Metal Gear Solid Analysis: The Identity Trilogy

By Dane Thomsen


As an aesthetic work, the Metal Gear Solid saga examines what it means to be human. The spine of the series revolves around the full development of an individual’s identity through the foundations of their biological makeup, the shaping of culture and art upon them, and the importance of the experiences that individual collects throughout their life. But just as important is how those facets forms an individual’s beliefs and directs policies within their country, relative to countries across the globe.

Each game’s theme is divided into a handful of concepts that best represent it and turned into villains that its hero must literally defeat. Every member of FOX-HOUND, Dead Cell and the Cobra Unit are abstractions of parts of a larger system and the hero’s fight to defeat them is the moral of the story in which they appear. The true beauty of this series is that each game’s theme is fundamentally based on the themes explored by the entries that preceded it.


The Twin Snakes

Solid Snake retired from FOX-HOUND after he saved the world. His last mission had been physically and mentally exhausting: he had destroyed Zanzibarland’s nuclear equipped Metal Gear D and killed its pilot, his friend Gray Fox, only to be confronted by a man thought dead: Big Boss. His former commanding officer reveals that he is Snake’s father as the two men are caught by explosions rocking the facility around them. After committing patricide and narrowly escaping destruction, Snake resigns himself to the snowy Alaskan countryside to live in seclusion.

His peace is short lived. On the nearby Shadow Moses Island, Terrorists have taken over a nuclear waste disposal facility. Colonel Roy Campbell, CO during Zanzibar, comes to Snake’s home and gives the soldier reason to take on a new mission: the terrorists are comprised of the Next Generation Special Forces led by new members of FOX-HOUND. Among them is its current leader, a man named Liquid Snake who shares more with Solid than just a codename. They have a nuclear missile and hostages, including Campbell’s niece Meryl and executives in DARPA and the weapons manufacturing company ArmsTech. The two men were collecting final data on a newly completed black ops project. Metal Gear Rex. They have a single demand: Big Boss’ remains. Snake heads back into danger.

Snake swims the subarctic Alaskan waters and reaches the disposal facility at its dock. What he sees is a battalion of men and Liquid, with identical features but British accent, riding the elevator up at the back. Naomi Hunter, FOX-HOUND’s chief medical officer is on the missions support team and through her, Snake learns of the Genome Army, soldiers genetically modified with genes that build great soldiers, raising their IQ’s and combat ability. All of these genes had been recognized in the twentieth century’s greatest soldier; the terrorists honor him by appointing themselves the Sons of Big Boss.

This idea is the origin point for the story’s thematic subtext. The Twin Snake’s central thesis is about genetics; it explains how genes define our physical appearance while questioning whether they dictate the quality of our life. The answer is found in both plot and gameplay. It is man’s fight against nature, against genetic determinism. Snake’s test is one of character. It starts here:

Each member of the new FOX-HOUND represents a different aspect of a larger biological system within nature. To help represent it, each one is a different organism that a collection of genes has found to be the most effective vehicle to survive; a mantis, an octopus, a wolf and an ocelot, a raven, and a snake. This is why all the characters use animal codenames.

Sniper Wolf shows the pair-bonding nature of animals in general and the pack-based social structure of Wolves in particular. She can survive in any terrain and supports her family by slowly and relentlessly stalking her prey.

Revolver Ocelot is the migratory flocking of animals. The ocelot can be found in various places all over the world, and, so, holds no allegiance to a single land, a character trait fitting of a man whose motives and loyalties only become more complex as the series continues.

Decoy Octopus is a master of disguise, a person who sheds all personality in order to inhabit the life he’s stolen. Biologically, he represents the mimicking nature of organisms who can take on the appearance and characteristics of other creatures to ward off predators and kill unsuspecting prey. Just as the process is faceless and unique to no one species in particular, the man himself has no distinct facial features or characteristics. The way in which he incorporates all the blood from the victim whose identity he’s stolen allows him to be any species, aligned with all and none.

