Writing

Berrylands Station

In between a massive pile of shit
And a beautiful suburb where rich people live
Sits a little train station from which you can take
A journey to London, if willing to wait
A little longer than either of those right next door
Which leads me to wonder what this place is for

‘Cause Berrylands station’s an odd little place
At the end of my road, it exists in lost space
Surrounded by the best in middle class luxury
Right next to the factory that processes poo. And pee.
Sorry. But I thought it was funny,
And besides I love that in this place of such money
Where anyone lesser is forced to disappear
(I might have to leave by the end of the year)
There remains this blemish, this promise unfulfilled
Something that must be killed, before they can rebuild
Something that shows that this town was once more
Is still more than a dull place that no one can afford
And what better than an eyesore, to defy such progress
As all around London, I see my friends less and less
Somehow ineligible to share in the success, the recovery
But hey, we were poor kids that got born in Surrey

So often, I think of my neighbours, offering advice
Oh so nicely enticing us out, ‘cause we lower house prices
I fall back on one thought to hold my frustration
I think thank god they have to go through Berrylands Station

 

Oases: Tragedy Reclaimed

OASES is such a simple, beautiful game. You control a plane transported to another world, engines kaput and steering lost, sucked into a black hole and whisked away forever more. There are unknowable structures below you, and a majestic neon sky above. To move, you must accept that you cannot turn level anymore, and must angle your plane softly and explore this new world around you. It’s soothing, haunting, and as the music reaches a climax and you realise it won’t loop around again, oh so fleeting.

The story of OASES is that of a tragedy, of a plane crashing in Algeria, carrying a man who was yet to meet his unborn son. But in the act of playing, that tragedy is rejected, replaced with an almost certainly false narrative of escape, told purely through the skies and sights of an unknown world. It’s a celebration of the unknown, a defiant choice to imagine death as something other than painful, simply because we can.

Our lives are full of sad stories unfinished, where we can fill in the blanks and assume the truth. But whenever there’s doubt, there’s a better world that we’d like to believe in, and if we’re capable of imagining for a while, we can go there too.

*

OASES can be played on itch.io, and is a game from Armel Gibson & Dziff with music from Calum Bowen.

The Metal Gear Diaries #42: War Has Changed

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 began Guns of the Patriots’ final act, taking out Psycho Mantis and leaving Meryl behind to approach the microwave corridor. Today, I have finished the game. Metal Gear is over! There is no more Metal Gear that will ever be, this was the finale to end all finales, and ever since 2008 people have been sad at the lack of new Metal Gear games.

Well, that’s clearly not true, but this is it. The final game I’ll do these diaries for, the end of my ridiculous quest, and I made it (mostly) alive. So join me, won’t you, as we recover from Solid Snake’s final hour, and complete Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

Gut Reactions

Huh.

I have no idea what to think right now. This is the moment that we’ve been building towards for four games and (for those of you reading along), almost a year now. And I can’t tell whether I like it or not. My first reaction was anger, the ending seemed to be giving up on the themes the games had raised in order to somehow give the series a happy ending. The narrative leaps the ending takes with the state of the world specifically made me livid, even though they walk them back a couple scenes later.

But alongside moments of disappointment like that were others that were poignant, powerful, the series almost coming to the perfect bittersweet conclusion in beautiful echoes of the events that started the whole pointless affair.

It’s the least coherent ending of a Metal Gear Solid game, but that’s because it has to, in some way, be an ending to all Metal Gear Solid games. Each of those already formed a complete thematic picture, so trying to wrap them into one more final tale is already such a gargantuan task that it’s a miracle it got finished at all.

And in many respects, that’s the point of the whole thing. The game has continually been aware of its own hollowness, of the irresponsibility of its audience, chasing a catharsis that will never come. Maybe there was nothing else to do but wrap everything up with this crushing sense of inevitability, maybe we had to get to that point to realise how none of this mattered at all, how far we had strayed from the path.

After all, isn’t this why we’re here? This is good, isn’t it?

The Corridor

In lieu of the traditional series of boss fights and escape sequences, Guns of the Patriots attempts to achieve something far more singular with its climax, the microwave corridor. There’s no more enemies to fight, there’s nowhere else to go, you just have to not give up. Because if you don’t, everyone is going to die.

