The Metal Gear Diaries #39: The Lightning and the Vampire

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 walked through Shadow Moses to find everything as it was, except also empty and sad and old, which is an apt metaphor for everything about Guns of the Patriots. Now, we’re going to find Naomi and Vamp…

Gekko Floor

Okay, that sequence where you fight the Gekko on the electrified floor is pretty damn awesome. It’s this great moment of taking and changing an element from one of the older games, using the knowledge you have from playing them as the player’s weapon. You know the floor is electrified, you know you need to kill the Gekko, so you take the MkIII and do just that.

Plus, in this confined space, the Gekko is an incredibly interesting enemy, as you shoot it and run around a corner in order to save yourself for another few seconds. It puts you on the back foot and emphasises Snake’s smallness, because despite being the legendary soldier hero and all that, he’s also just one guy fighting a fuckin’ mech.

Gekko, Part Two

Haha, as soon as I write that, comes a sequence that’s entirely about the Gekko in close quarters as an enemy to be distracted and influenced more than defeated. It’s a neat idea, keeping the Gekko off the MkIII’s back in order to open the door, but it’s really just a lesser version of the prior scene, and I think serves to soften what would otherwise have been this really cool singular moment.

Crying Wolf

Guns of the Patriots boss fight sections are apparently designed to show off the worst of Metal Gear, and make me feel like “why do I like this garbage?”

The fight itself is a riff on the Sniper Wolf fight, in the exact same location no less, which was an excellent fight when I played it back in Twin Snakes, with Sniper Wolf’s death scene being a highlight of the series, honestly. But here, the fight is far too busy, as it’s basically Snake vs swarms of faceless bad guys, before he can find Crying Wolf and get a shot off. Metal Gear boss fights before this game were crucially isolated affairs, the game building up the idea of this one and one battle as an important and somewhat tragic showdown. But with each game, the emphasis on bosses as individuals and characters has decreased, to the point where it’s now just a shooting match on an open field.

And then Sniper Wolf’s backstory is even worse than the previous two! It’s pretty much identical – war turned this hot girl crazy, feel sad – except with an added dose of ethnic cleansing and the definite killing but maybe eating of babies. After which the game has the gall to re-create the iconic Sniper Wolf cutscene but with this insulting character that we never knew instead, and play it as if it’s a nostalgic and sad moment.

At least there’s only one more of these damn things. Because I get so grumpy every single time we have a boss fight and you know, I just can’t. I can’t!

Change The Disc

Lollllllll

Lol.

Blast Furnace

The Shadow Moses segment basically relies upon you re-creating the movements from your memory of the original game (which is a presumptive thing, but I’ll forgive it) and then going hey! Things are a little different now!

Which was cool the first time, but the rooms are almost empty, fighting the drones is far less interesting than the guards that originally patrolled here, and so it’s a little frustrating that you’re constantly being reminded of a better game that you’re not playing right now. Guns of the Patriots lacks its own identity, which on the one hand is fine because it allows it to re-invent itself with each new act, but it also means there’s no real spine for the game. Almost everything exists as a response to other things, whether western military shooters or other Metal Gear games, it’s become clear as we reach the final stretch what a hollow game Guns of the Patriots is.

And I don’t say that entirely as a negative, the game is persistently aware of its own hollowness, it’s easy to read the entire thing as a middle finger to people who wanted this game that nobody wanted to make, this Solid Snake sequel that is impossible to please any audience. Sons of Libertywas supposed to free us from our need for this, and Snake Eater filled in the final piece of the puzzle. Metal Gear was done, what is there left to say?

Which means my question now is, what happens next? How does a game, which is positioned as the final word of a series that had no more words left, sum up the entire franchise? Where are we going? There are so many balls in the air, this game has more plot than probably all three games before it put together. These articles have been going on forever, and we’re so close to the end.

Let’s head down the elevator and into the hangar, and see what REX has in store for us.

Vamp

After walking through the ruins of Rex’s original hangar, we meet Vamp, and Otacon is angry at him! It’s finally time to get revenge for the death of Emma Emerich, that bizarre little plot detour that could have gone oh so wrong just two games, and god damn over half a year ago.

The fight itself is probably the best Boss Fight in the game, Laughing Octopus as the only contender for that more-impressive-than-it-sounds thrown, as an actual one on one confrontation with a specific character. Vamp’s gimmick – that he can come back to life over and over again until you work out how to beat him – is a really neat one that I’m surprised they didn’t put mechanically into Sons of Liberty.

It also helps that Vamp doesn’t seem to take an entire factory’s production line of bullets to go down. The focus of the fight is on the puzzle of working out how to take out Vamp, and once you solve the problem, the fight is over. They very easily could have had Snake force the syringe into Vamp three times in a row, each time weakening him just a little more, but thankfully it’s one and done and onto the next one.

This game has been a rollercoaster ride back from “hell yeah to” “uh oh” and we’re almost, almost done.

Last Stand

Aw yeah this act is just going from strength to strength. Defending REX from an onslaught of Suicide Gekko as Raiden and Vamp duke it out in the split-screen is awesome, I’m not even going to front on that. It really manages to hit that action film feeling of fighting back this overwhelming force as a last stand. Its goddamn great.

The way the railgun is utilised in this sequence just amplifies that feeling in a really organic way; instead of a sequence in which you’re just shooting as fast as you can, taking out the enemies coming to you – which would have been a perfectly valid way to do this – it makes the action far more tense and deliberate. You wait for a meter to fill before you can set off a shot to take out a Gekko, as the timers on the enemy tick further and further down. It understands that the tension in these sequences comes from the waiting, comes from the build up to the moment of release, rather than just being a constant stream of release.

And on the other side of the split-screen (which I think is a first for the series, unless there were a few moments in Snake Eater’s cutscenes like this), Raiden and Vamp’s honour-bound final confrontation takes place. They set down their weapons and fight with scout knives on top of Metal Gear REX – it’s the best.

Vamp finally falls, free from his immortality at last, and our heroes get to breathe once more.

*

I get the feeling that we’re coming to the last few posts. There’s not much more that can be talked about while we’re going along, we’re almost certainly at the end of Act Four next week, and then after that Act Five awaits, the majority of which will probably be covered in a single post, because at a point, as always, I stop commenting and play the rest of the game.

I want to thank everybody for sticking with these posts, and I hope you’re enjoying them! I can’t say they’ve been fun to make, in fact I’ve been telling myself since post three that “I’m done with these, I just want to enjoy the games” and here we are, at post 39. Me, Solid Snake and Kojima just can’t help ourselves.

See you next time as we end Act Four.