Gaming, Video Games

Metal Gear Solid (Pt. 3) | Metal Gear Mondays

With this week’s Metal Gear Monday I’ll be concluding our look into arguably the greatest Playstation game ever released, Metal Gear Solid.

Part 3: Story

Metal Gear Solid took the plotting formula that Hideo Kojima had utilized in his previous two Metal Gear games, particularly Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, and brought it into the next generation. For the first time in the Metal Gear series the environments looked far more believable, and even ahead of their time, the entire script of the title was fully voiced, which again was far ahead of its time, and the series earned its trademark cinematic quality through the use of cut-scenes and scripted events, which had been used to some extent in the prior releases but never to this magnitude.

Metal Gear Solid‘s primary theme, and one that we’ll come back to as we move forward into the other entries in the series, is that of genetics, and what sort of biological legacy we leave behind. This point is primarily demonstrated in the differing ideals and heated battle, both mentally and physically, that rages on between series hero Solid Snake and his revealed brother Liquid Snake. This title also marks the first mention of the Les Enfants Terribles project, which saw the cloning of Big Boss, the Legendary Solider and primary antagonist of the first two Metal Gear games, and resulted in three clones, or sons: Solid Snake, Liquid Snake, and the third Snake mentioned in the post credit sequence of the game, Solidus Snake (a.k.a. President George Sears).

Again, harkening back to the previous titles in the Metal Gear series, Hideo Kojima uses action B-movie motifs and absurdities to facilitate his anti-war commentary and overall message of genetic legacies. Sure, there are things like bi-pedal nuclear battle mechs and ninjas wearing future-tech and deflecting bullets with energy powered katanas, but for the most part they all have their purposes in the overall allegory, underlying message, and theme of the story. Like most of the Metal Gear series, Kojima blends frantic and addicting stealth action gameplay with an intense and exciting plot to talk about the dangers of nuclear weapons, comment on deterrence, and make his own predictions on the future of global affairs.


I know, I know, I didn’t qualify any of those statements and haven’t really touched on the themes and motifs that Kojima uses in prior articles. While the latter of those issues is primarily because Hideo Kojima’s first two Metal Gear games were far less dialogue heavy and expository. As far as the former issue, let me help by showing you instead of just telling.

Solid Snake begins Metal Gear Solid by being pulled out of retirement, much like Kojima was pulled back into Metal Gear following the success of the first title and the failure of Snake’s Revenge. Colonel Campbell from Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake returns to be Solid Snake’s primary contact, and Solid Snake is forced to infiltrate a nuke disposal site that has been taken over by defective members of his old unit and figure out what their goal is. I find it interesting that it is mentioned early on that Solid Snake was pulled from retirement to embark on this mission because the terrorist leader is his twin brother, and yet they never utilize this to assist in Solid Snake’s sneaking. He’s a spy, why isn’t he disguising himself as his own brother? Regardless, the mission begins.

For obvious reasons, the nuclear weapon disposal facility in Alaska, Shadow Moses, is used as the venue for two reasons: 1. it would be the perfect place to hide a Metal Gear that is secretly being developed by the U.S. Government and 2. Hideo Kojima can use the irony of this to convey his distaste with the current state of nuclear affairs.

Metal Gear?!

As Snake ventures further into the compound he first attempts to save the DARPA Chief Donald Anderson who happened to be visiting when the attack occurred (coincidence? I think not!), who dies of a mysterious heart-attack. He fights his way out of the failed rescue with Colonel Campbell’s captured niece, Meryl Silverburgh, and then begins his attempt to rescue ArmsTech President Kenneth Baker, who was also visiting on the day of the attack. More tragedy occurs as Solid Snake fights and defeats Revolver Ocelot, who makes his first appearance in the Metal Gear series in this game, but is left with a dead Kenneth Baker due to another mysterious heart-attack.