I’d heard about this moment before, obviously, so it wasn’t as powerful as it could have been, but it’s still this incredible moment of desperation, before the catharsis that’s been coming for a decade now. Raiden’s final battle, the last stand with Meryl and Johnny, Ray attacking the boat, Otacon crying in a corner, all playing out in split screen while you can do nothing but press a single button. The weight of years of plotlines, relationships, emotions, everything, all coming through in this single interaction. It’s a simple trick, and not one of the series more nuanced moments, but it’s definitely effective.

At this point, Guns of the Patriots is operating in full operatic mode. Why is Raiden there?! Who cares? This is the end, and at the end all sense of reality will fade away, reducing the series to its basest emotional and thematic elements. It’s not a sequence about logic, it’s not even a sequence about tension, despite being a will he/won’t he save the world sequence. It’s about the moment in and of itself, the pressing of the button, the torture mechanic recontextualised as this beautiful moment of sacrifice to save your friends.

It is only when everything is at its most dire, that you may walk through the door, and receive your reward.

FoxAlive

And what is the reward?

Well, it’s complicated.

For all intents and purposes, the microwave corridor is the last action in the game, there’s a fight after it with Liquid, but it’s such a strange dream-like affair that I consider it part of the game’s “ending.” And I don’t mean that as a knock against it.

So there you sit, in this computer graveyard, having finally made it to stop Liquid, and it’s time for Guns of the Patriots to finally confront the thematic debate that has been roaring for almost a decade now, to finally tackle The Patriots as an antagonist that can be defeated. And I have to tell you, the way it goes about that was the single most disappointing moment in the entirety of these four games, at least at first.

After the entire game had been building up to this moment, building up the way modern society and SOP are inextricably interlinked, and one cannot exist without the other, it suddenly drops that plot thread. Sunny develops a magical computer virus, like FoxDie but good, and removes Patriot control while keeping base functions like water, internet, and everything else.

I don’t think I can overstate just how angry I was at this in the moment, I’d invested so much in the game’s willingness to go there with The Patriots, to show ideologically how norms and values can’t just be defeated with a MacGuffin, and how systemic violence is such a self-sustaining and tragic thing. For a series so thematically intricate, so earnest about its politics to seemingly just shrug and give up without making a stance felt unforgivable.

Now, as the rest of the ending passed, and I sat and thought about it for a while, I don’t think it’s that bad. I don’t even think it’s a thematic betrayal, but I sure felt like it was in the moment. It’s definitely a disappointment, but a lot of that is on me. Guns of the Patriots is a sequel to Snake Eater, not the delayed sequel to Sons of Liberty, and its eventual conclusion positions it as that entirely, the way it deals with its conflicts lines up with that exactly. It’s definitely fair to say that the themes I’ve considered central to Guns of the Patriots are a few of many, and Metal Gear is such a multifaceted series that it’s basically impossible to betray the meaning of the series in one plot point.

Plus, with Drebin and Otacon’s conversation later, this plot development gets placed in a far clearer context, one that sits with me a lot better. This isn’t a happy ending at all, this is just wiping the slate clean. The War Economy is gone, the system may be gone, but the people who lived within it are still the same. The Evil Ideology has not magically been replaced with the Good Ideology (that would be a thematic betrayal!), instead the human race as a whole has a chance to fight to get things back on track, and to decide what that track even may be.

It fits in with Guns of the Patriots’ transition in this final act to pure opera, leaving behind any semblance of logical A to B in its plot points. Sunny isn’t Snake, who was essentially carrying out The Patriots’ will with his unthinking devotion to the mission, Sunny isn’t Otacon, who is too focused on atoning for his own sins and working through his trauma to take a step back and solve the puzzle. Instead, Sunny is both of them, she is their child, she is what they have passed on to the world.

These broken people, trapped in their traumas and unable to escape, are able to pass on the right values and kindness to give the next generation the tools to make things better. Which in many ways was always the ending of the saga, Sons of Liberty ending on that exact thematic note, but without making that subtext so blatantly text.

