Metal Gear Solid 2: A Postmodern Vision

Breaking the schemes

The Postmodernism , as a literary and narrative works in general is concerned, could be summarized as an artistic movement in which the works are self – aware, as constantly question the conventions of their environment, the nature of the narrative itself and characterization characters . He constantly plays with the tropes, the topics, and the expectations that the viewer has both about them and about the work itself. On this basis, we could consider that Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty  is a postmodern video game. For many, in fact, it is even the first video game created in this current [1].

After the worldwide success of Metal Gear Solid  – it managed to sell more than 6 million copies [2]-, it was more than sung that both Hideo Kojima and Konami were going to continue with the Metal Gear saga, whatever it was. However, from MGS2 we can deduce, from all the clues that we are given in this work, that Kojima himself was sad about the reception of the previous one . It was a video game with clear antiwar overtones, and in fact this message was heavily influenced. However, many of the players ignored it and did not look further: they stayed in what they considered to be a mere glorification of violence and the classic action hero, despite the fact that MGS also brought with it a good dose of deconstruction of various tropes and conventions of the genre.

Meme, gene, scene

It has been said at length that the themes of the first three installments that contain the tagline “Solid” are, respectively, and in English: gene  (genes), meme , and scene  (scene / context) [3], which in turn make a play on words with respect to the acronym of the saga: MGS . On the other hand, the main theme of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is sense , the senses and the experience acquired through them. If we go further, the metamessage of these four titles, taken as part of a tetralogy, is a rather more ominous and less obvious one: manipulation . This theme is closely linked to another recurrent of the saga: «what are we going to leave for future generations?». In this way, Metal Gear Solid tells us about the manipulation of genes , thanks to which both Solid Snake and Liquid were born, and the Genome Soldiers. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eatertells a story in which there is manipulation of the context and the geopolitical scene , all in order to avoid nuclear war. Guns of the Patriots presents us with a world in which the manipulation of the senses through nanomachines, virtual reality, and combat supplements, can create soldiers prepared for battle despite having no previous real experience.

Sons of Liberty , meanwhile, contained what is probably the darkest message of these four titles. The manipulation of information and the strictest control of it by forces, at times incomprehensible . How this information is used as a control, coercion, and deception mechanism. And, in addition, how these villains who have been behind the scenes – the Patriots – decide what kind of cultural elements, or behavior – memes – we are able to pass on to future generations, infantilizing us during the process, and believing themselves with the power to decide for us. His intention may be noble, but his methods are extreme, denying any hint of free will on the part of man.

The perfect deception

Let’s start from the basis that one of the main messages of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is the control and manipulation of information because, as ordinary citizens – or users of electronic entertainment – we have actively and passively demonstrated our inability to extract positive values ??or messages from everything that surrounds us. Instead, we take the stories at face value, questioning their veracity when not applicable, and vice versa. In short: they point us to the moon, and we stare at the finger .

Hideo Kojima was well aware of this, which is why he decided to pull off the perfect deception with Sons of Liberty after the success of MGS. Metal Gear Solid 2 is a self-aware work in the sense that it knows it is a sequel to Metal Gear Solid , and it also knows that the player knows that MGS2 is a sequel , which gives them the green light to play as they please. with the expectations of the players. Hideo himself stated in an interview the following:

HK: I created the E3 trailer to give everyone an opportunity to imagine what the final game will be like. All rumors could be correct. All rumors could be wrong. One thing is for sure: I think I’ll be able to fool and betray all of you in a pleasant way. [4]

Roughly speaking, it would translate as’ I created the trailer – for MGS2 – for E3 to give everyone a chance to imagine what the final version of the game will look like. All the rumors could be correct. All rumors could be wrong. But one thing is for sure: I think I may be able to fool you and betray you all in a nice way . This statement fits with the theory that we propose of the author’s intention with respect to his work: to deliberately deceive the user and not for a purpose as crude as a mere fraud, but so that his message enters us like a nail. The trailer referenced in the excerpt from a previous interview was the reveal of Metal Gear Solid 2 at E3 2000, and you can see it below these lines:

