Design Choice #3: “You’re Pretty Good”
Simply put, Snake gets a lot of respect in MGS1. Despite being an elite squad of secret government killers, all of his enemies flatter his abilities, both pre- and post-combat, creating ideal positive reinforcement for the players who are compelled to put their gaming skills to the test against them. Whether or not you care about the game’s story, you’ll find yourself soaking up the praise and respect as you go, because it’s you who snatched victory with your own two hands. Once again, all of this serves to draw us deeper into its world of super-spy coolness, making the experience potent and compelling.
Knowing that this design choice was aimed at giving positive reinforcement in the original, what did Kojima come up with to encourage players in the sequel?
Ouch. What did we do to deserve that?
Bizarrely, Metal Gear Solid 2 goes out of its way to make your accomplishments feel meaningless, belittling your mission and trivializing our character. Snake ruins Raiden’s supposed secrecy early on in the story, then proceeds to calls him “kid”, “VR rookie”, and so on; this treatment might not matter much if it came from some random new character we felt comfortable disliking, but the fact that these words come from Solid Snake himself gives it weight. Raiden’s enemies, who are actually a special unit designed, coincidentally, to test rookies such as him with simulated assaults, don’t treat him as a strong warrior or even a real threat. His superiors boss him around willy-nilly as he’s given the most mundane missions and stupid boss fights, cutting his objections short and treating him like a child being disciplined. A fat slob on rollerskates who talks gibberish? Just thinking about that idea sounds like a bad joke, even by B-movie standards. Vamp, a fellow Dead Cell member, even dismisses Fatman as “nothing but a stereotypical mad bomber” before we get the chance to fight him, making it a hollow victory even from a story perspective. It’s maddening.
Then, to rub all of this in our faces, we’re told what Snake was doing in the meanwhile, fuelling jealousy and causing fans to wonder why the hell we’re forced to play as Raiden at all. Snake gets all the good parts, and we’re stuck escorting a girl around by the hand and spraying bugs.