Speak, Soldier

December 27, 2007 at 4:37 am (Video Games)

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

(Blah Blah Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation Metal Gear Solid; its sequel Sons of Liberty, its remake The Twin Snakes, and its prequel Snake Eater)

Ever wonder when I’m going to stop starting my reviews with rhetorical questions?

Here’s your answer. And it isn’t even the least bit cryptic.

I’ve darted past the topic of how these games play, how well they control so far, and that’s partly because, for anyone who has heard of them, that aspect of the game is self apparent; these are expertly wounded spy games, innovative and inspirational enough to launch an entirely new sub genre of games, the stealth action beast, while still holding up against the younger generation, Splinter Cell and such. And in Snake Eater, the progression does not relent, and offers as incrementally immersive an experience as Twin Snakes did over Sons of Liberty, and as Sons of Liberty did over Metal Gear Solid: These games are worth playing without the thematic implications on which I’ve pontificated.

But I’ve also focused less on the two precursor’s controls because you will spend as much time playing those games as you will watching them. I somewhat apologized for the earlier game’s syncretic cinematic and video game feel. Sometimes, the game focuses on the action and anxiety of espionage, and sometimes it focuses on a dramatic camera angle and intricate choreography. It flips and flops, and demands similar gymnastics from its audience.

Snake Eater, though, this is a game sure of its identity. From the first screen to the last boss battle, this is a video game, one with ridiculous bosses and even more ridiculous enemy artificial intelligence. This is a Playstation 2 disc designed to immerse its audience in its mechanics instead of aesthetic. Kojima even offers a contest between Ape Escape and Metal Gear Solid. This is not the most serious of games Kojima has produced, but it is the one approaching its status as a playable world most seriously.

There are other elements subverting the franchise’s seriousness, too. With the flick of a button, Big Boss dons camouflage and hides from enemies directly under their noses. No sane person would be unable to see that man right there in the jungle, right? But he does kinda look like the ground…

Also, he eats snakes. Shocking from its title, I know, but he must subside himself somehow in a jungle. This is done by going up to a snake (which can sometimes bite you), and then feeding on it when the hunger meter is close to empty. There are plenty of other meters in the game, too. Camouflage has earned its own indicator, too. Reality is but a series of numbers and information, observable and malleable, to the Snake in this game, but, stripping away the numbers and all the charts on the screen, the camouflage’s efficacy and Snake’s hunger is almost believable. He almost blends into the ground perfectly in his ridiculous camouflage.

The character in Snake Eater is also revealed to not be Snake at all, but his genetic father, Big Boss, whose genes reproduced Solid Snake and Liquid Snake, the nominal mastermind of Metal gear Solid’s events. But all of its events occur before Snake emerges from water and begins his mission in Alaska. As much as Twin Snakes was a memory of an event, this game takes place entirely under the fickle eyes of Memnosyne, without any indicator of reality: These events could have occurred, could have not. No other game has referenced them, and they remain suspended from all others.

Is this game a virtual reality, though? It’s hard to tell. The story lacks the complexities of its predecessors, relying almost entirely on the quality of its gameplay than cut scenes to latch the video game player into its addicting tendrils, and certainly feels the most inconsequential of the first three games. But the answer to what this game is in terms of its accompaniment to how video games view reality is a little obvious: It’s an actual video game!

As much as Sons of Liberty treated its reality as fantasy and Twin Snakes its fantasy as reality, Snake Eater is a fantasy, divested from the self conscious trappings informing the former two games: The cycle has been brought full circle, and the fun, breezy qualities of the first two NES cartridges is regained in what was then the current generation of consoles: The past has been found, and it’s as beautiful as it used to be. Maybe even moreso, because now we can nod our head to the game’s realism by eating snakes for sustenance.

***

Snake Eater would have been a good ending for the franchise, I think, to pull the plug when the series has followed the course from fantasy to reality and back to fantasy, through the treacherous realms of self consciousness as technology allows more honest answers, but we are going to get a fourth entry. This time, though, the Snake we are given is not the retired soul from Metal Gear Solid, the philanthropist from Sons of Liberty, or the idealized soldier from Snake Eater, but an old guy. I don’t know what to expect, but it might involve the reappearance of Big Boss, or at least the destruction of the world. Anything is possible, and I can’t wait for it to come out.

Next: No More Metal Gear Solid! Comic Time!

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Readers, « Psychopomp & Circumstance said,

    […] mechanics instead of in appraisal of the game’s storytelling and mechanics here, here, and here. I may revisit this game someday in a similar thematic post later, because it does have depth in […]

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