Crossing over to the next portion of the facility, Solid Snake battles Vulcan Raven, who is piloting a tank, and we see Hideo Kojima’s first comment on nanomachines in the series, at least to my knowledge. Entering the actual disposal part of the facility, Naomi Hunter, the medical advisor on the mission, and Colonel Campbell tell Solid Snake that he can’t physically fire his weapons in the area. It would be too dangerous, so they’ve prevented him from doing so by manipulating nanomachines in his body, that were implanted prior to the mission so they could monitor him. Solid Snake, as the vessel for Hideo Kojima’s voice, gives his higher-ups his opinion on this, and it isn’t a pleasant one.

Bouncing around a bit, Solid Snake takes down more members of his former unit, FOXHOUND, and we play through one of the best fights ever as we take down Psycho Mantis. It is during this battle and when contacting Meryl that we see some of Kojima’s postmodernist take on games shine through as we have to look at the physical back of the game case to find Meryl’s codec frequency and then we have to put our controller in a different port to keep Psycho Mantis from predicting our movements and reading our minds. Judgement is also cast on us as the player based on the contents of our memory card and then we’re given a bit of a massage with the DualShock controller. For the time, it was pretty mind blowing, and still speaks volumes for the maturity of the creative control and the narrative’s voice compared to games that have even come about recently.

I can read your mind!

A familiar face returns, in the form of Gray Fox/Frank Jaeger. Upon encountering the Cyborg Ninja, and meeting Otacon/Hal Emmerich for the first time in the series, the player is informed that although Gray Fox was brutally killed at the end of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, he was kept alive and experimented on by his own adopted sister whom he rescued in the early 80’s, Naomi Hunter. The iteration of him that we see in Metal Gear Solid is a highly traumatized and damaged shell of his former self, and Kojima uses the Ninja for many things within the game. He assists Solid Snake, plays the part of rival, informs you of lies, hinders your progress, and even saves Solid Snake’s life in one of the greatest self sacrifices in gaming history.

In the end, Solid Snake would triumph over his angsty brother, Liquid Snake, who would use his stunted ego and hurt feelings towards his clone history and jealousy of his brother to drive his anger and desire to steal Metal Gear to wreak havoc on the world. Liquid Snake’s main issue seemed to be that he believed that he was the by-product of Big Boss’s recessive genes and that he was undesirable because of this. In the end it would be discovered that Liquid was the one with the dominant genes and that Revolver Ocelot, under orders from President of the United States and Big Boss clone George Sears, was actually using the entire incident as a way to test the capabilities of the latest Metal Gear: REX.

Depending on what your actions were you either concluded your play through with Meryl or with Otacon, yet the official cannon seems to suggest that they both survive the events. And, like all of Kojima’s future Metal Gear titles, Solid Snake ends the game with a lengthy monologue voicing his feelings, and inadvertently Kojima’s feelings, about genetics, legacies, the dangers of passing down the wrong traits, and ultimately how we are individuals and that we can break free from our genetic fate with a strong enough will and ambition.

Kojima tried to preach a message of human will and overcoming, and he juggled this rather well with stealth, action, and a thrilling narrative. But, it would be the fans that craved more action and less context that would push Kojima and company into releasing the expanded version of Metal Gear Solid in Japan, subtitled Integral, which would see a partial release in the United States as the extra disc entitled Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions.

Video Games

The Phantom Pain | Metal Gear Mondays

As much as I would love to keep talking about Metal Gear Solid, I feel the need to turn your attention to something more current this week. We’ll be back to regularly scheduled MGM next week.

At this year’s Spike TV Video Game Awards 10, a trailer for a new game called The Phantom Pain (by an unknown “Swedish” studio, Moby Dick Studio) was shown.

