Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DFB – “Operation Intrude F014” (Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake) – Part V

Well, I'm currently in a fight with my computer right now, so this entry may not be as comprehensive. I completed this blog yesterday, but unfortunately it was "eaten" (by a crashed laptop), and I'm not in the mood to dig 5k+ lost words out of my miffled little mind, so I'll just condense and summarize off the top of my head (this is the third time I've written it)...which might be what some people want anyway...heh. The good news for those that love the blogs is that the MGS blogs will still be delved into, and I'll even re-post my original version of this blog when I DO win the current war with machines (and I WILL win). I'll be using mostly YouTube videos today, as I'm using someone else's computer. This means I cannot edit screen captures with Photoshop as I've done before with my own laptop (which is far more preferable to me).

***DISCLAIMER: First off, I'll go ahead and plop the story summary in here now. As with all of these, bypass if you're not interested.***

Plot Overview – Catchup on My Progress

As Snake makes his way back to the Zanzibar building, he receives word from Holly that in order to cross the bridge, he can use a hang-glider that she spotted earlier. Unfortunately, that particular corridor is being guarded by a massive collection of guards. Luckily, due to the clues from the various children wandering the base, Snake surmises that using the national anthem for Zanzibar land will grant him the window he needs to retrieving the glider. Snake then successfully procures the item and proceeds to make his way towards the tower building, which will grant him the height and trajectory he needs to make it across the now-destroyed bridge.
Trouble presents itself however, as Snake is in the elevator making his way up the tower building. He suddenly receives a call from Gray Fox, who condescendingly informs him that their friendship is no longer relevant in the current situation. He tells Snake that an assassination squad has been sent to dispatch him. Calling themselves "Ultra Box", they proceed to ambush Snake within the closed space of the elevator. Snake makes use of his growing arsenal and neutralizes them with his newly acquired sub-machine gun.


The confrontation with Ultra-Box.

As Snake defeats Ultra-Box, he finds the elevator he's riding in plummeting back towards the ground as a result of the encounter. By using an alternate path to ascend, he makes his way back up via the staircase. He is however, offered a challenge by a tenacious chase from guards up ten flights of stairs. Finally, as Snake makes his way towards his destination, he receives another call from the mysterious person claiming to be "his greatest fan". He tells Snake that in order to judge the wind-direction, he should use his smoke grenades in order to make a precision hang-glider jump. Using this advice, Snake is successful in crossing the chasm which was destroyed by Fox earlier. Just as he is making his way further towards the detention center though, Snake is ambushed by yet another Zanzibar Land elite mercenary, The Predator. This soldier specializes in guerrilla-tactics and assaults Snake via the high grass. Although Snake always seems to be at a disadvantage with these specialized soldiers, he's on more common ground during this battle, which allows him a rather swift victory.


Snake fights The Predator.

Snake continues on, and by using an owl, he's able to fool the laser-grid guard who watches over the detention camp, granting him access to it's interior. After some careful maneuvering, Snake is able to make his way towards the descending elevator which will take him to Dr. Kio-Marv. He then steps off the elevator to be contacted by his "fan" once again. This time, Snake is told about a guerrilla group known as "The Whisperers". Apparently a member of that group known as "Night Sight" is in the room with Snake now. The room is specifically designed for hearing footsteps, and the mercenary uses a customized gun to further his invisibility (WEI SHENG SHO CHIANG). After being informed that no one has ever seen the assassin's true form, Snake comments on the usefulness of the mysterious caller's advice. The "fan" leaves one more piece of advice for Snake, commenting that he may be able to hear Night Sight moving around. Snake then hangs up and finds himself in the midst of another deadly encounter. Using the mysterious caller's advice, Snake is able to dispatch the cloaked mercenary and proceeds on past the makeshift arena.


The Night Sight, the "unseen" assassin.

