The Metal Gear Diaries #41: The End Has Come

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 Four, and today we’re about to begin Act Five and start the endgame of Guns of the Patriots.

The Final Briefing

I loved that briefing scene. The way it played for a good five minutes with the young soldiers debating the best way to approach the situation while Snake sat ignored at the rear with his face in an oxygen mask: perfect. It highlights more than just Snake’s current unfortunate situation, it highlights his otherness from these characters, these characters who are able to connect with each other and fight for themselves in a way he never will. He’s just waiting for his orders, no matter how dismal and sad they may be, and he’s going to carry them out.

I know I’m a sucker for any moment that plays into Snake’s tragic status, but this really emphasised that as it set the scene for the final time in the way it needed to, and got me all sad about the upcoming end. Whether or not he survives this mission, Snake is dead, and that was never made as clear as it was in this moment.

This was accompanied, of course, with Johnny being a fuckin’ asshole and trying to pinch Mei Ling’s ass while Meryl grumpily reacted, because there ain’t no bad time for a spot of sexual hijinks and comic relief.

The plan itself is to destroy GW from the inside, to fight through Liquid’s defences and completely eradicate his presence inside the SoP system. The game has all but given up on the idea of The Patriots as the larger enemy, considering that at this point we’re pretty much working for The Patriots and acting as their last line of defence. Maybe that’s totally the twist, maybe this is Sons of Liberty all over again, but if that’s the case I don’t know what that means for the end of the game. All the setup, the War Economy, everything about how this game set up its stakes focuses on the fact that Liquid is not the bad guy, he’s trying to destroy a bigger one.

So I dunno. We’ll see, I guess. Maybe the Metal Gear series ends with The Patriots still around, just like Sons of Liberty did? After all, I loved that ending, and maybe there’s a way they can pull that off again. But I doubt it, because everyone keeps talking about how they have to atone for all the sins, EVA saying how the war between Zero and Big Boss needs to end for the world before they can pass this world on to the next generation. And that can’t happen with The Patriots around.

All this wondering, this speculation and confusion basically comes down to the fact that I don’t know what Guns of the Patriots thematic core is. In my writing about all previous games, I was able to quickly latch on to the central thrust of each game and tie it into my reactions and analysis. But while Guns of the Patriots is thematically dense, it’s so much more muddled than any of the series that came before, to the point where I think its central theme is “this is a Metal Gear game.”

Getting Ready To Go

Jeez, this cinematic really sells the climactic nature of this battle. Mei Ling in the bridge, giving the traditional “I’m scared too” to a nobody crewmember, Campbell giving a voiceover about how this is our last chance to be free from Liquid’s villainy. What Guns of the Patriots has lost in thematic coherency, it has gained in cinematic extravagance. Where previously a codec conversation and a monologue over live action would do, now the year is 2008 and we can have a full cinematic of people getting ready to sacrifice their lives, with music amping up the drama of such an event.

And then, a guy with a monkey can show up to do a synchronised burp. Give it up for Metal Gear!

I like that Drebin’s here, and that the game has basically given up on explaining what the hell Drebin is doing showing up in any particular place now. It’s just kind of accepted that he’s following you around and is your buddy, despite technically being this morally grey arms dealer who is fully complicit in the propagation of the War Economy.

Anyway, it’s time to go, to get on a ridiculous catapult device and make our way onboard Outer Haven and see how Guns of the Patriots is going to wrap up. There’s so many questions in the air, so much uncertainty, and probably six world-changing twists ahead of me.

Arsenal Gear

Apparently Liquid’s done some renovation on the Arsenal Gear design since Sons of Libertybecause it no longer looks like a hologram nightmare and now looks like any other industrial military base. Which is a shame, but I get it, that just wouldn’t have fit in with Guns of the Patriots’ aesthetic design at all.

This first stealth room, on top of Arsenal Gear, is near impossible. I can’t imagine getting through here without being spotted, it’s entirely set up to be the Groznyj Grad esque final base challenge of this game. It’s strange, but cool, that we’re going back to stealth rooms for the final act, considering there basically haven’t been any since Act Two at this point; the robots in Shadow Moses make those incredibly different.

After dying about eight times, I finally make it through by managing to avoid enemies for the first half of the area, before charging up my railgun and blasting the Gekkos away. Heck and damn yeah.

I wish Guns of the Patriots had VR missions or something similar, the missions in the main game have been severely limited by the requirements of the story. Metal Gear Online doesn’t exist anymore, so unfortunately that’s not available to me as hey, you want more of this game, don’t you? I’m excited to see how the MGSV controls, because I know it’s an extension of Guns of the Patriots method of control, and the game also moves away from the room-to-room design that has defined Metal Gear across every single entry.

I hope it’s good!

Psycho Mantis, For It Is He

Oh, we have a Boss Fight already?! Maybe that first room is actually the final stealth room and it’s all setpieces til the end. I’d forgotten that the Beauty and the Beast unit were still around, considering how you could completely excise every single one of their fights and characters from the game and the entire story would remain unchanged. They are entirely superfluous, meaningless and purposeless and then on top of that they are the grossest things.

Screaming Mantis’ Boss Fight is interesting enough as they go, but again suffers from the needless insertion of a swarm of enemies into the mix, turning what was once an intimate affair into one more broad and mindless.

And then comes the twist that the entire unit was being controlled by Psycho Mantis and Screaming Mantis’ is just as characterless and without agency as every single one of her BnB colleagues. After which, Drebin takes a break at the most narratively urgent moment of the entire series to deliver another insufferably awful backstory, holy shit do I hate the Beauty and the Beast corps.

At least we’re done now. The corridor awaits.

*

As Meryl takes her position at the door, and bids Snake on the way to make his final sacrifice, I know that I’m done for now. I’m going to go complete the game, which means that next week everything ends. My final reactions to the end of the Metal Gear saga, we’re going to find out what Guns of the Patriots’ is really about, after weeks and weeks of muddled but interesting setup.

What secrets await for us at the end of the corridor? What happens when we reach GW? Where is Zero? Once Liquid is defeated, what happens to The Patriots?

Will Jackson ever be free of writing about Metal Gear? It hurts him so much, he just wants to relax, why has he done this to himself?

Some of these questions will be answered next time. Some will remain a mystery.