Vulcan Raven is a metaphor for the circularity of biological life forms and the recycling of genetic material from one organism into another. The raven itself is a symbol of death and it would seem that the primary reason for its selection here is to show its inevitability. It’s no surprise, then, that Vulcan Raven’s birds consume him when he’s dying- he is a part of them as they will one day be a part of something else. Nothing goes to waste.

Psycho Mantis is an abstraction of the way that a brain functions. By taking control of the Genome Army, he is in essence issuing orders to many parts of a single ‘body.’ In the same way we use our eyes to see a fly, tell the hand on our left arm to move to a flyswatter, to pick it up, to raise it above our heads and swing it down, Mantis collects the information from a soldier in the second floor basement of Nuclear Storage Building A who has seen Snake (he is, in effect, more eyes), deliver orders back to that soldier to attack and sends out commands to other units in the area to rush in and give support without the need for that soldier to radio it in personally (it’s also a clever solution to the technical limitations of the PS1). This is precisely why there was unanimous support for the revolt and why FOX-HOUND begins to lose hold on the Genome Army after Mantis’ death.

As Snake defeats FOX-HOUND and rescues the hostages, each executive dies of a heart attack before the warrior’s eyes. It’s not long until he discovers that Naomi Hunter had infected him with FOXDIE, a virus intended to kill those behind Rex and its theft to keep the Metal Gear a secret. This is where we are offered a Darwinian outlet. The FOXDIE virus is programmed to destroy only those with certain genetic strains, letting the strong – those organisms without that strain – to continue and flourish in their stead. In very real terms, Snake is a vector, the source where a virus enters into a population and spreads from one host to the next.

The cyborg Ninja illustrates the incompatibility of genetics and bio-technology; he is a being whose organic material can die, even though its metal frame cannot. The man who was once Gray Fox has been transplanted into a cybernetic exoskeleton and is a mind desperately trying to find a place in the world.

At the far end of the mission is Liquid Snake – the man who calls Solid ‘brother’. Raised by Big Boss, Liquid became a member of Britain’s Special Air Service, and is a dark reflection to our steely hero. Atop Rex’s burnt-out wreckage, Liquid reveals the truth: Solid and Liquid are not actually Big Boss’ sons, but his genetic duplicates, each composed of one half of that legendary soldier’s complete genome. The Les Enfants Terrible project had tried to build the perfect warrior and Liquid had long believed that he had received the recessive waste material that resulted in the creation of Solid Snake. Liquids resentment towards his brother became an obsession to prove his own abilities – to his father, to his brother and to himself. It’s within the disparity of these twin snakes, now unrecognizably different, that the nature/nurture argument is most fully explored. They have become different because of their unique experiences and drives. This is where Kojima’s answer to the question of genetic determinism begins to form: genes are only the start of what a person can be, design a potential future.

This story is one of wills. Consider that The Twin Snakes is the only chapter in all of the Metal Gear Solid series with two potential endings. In Act 2, both Snake and Meryl have been captured. Snake has been strapped to a torture rack while Revolver Ocelot brutally interrogates him. There are only three options: submit, die and fight. Die and its game over, a fact Ocelot directly informs the player. Submit and the sadistic nut will have his fun on Meryl. Fight, by rapidly hitting the ‘Action’ button, and she may survive. It is the player-as-Snake’s struggle.

So as fist strikes bone and the Snakes last test commences, it’s no surprise that it’s Solid Snake who emerges victor. You had proven that he is the stronger of the two brothers. But as Snake escapes Metal Gear’s hangar, he finds that Liquid is beaten but not broken. Snake trapped and in Liquid’s crosshairs, something unlikely happens: Liquid Snake finally dies – of a heart attack. FOXDIE had taken another life, but perhaps not its last. As the virus is programmed to destroy specific genetic strains, if Liquid had its target genes, so could Solid. He leaves Shadow Moses – perhaps even with Meryl – and into an unknown future.

