Exiting the nightmarish Raiden VR mission loop kicks us back into the VR realm, only now we find ourselves in a huge area with a “mysteriously lit floor surface”. Snake says he feels like he’s been dreaming for a long time.
Yes, we’re in the holographic floating VR platform, and yes, we’re about to fight a series of Metal Gear RAYs. The idea is that Solidus is sending them to kill Snake before Otacon has a chance of repairing reality.
It plays out as you’d expect, and afterward we once again find ourselves in the “gap between universes”. Otacon tells us that everything is returning to normal, and that our mission is complete.
But is it really? (Of course not.) We’re suddenly forced to fight Solidus atop Federal Hall, only this time we don’t get to use a sword. Snake doesn’t see any reason to fight, but Solidus insists, and of course we end up kicking his ass; when he falls from off the top of the building, Snake tries to grab his arm and save him. But like some kind of Inception style sequence, that reality vanishes, only for Snake to find himself back in the HQ with Otacon and “Olga”, which also vanishes, and finally leaves the two old buddies in the normal reality. But they both remember the events, and Snake expresses some doubt about the normalcy of the whole thing…
And thus basically concludes External Gazer.
Substance is more than a fan-servicing product. It contains morality; elements of subversion and self-awareness designed to provoke questions without giving clear answers. It wants to be interpreted. It reinforces the neglected themes of Sons of Liberty by once again ripping down the fourth wall and holding up a mirror, albeit in a comical fashion. It pokes fun at our need to play out silly fantasies as covert assassins, exposes a formula, and once again teases the insatiable appetite of the franchise’s followers, simply in order to rub salt into the wounds of the original edition. Take it as a joke if you want, but remember that the best jokes contain a seed of truth.