This immediately set off many red flags within the gaming community. For starters, new game reveals and teases at the VGAs are normally reserved for AAA titles from well known developers or publishers, not unknown titles from a company that seemingly came from no where (Moby Dick Studio still has no social media presence, website, or online listings to speak of). On top of all of this, Moby Dick Studio representatives were seen in the Konami VIP section of the VGAs, and one of the Moby Dick Studio reps was confirmed via this Twitter picture to be none other than Kyle Cooper, the title sequence designer for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

As every other article on the subject has done, let me go ahead and plug a thread on the forum Neogaf which has been credited with citing and speculating almost all of the positive information on the title. As the thread shows, here is the evidence that we have so far:

The Phantom Pain looks to be either a teaser for Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, which is a direct sequel to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, or for Metal Gear Solid 5, to which Ground Zeroes has been discussed to be a prologue to by series director Hideo Kojima.

The Phantom Pain is either a reference to Phantom Pains that one feels when losing a limb or an eye and imagines that the limb or eye is still available and operational, or a reference to a Ground Zeroes trailer plug line “From ‘FOX’, Two Phantoms were born” which could allude to the burned figure from the GZ trailer and Big Boss (the confirmed protagonist of GZ) who may be the two primary “patients” in the Phantom Pain trailer.

– There are several cameos/easter eggs from the Metal Gear universe within the trailer for The Phantom Pain, which could either be literal or part of the fever dream atmosphere that the trailer exudes. These include, but aren’t limited to, a flaming figure reminiscent of Col. Volgin from MGS3, white flower petals reminiscent of the flowers from where Naked Snake killed The Boss, a scientist that bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Kio Marv from Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, and a shrouded figure that appears to be wearing a version of Big Boss’s sneaking suit seen in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Ground Zeroes.

A majority of the internet has become quite speculative in theorizing about the contents of this trailer, and with that many theories have started making the rounds. Two primary arguments that I’ve seen are that the protagonist of the trailer cannot be Big Boss due to the amputation and that the protagonist of the trailer might be Frank Jaeger, aka Gray Fox. I must say that I completely disagree with both of these assumptions, primary because Gray Fox’s origins were covered in Portable Ops and because Kojima has been very good about always showing Big Boss as gloved in both MGS1 and 4.

I personally think that The Phantom Pain is actually more of a fever dream or stream of consciousness sequence, as punctuated by the abundant Metal Gear references, the unbelievable sperm whale eating a helicopter, and the extremely odd scoring of the video. I sincerely believe that there is a secret to be had in the audio for this trailer, particularly because it isn’t contributing much of anything to the video, as far as timing or tension building is concerned. I think that the audio track sounds almost as if it’s from another source, or that it could be paired up with another audio track to fill in some of the gaps. Also, if this is trailer is in fact the work of writer/director/producer Hideo Kojima, I have no doubt that he could pull off a new Silent Hill title.

[UPDATE 12/12/12 : The sneaky detectives over at Neogaf have discovered that this trailer takes place in a hospital that may belong to an RAF base and hospital in Cyprus. For more clues, hints, speculation, and an overall entertaining read, please check out the official Neogaf thread here. There’s also a recut trailer that follows the events chronologically available in the thread.]

Only time will tell, but I’m extremely hyped for Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Solid 5 now!

Video Games

Operation Intrude N313 : Metal Gear Mondays!

Two weeks ago we discussed some of the background information of the original Metal Gear which was released on the MSX2 in 1987. This week we’ll be jumping right into plot analysis and where Metal Gear fits into the Metal Gear Solid canon. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil information that is revealed in later titles, just the original Metal Gear.

Metal Gear takes place in 1995, North of Galzburg, South Africa, where a mercenary fortress called Outer Heaven resides. The player takes on the role of Solid Snake, a first time operative of FOXHOUND, a high-tech special forces group led by the Legendary Solider himself, Big Boss. Metal Gear is the first Metal Gear game ever directed, produced, and written by Hideo Kojima, but is canonically the fifth title in the Metal Gear Solid story-arc (including Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes which has been revealed will be occurring directly after the conclusion of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker).