Unfortunately, as Snake is making his way towards Dr. Marv's cell, he notices the ground covered by puddles of acid. Luckily, Master Miller informs Snake that the chocolate in certain packages of his rations will allow him movement beyond them. Frustration surfaces once again as even once Snake is past the acid puddles, he finds himself facing a door which he doesn't have access to. While backtracking through the base, Snake learns that The Predator had the level nine card he needs (via "Snake's biggest fan") and proceeds back to his battleground. Crawling through the chest-high grass, Snake indeed finds the mercenary's dropped card in the area they earlier battled in. Using it, he makes his way back to the door and proceeds through to find Dr. Kio Marv...dead.

Dr. Madnar was being held with him and immediately informs Snake that Dr. Marv's heart just couldn't hold out. Snake however, is highly suspicious of the scene (particularly the hand-shaped bruises around Dr. Marv's neck). Just then, Snake receives a call from Holly again, who informs Snake about how Dr. Madnar was hailed as a lunatic for his robotic theories and became increasingly bitter towards the government's treatment of him after Outer Heaven. Holly then tells Snake what he already expected to hear...someone did show interest in his designs...Zanzibar Land. After hanging up, Madnar sees he can no longer hide and admits to killing Dr. Marv, though he still doesn't know where the doctor hid the plans for OILIX. Madnar does however, know that Snake carries Natasha's brooch, which is apparently the key to the locker Marv was using. Just prior to discovering Dr. Madnar's treachery, he told Snake that Dr. Marv hid all the plans on an MSX catridge (which is apparently what's in the locker at the moment). The doctor also tells Snake that it was him who informed Gray Fox of their location earlier (while he was "in the bathroom"), which resulted in Natasha's death. Dr. Madnar then angrily demands Snake give him Natasha's brooch and then hops on Snake back, attempting to strangle him as well.


Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar is finally exposed for what he is.

P.S. = One of the best lines in the Metal Gear universe: Solid Snake: "When you went for natural desire in the sewer!"

Though caught by surprise, Snake is able to easily dispatch the doctor. Now armed with knowledge that Natasha's key has yet another purpose (he used it to acquire the hang-glider earlier as well), he sets out to find a cold area to change the temperature. The card is composed of a shape memory alloy, which changes it's design at certain temperatures. Using a freezer all the way back at the Zanzibar building, Snake is able to change the key and makes his way back towards Dr. Marvs room. As he finally opens the locker, he finds...nothing. Snake does however, notice a large hole in the wall and crawls through to find a large amount of rats apparently guarding the MSX cartridge containing all the OILIX plans. Making further use of his rations, Snake lures the rats out and kills them all one by one, which allows him to enter and attain the cartridge.

After exiting the locker however, Snake finds Dr. Madnar just barely alive. The doctor tells Snake that there's only one way to destroy Metal Gear, and seems to be in a delirious state of remorse. Now regretting his actions, he tells Snake how to destroy Metal Gear. Despite his actions, Madnar still seems to want safety for his daughter, Ellen. Snake is not concerned with this however, but just as he learns Metal Gear's weakness, a trapdoor opens...causing him to fall deep into the fortress's basement.

As Snake lands in the basement, he hears a voice begin to taunt him, it's Gray Fox. Purposefully telling Snake that he's in the next room, he shows himself piloting Metal Gear again, ready to kill Snake. Using the knowledge of Metal Gear's weakness (Dr. Madnar seemingly designed the same weak point for this model as well), Solid Snake fights with Gray Fox, piloting Metal Gear D.


Solid Snake vs Gray Fox (aboard Metal Gear D).

