Metal Gear Solid. Just saying the name evokes memories of creeping through the snow-frosted halls of Shadow Moses as Solid Snake, and the intense frustration of hiding as a naked Raiden on Arsenal Gear of the shores of New York. The series has a long history—Konami recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, which makes it older than I am. And with the upcoming release of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and the recent announcement of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, it might just be about time to take a look back at the legacy of the series. But keep in mind that as these games are really old, and the latest game was released years ago, there are some heavy spoilers in this article. You have been warned.
It all started with a Japanese man named Hideo Kojima (who, as it turned out, would go on to become one of the biggest trolls in game development history), who wanted to make a game with a pulpy story with a message about war. The first game, Metal Gear, was going to be an action game for the MSX2. But the technical limitations of the machine prevented Kojima from putting in too many enemies on the screen. Seeing this limitation, he decided on a different approach. He based the game around hiding from enemies rather than straight out fighting them, and more or less invented the stealth genre in games. Besides that, Metal Gear would go on to become the first game to feature one of the most popular and well-loved badasses in gaming history – Solid Snake.
Metal Gear Solid
After a sequel on the MSX2 (Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake), the first Metal Gear game in full-blown 3D arrived. Called Metal Gear Solid, the game had you play once more as Solid Snake, who had retired after the events of Metal Gear 2 and was living peacefully before being kidnapped and brought back into service for FOXHOUND. This time, a group of agents from FOXHOUND had rebelled and taken the island of Shadow Moses hostage. They were demanding a truckload of money, along with the corpse of Big Boss (the Big Bad of Metal Gear 2 and Solid Snake's ‘father’). Metal Gear Solid introduced some new concepts to the series, some truly amazing boss fights and one of the most iconic voices in gaming history—David Hayter as Solid Snake.
Solid Snake in Metal gear Solid
Every antagonist in the game has his/her moments, right from Psycho Mantis messing with the fourth wall to Revolver Ocelot's homoerotic boss fight and torture sequence dialogues. But after fighting Metal Gear REX and Liquid Snake (Snake’s genetic twin, cloned from the same man – Big Boss), and solidifying Snake as a complete badass, we move on to the most controversial game in the series.
Now, the game was a critical and commercial hit. It was more or less printing money for Konami, but Kojima wanted to be done with the series. He made that clear by releasing a new IP – Zone of the Enders. But he soon started getting angry hate mail and death threats from fans of the Metal Gear series, so he set out to troll the entire fanbase, which brings us to…
Psycho Mantis was an epic troll of a boss fight
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
If Metal Gear Solid made you think about Kojima’s lack of sanity, Metal Gear Solid 2 on the PlayStation 2 was definite proof that he was insane. The game was met with acclaim from critics and fans alike for the new gameplay mechanics, but the bait-and-switch and completely insane story left a bitter taste in almost everyone’s mouth. You start out playing as the legendary Solid Snake again, but that doesn’t last, as after a couple of hours Solid Snake is lost at sea and you play as a new agent—Raiden.
Before the bait-and-switch
Raiden was hated by everyone, mostly because of his effeminate looks and constant whining. He is also arguably the best protagonist you could come up with for the story, because while MGS2's plot has the series’ staple twists and turns, towards the end, the game starts going down the “Complete Mind Screw” road. The entire plot starts revolving around the S3 Plan, which is originally called the Solid Snake Simulation by Revolver Ocelot.
The plan essentially involves putting another soldier (Raiden, in this case) through a situation as screwed up as Shadow Moses to see if he can become as badass as Snake. While the S3 Plan later turns out to be something else entirely, parallels between the Shadow Moses incident (Metal Gear Solid) and the Big Shell incident (Metal Gear Solid 2) are very clear. The underwater infiltration at the beginning, a Cyborg Ninja (Gray Fox in MGS1 and Olga Gurlukovich in MGS2) and the boss fights against aerial vehicles (Hind in MGS1 and Harrier in MGS2) all are very similar.
After the bait-and-switch
While Metal Gear Solid 2 ended at a rather depressing note, with Raiden disappearing and the Patriot AI system taking over the world, Kojima took a trip back in time to bring us the origin story of Big Boss in…
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater once again changes protagonists, but this time we play as Naked Snake. The game tells the story of Operation Snake Eater in the 60s during the Cold War, and how Naked Snake went on to become the legendary Big Boss. Snake Eater is arguably the most loved game in the franchise, mostly due to the amazing boss battles and the unique (at the time) tropical rainforest setting, which still doesn’t make sense as the game is set in Soviet Russia. It also tells the story of how the Metal Gear originated and has you fighting the prototype of what would eventually become Metal Gear—called the Shagohod.