But over the course of this one mission, Snake had repeatedly beaten nature. His will overcame fate. That’s important for the story’s eleventh-hour reveal; it was Solid who was built of Big Boss’ weaker genes. It’s not Liquid’s physical inferiority but his blind obsession with it that deny him his victory over Solid Snake. In fact, he possessed the same determination and resilience that Solid does but chose to focus it on a different end – fight after fight, Liquid survives death because his life is dedicated to killing his brother; it has defined him and he has lost the perspective and strength of character to create his own path. Over the course of his life, Solid Snake had become a hero through his actions, ones based on his personal choices and the will to fulfill them. He is more than a copy of Big Boss.

While genes build our body and that influences how we perform in the world we are not bound to a defined fate. We can set off in our own directions, with our own hopes and dreams- it’s up to us to live our lives as we see fit. Solid Snake will die, without warning, but he will be different than when he was born. That is true of us all.



Sons of Liberty

The second installment in the Metal Gear Solid saga is about the dissemination of information, how important ideas are to the beliefs of an individual, and how they get passed within a society.

For those who never played The Twin Snakes, it’s story is recounted on disc as the fictional novel ‘In The Darkness of Shadow Moses: The Unofficial Truth’ written by that games weapons specialist, Nastasha Romanenko. The book fulfills several important roles all at once: it provides players of the first game with new story bits that happened on the opposite end of the Codec that Snake wasn’t privy to and exists in the Metal Gear universe as the tell-all that made Solid Snake and his crop of dark mulleted hair a hero the world over for preventing nuclear war.

After Rex’s data was stolen, it’s blueprints were leaked onto the black market, allowing anyone with the means to build their own Metal Gear. To combat the threat, Snake and Otacon formed a fringe group called Philanthropy. Receiving intel that the navy is transporting a new anti-Metal Gear Metal Gear code named ‘Ray’ down New York’s Hudson river, Snake infiltrates the USS Discovery tanker housing it.  Moments after drop, Snake watches a military unit led by Russian ex-patriot Sergei Gurlukovich seize the upper decks and claim the ship. In the holds, Gurlukovich welcomes his partner Revolver Ocelot, who claims Ray as his property, kills Commandant Scott Dolph and betrays the Russian. When Snake reveals himself to the old gunslinger, Ocelot, and his shiny new hand, go berserk. Snake watches in horror as his voice is replaced by that of Liquid Snake, who tells him he lives on through his arm grafted onto Ocelot’s. Activating Ray, Liquid tears out of the Tanker and records Solid Snake standing amidst it’s wreckage before disappearing into the depths of the Pacific.

The story jumps two years into the future. Terrorists comprised of the anti-terrorism squad Dead Cell and an Olga-run Gurlukovich army have taken over the Big Shell, a processing plant used to purify the water polluted by the Discovery’s destruction. Colonel Campbell, leader of the support team in Alaska is prepping Snake for infiltration into the facility. But something’s not right; Snake’s voice is wrong, his body too slim and movements too acrobatic. He enters from the water and has to wait for the elevator. The guards patrol and even though this is your first time in this room, you already know how to navigate it past them. The situation seems so…familiar. Even the cutscenes tug at your memory. As Snake rides the elevator up, he removes his mask and reveals a fair skinned and long blonde-haired young man.

This is where Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty takes an abrupt left turn from audience expectations and it’s first step towards the theme that pulses underneath the entire game. But to get there, we have to look at the marketing campaign that fueled its hype.

Unveiled at E3 2000, every piece of content for Sons of Liberty prior to release exhibited Solid Snake front and center. Although primarily showcasing  scenes from the Tanker section where Snake does appear, sections were released with Snake that were replaced with this new soldier in the final product. No one expected it. No one expected that this soldier would be the primary protagonist for the game. No one expected Raiden.

This switcheroo is information manipulation distilled into theme and goes layers deep into the narrative. It was Kojima playing with memes. Memes are information, concepts and ideas that are passed between people and are analogs to genes.  Memes are copied, they mutate, they spread. Ideas are factors that build a personality and what they believe. Ideas can be passed on through books, marketing campaigns and story.