And now that it’s been a few days, and I sit writing this reaction, I’m okay with it. I like that, as a conclusion, as an argument made by the text. It may have felt like a slap in the face in the moment, but this is the ending to Metal Gear, this is as final as final can be. Imagine having to write yourself out of that corner?

The Patriots were written before as this all powerful other, an almost god-like collective of ideas controlling the world from behind the scenes. They were never meant to be defeated, they were never meant to be taken out, they were a device to analyse the different responses to the cruelties of American Society, which is why this game focuses on Solid, Liquid and Big Boss, and is so disinterested in The Patriots themselves.

So in the end, FoxAlive isn’t so bad. It’s a clumsy and awkward Deus Ex Machina, but manages to tie up the series’ main conflict while remaining true to the themes that have propelled the series.

The Twin Snakes

I skipped it in the last section while dealing with the wider implications and stakes that were going on, but also Liquid and Snake have a fight in the middle.

The fight between Liquid and Solid is stunning. It’s not even a fight for any reason, and it begins with Otacon setting Snake down and running off to a helicopter, and then revealing that Snake’s on top of a massive Pillar on Arsenal Gear???? This is not a game operating within a coherent reality at this moment, and it’s content to draw attention to how much that is the case.

The fight happens and it happens here purely because it has to. It’s got nothing to do with saving the world, it’s Snake v Liquid, the closest thing Metal Gear has to a Good v Evil, in their final confrontation. It even saves this moment for the Metal Gear theme to play. (okay, the Metal Gear B theme, they cut out the main theme because of copyright issues, which is tragic and I am not okay with it, that would be like recasting David Hayter and you’d never do that!)

It cycles the UI cycles through the years, moving the soundtrack from game to game, and it’s this moment of pure indulgence but oh so needed. There are no real plot reveals, no sudden motivational twists, and everything goes exactly as expected. It’s a celebration far more than a catharsis. It’s simply this time to reflect on the series’ progression, Guns of the Patriots explicitly confirming in its formal elements that it is, first and foremost, a game about Metal Gear.

Liquid dies by his hand, in his arms. Snake is a hero, he’s completed his mission. He’s overcome so much, and he’s saved the world.

All he has to do now is die.

Happy Families

Which almost brings us to the single worst plot point in the game, as we get joyous sequences of victory, all underscored by the inevitability that our hero won’t be able to share in them.

First, Meryl and Johnny hook up and get married – which is a fine way to end Meryl’s arc, to me. She spent that first game as Snake’s love interest, as a rookie who realised she wasn’t cut out for this, by getting shot and propelling Snake’s emotional arc. And here, she’s not only proven his assessment of her wrong as someone who will never make it, she defines herself without using Snake as a model, as opposed to Otacon/Raiden, characters who have essentially rebuilt their personality in Snake’s image.

So, for her to come to this point where she can both be this badass soldier lady and an emotionally capable woman in love cements her as perhaps the single most well adjusted and heroic character in all of Metal Gear. I’m not saying this to defend the super sexist way this sudden turn of “falls in love with literal barrel shitting idiot” is written, but more to say that perhaps inadvertently, Meryl’s arc positions her as this powerful and competent character in a way that few others get to be.

Plus, it’s nice to see her and her dad finally reconcile. I can’t lie, that was a sweet moment.

The other joyous sequence is somewhat less tolerable. Raiden sits in a bed, his arms re-attached, and Rose reveals to him that she’s been pretending to be Roy Campbell’s wife to protect their child from the Patriots!!! It’s this awful moment, as all of what made Raiden’s arc in this game so powerful, his complete and utter rejection of the catharsis of Sons of Liberty is suddenly reinstated.

The way Guns of the Patriots uses Raiden is central to the way it comments on Metal Gear as a series of games – Raiden continues to be the stand in for the player, given their chance to stop with Sons of Liberty, which is on one level entirely about freeing the player from wanting any more Metal Gear games. But they continue, they reject that freedom, and so Raiden becomes this husk of what he was, desperately chasing his need to be Solid Snake despite the fact he could so easily choose a better life, a choice Snake does not have available to him.

