A metaphor-strewn roundup of the Metal Gear series’ best bits.
Metal Gear has become an unstoppable beast that refuses to die or fall into line. It is a black hole that demands everything from its creators, a drug-habit they just can’t seem to kick. Somewhere between genre-defining and crazy-cat-person-I-am-too-embarrassed-to-be-seen-with, Snake and his phallic metaphors have become a punchline, staple and mirror for the industry. The end result is a force to be reckoned with and one which propels gaming to new heights despite being armed with poop jokes. As recent announcements continue this beast’s momentum, let’s take a look at the moments that have defined the franchise thus far. Suffice to say, spoilers abound.
5 – Who’s the man? (Introducing Raiden)
The Metal Gear series is all about Snake. Be it Solid, Naked or any other not-so-subtle innuendo, this is Snake’s porno show. So why do we have to play as a blonde, androgynous, testosterone-deficient excuse for a man? Because our greedy fingers craved too much and we needed a lesson. Raiden is a punishment to the player, a reminder that this is not our tale and we are merely spectators. We may be seduced by Snake’s inherent coolness and raspy voice, but we will never be him, let alone truly control him. Like a jealous mistress, we want the Snake all for ourselves (apologies). However, in an ingenious narrative contraption, Raiden’s presence shows us we will never amount to anything more than children lost in the darkness. But that’s fine, so long as Snake is the one carrying the torch and leading the way. You are smarter than you look, Mr Kojima.
4 – Trolling (Snake vs Psycho Mantis)
Most of the moments on this list are narrative-oriented and I tend to disregard gameplay unless it complements the plot or works against it (I’m not your typical critic). But how could I ignore the fourth wall being broken? The eccentric game director beckons us to step in, take off our shoes and then slaps us in the face. For those unfamiliar with the scene, the player is forced to switch their controller to port 2 so that Mantis can no longer ‘read Snake’s mind.’ This was a gimmick that suited the tale whilst showing the voice and God Complex of Kojima.
3 – A fox in the hen (Gray Fox’s sacrifice)
This was the anti-Darwinian metaphor that defined Solid Snake’s character: a Fox helping a Snake. An unnatural sacrifice which affronts God, shoves a metaphorical dick up destiny’s rear end and makes our genetic coding boil with contempt. This was Solid Snake’s plight encapsulated in one neat moment and tied up with a pretty little analogy, a fairy-tale moral. It was also the first inkling of the artistic aspirations that the franchise reaches for, amidst its piss and fart jokes.
2 – Fight in the Garden of Eden (Snake vs The Boss)
It all boils down to a single gunshot that echoes through time. The Boss’s death is the plot point that fuels the entire Metal Gear saga and invites Snake on a quest for freedom that spawns two generations. It’s the depressing coming of age party for our hero. The moment he realizes the Garden is poisoned and it’s time to get on plane (minus Samuel L. Jackson) and carve a new one. Ripe with enough symbolism to make Kubrick spin in his grave, this is the artistic zenith of the tale. The moment art, narrative and gameplay stopped struggling with each other and agreed on a common cause. When all the scientific jargon, overlong speeches and exclamation points were abandoned and we were left with pure, unadulterated emotion.
1 – Martial arthritis (Old Snake vs Liquid Ocelot)
The psychedelic drugs have been fun (how else do you explain a scientifically engineered pseudo vampire or a break-dancing ninja?) but it’s time to wrap up this crazy party. The End is already asleep, Liquid is reciting Shakespeare and Otacon is flirting disastrously with a bored Sniper Wolf. So how do we tie up all the loose ends? With an overwrought campaign and hefty exposition. But guess what? The metaphor continues: Old Snake is literally battling his genes (Liquid Snake) and his past ghosts (Revolver Ocelot). Ignore the silly plot twists that came before and the mechanical cluster-fuck which constitutes the actual fight. Focus on the camera closing in, the sense of intimacy and finality, the trip down memory lane. These are two old men pummeling each other into oblivion. It’s not about coming out on top. The battle is already won. This is a victory dance after conquering the past. This is their freedom.
Here’s to you, Snake. Now stay ‘dead’.
Featured image: shanewarne_60000 via Flickr