Metal Gear Solid 2:
The Final Metal Gear Game
Written by: NICO.
The Metal Gear Solid series is important. The first three games carry the same weight that Ye’s first three albums have. Groundbreaking, new yet familiar, and ahead of their time. Discourse today on the MGS series the usually focuses on the gameplay/story of the first and the third game. I believe that today, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty has much to offer the world in both how it deceives the player and the message it offers about sequels. MGS2 reimagined what games can be.
Metal Gear Solid 1 sold over seven million copies at the time. To say the hype for a sequel was an understatement. Fans of MGS1 would have bought MGS2 based on the name alone. At the time, Hideo Kojima (Director of MGS2), had another gaming come out called Zone of the Enders, that most people bought to play 20 minutes of the Tanker chapter of MGS2. It was clear from the start that the sequel was going to be an experience unlike any other.
The deception began once the demos came out, Kojima and his team showed only the Tanker chapter (about 10% of the whole game). The upgrade in graphics was clear, MGS1 started on the PS1 and MGS2 debuted on the PS2. The relationship between the super soldier Snake and anime loving scientist Otacon was back and better than ever with their snappy conversations. Perhaps the biggest change was how much detail was in the game. It was still a stealth game at its core; guards were tougher to get pass, they could see Snake’s shadows, but now Snake could shoot out lights to solve the issue. Overall, the Tanker chapter was creatively bold, it was everything a player would want out of a sequel. Then the unthinkable happened, Snake died, and a new chapter began with a new protagonist Raiden.
Before Raiden and the Plant chapter are discussed, it is good to see another example of how the game tricked the player before that moment. In the official box art for the game, it only showed Snake in the Tanker chapter with no mention of Raiden (who is arguably the main character of MGS2).
After about an hour into MGS2, the game essentially started all over with Raiden. His journey was eerily like Snake’s in MGS1. As the Plant chapter continued, the audience soon found out Raiden is a version of Snake built on only aesthetics and no substance. He was the “sequel” to Solid Snake that was built with virtual reality training. If the player completed the Tanker chapter before the Plant chapter, Raiden said that he felt like “some kind of legendary mercenary”, referring to Snake. This relationship between Snake and Raiden was further expressed in a promotional poster of the game where a mother is holding her newborn. The mother being Snake, and the baby being Raiden as he starts the Plant chapter, untouched by the nightmarish tragedies to come.
The virtual reality training that Raiden went through before his mission in the Plant chapter had Raiden playing as Snake (much like the player playing Snake in the first game). The use of the VR training was extensive, to the point of blurring imitation and reality for Raiden. As the chapter went on, Raiden and fans of the first game, noticed that events are mirroring MGS1. Colonel Campbell, a character Snake would talk to for advice in the first game, is in the second again as an AI program for Raiden. Eventually, the reality that Raiden thought he had a grasp on got torn to shreds and turned into something more surreal.
Near the end of the Plant chapter, Raiden found himself the victim of a plan larger than him called the S3 plan. The plan stood for “Solid Snake Simulation”, a development program to artificially reproduce Solid Snake, the perfect warrior. This was not only a shock to Raiden, but for the player. When Snake “died-he returned in the Plant chapter- he was replaced by the VR trained Raiden. The overall premise of the story involved shadowy conspirators who constructed a simulation of “perfection”, this parallels MGS2 itself, with Raiden as the vehicle for the player/Metal Gear fan.
Metal Gear Solid 2 lied to its players. They expected a bombastic espionage tale, and instead got a story of paranoia, nightmares, and the possibility that one has less influence on the world around them than they think. Once the truth of the S3 plan was revealed, Raiden was frustrated and confused. Kojima knew Raiden would not be popular with fans and used that to tell this story of deconstruction. Overall, the message of the game was that one does not have to accept what is handed to them.
What does one do with their experience after playing this game? Sequels that are near recreations of the first form, I feel, are not really what the audience wants. In my opinion, I believe the audience often never knows what it wants. If they did, they would be in the room with the creators at every step. There should be a firm line between artist and audience, when the lines get blurred, para-social relationships begin to be created. At the end of the day, find something to believe in, and find it for yourself.
When you do, pass it on to the future.
When you do, pass it on to the future.