And all of a sudden, for no reason whatsoever, Guns of the Patriots just undoes all of that. It’s not game-ruining at all, because it does make sense in that it’s trying to create this moment of unlikely elation off the back of Snake’s suicidal sacrifice. The player gets to go home, Snake does not.

It’s understandable as a choice, but it’s definitely a shame. It’s this real moment of Metal Gear pulling its punches in a way it never really does. Even FoxAlive was different, that was a ridiculous and earnest Deus Ex Machina, a twist that the game cared about and had a purpose. This twist has none of that earnestness, it just kind of happens because Raiden has to get back with Rose, I guess. It feels like the game itself doesn’t care.

And in a way, it doesn’t. Because Snake pulls the trigger, the sun rises on a new future, and the credits roll. But Guns of the Patriots isn’t done with those ideas yet. It’s barely begun.

Death of the Author

“It’s not time for you to go just yet.”

Big Boss’ voice is soft and gentle, a tired old man who’s fought a tired old war, who hasn’t got any fight left in him.

This is perhaps the most discussed sequence in Guns of the Patriots’ ending, Big Boss returning from the dead to save Solid Snake from certain doom. I remember at the time hearing that it was this big moment of cowardice, that video game franchise characters simply don’t get that finality, and stepping away from that brink is a monumentally bad decision.

Having now seen the ending, I can’t think of anything farther from the truth. This final scene brings the game into crystallisation, this epilogue to the entire series that feels like the inevitable and final conclusion of the entire Metal Gear saga.

Big Boss drops a bunch of reveals and twists – mostly that he’s still alive and that Ocelot chose to become Liquid to bring him out of Patriot control. He monologues for a long while about norms and the systemic nature of Metal Gear’s villainy, and how for the world to move on they have to take responsibility for their sins and do their best to undo them. Which means Zero needs to die, and so does he. In sacrificing himself, he saves his final son, setting Snake free of a war that was never his.

All of this is great, the ending of the series being the ultimate Villain’s ultimate but pointless redemption as they realise the sheer magnitude of what they have done and end their life with a miniature act of kindness. But it’s also whatever, it’s not what this scene is about to me, it’s not why this ending is so powerful.

If Solid Snake is the character, and Raiden is the player, then Big Boss is the author. Raiden’s been a representation of the audience, dragged across the coals for their inability to stop needing to play new Metal Gear games, but it’s only now we see it from the other perspective, from someone who can’t stop making them. For all the valid critique of Kojima positioning himself as an auteur who takes all the credit, this ending showcases the flipside where he must take all the responsibility, too.

In a very real way, this scene feels like Kojima having a conversation with his own creation. This barely involves me anymore, Raiden’s in a hospital with his wife, the player is already free. Instead, the ending here isn’t for them, it’s this incredibly personal epilogue where the author looks at the work that they’ve made and asks: what was this all for? I lost the why along the way.

Metal Gear’s always had this self-reflexive quality, if you Find/Replace “Soldier” with “Artist” and “Nations” with “Companies” it works strikingly well as this desperate angry narrative about the intersection of art and industry. No more is this evident than in this final moment, in this game that only exists because the audience will pay, and Konami wants to get paid. After all, it’s been well documented that Kojima’s not wanted to make any more Metal Gear since Sons of Liberty, and every single game before was to be his final entry.

But still, more are made, and the series is moving further and further away from its original identity. After all, this game began with a direct response to western shooter trends, the gunplay is far more accessible than games before, and core concepts such as OSP are missing entirely. The first Metal Gear Solid was a game about slowly gaining knowledge and mastery over a space, and through that knowledge gaining empowerment and uncovering a mystery. Now, Snake travels from room to room with no real backtracking or continuity of space, weapons available at the touch of the button.

So why does it still exist? What could possibly be left to say that wouldn’t merely dilute what was already there? And here at the end, why should the character sacrifice himself for something that isn’t his responsibility? No, the buck stops with me.

Stories have to end. They can’t spiral out of control, just tropes and elements repeating to make money or satisfy an audience, otherwise they lose all meaning. And Metal Gear is a beautifully optimistic story, so for Snake to die would be heinous. He deserves to see his new world, to give up smoking, to live the last of his life with his best friends. So there’s only one way to make this final. There’s only one way that this can end, there’s only one person who should take the fall.