That last one is particularly important. Despite this being his first mission, Raiden performs in many of the same ways Snake did during the Tanker portion and with much the same expertise. And we know why. Raiden had been trained in VR simulations based on a limitless number of combat scenarios, many of which appeared on the MGS disc and its Integral special edition.

Where The Twin Snakes showed the variations of forms that genes create for themselves as different types of animals, Sons of Liberty focuses on how racial differences are merely variations on a single species. The human. By having each member of Dead Cell come from different ethnic backgrounds we are focusing on how humans have developed features that allow for survival in different terrains. By combating them, Raiden is fighting against social constructs that perpetuate ideas that can be harmful to the individual – classism, religion and government.

Olga is the human counterpart of the idea of pack mentality and pair bonding that Sniper Wolf had personified. She and her father’s Gurlukovich army were forced to become mercenaries to survive. Survival meant crossing social and national borders. They had to migrate. To a small extent, her story can be viewed as the adoption of culture into new and different social surroundings. It would seem that her presence is primarily to show the Nomadic herding of tribes, traveling together – of sharing ideas and information with other cultures.

Fatman, slurping down cocktails and with his manicured hands represents decadence and classism. He believes he is above socially placed morality because of the fact of his birth and builds bombs to blow the world apart.

Fortune represents mysticism that can be used to impose social controls.  Her father, her husband and, to an extent Fortune as well, have been turned into martyrs whose lives and suffering have been exploited to become a rallying cry for Dead Cell. Her past has been twisted and distorted so she is more a symbol than a person, a dark reflection of Snake and Raiden’s relationship. Notice how Solidus uses her to make Vamp act while redirecting his aggression towards accomplishing his mission.

That’s what is so horrifying about Vamp. He represents the horror of zealotry for beliefs that have existed from early human thought. His characteristics are the classic representation of horror. He drinks blood, thrives in darkness and is immortal.  Even if you are fast enough to get a shot in, he just keeps coming.

This installment also shed light on the code names for the Sons of Big Boss and how they represent distinct traits for those characters:

A Liquid takes the form of the container it’s placed in, regardless of its shape – whether it’s a cup or a Russian agent. Liquid Snake transcends the genes he was given, but not the personality that they helped to shape. The statement is that there are things that can be true of any person, regardless of the body that was built for them. He is the opposite of Solid Snake, who has always walked his own path.  Until the Shadow Moses incident, Liquid possessed a body he despised, being ridiculed for having one that was inferior while becoming defined by it. Revolver Ocelot, the current vessel, has already been expressed as being an animal without a home and would seem the perfect choice for a soul without a form.

Which brings us to the third son of Big Boss. Solidus materials (think Silly Putty) are malleable substances that can be molded into whatever shape a set of hands wants it to, but never by its own will. It must be the hands of something else, which is exactly why the Patriots chose to place him into their ranks: it was their hand that shaped him with the fingers of environment and culture. What is so terrifying is that Solidus was a social leader, someone who dictated policy for the citizens of his nation, but only through cheating, deception and cover-ups.

We also learn that Raiden was raised in a child army led by Solidus and is haunted by what he witnessed and what he did. Their relationship closely resembles the relationships Big Boss has with both Liquid and Solid. The man himself aspires to be Big Boss. Until this point, every picture we have of that Legendary warrior is an old man with his white hair and trademark eye patch. When we meet Solidus, the similarities are startling. Even during Raiden’s fight with the Solidus-piloted Harrier, the former Presidents left eye is damaged, an injury the man meets with a wry smile.  Later you understand his glee – he has donned an eye patch and his physical transformation into Big Boss is complete.

