Metal Gear Solid 2: So Far

The Big Shell, ostensibly a oil spill clean-up facility, consists of two hexagonal structures called Shell 1 and Shell 2, each made of six buildings, joined by bridges, around a central core. Raiden’s mission starts on Shell 1, and as long as he’s there, the player enjoys considerable freedom. You pretty much have the run of the complex, and your mission objectives take you all over the place and back. This changes when the action shifts to Shell 2, which is heavily damaged. Suddenly there are fewer places to go. The action becomes more linear, the cutscenes more frequent. In some cases, all you have to do between two lengthy cutscenes is walk across a room. If this continues, maybe the game will turn out to be mostly plot after all.

After Shell 2 comes the descent into the secret depths of the complex, and it is here that things seem to start getting seriously weird. The web of deceit and double-cross is already pretty hard to follow by this point, and this may well be my last chance to make sense of it. Spoilers ho. Let’s start by listing the sides.

Philanthropy: Solid Snake and his tech support. Their mandate is to destroy Metal Gears. Part of the fallout from the previous game was that the Metal Gear schematics were leaked to the public, and now every armed force in the world is trying to build one.

“FOXHOUND”: Supposedly an elite anti-terrorist unit, Solid Snake’s alma mater, now represented by Raiden (the player character), led by Colonel Campbell. I say “supposedly” because we’re pretty sure that the real FOXHOUND was disbanded following the events of Metal Gear Solid, and it’s abundantly clear by now that just about everything that the man claiming to be the Colonel says is a lie. He’s probably tampered with Raiden’s memory, and may well not even be a real person: Raiden comments pointedly at one juncture that he’s never met the Colonel face-to-face, only talked with him over their comm link. Raiden’s girlfriend is also doing mission support through that comm link, and I don’t think she’s real either.

The Patriots: Twelve people who secretly 1 Although not too secretly. An awful lot of the NPCs know all about them. rule the world, controlling the outcome of presidential elections and suchlike. They’re apparently the prime movers of most of the plot, and any random plot event can, without warning, turn out to have always been an essential part of their master plan. Their ultimate interest here is in the vast implausible computer system they’ve built under the ocean (the real purpose of the Big Shell), which they will use to control all the world’s information, invisibly censoring anything that might threaten them. They control the Metal Gear project, and probably did all along. In fact, they’re mass-producing Metal Gears to protect the computer. Note that the end boss in the previous games was a single Metal Gear. 2 To go off on a wild tangent, I’ve long thought that one of the weaknesses of Return of the Jedi is that it tries to show how ill-prepared and outclassed the rebels are by revealing that the in-progress Death Star’s weapon systems are already operational. Big deal, we already saw them fight a fully complete Death Star and win in the first film. In my opinion, a much better big reveal would have been multiple Death Stars — a Death Star factory, filling the sky, gearing up to put one in permanent orbit around every inhabited planet in the galaxy. Plus, that way they could end the film with a whole series of Death Star explosions. Perhaps accompanied by the 1812 Overture.

The Sons of Liberty: The people who attacked the Big Shell. It’s not at all clear to me if there’s actually anyone calling themselves by this name; it might have just come out of Raiden’s mission briefing, which I won’t even bother describing here, because it was all lies. But given that it means the people that the “Colonel” wants you to fight, it seems to refer to an alliance of Solidus Snake (another of Solid Snake’s evil twins), Revolver Ocelot 3 All the henchmen in Metal Gear Solid had code names consisting of their preferred weapon and an animal. The resulting names are strikingly similar to the main enemies in the Mega Man X series, but there, Revolver Ocelot would be a cat-shaped robot with special attacks based on making things spin. (Liquid Snake’s sole surviving henchman), Dead Cell (a small clan of creepy level bosses, one of whom seems to be a vampire), Olga Gurlukovich (enemy of Solid Snake from Chapter 1, now leader of the Russian mercenaries that form the game’s grunt force), and the President of the United States. They’re basically opposed to the Patriots, and their goal is to destroy the aforementioned megacomputer. They had first tried to do this by means of the electromagnetic pulse created by detonating a nuclear missile in the atmosphere. These are the people that Raiden was sent to fight, which I suppose means that “Colonel Campbell” is a tool of the Patriots.

It’s not quite that simple, though. The Sons of Liberty all have personal agendas, and some of them betray their cause. The President really believes that having the Patriots in charge is preferable to the chaos that would result otherwise. Ocelot, who lost an arm in the previous game, had Liquid Snake’s arm grafted on in its place, and it periodically tries to take over his mind. Olga, blackmailed by the Patriots (who hold her child hostage), has been donning a disguise and helping Raiden fight the troops under her command. Solidus seems to have some plan of his own, although I don’t know what; he just doesn’t seem the public-spirited type. The freaking vampire just out and attacks the one person who has a chance of stopping the computer from going online at one point. I don’t know what his problem is. Maybe it’s just uncontrollable vampire urges.

Solid Snake cooperates with Raiden for most of the game, but abruptly betrays him at the end of the Shell 2 sequence. This came as a surprise, but in retrospect it makes a certain amount of sense. They were never really on the same side, whatever Raiden thought. They just had some common goals for a while. Solid Snake is the Good Guy. He wants to rescue the hostages, which means getting past the Sons’ defenses and preventing the Big Shell from being destroyed with everyone inside. Raiden is a well-meaning dupe of the Patriots. His assigned mission is to get past the Sons’ defenses in order to “rescue” the President, and preserve the Big Shell from harm until it’s fully operational. He’s also okay with helping to rescue the hostages, even though the “Colonel” keeps reminding him that it’s not part of his mission. But in the end, Raiden’s masters are building Metal Gears, and Snake can’t abide that.

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1. Although not too secretly. An awful lot of the NPCs know all about them.
2. To go off on a wild tangent, I’ve long thought that one of the weaknesses of Return of the Jedi is that it tries to show how ill-prepared and outclassed the rebels are by revealing that the in-progress Death Star’s weapon systems are already operational. Big deal, we already saw them fight a fully complete Death Star and win in the first film. In my opinion, a much better big reveal would have been multiple Death Stars — a Death Star factory, filling the sky, gearing up to put one in permanent orbit around every inhabited planet in the galaxy. Plus, that way they could end the film with a whole series of Death Star explosions. Perhaps accompanied by the 1812 Overture.
3. All the henchmen in Metal Gear Solid had code names consisting of their preferred weapon and an animal. The resulting names are strikingly similar to the main enemies in the Mega Man X series, but there, Revolver Ocelot would be a cat-shaped robot with special attacks based on making things spin.

3 Comments so far

  1. Merus on 3 Jul 2007

    I am loathe to say anything more than that I was indeed thinking of the second half when I mentioned that the game was mostly cutscenes. I’m somewhat surprised that you appear to have worked out one of the big reveals ahead of time, though. I guess I wasn’t paying attention.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 3 Jul 2007

    One thing about blogging day by day: sometimes you change your mind about things.

  3. Lefty on 3 Jul 2007

    Bah! Give me some Marathon plotlines any time…Harlan Ellison collaborated on their plots, so you KNOW there’s going to be food riots on Mars (as this seems to be one of his favorite plot points).

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