This is good, isn’t it?

*

Animal House Epilogue:

Hideo Kojima would go on to release three more Metal Games after this.

In the year 2016, he is finally free.

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.

The Metal Gear Diaries #40: Mount Snakemore

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, after a disappointing Boss Fight, we reached Metal Gear REX and finally defeated Vamp. Now, he lies dead on the floor, and we’re about to reach the end of Act Four…

Naomi

:’(

After defeating Vamp, Naomi comes in to explain everything, and sacrifices herself for… well, seemingly no reason, other than the fact that it has to happen in order to wipe the slate clean so the next generation doesn’t have to inherit the fucked up world these people have created. Her being alive at all is a result of these nanomachines she created, she is literally kept alive by her sins. Which is the most Metal Gear melodrama, making a thematic thing literal, but what the heck, the scene works well enough, I’ll roll with it.

It’s heartbreaking to see Otacon cry again, because he does have a habit of getting into these situations, he’s like some kind of unstoppable fridge machine. And then something weird happens – he quotes Snake back to him, referencing that Sniper Wolf cutscene again: “I don’t have any more tears to shed,” and gets back to work. It’s played as Otacon’s final growth out of being this person who can’t hold onto his belief in difficult circumstances, but it’s weird because that line in the original was put there to emphasise Snake’s inhumanity.

You should have tears to shed, Snake’s just lost his through a life of war. Snake gets into REX joined by two mini-Snakes, people who have based their character development on this broken, tragic protagonist. They’ve fallen prey to the very hero-worship that Sons of Liberty  and for the most part Guns of the Patriots seems to be about. But I think, in its moments of nostalgia for Metal Gear’s earlier days, Guns of the Patriots falls prey to that hero worship just as much as it undermines it.

Metal Gear!

And then you are controlling REX! You’re in REX! It’s happening! Metal Gear?!

This sequence is actually really awkward to play, but that doesn’t matter. By making REX a real thing that can be controlled and harmed, he certainly loses some of the power he once had as this unstoppable object, but again that doesn’t matter too much. This moment is here because it has to be, because it is cool, because fuck it this is the last one of these and you’re going to get in a Metal Gear. You’re going to get in the Metal Gear. (Please ignore all prior Metal Gears and the fact MGS is technically the third game).

The way it gives REX power is by bringing in Gekkos, enemies you were desperately pushing back not five minutes ago, and allowing REX to cut through them like a knife through butter. These Gekkos blow up in just one blast from the turret, the catwalks they stand on coming down with them. REX’s destruction is limited now that it’s more than an imaginary risk, but the construction of the scene actually does a good job of conveying what REX might be like as, well, a dumb as hell Walking Tank.

BROTHER ON BROTHER!

Oh shit.

Oh shiiiiit.

Shit shit shit it is ON.

Liquid shows up in Metal Gear RAY, and then suddenly it’s a REX v RAY, Solid v Liquid fight. This game is pretty goooooood. My favourite thing about the way this starts is that Guns of the Patriots’ aesthetic is the greyest and dullest of the Metal Gear games. Metal Gear Solid has that blocky, PSOne charm, Sons of Liberty has Big Shell’s colour and vibrancy and Snake Eater nails the muddy jungle feel. But Guns of the Patriots looks like a video game, because this game was made in 2008 and having an art style was forbidden by law. And into the grey and dull world, bursts goddamn Metal Gear RAY straight out of Evangelion or something.

It’s just extra hilarious to watch the absolute peak moment of Metal Gear’s anime bullshit play out in 2008 Video Game aesthetic.

The fight itself is clunky and kinda bad but who really cares, so are all mech games (NB: I have only played Armored Core don’t @ me). Guns of the Patriots has embraced the fact that it’s no longer about playing it anymore, it’s about sitting back and relishing in this climax that you – that is you, the audience, you – so richly desired. But I – that is me, Jackson – can’t help but keep thinking about how nobody wanted to make this game, and how that seems to have informed so many of the creative decisions.

I’m sitting here waiting for the game to pull the rug out, to reveal its endgame. What’s going to happen as we head inside Arsenal Gear for the second time? Aresnal Gear is basically a hologram cyberhell inside, so I’m looking forward to that being represented in the Guns of the Patriots’ aesthetic.