That’s where the plot veers back on course with the meme concept. Solidus is on the Big Shell for ulterior motives. The Big Shell was a front for a battleship-sized Metal Gear code-named Arsenal that is so immense that the Ray model was mass-produced to protect it. Constructed underneath the facility, Arsenal Gear houses GW, a complex artificial intelligence network that processes all memes perpetuated through music, technology and the internet and promotes the ideas it wants while eliminating the ones it doesn’t. It is trying to build a program with the sole purpose of cultivating a society and breeding ‘proper’ citizens. The program is deemed the Selection for Societal Sanity, the S3 engine. But GW has activated. Its initial test run was to create a set of protocols that would shape a person into the perfect soldier. The scenario is based on data collected from the operation on Shadow Moses, an incident that the player is incredibly familiar with. That’s the familiarity you felt from the moment you saw Raiden swim into the Strut A Deep Sea Dock.  Raiden’s entire adventure was a test run of GW’s simulation.

It’s an implementation of the very unique kind of experience storytelling provides – one that was never yours. Raiden learned something from fighting Liquid Snake, from enduring torture for Meryl, but he didn’t do them. Neither did you. Moreover, because the experiences affect us psychologically in the same way our own collected ones do, they can build a set of behaviors to dictate an individual’s actions. You are Solid Snake’s clone but not genetically.  It would be hard to argue that playing through The Twin Snakes didn’t make the player better capable at completing Sons of Liberty. In the young soldier, that behavior was a set of skills to complete his mission. That’s why Raiden has no defining characteristics, has an almost ethereal ghostly pigment and earns bonuses represented as differently-colored wigs; he is all men through all time. He was GW’s prototype. So were you.

Metal Gear Solid 2 is about the fictions we wrap around ourselves to give us a sense of comfort and control. Fortune’s staged ‘luck’, Stillman’s faked handicap, the theater of American elections produced to fool The People, and Raiden’s perception of reality. Every character in Sons of Liberty is living in a fabricated narrative. Everyone except Solid Snake. That’s why he’s a threat.

GW wants Snake’s skills, not his unwavering sense of right and wrong.  That’s why it needed to defame him. By painting him a terrorist, the world wouldn’t live in his inspiration. What it didn’t figure is that much of those skills come from his strength of personality and his will to do what he considered right. By electing to forego those characteristics, they wouldn’t be passed on to his copies. Notice how Raiden can fight, but he cannot defeat, Dead Cell – his impotency at fighting Fortune, his despair at Vamp’s refusal to die. He couldn’t beat them because Solid Snake never fought them.

But Raiden has changed. Betrayed, stripped and sneaking through the bowels of Arsenal Gear, the young man is alone. Creeping along the corridors, he meets Solid Snake who has fully shed his Iroquois Pliskin disguise and is now dressed in his sneaking suit equipped with the infinite ammo bandana he earned by saving Meryl’s life. Through the madness of The Big Shell and witnessing Snake’s courage, Raiden has become his own man. Gripping the sword he inherited from Snake in his hands, he is stronger than he was; strong enough to face his past, create his future and defeat Solidus.

Raiden is the star of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, but Solid Snake remains its hero, a fact that had been with you from the beginning. From the moment you start the game, you think the title screen is the face of Solid Snake looking out. That’s not true. It’s the reflection of his face cast off the television that both Raiden and the player had been looking into. It’s by his inspiration that Raiden had been able to grow. No longer red, the color of the game’s lethal weapons, the title now has the blue, non-lethal reflection of Raiden, his own man, no longer a tool for death.



Snake Eater

In the decades after World War II, the world was divided. Nations rallied in support of one of two political philosophies each with a different super power as its fountainhead – communist Russia to the East and the capitalist United States to the West. These two countries were equipped with enough nuclear technology to blow the Earth asunder at the smallest provocation – but neither side was completely ready to light the match. The stalemate between these former allies would go down in history as the Cold War.

Under the constant stress of annihilation, fear gripped the citizens of the U.S. Socially, the global rise of communism and paranoia of revolution or government infiltration by its ideology led to the Red Scare, the active hunt for sympathizers within American borders. With neighbor watching neighbor, no one was sure who was patriot and who was spy.

