacks, all the fanservice, all the excitement and nostalgia, the game realises there is no glory in this. This may be one last ride to save the world, but whether they win or lose, it is their last ride regardless. And there’s no way that can be anything other than heartbreaking.

Raging Raven

Jeez, the Beauty and the Beast unit really are terrible. The bosses themselves are mostly third person shooter wars of attrition – the Laughing Octopus fight had some interesting moments as she toyed with reality, but even that one took six times too long. Here, you just kind of dodge attacks and keep shooting and twenty minutes later, the fights are over.

And you win, and a hot sexy lady (who was apparently intended to be naked, and according to info I’ve seen actually did the motion capture nude) does a seductive dance and you have to shoot her dead before she reaches you. These characters are paper thin, their backstory delivered by Drebin that always boils down to “they were so fragile but they were abused by war and now they are violent machines that you must cleanse” and fuuuuuuuck off.

These segments make me feel like everyone else does when talking about Metal Gear these days. It’s far more egregious than anything in the prior games, and I know it only gets worse in Peace WalkerGround Zeroes and The Phantom Pain. They revel in both misogyny and cruelty and undermine the more nuanced points that surround them. Then, with the garbage Drebin monologues, attempt to comment on player complicity by calling Snake “War Itself.” It’s a throwback to the first game, and in keeping with the series, Snake is a greater weapon of war than the monsters he fights, but in this context it’s the most blatant hollow attempt to bothe have a cake and eat it too.

I’m going to have a drink of milk and a biscuit, I think we’re done for the day.

*

Well, after that load of bullshit, it’s time to see how this chase ends next week. I assume we’re coming close to the end of the act – which seems to have come incredibly fast. Act Two was long, it had a bunch of complicated open areas, a Boss setpiece, a tracking setpiece and a chase. Act Three has been as simple as walking from point to point and getting lore dumped on our heads.

Don’t get me wrong, that is very much why I’m here. I’m sad that there’s not something like a mission mode in this game, because I think it’s a fantastic stealth game and I’d love to play more, but I get the impression that the game is going to be almost wall to wall cutscenes til the end.

Maybe we’ll be out of here sooner than I thought!