This article was written by Jack Wade, who contacted me by email. Since I’ve written a whole book studying the careful forethought given to MGS2’s polarizing writing and design choices I find it invigorating to see a good old fashioned trashing of the man behind the legend. Although Jack clearly hasn’t read my book, which accounts for many of the strange disparities he points out about MGS2’s development, he makes a compelling case for not accepting Kojima as some literary genius — especially in the vein of the usual fanbase, who all seem to have blinders on when discussing the series. He casts doubt on the purported complexity behind it all. Since first proposing the VR Theory and fleshing out the metanarrative analysis of the series, I’ve watched the community slowly absorb the positive ideas I put forward about Kojima, but reject the unflattering side of the analysis. They don’t debate it, they just reject things they don’t want to hear. Ironic, of course. I much prefer people like Jack Wade, willing to step up and make the discussion more interesting.
There is no such thing as a clean and simple discussion of the Metal Gear series and it is the fault of a singular entry within it. Metal Gear Solid 2 had some of the most jarring idiosyncrasies, not just in its own world, but among fans of the franchise. If Metal Gear just skipped over MGS2, tweaked MGS4 to match the changes, and then proceeded normally, it would be another unremarkable series with a very high bar set by its opening iteration that just gets worse over time much like Deus Ex or StarCraft.
This was a fun discussion of Metal Gear Solid 4 and the legacy it has today. OJA and I agreed to do a podcast about MGS4 some time in the future, and the release of the “In Defense of MGS4” video I posted a link to recently sparked the timing to come back and have a chat. A lot of things about MGS4 have been forgotten since the game was released, and I wanted to remind people about what made the game’s release complicated.
It’s a pretty casual conversation, we didn’t do a bunch of research or preparation before getting into the talk. Check it out:
Here’s a new video defending MGS4 as a wonderfully caring sequel that’s full of love, not a jaded attack on nostalgia. The argument revolves around the production values, detail, and care put into the game itself, and accepts the harsh world and themes as being some kind of natural, logical “price to pay” for fans demanding more sequels in a series that should have ended.
Check it out and see if you agree with his point of view.
In my articles on MGS4 I have emphasized the reduction of Solid Snake to a hired killer, stripped of the noble idealism we see at the end of Sons of Liberty. The “rapid aging” plot gimmick and the change of his name to “Old Snake” were early hints that his heroic leader status was going to be stripped away, and then we saw within the game itself that he doesn’t live up to his own ideals anymore; he gives up on teaching, and just focuses on trudging through his mission with little more fueling him than nanomachines and drug injections. People have tried to retroactively interpret his actions as something greater, but this shows a basic misunderstanding of the “Old Snake” character in my opinion.
Back in 2008, I did something similar when I put an old Solid Snake into Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. In the intro, Snake says “War has changed.” His codename was also changed to “Old Snake.” The letters “I” and “S” were removed from the word SOLID: “is” – or in other words “being” – had been taken away from him; he was now Old Snake. In much the same way, both Snake and Logan had their place in the world taken away from them. What place is there in the world for those whose very being has been wrested from them? All that remains is the end of their story – a story of their departure. I attempted to pull the same trick you see in Logan – of simultaneously writing an “end” for MGS4 while trying not to actually end the whole saga. [Emphasis mine]
This is confirmation. Solid Snake’s “being” is removed in MGS4, leaving only a shell of his former self. Once you remove who he “is”, he simply becomes “Old Snake”, the grumpy assassin trying to clean up the mess that is his legacy, devoid of ideals.
The following guest article was written by a friend and author, Alexander Sylazhov, who you ought to remember fondly from his Big Boss as Che Guevara article; I titled that article in order to highlight one of my favorite aspects of it, but it certainly went well beyond that. I’m deeply honored to be able to present his new article, which is the kind of analysis I would love to be able to do myself. With the upcoming release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain less than a month away, this in-depth exploration of ideology, politics, and pop culture in the Metal Gear series is a fascinating must-read from a talented writer from a different side of the world.
Our friend Threedogg has written some interesting thoughts on one of the “commercials” from MGS4. By deconstructing what is said in the cooking show and paying attention to the details, we find that it shows a high level of self-awareness and self-commentary, once again pointing to how ironically MGS4 was produced. I’ve added my own thoughts too.