August 1964, above the Soviet Union – an AC-130H ‘Combat Talon’, acting as field command, soars through the sky. Its cargo bay opens and a sole figure jumps into the blazing sun of the breaking dawn. Landing among the lush forests of Tselinoyarsk, he removes his air mask, revealing a shaggy, familiar brown mullet. John Doe radios his ship. A member of the fledgling FOX unit, this master of infiltration and camouflage’s mission is to aid Dr. Nicholai Stephanovich Sokolov, Russian rocket scientist, in defecting to America. Caught in a power struggle for the Soviet Union between Premier Nikita Khrushchev and one of Leonid Brezhnev supporters, Colonel Yevgeny Volgin, Sokolov was building weapons. For this mission, John is appointed the codename Naked Snake.

Luckily, Snake has support. Among them, his former mentor, The Boss. Radiating confidence, ability and pride, The Boss is the legendary World War II soldier and mother of modern special ops. She taught Snake how to fight and developed Close Quarters Combat, a form of hand-to-hand combat. Their relationship exceeds intimacy. She was Snakes teacher in all the same ways Solid Snake was Raiden’s.

And then she committed treason. Defecting from the U.S., she captures Sokolov from Snake and delivers him, her Cobra Unit, and two Davy Crockett infantry-sized nuclear missiles to Volgin. As Snake tries to wrestle with the reality of the situation, The Boss breaks his arm and throws him into the river. The last thing John sees is one of Volgin’s new nuke decimating Sokolov’s Design Bureau.

Operation Snake Eater was born from desperation. In the aftermath of the detonation, Nikita Khrushchev, Premier of the Soviet Union was struggling to hold onto his power. Revolutionary factions within his country viewed the incident as a covert United States attack and were ready to use the incident to oust him from office and unleash World War III. Only by killing Volgin and assassinating The Boss could America prove its innocence and save the planet from disintegration. Snake once again infiltrates Tselinoyarsk.

But he lacks The Boss’ confidence because of the only lesson she never taught him- how to think like a soldier. John is naked, exposed to the world. He is a baby lost in the forest who must defeat the Cobra unit, a group of special Ops members that The Boss assembled during World War II based on the emotions that they carry into battle. Each member represent a different emotion derived from the experiences that a soldier feels on the battlefield as it shapes them into who they are. By defeating them, Snake is transcending them, growing.

The Pain of bullets tearing into flesh. Having endured the pain, the body becomes aware of it and aware that it could happen again. Scarred and disfigured, the body’s reluctance to experience it again creates-

The Fear of that pain and the emotional toll of a terror that stalks but can’t be seen; once it infects, its poisons run deep. Fear is invisible and when cloaked in its shroud (his camo) the strength and stamina of its wearer is sapped, which leads to-

The End of life as death comes, never seen. It lies in wait, slumbering until it must take its victims life. Its speed startling and its retreat, deafening. What it leaves in its wake is-

The Fury of having experienced death firsthand and the flaming rage that spurns destruction; the heat engulfing any that come before it. Eventually the fires extinguish, replaced by-

The Sorrow for those who have died by your hand or by your side. Only by facing them, accepting your actions and claiming responsibility for them can you move on. It is living viewing the past through the cracked lens of grief.

This is the course that emotions run through a man who must fight. They are experiences. Snake’s experiences.

And The Joy commands all emotion. It is the fulfillment of knowing what to believe in and what to fight for the rest of your life. But she’s known by another name – The Boss. As Snake stands opposite his mentor, the woman he loved, we know this is their last fight.

But something fascinating is happening. Snake’s mastery of infiltration and camouflage allow him to disappear into the thicket of flowers suffocating the battlefield, but when he reappears behind The Boss, he is engaging her with an expanded technical set he didn’t possess before that moment – he is attacking with new moves, countering ones that he hadn’t been able to before. He is holding his own against the woman who created CQC and had handily laid waste to him over and over since her defection.

And yet, those experiences are exactly why he’s winning now – he’s learned. That’s the theme at the center of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Scene. Most easily understood in its theatrical sense, the concept of scene is the information that is accumulated from interacting within the world, of acting on its stage. Every punch he took, every bullet he removed made him stronger and as Snake stands victorious over The Boss, pointing the gun she gave him at her head, the last experience you have is pulling the trigger. And for averting nuclear war between two super powers, Naked Snake is awarded a promotion – the title of Big Boss.

