The Reality of Metal Gear Solid 2

Uploaded by thesnakesoup on 29.11.2011

It's been ten years since the release of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in 2001.
The series has since expanded with multiple sequels
and a future of various possibilities.
Hell at this rate, they might as well call Kojima Productions...
...Metal Gear Productions instead.
But even with the 25th anniversary of the series hitting us in nearly a year
it's pretty easy to lose track of the more humble roots of the series.
Metal Gear Solid was released to much acclaim for the PlayStation in 1998.
While the Metal Gear series has been successful in the 1980's
as an NES remake of the original MSX version
Metal Gear Solid marked a new era for the series.
Given its success
it was a given that a sequel would be green lighted
immediately after release.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty caught the attention of the mainstream gaming audience.
Not only was it a sequel to a blockbuster hit
that people thought of as the first in the series
but it was being developed on the PlayStation 2
and the trailers were showing off the graphics
used in gameplay and cinematic cutscenes
which proved that Sony's new console
was a much bigger deal than SEGA's Dreamcast.
(Unless you were too busy to notice)
Every single trailer for Sons of Liberty
would cause a massive overload
of internet traffic to Konami's servers
and herds of people to crowd up Konami's booth at E3.
Upon release, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty became a hit.
To date, It remains the highest selling Metal Gear title.
High sales certainly do not mean high satisfaction though.
People were not happy with the final product.
The demo which was bundled with Zone of the Enders
met high praise
and very little changed from the presentation and gameplay mechanics... least for the first chapter of the game.
Even the weird comment about the "La-Le-Lu-Li-Lo" probably met with little more than a shrug.
Ok, wait...
Liquid Snake is back as an arm?
Oh okay, that is kind of dumb, but that's ok--
Wha--Snake is dead?
Then who the fuck is this?
He's Snake?
No! He doesn't sound li--
I fucking kne...
Who...who is... no... is...
Is this a girl?
And for most people, it got worse...
And worse...
And worse.
Some of the criticism is valid and I myself actually do agree with some of it.
I'm not here to somehow change your opinion on Sons of Liberty, be it good or bad.
That's not what this is about.
Nor does your opinion on other Metal Gear titles play any significance on this topic.
What's important here is understanding why Sons of Liberty was what it was.
Sons of Liberty is not your typical sequel.
Yeah, it's a stealth-action title like Metal Gear Solid.
Sure, it takes place within the same fictional canon.
But while the story of Metal Gear Solid and previous Metal Gear titles can be taken literally
all of which unfolded as B-movies
albeit good ones
Sons of Liberty absolutely should not be considered your typical sequel.
If you do, then you are taking it literally
and that is where a lot of alleged problems with the title stem from.
Ever head of the parable of the broken window?
The lesson applies to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty as well.
Frederic Bastiat introduced it in an 1850 essay
discussing unintended consequences related to what are typically seen as beneficiary economic activities.
The point is essentially summarized by the title of Bastiat's essay
which translates into English as
"That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen."
The criticism of Sons of Liberty often times deals with what is immediately seen.
We fight fat guy in rollerskates.
We play as an girly man wearing a tight outfit that showcases his ass.
We hear comical dialogue.
As a simple script
Sons of Liberty really is as bad as some people make it out to be.
However, what is not seen
is why Solid Snake becomes a supporting character for most of the game
why Vamp keeps on coming back
why your name is on Raiden's dog tags, and so forth.
Most importantly though is the "meme" theme.
The "gene" theme in the original Metal Gear Solid was pretty straight forward
with Solid Snake rejecting the notion that his genes controlled him
and the twist revealed in the post-credit phone call between Revolver Ocelot and Solidus
that completely demolishes Liquid's bitchfest about his genes.
With Sons of Liberty, the question is if memes can control people.
Though the term "meme" was coined by Richard Dawkins
the concept of memories, ideas, culture, history and so forth
spreading from person to person has been discussed prior.
There are plenty of examples of memetics within Sons of Liberty
with Stillman essentially creating Fatman by passing on his bomb making skills
and Solidus Snake's point about making history
but let's focus on how the game itself used memes to control your behavior.
While everyone who has played and finished Sons of Liberty should have had a different experience
for the most part it should have been the same memetically.
Likewise from the success of the original Metal Gear Solid
it was clear what players were expecting from Sons of Liberty.
The game knew what the majority of people expected and it used this to make a point.
who until later in the game doesn't even have an identity
is you, the player.
Raiden did the Shadow Moses mission in VR.
You played a game called Metal Gear Solid
but in a sense, the mission in Metal Gear Solid was a virtual reality.
You played as Solid Snake
but even though you can control Snake and make him knock on walls
hide in boxes
and smoke
you were not Snake.
You did not bring a feisty redhead home.
You did not save the world.
You did not befriend a genius anime nerd.
You did not make amends with an old friend
who was kind of an enemy
and yet not really.
No, a fictional video game character did all of this.
Similarly, Raiden may have done essentially what Solid Snake did in Shadow Moses...
...but it was a simulation. It did not actually happen.
The S3 Plan being Solid Snake Simulation was debunked by the Patriot AI near the end of the game
but to be fair to Ocelot, there is some truth in it.
The Big Shell really was modeled after the memes of Shadow Moses—or Metal Gear Solid.
Raiden—or rather, you—
reacted to these situations that were simply being repeated.
You, much like the "pawn" President Johnson, have little choice.