Naked Snake in Metal Gear Solid 3
Snake Eater’s boss fights were arguably the high point of the entire series, with the most notable being The End, The Sorrow and The Boss. The bosses all altered gameplay styles radically when compared to the rest of the game. The End is where Naked Snake fights The End—the father of modern sniping. Snake has to stay hidden, use a sniper rifle and track down The End. Other ways to kill The End include killing him two cutscenes before the fight starts and not playing the game for a couple of weeks during the fight. The second case, in particular, is a great example of 'The Devteam Thinks of Everything', as The End (being the ancient guy that he is) dies of old age in two weeks. The Sorrow is where you face punishment for playing the game violently. While it doesn’t exactly qualify as a boss fight, The Sorrow still has a health bar and involves you wading through a river and being punished by all you've killed until you eventually die, wake up and realise that it was all just a dream.
The last fight, The Boss, is especially notable for its end. The story needs The Boss to die, and after defeating her, you have to do it. They don’t simply show a cutscene where Snake shoots her. No, YOU, the player, have to pull the trigger. Given the characterisation and the relationship between The Boss and Snake shown in the game, this broke many gamers’ hearts.
The Boss has a very freudian relationship with Snake
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Kojima took a big break after MGS3, but came back to make sense of MGS2 through Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. He had his work cut out for him, judging by the giant mindscrew leftover from MGS2's ending. MGS4 takes place a few years after the events of MGS2, with the world in a state of constant war, which fuels the economy. The player is in control of a much (physically) older Solid Snake who takes on this final mission before he dies of old age to take down Liquid Ocelot (Liquid Snake possessing Revolver Ocelot). Also making a comeback in MGS4 is Raiden, this time as a Cyborg Ninja.
MGS4 brought us some stellar boss fights once again in the form of the Beauty and the Beast Corp. While MGS1 bosses used animal names and MGS 3 bosses used emotions for names, the B&B Corp use a combination of both, along with the weapons of bosses from MGS2. You know you’re in for a treat right from the first fight against B&B, where you face off against Laughing Octopus (a master of camouflage) in a tiny cabin.
Old Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Another major point about Metal Gear Solid 4 is the return to Shadow Moses, which holds great amounts of nostalgic value for anyone who played MGS1 back in the day. In fact, the act starts with you replaying the beginning of MGS1, right down to the PlayStation era graphics. While all of this turns out to be a dream, it also gives us the extremely strange option of using the MGS1 Snake head for a mask, because it has extremely low resolution textures. The return to Shadow Moses also has one of the best examples of fourth-wall-shattering in the series: Otacon calls you up and tells you that it's time for a disc change at the exact same place where you had to switch discs in MGS1. But then he remembers that you’re playing the game on a PS3, which has a Blu-ray drive, and you don’t need to change discs. The point about the game being played on a PS3 is reiterated when Psycho Mantis makes a comeback towards the end and tries to read your memory card. This obviously fails, since a PS3 doesn’t have any memory card, and he promptly goes back to being dead.
Metal Gear Solid 4 had its own quirks, but the huge cutscenes—some of which were longer than 30 minutes—annoyed everyone. However, they were necessary to wrap up the extremely convoluted plot of the entire series. While the game was once again hailed for being the next coming of Jesus, it caught much flak for two reasons—huge-ass cutscenes and not being able to play as the now infinitely-more-awesome Cyborg Ninja Raiden.
The Beauty and the Beast Corp.
I think I'll wrap this up now
It's worth noting that every Metal Gear Solid game has had a major theme. The first game dealt with moving past your genetics. The second game dealt with moving past memetics. The third game asks the most important question for a soldier—what would you listen to: Your country or your heart? The fourth game is about looking forward in life.
The series is also a major case of some nuances being lost in translation, especially with the Patriots. Throughout the series, whenever the Patriots are mentioned, they are always referred to as La-li-lu-le-lo. While most thought this typical of the random quirkiness of the series, it's actually a way of censoring the name of the Patriots. Japanese doesn’t have a syllable for the sound “L” and hence, it can’t be said, which causes the identity of the Patriots to remain a secret.
The Metal Gear series is well-known for being a strange combination of ‘taking itself seriously’ and ‘not taking itself seriously’. The series actually takes it to the point where you just throw your hands up in the air, say “F*** it!” and go back to hiding and CQCing some bad guys, while ignoring the (extremely complicated, fun, and sometimes weird) story. The series is also credited as being one of the first to shift the gameplay-cutscene ratio, for better or for worse.
While we have seen the end of Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4, we will be witnessing more of the universe in Platinum Games’ oddly-named Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, where the game’s going to turn into a Devil May Cry-esque riot. The series is set to return to its stealth roots later in 2013, with the recently-unveiled Metal Gear Rising: Ground Zeroes, which is expected to further fill in the blanks of the events between Metal Gear Solid 3 and Metal Gear.
While we will have more Metal Gear games coming out, it might not be long before the series ends for good. Kojima has more or less been begging his fans to let him work on other projects like Zone of the Enders. A respite from Metal Gear may very well get us a Silent Hill game written by him, and all things considered, we all want to see how much of a mindscrew that will turn out to be.
Gaming, Hideo Kojima, Legacy of Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear, Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of the Patriots, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, MGS, MGS2, MGS3, MGS4