There was a brief moment where I genuinely thought Liquid was dead with the Fox… DIE callback, and the game would shift to revealing the bigger villain. I don’t know why I’m so focused on the idea of Liquid not being the real final big bad of Metal Gear, whether it’s my expectation for Big Boss to show up at the end or my need for the game to turn its attention to the Patriots and the more systemic themes of Metal Gear’s world. The series has grown so much from Metal Gear Solid’s family squabble, and whilst it makes sense to bring it back down for the final entry, it feels more than a little dishonest compared to what came before.

But then I remember, nobody wanted to make this. They’re doing the best they can to just get this game out the door without being actively on fire. It’s weird how much I know about the end of this game and how much I feel at a loss.

WHERE IS THIS GOING?!?!!

Raiden’s Sacrifice

Secret funniest moment: bringing back the King Kong argument as a sweet, romantic flashback. Has there ever been a less convincing, more asinine and terrible scene of relationship building? How do you live in New York and not know which building was in King Kong? How do you work as a tour guide and have this debate with a random stranger and then fall in love with him?! Howwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww?

Context aside though, Raiden cutting off his arm and then sacrificing himself was a shock because one: shouldn’t Sunny die? Isn’t her being alive connected to his heartbeat or something? That did happen right, I’m not just making up the plot of these games as I go along, because you know I wouldn’t put that out of the question, this could all be my fever dream. And two, and this why this move makes sense: Raiden’s the player! Of course after everything, after throwing away his life for Snake after Snake already freed him from that, he would sacrifice his own life in order to further Snake’s journey. With this moment, as Raiden watches Snake and slips away into the water, Guns of the Patriots returns again to subverting and portraying the unhealthy nature of hero worship.

As Raiden dies, his last thoughts are of Rose, of the real world and the life that he gave up on to continually chase this ideal of being Solid Snake. If Raiden’s use in Sons of the Patriots was to highlight the dishonesty of an audience demanding a sequel, here he’s used to highlight how video game franchises never end and their audience can never accept a cathartic ending. Instead of taking the catharsis that comes from a art and folding that experience into their lives, audiences chase that same experience again and again and companies are more than happy to give it to them. Instead of Snake being someone who – like a fictional character to us – exists to impart information and teach us something, to Raiden Snake is someone more important than him, someone he must protect and enable against his will if he has to.

Now, I know Metal Gear Rising: Reveangance exists and takes place after Guns of the Patriots, so who the hell knows what’s going to happen – he’s clearly not dead dead yet. But Raiden’s arc so far in this game has continued some of the most beloved and discussed elements of Sons of Liberty, and is in some ways far more pointed with its critiques of the audience.

Act Four

I miss the part where you play Metal Gear. The first two acts of this game set Guns of the Patriotsup as a culmination of 10 years of growth for the stealth design in the series, but it hasn’t been able to keep that up after the second act. I know I’ve complained about it, but it’s sticking in my craw, and I think it’s a shame.

However, that aside, walking through the frozen wreck of Shadow Moses was incredibly evocative, equal parts indulgent and reverent of the series’ history and condmening that very indulgence. Which is hypocritical for sure, but it is the core hypocrisy of this game and if I couldn’t get past that then I’d be here forever.

What am I talking about, I’ve been here forever already. Set me free, Snake. Set me free.

*

Here we are. Standing on the edge. The final act of Guns of the Patriots lies ahead of us, and it’s probably only fifteen minutes long in gameplay and four hours long in cutscenes. We’re coming up on the end, everybody, thank you for taking this ride with me! Next time, Act Five will begin and we’ll get a sense of the endgame that awaits us upon Arsenal Gear/Outer Haven.

Let’s take that leap together. All good things must come to an end.