You may see The Patriots as the ultimate evil (which they are)
but you have to kill your Doctor Octopus father
and then meet up with your girlfriend
who may or may not be real.
Even knowing the truth, you have to either finish, or quit the game.
Keeping in mind that Metal Gear Solid actually borrowed a lot of elements from Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
which itself to a slightly smaller degree borrowed from the original Metal Gear
you start to wonder if the deliberate usage of Metal Gear Solid's memes is a commentary on sequels
in particular, video game sequels.
While all of the previous Metal Gear sequels up until Sons of Liberty were never planned
they were never intended to be the final installment.
Indeed, both the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear Solid include cliffhangers.
Sons of Liberty was not only planned
albeit with Kojima intending to lease direction in the hands of someone else
but it was also meant to become the end of the series.
Any future installments would have been done by "the next generation" according to Kojima.
While it became to be that Hideo Kojima was to work on even more Metal Gear titles after the fact
it should be noted that the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
took place nearly forty years prior to those in Sons of Liberty.
Snake Eater, like Sons of Liberty, was also meant to be the end of the main series.
It wasn't until the unplanned 2008 sequel Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
where things were actually wrapped up from Sons of Liberty.
Hideo Kojima explained it best.
>> KOJIMA: Once again I'd intended for MGS3 to wrap up the series
but so many people wanted to know what happened after "2."
Things like the identity of the Patriots and so forth.
I had planned on leaving those mysteries as mysteries
but people weren't convinced that the series was wrapped up.
So ultimately we ended up making "4."
>> NARRATOR: Of course, if we leave it at that, the purpose of this video is nonexistent.
We are focusing on Sons of Liberty in 2001.
You know, back when fans were fighting about
why Liquid can take over Ocelot's body
how Vamp can get resurrected
if the events even took place
and, of course, the identity of The Patriots.
Believe it or not though, Sons of Liberty was going to be even more ambiguous than it already was.
For starters it was going to be titled
with the purpose of making fans go
"what happened to II?"
Another example of the game being more open ended in the planning stage is the identity of the ninja.
We know it's Olga now, but the original plan was to have the identity remain a mystery.
To quote Hideo Kojima's game plan
>>KOJIMA: Players will have to make up their own minds regarding her identity
as an answer is never given.
>>NARRATOR: Is it frustrating?
For many people, absolutely.
Questioning reality is not comfortable, even in the fictional sense.
Closure gives rest to wandering minds who don't want to be left behind with questions.
The reality is that the postmodern nature of the narrative means that there is no absolute truth to it.
>>SNAKE: There's no such thing in the world as absolute reality.
>>NARRATOR: This changed with Guns of the Patriots, sure.
but up until that, everything was entirely up to the player.
Maybe it was a VR Mission.
Maybe The Patriots are the developers themselves.
Maybe Vamp is resurrected by water.
These are just some of the theories fans have made with good arguments behind them.
Despite being a clear reactionary response to the backlash for Raiden and
most importantly, the narrative of Sons of Liberty
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater did not attempt to answer any of the questions left behind.
In this way, and despite actually sharing some common themes
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots became the antithesis to Sons of Liberty.
>>BIG BOSS: Nanomachines.
>>NARRATOR: With 2008's Guns of the Patriots
the events of Sons of Liberty are canonized as reality.
Prior to that, the question of reality was still up in the air.
In the end of Sons of Liberty, Raiden has accepted everything as reality.
He has abandoned his role as the "player"
quite literally actually
and assumes his own identity.
He beLIEves that his girlfriend Rose is bearing his real child.
All of this, despite some serious questions about his so-called "reality."
It's sort of like the ending of 2010 film Inception
where Cobb uses a method to determine if he is in a dream or reality
but instead of waiting to see the result of his test, he simply accepts life as reality, walks away
and the shot cuts to black, leaving audiences to speculate the result of his test.
However, it doesn't matter to Cobb
much like it doesn't matter to Raiden.
So where does that leave us, the players?
You may think we were left in the dark
but like the ending of Inception, the ambiguity actually gives audiences something to think and talk about.
There is some truth to Sons of Liberty having a lot of dialogue
through it's numerous cutscenes and codec conversations
but it really does do a lot more showing than telling.
It becomes up to the player to decide what is happening.
This was intentional.
>>KOJIMA: In the game, Raiden asks Snake a few times, ‘What am I supposed to do?’
And I made sure that Snake’s response is always, ‘It’s up for you to decide.’
That is really the message I want to tell players—
you need to decide what is important for you to take away from the experience.
>>NARRATOR: Making sense of the ridiculous story of Sons of Liberty
is the complete opposite of understanding it's reality
as it's plot is nothing but a vessel for it's message to the player.
The game asks players a good number of questions
but one of the most significant is the questioning of reality.
Which in actuality is fiction being told so many times that it becomes accepted as "reality."
Plenty of contemporary huge blunders were not the results of stupid men
but rather, the intelligent scholarly types
who believe that the theories they have studied
which are based on empirical, scientific, mathematical and statistical methods
are in fact "reality"
and all contrarian and praxeological views
are to be laughed at as pseudoscience because
after all, they're not... "based in reality."
As is the case in life, Sons of Liberty does not define it's reality for you.
In fact, the first time you pick up that controller and play through it
it demonstrates how little we truly know about reality itself.
Which is why, as the game was designed to make us do, we should always question "reality"
and decide for ourselves what it means
instead of relying on others to do it for us.