In it we see, among other things, a total and complete omission of Raiden – the true protagonist of the game – from the chapter of the Big Shell plant – where most of the adventure takes place, since the oil tanker is little more than a prologue -, and weapons such as the FAMAS, which also does not appear in the game. All of this was put there in a way that was as meticulous as it was deliberate to make the minds of the players fill in the gaps . Snake was shown to us, so it was assumed that he was going to be the protagonist again. The game sentinels were also shown to perform actions not seen in the previous title, so we deduced that the improvement in terms of artificial intelligence had been considerable. In short:Through deception by omission, the average gamer was led to believe that Sons of Liberty was going to be a sequel to Metal Gear Solid in the strictest sense of the word . In fact, on the cover of the game itself there is only an art of Yoji Shinkawa representing Snake, and on the back cover there is a selection of screenshots in which there is no trace of Raiden either. No one except those involved in the scheme could foresee what was really going on.

More and better

With the heading that is on these lines we could summarize quite concisely what you would expect from any sequel worth its salt. After all, if something works, why are you going to change it? This is usually the default thinking when creating a second part of any type of work. However, Kojima is not just any author, and in one of the conversations of the final stretch of Sons of Liberty he drops a pretty clear clue regarding his intention, and how he felt about the success of MGS. Arsenal Gear’s AI, GW, using Colonel Campbell’s avatar, tells Raiden that “just as it happens in genetics, information and memory must be filtered to stimulate the evolution of the species.». In other words, the only way to move forward is through new ideas. If we always stay with the same, we do not advance .

The playable prologue, the tanker chapter, has little effect on the overall plot of Metal Gear Solid 2 when compared to the plant chapter . In fact, they could have replaced it with a series of cinematic scenes, and so richly. If we focus on the playable part of Raiden, the similarities with Metal Gear Solid are more than evident. Apart from the fact that, at the beginning of the game, the Colonel refers to Raiden as “Snake” and, shortly after, changes his code name. The premise is also, broadly speaking, the same: a group of special forces from the US army has taken over a facility and barricaded itself there, demanding that a series of demands be met .

Dead Cell is the FOXHOUND from Sons of Liberty . Even several of its members are an amalgam of the final bosses of MGS, both for the scenario in which we fight against them, as for the number of times, or for the methods we must use to defeat them. The fight against Fatman is quite reminiscent of that of Vulcan Raven , since it takes place between a maze of industrial containers, and also one of the most efficient strategies to defeat him is to place Claymore mines. The Harrier is quite reminiscent of the Hind D : it is an aircraft that attacks us from all angles, we must shoot it down with Stinger missiles, and it is piloted by one of Solid Snake’s genetic brothers. We faced Vamp twice, as it already happened with Sniper Wolf, being in the second encounter, in addition, necessary to use a sniper rifle.

As if these references were not clear enough, there is a section in which, managing Raiden, the enemy forces capture us and subject us to torture . Yes,  in Metal Gear Solid the same thing happened too . But the funny thing about this particular instance is that the torture room is exactly the same as the one on Shadow Moses Island in the previous title. All these pills – there are many more – we understand as a declaration of intent: it is Kojima’s way of giving the fans exactly what they asked for: a sequel that practically traced point by point to the original work . All in order to get the message across: we need fresh ideas so we don’t get bogged down.

Supersoldiers with no real experience

Raiden, the true protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2, is the player’s avatar on many levels . It is not only the character that controls who takes control of the game; it is also a metaphorical representation of the average fan. At the beginning of the adventure, we know about Raiden several curious facts. Among them that he has no real combat experience , but that all his training has consisted of completing virtual reality (VR) missions, that he has completed a simulation of the Shadow Moses incident , and that he is a  Solid Snake fanboy . There’s no question: Raiden is the player . As if that weren’t enough, practically at the beginning of the plant chapter,We must enter our personal data as if it were a role-playing game .

Such is the level of comparison, that in several flashbacks in which allusion is made to the combat experience that Raiden has obtained through this artificial route, what is shown are video clips of both Metal Gear Solid, as well as several of his VR Missions . Basically, the game tells us that Raiden has passed MGS, and his VR mission levels , as the player.