Solid Snake was a Green Beret in his teens and had been training to be a full-fledged operative for FOXHOUND for quite some time before being selected for his first mission. Initially it would be Gray Fox, another member of FOXHOUND, who was sent in to investigate suspicious reports pertaining to the mercenary encampment known as Outer Heaven, with the mission being codenamed Operation Intrude N312 (an allusion to the working title for Metal Gear, which was originally called Project N312). Gray Fox would be captured while conducting reconnaissance, and so the task would fall on rookie Solid Snake, whose primary objectives would be to locate and rescue Gray Fox and to investigate a mysterious weapon that Gray Fox spoke of in his reports, “Metal Gear… .”

Big Boss would be Solid Snake’s only informant going into Outer Heaven and Solid Snake would have to procure all of his supplies on site, after breaching the premises by way of water entrance. Big Boss would assist Solid Snake with any pertinent information, although mostly reminding Solid Snake of his objectives, what equipment would be best for the situation, and of where to go in the facility. Big Boss’s transceiver frequency would be 120.85 but would later mysteriously, and seemingly for no reason, change to 120.13.

Solid Snake makes short work of Outer Heaven’s defenses and security measures and makes contact with a number of rebels who have been held prisoner, including the resistance leader himself Kyle Schneider. After rescuing Kyle, learning about Diane and Steve, two other rebels who can be contacted via transceiver for information on enemies, and finally making contact with Gray Fox, Solid Snake is made aware of Metal Gear’s true capabilities. Metal Gear is revealed to be a bipedal tank capable of launching an undetected nuclear strike to anywhere in the world. Solid Snake’s next objective would be to rescue Dr. Madnar in order to learn how to keep such a weapon out of the hands of Outer Heaven’s mercenary force.

“Metal Gear…”

Solid Snake then practically takes Outer Heaven apart whilst searching for Dr. Madnar, fully establishing the Metal Gear series’ many tropes about back tracking to find new areas, absurd boss soldiers that must be defeated to progress, a battle with a tank and a helicopter (usually always a Hind D), gas masks, ID cards for locked doors, decoy people that die suddenly, and someone being forced to develop Metal Gear against their will. Solid Snake is then informed by a procured Dr. Madnar of the specifics involved in destroying Metal Gear, and Solid Snake proceeds to obtain the necessary materials, mainly a card key kept in the basement Dirty Duck. Defeating Dirty Duck also allows Solid Snake to rescue many hostages, which just goes to show how much of a “cool guy” Solid Snake is.

As Solid Snake proceeds to destroy Metal Gear, setting up “plastic explosives” all around Metal Gear TX-55’s feet, Big Boss then reveals that he sent Solid Snake in because the mission was thought to be a suicide mission. Big Boss and Outer Heaven’s mercenaries were always in the know and they never thought that Solid Snake would make it into the heart of the fortress, let alone far enough to meet Outer Heaven’s mastermind, Big Boss himself.

The beginning of the end…

As a sort of student surpassing his master, and mostly for the sake of humanity, Solid Snake begins combat with Big Boss, who seemingly has very little motive to be enacting such a devious plan. Solid Snake bests Big Boss and leaves him behind just as NATO sends a bombing run into the area to wipe Outer Heaven clean. A wounded Kyle Schneider is retrieved by NATO before Outer Heaven is demolished and Solid Snake completes his first real mission, saving the world from a new nuclear power in the process.

In 1987, when there was no promise of another Metal Gear title,  it seemed as if the game was an open and shut case, but as we know in retrospect, this is far from the truth. Looking back, the player has many questions left lingering:

What happens to Solid Snake and Gray Fox?
Why did NATO retrieve Kyle Schneider in such a mysterious way?
What happened to Big Boss?
Why did Big Boss betray Solid Snake?
Why would Big Boss be working for a group that aims to stop his real intentions?
Was there an ulterior motive to Solid Snake’s being in Outer Heaven?

And these are all questions that are mostly answered in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, which we will be talking about next week!

Don’t forget, if you have any questions or need clarification, please let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to address any and all of you!