Big Boss was a soldier loyal to the mission, to the job he was given by his country, one he believed was virtuous. But a soldier is a tool for the government under its employ. Governments are social constructs and a society gains experiences. They grow. Their leaders come and go, generations replace generations and people die. A society’s policies are dictated by the times. But societies interact with others – they have friends, they have enemies and they learn from their dealings. But those, too, are dictated by the times.

Which makes The Boss’ sacrifice all the more tragic. As the medals are pinned to Big Boss’ chest, we learn the real history. The Boss was a true patriot. On orders, she infiltrated Volgin’s ranks to acquire the Philosopher’s Legacy; a $100 billion pool spread all over the world. She was supposed to bring it back to the coffers of the United States, a mission she thought would help lead to a unified world. But then Volgin fired the nuke. The strategy to reclaim the Legacy was revised. In order to settle the extremists in the Soviet Union, the U.S. government now needed to kill its soldier as she was carrying out their orders. But it had to look convincing so had to be done by her most loved disciple Naked Snake. From here we have a manufactured recording of history. The Boss will forever be hated around the world- as monster in Russia and as a traitor in her homeland. It is information manipulation condensed into plot. And few would know the truth, but John Doe would become stronger.

And it’s here we learn that we’ve been victims of the same affliction since before the first Metal Gear Solid and where the themes of the past two games provide us better understanding of Snake Eater. History is a record; of events and the people who influenced them. It can be manipulated. We know Big Boss, his genes and the stories of his villainy – we believe him to be a monster and terrorist. What is so surprising is that the figure standing tall before us is none of those things. He is a man loyal to his ideals and trying to work for a better world. We realize that he is the same as Solid Snake, they are born from the same mold. The Sons of Liberty taught us the nature of culture and how the stories that are passed on can change the perspective of humanity if the information is filtered and changed. Here we see it directly applied. For many people before Snake Eater’s release, the theories behind GW’s S3 engine had worked; it had corrupted their perception and colored their bias.

Ultimately, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is about the beginning; the beginning of the series of events that lead to the present – of the franchise, of the ‘Snakes,’ and of the world. We must not blindly hold onto ideals, must not simply adopt the beliefs of our friends and families, can’t take the values and actions of our country at face-value. Instead, we must form our own values based on how we see the world. That was what the Boss wanted for Snake, the witness to the tragedy of the Cobra Unit. Fight for what you believe in, in what the world should be, but fully understand what those beliefs are.



Memes, genes, scene. MGS. Bodies build from a recipe of genetic information. The ingredients dictate not the absolute destiny of the organism but narrows down its potential one. Between the bookend events of its birth and death, it acts within the world and learns from doing so. It meets others, learns the stories of their experiences, discovers music and creates a history.

Many people settle together and form a society. The society propagates a culture and forms a political system to make rules about interacting within. It acts within the world and learns from doing so. Individuals die and the culture evolves. The society changes. It meets others, learns the stories of their experiences. They make friends and trade, they make enemies and fight. The society changes.

The Sons were born clones, but they are no longer duplicates. They are variations of an original – solid, liquid, and solidus objects are variations on matter as Solid, Liquid and Solidus are all variations on Big Boss. Even though his genes have been passed to them, their personalities developed in America, in Britain, in Africa with markedly different experiences. In the end, these men share fewer similarities than their genetic structure might lead to believe. This is precisely why John Doe’s’ heritage is of little importance. In his body were all the parts that made Solid and Liquid, just in a different combination.

That is a legacy. At its core, the Metal Gear Solid series is about what we pass on; the ideas we cultivate and the actions we take that affects the world of the future. Kojima’s plea comes from each successive Snake and to the next; from Naked to Solid, from Solid to Raiden; from our grandparents to our children – live life.

Continue to The Proxy Trilogy


2 thoughts on “Metal Gear Solid Analysis: The Identity Trilogy”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: