The Metal Gear Diaries #37: The Lightning In That Game

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 completed Act Three of Guns of the Patriots, and all hope appears to be lost! This time, we’re going to find out what Act Four is going to bring.

You Wouldn’t Know Liquid If You Fell Onto A Canoe

After the gut punch of Act Three’s ending, we begin here with… a Naomi Upskirt! Hooray! In fact, the goddamn Mk II gets discovered because Otacon is too busy trying to get a Naomi upskirt than do recon on the final chance ever to save the world as he knows it from certain destruction. I hope to never know such thirst.

He gives a hilarious expositional villain monologue to people who already know his plans, just in case somebody might be watching and might want to follow them. Good job, Liquid, you always were the smartest brotherrrrrrrr of the bunch. His plan is to use REX to take out JD, and gain complete and total control.

And Snake has to stop him.

Briefing

So, this scene is used to set up the status quo after Liquid’s paradigm shifting attack, and I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, I’m excited to head back to Shadow Moses (though I’m surprised that’s Act Four, because I swore the game ended there), but I also assumed that stopping The Patriots would play a bigger role as the game went on. So much of the early game, and what I loved about it, was setting up the War Economy, the SoP system and going into the intricacies of the way America (and by proxy, the world) is controlled by this self-perpetuating system. As Drebin says, the truth is far less complicated than we think.

But Campbell’s monologue on the state of the world seems to push The Patriots into the background, rather than finally shifting them to the foreground. It’s almost as if the game doesn’t know what to do with The Patriots – which makes sense, they were created to sell the themes of Sons of Liberty and are now goddamn impossible to write for outside of that context. With Liquid’s actions, the War Economy has crashed, and The Patriot AIs are losing their control on the world. They’re still a factor, and of course are going to play into the ending somehow, but right now all the focus is building up to a one on one showdown between Snake and Liquid, and that’s just not what I even feel the central conflict of Metal Gear is.

But now, due to Liquid’s control of GW, the game is treating taking out Liquid, and taking out The Patriot’s AIs, as kind of the same objective. And it’s not at all the direction I expected this plot to go in from the way it set up these themes, but I’m ready to go along for the ride. I’m so excited to see this game through to the end, I need to know. I NEED TO KNOW.

Shadow Moses Island

Well, remember how I said that EVA showing up was the peak of the game’s nostalgia pulling? That’s already been blown far and away out the water by the sheer amount of time this briefing spends imposing on you that yes, it’s time to head back to Shadow Moses Island. An Island which… I don’t remember all too well. I know the layout of it for sure, but the events of that game are the haziest in my mind.

It’s been clear from my reactions as I’ve written this series, but Sons of Liberty is where I fell in love with Metal Gear. If we were going back to Big Shell? Then I’d have jumped up at the screen and done a little yell. Let me play as Raiden for a little bit, annoy every single gamer from 2008 and do it for me.

But no, to Shadow Moses Island we must go, in order to stop Liquid from getting to Metal Gear REX, Otacon’s own personally designed death machine. Even Mei Ling shows up! I think she’s the last character who hasn’t made an appearance yet (well, aside from Zero, who has to be around somewhere). She explains why everyone involved with the Shadow Moses incident got shuffled away into areas where they couldn’t do any harm, which explains why nobody knows what happened there. Except, I thought everybody knew what happened there and Snake was a hero, which is why The Patriots wanted him taken down a peg?

WHOOOOOOOOOOO KNOWS this is not a time for a continuity debate this is time for someone to say to Raiden what I’ve been waiting to say for about ten hours now.

Snake and Raiden Have A Tiff

It’s beautiful. It’s what I’ve been needing to hear. It’s everything I want. Snake turns to Raiden and flat out calls him an idiot for doing what he’s doing, for abandoning his family and his life and trying once again to take the path of Solid Snake. Like, did you see how well that worked out for you last time you damned fool?

Raiden’s all “oh no, but, but I am alone!” and Snake’s not having any of it. He’s surrounded by people who treat him as a model for their own character development, both Otacon and Raiden have grown by applying Solid Snake values to their own character, which as everybody knows is a terrible idea. But he’s their hero, he’s the leader, the one who gets the job done and remains unaffected in desperate times of crisis. They only see that side of him, and miss the part where he’s the most tortured and trapped human being who wants to be anything else but a practically inhuman killing machine.

This scene was particularly cathartic because I’ve been waiting for the game to really acknowledge how wrong Raiden is, how far he’s strayed from the serene place he had reached in the ending of Sons of Liberty. It makes me curious as to what’s going to happen next, because that scene doesn’t really have a conclusion, he just sits there in Sunny’s arms (also: Sunny dressed like a 1920s maid holding a Cyborg Ninja is peak Metal Gear dumbness). Where does Raiden end up by the end of this game? He can’t go back to his family, it’s far too late for that, Rose has already moved on. Plus, his body is almost entirely mechanical now.

If Raiden represents the player, and we take his state of being in Guns of the Patriots as a condemnation of those clamouring for more Solid Snake (because it’s not like Guns of the Patriotswas a game that anybody really wanted to make, let’s be clear about this), then how does that story end? Raiden, and the player, had already broken themselves free of the need to be Solid Snake with the ending of Sons of Liberty, but they still wanted more Metal Gear. They still wanted more Solid Snake.

And they got it, but at a price. Snake’s old and dying, and Raiden’s completely ruined his life. Now that we’re here, standing on the edge of the game’s final stretch (it really feels like that), I wonder what path they’re leading Raiden towards. He’s a character who was presented with a happy ending and chose to deny it, and now his chance has come and gone.

After this scene, now that they’ve shown they’re completely aware of the implications of this direction for Raiden’s character, I’m really interested in where that final stop is going to be.

*

And as the fog envelopes the Nomad and the game asks us to save, we find ourselves on approach to Shadow Moses Island in the Fox Archipelago. Guns of the Patriots gameplay has changed so much from the first game that I’ve no idea what this is even going to look like, considering how westernised the design has become.

But I’m ready. You best believe I’m damn ready. Let’s do this.