Waiting Room

I had a bad summer, had a bad year, too
So headed to the Doctor to see what he could do
He said Jackson, I’m impressed, you’ve been in such distress
And somehow still progressed through your unhappiness
So let me take some tests, let me further assess
Your situation, your choices, you tell me what’s best

I said, why that sounds great, that’s such a relief
I thought this would hurt, but you’ve changed that belief
You’ve saved me such grief, I thought at the time
In weeks, I would know just how much he was lying

While sitting, shaking, in a waiting room
My body aching, my mind breaking
They’d asked me some questions, they thought I was faking
Then boom! A sound had arrived
Pricked us in the heart, made us want to cry
We looked to each other as if to ask why
These people who help us want us all to die
A radio sat in the middle of the room
They found a happy song and cranked the volume
It formed a vacuum and we started to choke
Was this meant to be funny, some kind of a joke
We were all broken people with brains just like mine
No one wanted to hear Walking On Sunshine

But then it happened, they called her name
And through the frame we all saw the same thing
We saw what laid waiting, some messed up Asylum
White walls and restraints in a place made of pain
Did they think us insane?
What were we to gain? How were we to heal?
Were we to know, in the present, these places were real?
What did they think any one of us would feel?
Did they really expect her to come to their heel?

She stood from her chair, walked firm and walked slow
Turned back to the room, so that we would all know
She did it for us, an unspoken alliance
And then she began her act of defiance
Right then they were on her, they dragged her away
They could not let her stay in the light of the day
She’d made a disgrace, she’d caused quite a scene
Been rowdy and obscene, yet looked so serene
As she at last disappeared behind the dark screen
We smiled, we cheered, we crowned her our queen
She had lifted the radio, smashed it on the floor
The silence then came with a deafening roar
It cracked into pieces she refused to pick up
And with her last she yelled, “will you shut the fuck up?!”
 

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.

The Metal Gear Diaries #38: What Was Old, Is Now Old Again

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 found out that Liquid was making his way to Shadow Moses Island, and proceeded in immediate pursuit. This time, it’s time to reach land, in Act Four: Twin Suns.

OH SHIT

AHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

ahhhhAHHAHHHhahhHAHHAHAHHH!!!!

In retrospect, I should have seen this coming. They straight up just put a level of Metal Gear Solidin this game. And while I played Twin Snakes for this quest, I’ve played a fair chunk of the PSone version, and loading up the Heliport area without any explanation whatsoever: yep, that’s the good shit. That’s the good shit right there. Ugh, it’s even got the PSone Game Over screen. Heck and damn yeah.

Its inclusion has two obvious reasons: one, to make everyone remember Metal Gear Solid and get a real sense of nostalgia for the place to which they are returning. And two, to show how much the series has changed in just one short decade. After all, it’s been eight years since Guns of the Patriots came out and it doesn’t seem that old, does it?

For the first time, in this PSOne segment, I entered the building through the vent on the ground floor, rather than sneaking through the longer one on the catwalk. Who doesn’t go through the catwalk? I mean seriously, come on, it’s the way to go.

And then Snake wakes up, and implies that he dreams about Shadow Moses all the time. I’m glad that the game takes the time here to remind us that our nostalgic, warm memories are actually Snake’s nightmares.  We get to enjoy the game and associate it with cool fun stealthy times, but the characters are tortured by these experiences, without fail. Our games do not come consequence free.

Welcome Home

And then it happens! After getting the MkIII, and walking through a terrible blizzard, Snake arrives at the Heliport again, only now it’s old and decrepit and empty. “The Best Is Yet To Come Plays” as you walk around the Heliport, with excerpts of dialogue from the original game scattered around the locations. But the environment and item locations are identical.

It’s a victory lap of sorts for the series, and now I understand why this isn’t the final act. It’s here to give this moment between player and creator, to acknowledge the series and its growth and the way it’s changed. Snake is almost irrelevant in this empty Heliport, the one time the game lets the player forget that they are playing this very specific character. Continually, Metal Gear reminds you that it isn’t about you as a player, and you’re inhabiting the body of someone specific – the way Snake stops sometimes and coughs, literally everything about Sons of Liberty. But now it’s just you, the space and the music. An indulgent moment, yes, but one that after all this time, I think has been fully earned.

A Sad Sight To See

Man, seeing Shadow Moses so wrecked and empty sure is affecting. You end up running through the first act of Metal Gear Solid in little over a minute, the rooms once full of guards and enemies now patrolled by laser-sight drones. Devoid of their original purpose, removed from the people inside of them, these rooms become haunting metal shells through which you must pass as a ghost.

