For the third time, legendary agent Solid Snake destroyed the walking tank Metal Gear deep behind enemy lines and saved the world from Armageddon, this time from his old unit FOX-HOUND led by his newly-revealed twin brother Liquid Snake. Until then, Metal Gear Solid had been an action-packed bonanza told through expertly produced cinematics that rivaled Hollywood blockbusters. And then the story pivoted at its climax. What had been a politically charged narrative about Cold War era terrorism and the threat of nuclear war changed into an examination on genetics, using the very technology and rendering techniques that brought the game to life to reinforce its deep and complex themes. With MGS, Hideo Kojima merged his narrative and gameplay abilities into a deep metaphor about biology, technology, and destiny.
Over the course of the Cold War, the man known as Snake developed from a lone soldier caught in the struggle between Capitalism and Communism to the living symbol of a nation free of ideology called Big Boss. By the close of Peace Walker, he had become a man with two bodies – one physical, the other conceptual. Ground Zeroes, the first part of Metal Gear Solid V, continues soon after, as word arrives that Paz, the Cipher Agent who infiltrated Mother Base under the guise of a pacifist student to frame the MSF as terrorists, survived and is being held at an American prison in Cuba. Fearing that she’ll reveal their secrets and in time for a United Nations inspection of Mother Base, Snake infiltrates Camp Omega. Safely aboard their chopper, they discover a bomb implanted inside Paz. Though disposed of, one Trojan horse begets another – the UN inspection was a cover to sneak Skull Face’s XOF forces, who proceed to blow the supporting columns and collapse Mother Base from inside. Another explosion rocks the chopper, sending it down in fire and metal. Both of Big Boss’s bodies were destroyed.
*This revised and expanded version of the essay originally titled ‘Peace Walker’s Military Industrial Complex (Or The Bosses Metamorphosis)’ is part two of a continuing series exploring how the last three Metal Gear Solid games analyze the shift in political strategy that arose in the modern era.
The modern day concept of the nation came about as a byproduct to the spread of enlightenment ideals across the globe. Based on philosophies that defined individuals as absolute agents of their own lives, it ended the subservience to monarchies and united people along territorial, economic, or ideological lines, pooling their resources to live in an economy of production in the knowledge that their collective abilities would greatly outmatch their separate talents. With the advancements in communication and transportation that made the world a smaller place, nations became actors in global politics.
The Individual And The Society
A textual read of the elements of the first three Metal Gear Solid games reveals an analysis of the creation of both the individual and the societies they form with others. So complete was the deconstruction that they exist thematically separate from the entries that followed, in essence comprising their own complete trilogy. But there was a problem: there was still much story to be told.
With the close of this first ‘identity’ trilogy, Hideo Kojima embarked on a second, expanding on the epistemological convergence between the individual and the society as he’d already explored them – politics. Starting with MGS4, the series worked towards completing its narrative loop while examining the rise of a new type of political strategy that came into vogue in the modern era with the development of a workable model of proxy warfare. Though there are recurring themes throughout these three works, most notably the ideas of transformation and rebirth, the concept of political proxies is the thread that ties them together, first portraying its characteristics and then showing its range of applications.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is celebrated for how it critiques social engineering, Hideo Kojima having crafted a theme that shows how controls built into the social fabric of a culture can shape an individual’s thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. The story and game progression do an outstanding job of subtly running players through a simulation of the events of MGS1’s Shadow Moses incident as the rookie Raiden, forcing them to question whether their actions were truly their own or if they had been molded into a clone of Shadow Moses’ legendary hero Solid Snake.
On my third infiltration into Ground Zeroes’ Camp Omega, I found an electrical panel that allowed me to cut the power to the surrounding facility, disabling all the lights and the several security cameras so I could quietly rescue the prisoner at its belly. It was the latest in dozens of exploitable gameplay options built into Omega that proved it was a dynamic, multi-faceted place that enabled and rewarded a variety of playstyles. The first game powered by the Fox Engine, GZ introduces players to the new levels of agency offered in the second part of the Metal Gear Solid V saga, The Phantom Pain; ideas that evolve the classic Metal Gear design. Continue reading “The Disembodied Soul of Ground Zeroes”
The history of the game once known as Metal Gear Solid: Rising is fascinating. When Kojima Productions Raiden-focused MGS spinoff ran into development troubles, it was passed along to Platinum Games to apply their over the top character action specialties. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance fuses both development house’s sensibilities into a whole that only offers hints at their respective strengths while highlighting the deficiencies of each and the inherent problems that result when you bring them together.
At its heart, Revengeance is absolutely Platinum’s brand of character action all the way from the quick and violent combat to the diverse moveset. But in trying to grant control of the super agile post-MGS4 lightning god as he fights against the Desperados PMC and its band of ‘Winds of Destruction’ cyborgs, the game has had to make some choices that have hurt itself in the long run.
In the second part of our thematic analysis of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, we took an exhaustive look at the structural subtext of Metal Gear Solid 2: Son’s of Liberty. Starting in that game, a thematic split began to form in the narrative. The story was about the importance of ideas and information to the growth of a single individual but also looked at the interaction of many individuals to form a society. Metal Gear Solid 3 carries it further.Continue reading “Metal Gear Solid Analysis: The Identity Trilogy Part 3: Snake Eater”
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, its 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.
MEME, GENE, SCENE
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 are how those facets forms an individual’s beliefs and directs policies within their country and relative to countries across the globe.