Shadow Moses had everything. It had depth, it had soul, and enough grit to make it still feel grounded in reality. When Snake busts out a piece of philosophy, it’s framed by a bunch of dark, messed up experiences – so it feels like maybe it’s how he copes with such a crazy mission.
Snake isn’t a blind killing machine; he’s just seen enough to know what’s necessary to get the job done. His view of life is determined by his experiences; experiences that we get to share by playing as him. Kill or be killed – look after yourself – have no mercy – these are practical pieces of advice for us as we play the game, not armchair philosophy. So the fact that Snake’s character still develops and grows by the end of the game is an even more powerful lesson about the importance of allowing yourself to love, living for others, and freeing ourselves from a narrow, deterministic view of ourselves… and maybe getting’ laid too.
By comparison, the whole Big Shell mission is just disconnected and aloof. If you’ve only ever played MGS2, you won’t realize how much you were losing out on; how cool the experience was supposed to be.
And let’s not forget the setting itself. We have clear weather and warm sunshine on a friendly-looking, orange facility. No storyteller in their right mind would choose this as the backdrop of a serious stealth espionage mission. You need darkness, gloom, and mystery – everyone knows that. Every spotlight, headlight and flashlight needs to get your heart racing as you stick to the shadows and use your enhanced nightvision goggles to get by! They even poke fun at it when Raiden complains, and the Colonel chuckles, “You’ve never had daylight training, after all.” Like everything else in the game, the disappointment was no accident.
So the next question is “Why”? Why take away things we loved?
If you want an official explanation, let’s turn a popular old piece by Geoff Keighley called “The Final Hours of Metal Gear Solid 2”, where all the official explanations are given. Go ahead and click on it to read it full-sized, I’ve highlighted the key parts:
Kojima said that Raiden was like Watson to Sherlock Holmes – meaning that although we see the story through Raiden’s eyes, the main character is still definitely Solid Snake. He claims that he needed to include a rookie to help new players, because Solid Snake was too experienced to be given CODEC advice. That makes sense, right? He also says that he loved Terminator 2, where the bad guy is now the good guy, and viewers are confused!
That’s a pretty good reason to ruin a whole game experience, isn’t it? I mean, just think about how silly it would have been to remind Solid Snake about stuff on the CODEC! It’s much better to take away everything people loved and leave them with a hollow, depressing series of events that openly mock our true desires! Just think about Terminator 2!
In his own words, when it comes to sequels, “…you have to meet people’s expectations, but you also sort of have to go against them and deceive them I think.”
What a line of bullshit.
These are certainly what I would call “official” explanations – the kind of explanations you give to KONAMI executives who would be more than a little nervous about potentially destroying a multi-million dollar franchise just a few years after it gains a worldwide following and universal praise. Kojima is neither stupid nor free enough to just do what he wants without having a cover story handy for the execs and the press. But Kojima is smart enough to know that all he has to do is reference some old famous movies and, voila! Stupid people are satisfied. Even people who hated the game feel better about falling for the trap when they hear nonsense like this. “Oh, it was like Sherlock Holmes? Now I get it! Raiden is kind of cool, then.”
Another theory, put forward by 1up.com’s Editor-In-Chief Jeremy Parish, deserves to be commended for at least acknowledging that it’s gaming’s greatest con job. After 10 years of ignoring this obvious fact, it’s good to see at least one editor admit it. But yet, he misses the point entirely by concluding that it’s just a hard-taught lesson on how the digital age is full of deception; ahead of its time for talking about how the Internet might not be the most reliable source for your college essay. You know, “don’t believe everything you see”. As if that explains the design choices.
It’s interesting that Kojima, as if anticipating what smart people would say in response to his lame explanations, follows up by saying, and I quote: “This is my Metal Gear, and I can destroy it if I want to.”
It’s important to keep that mind, even if it’s not true. Anyone who’s familiar with the Metal Gear series knows that it’s too valuable to be allowed to be destroyed, and it always has been.
The bottom line is that Kojima made a dangerous move by betraying players, but the true reasons for his betrayal? They were more dangerous yet. He’s never told the truth about his reasons… But like a good artist, he made sure to put all the explanations in the story itself.
PART II: The Story From Hell
(In Part II, we study the story of the game in depth, breaking down the many curious twists that left players scratching their heads.)