It fits in with the pattern of how Guns of the Patriots has been invoking its nostalgia, always immediately subverting it with an element of sadness, never quite giving you what you want. Like Snake, Shadow Moses is old and broken, barely hanging on to be brought to your television screen today. These are people and places that belong in the past, and you get the sense that you’re transgressing by the very act of playing through them.

Last Time

Hahahahha, the comedy of errors that is the world’s greatest soldier and his closest friend and confident trying to reach and then unlock a single door, but getting confused because once they used a different door.

This is the goofiest game.

Otacon’s Office

Ugh, Snake and Otacon’s first meeting getting a big and elaborate callback is designed to hit me. That’s the moment that I went from “hmmm” on Metal Gear to “okay, this might be something,” and now here we are – *takes a giant breath and yells to the sky* – THIRTY-SEVEN ARTICLES LATER. Oh dear god, what have I done, save me from this, save me from myself.

Until Snake Eater came along and blew everything out of the water, Otacon and Snake was the core relationship of the series. It sure as shit wasn’t Meryl and Snake, and I’ll be damned if anyone’s gonna latch on to Jack and Rose. No, the series was Otacon and Snake, each ridiculous in their own way, bouncing off of each other like only best friends can. Despite being a set-up for a deliberate subversion, when I think of “classic Metal Gear,” I think of the tanker level from Sons of Liberty. I think of Otacon and Snake.

And so it’s fantastic that they finally get some chance to banter here. The lack of focus on the codec interactions has meant that Otacon has got short shrift outside of the super serious briefing sequences, there’s no time for them to joke, there’s no time for them to goof. But in this final calm sequence (because at this point, once things start kicking off I don’t think they’re going to stop til the end), the game comes back to that idea of classic Metal Gear, that idea that only really existed in people’s false memories of the first game before the Tanker made made that idea real. Otacon and Snake, on a mission, teasing each other.

Naomi

Hey! Then they find Naomi on a surveillance camera and finally have a discussion about why she’s betrayed them. I loved Naomi’s character in the first game, and I loved how Snake accepted her hatred of hid, understanding and forgiving it implicitly. It’s just how things are. So while Otacon is angrier at being used and more in shock, Snake is okay with Naomi’s betrayal, trusting that she has her own reasons and is following her own belief.

Plus, her actions don’t make sense with the information they have, and if there’s one thing that Solid Snake is good at, it’s going along with whatever until somebody explains that he didn’t have all the information and in fact everything is different! The man’s been betrayed more times than he’s had birthdays at this point, and I’m not even exaggerating with that.

So off we go, to find Naomi and Vamp, to stumble upon the secret of Shadow Moses and stop Liquid or whoever the actual final bad guy of this game is.

*

This act has been really empty so far – which is totally purposeful, but I can’t help but miss actually playing some Metal Gear. There’s no guards to sneak past, no items to find (Drebin’s shop has really changed what items mean in Metal Gear), only drones that swarm upon spotting you and are all but impossible to hide from.

I assume Guns of the Patriots was on fire when it was released, because it’s an incredibly ambitious game that feels so small when the truth of it is revealed. Act Three’s city map is enormous, but completely empty and devoid of anything but one guy to follow. It doesn’t surprise me that a game like this would fall victim to an overreach of ambition, I bet that every single Metal Gear game is an overreach of ambition in some ways. But while the first two acts established a new core approach to the play, without that it just feels like Not Quite Metal Gear and that’s a shame.

Because apparently, I have affection for Metal Gear as a stealth game just as much as I have affection for it as a nonsense delivery system. But now let’s head off, further and further into Shadow Moses, and see what lies in store…

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.

Car Park

You parked the car, the engine stopped
You stepped outside, we went to walk
Across the concrete to the door
Her eyes were looking at the floor
While I was standing to the side
Remembering how much she cried
And knowing she would cry again
Stood silent, and said nothing when
You struck her with the words you spoke
Extracting pain behind a joke
You paused for laughter, locked eyes with mine
Made me complicit within your crime
I'm sorry sis, for laughing then
I swear I'll never laugh again