Having established this association, we are going to list some rather curious instances of how the rest of the characters in the game world interact with Raiden and, by extension, with us as players. One of the things that Metal Gear Solid 2 wants to get into our heads at all costs is that we are not Solid Snake , this being a criticism of those who use electronic entertainment as an escape valve. Whenever there is a situation reminiscent of another in MGS in Sons of Liberty, Raiden is much worse off than Snake did in what are theoretically the same circumstances. Pales in comparison. Nobody takes him seriously, and as soon as his combat experience comes out as a topic of conversation, the other characters don’t have time to tell him he’s a rookie. For example, Fortune, who is the first final boss of the plant chapter, is impossible to defeat . As if that weren’t enough, he constantly mocks us. Again, this sends the message for the umpteenth time to get the idea that we are Snake out of our heads.

Construction and dissociation of identity

The path to enlightenment that both Raiden and the player travel is filled with a series of rather uncomfortable revelations in which, by drawing parallels between both parties, the two are made known that they are being deceived . The Patriots have duped Raiden based on his previous experience and expectations for him to meet a specific goal; it’s not very different from how the average gamer bought and played Sons of Liberty with the intention of embodying a legendary hero. Or, more specifically: with the intention of embodying Solid Snake.

The playable mechanics of the first-person camera – seeing the world of the game through the eyes of the controllable character in it – already existed in the previous title. However, here it gains more relevance, as it becomes necessary to move forward. In a way, MGS2 deliberately puts us physically and metaphorically inside Raiden , in order to get used to him and these new circumstances.

And it is precisely towards the end of Sons of Liberty that the game, again, and to demonstrate something, forces us to leave the interior of Raiden. All this coincides with the construction of an identity of his own by the character : at this point in the plot there have already been several conversations in which it is established that Raiden is not who or what seems to be a priori: he was a child soldier during the Liberian civil war, so he has real combat experience since his childhood, and psychological problems derived from this even more serious than those of Snake himself.

As we said, this instance in which the player’s avatar is dissociated for the first time is a very specific one: when Raiden obtains the katana and fights, side by side with Snake, against the Tengu soldiers inside Arsenal Gear . The katana is a stab weapon that we commonly associate today with hack ‘n slash titles such as Ninja Gaiden , in which it is unthinkable to play in the first person. In fact, the most efficient way to play with her equipped in Sons of Liberty is precisely in the third person, making the player  get out  of Raiden and, at the same time, letting the character use his most deadly weapon and the one with which he is most acquainted. This setpiece it is also completed relatively easily using this weapon – despite having the rest of our arsenal of firearms available – so the message seems pretty clear.

However, the ultimate rift between Raiden and the player comes late in the game. When Snake asks him if he knows the name on their dog tags, Raiden replies that “he has not heard that name in his life” and later flings them up and declares that “he will choose his own name and name. own life”. Raiden has finally managed, with the help of Solid Snake, to go his own way , and not be a mere clean slate that both the Patriots and players can manipulate at will.

What’s more: when we have finished watching the final cinematic scenes and return to the title screen, we will see that it has changed . Before it was dominated by an illustration of Solid Snake in red, while now there is an artwork of Raiden in blue. The choice of colors is not a coincidence either: the red in the icon in the weapons menu implies that they are lethal use, while blue indicates that they are non-lethal use. This last type of weapon was one of the great novelties of Metal Gear Solid 2, which is why this color has been associated with Raiden . The old has finally ended, giving way to the new, and the game hopes that by now the players have accepted and embraced what they have seen; there is no reason tokeep cheating .

Reality or fiction?

The plot of Sons of Liberty reached levels of surrealism never before seen both in the saga and in this hobby, and that we came from a video game in which there are people with psychic powers, witches, and shamans, and the characters think it is something most mundane. This constant squandering of the reputation built by his predecessor was further sweetened by a series of clues that – still being discredited afterwards by Guns of the Patriots – hinted that, depending on who you asked, the entire chapter of the plant, all Metal Gear Solid 2, or both MGS2 and MGS were a fiction . A construct of Raiden’s psyche, or mere virtual reality missions that, for all practical purposes, had no relevance whatsoever given his status.This “theory of virtual reality” has been one of the most popular among fans for many years [5], and we understand that Kojima deliberately left clues in the game – for example, that Raiden’s Game Over screen is exactly the same as when we failed a virtual reality mission – precisely to mislead the less savvy of what is really important: the message .

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