As Snake finally destroys Metal Gear (via hitting it's feet with grenades), Fox hops out and tackles Snake (who has caught fire). Snake is forced to rid himself of all of his items in order to put the fire out and discovers that Gray Fox swiped the MSX cartridge. Chasing after him, Snake finds Fox waiting for him in a small room. He then challenges Snake to a "chicken-fight" (a fist fight) within the enclosed space, which is also laced with mines. As Fox assaults Snake, George Kesslar (the mercenary specialist) calls Snake and informs him of all that he can about the revered Gray Fox, but Snake knows most of what he's told already (as he was Gray Fox's junior while they were in Foxhound). However, Snake is not familiar with Fox's real name, Frank Jaeger. The same man who was in love with Natasha Marcova, and was denied a relationship with. Kesslar then tells Snake that if he defeats Fox, he will be the best known soldier in the world. Though shocked at this reveal, Snake proceeds to fight Gray Fox, barehanded in a minefield. After a long and torturous battle, Snake wins leaving Fox bloody and broken in the middle of the room. Before he leaves however, Fox tells Snake that his motives and loyalty are towards Big Boss, who saved Fox's life multiple times throughout his life as a soldier. Though he admits to hating war, he also acknowledges it as the only thing he really excels at, and thus is compelled to carry out. He then tells Snake that his title now belongs to him (as well as admitting his identity as "Snake's biggest fan"). Snake does offer his friend some solace in passing however. Fox was apparently unaware that the woman he killed on the bridge was his former lover and Snake purposefully withheld that information, stating only that she was waiting for him on the other side.


Snake's epic confrontation with his best friend & mentor Frank Jaeger (aka Gray Fox).

After Snake retrieves the MSX catridge, he hears yet another familiar voice taunting him. He follows the voice into an area where he meets the former commander of Foxhound, Big Boss. Snake righteously proclaims he's going to kill the legendary soldier, to put himself at ease. Big Boss however, cryptically asserts that Snake will never be "rid of his nightmares", as his taste for battle will never be quenched. He further elaborates that the purpose of Outer Heaver is to give all soldiers a place to thrive and flourish in battle (he describes all the war-orphaned children on the base as fuel for future wars). Snake refuses to believe in this Raison d'être described by Big Boss and proceeds to assault his former commander, despite the fact that he is not armed in any way. While evading Big Boss's viscous assaults, Snake finds a lighter and some fluid within the corridors and assembles a makeshift flamethrower. Using this, he fights with big Boss until he finally overcomes him, leaving him immolated in his failed soldier's utopia...once again.


Solid Snake vs Big Boss

Snake starts to make his way out of the base (while hailing their helicopter extractor Charlie), but is caught by a soldier who reveals
herself to be Holly. The two then proceed to make a forced run out of the base, while being pursued by guards. Just as Snake and Holly run out of ammo and are surrounded by Zanzibar Land troops, Charlie shows up killing all their captors. Finally, along with the plans for OILIX and Holly, Snake proceeds out of Zanzibar Land, his mission complete.

While humorously analyzing the MSX cartridge, Snake points out that they have the right cartridge. Dr. Marv was apparently a joker, and signed the game with his own signature spelled backwards. Holly then realizes this as well, and as she attempts to show Snake that she sees it, she realizes Snake has suddenly disappeared. Campbell just tells her that he guesses Snake's place is no longer with them. Holly however, is simply angered that Snake stood her up on their apparent dinner-date made just as they were rescued by Charlie earlier.

Snake retreats into the Alaskan wilderness & is seemingly at peace now that he's claimed to no longer be haunted by his nightmares...


Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake - Epilogue

~End Operation F014~

Box Ok!

As I previously stated, it becomes painfully clear how far the AI has moved in the Metal Gear games if you judge them in the context of comparing the Solid games to their MSX predecessors. Specifically Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, because this title has guards that react almost with as much illusory seeking as even something like Metal Gear Solid 2: SOL does. Of course, I'm not intentionally seeking out to rag on the later games, but in regarding what this title did as an improvement on it's horribly stilted MSX elder, let's look at some facts:

Number One: The guards react to sounds, dependent on the ground which Snake walks. In the original Metal Gear, they did react to non-silenced weapons being fired, but the layer of having them notice Snake's steps is a big step in the right direction. This currently became a spot of very precise tweaking within the Solid games after Metal Gear Solid (PSX). Especially Snake Eater, where a definite emphasis was placed on stalking (MGS4 also uses it).

Number Two: The abandoned joy I described in the previous post was the turning of the guards heads. Of course we're disregarding peripheral vision, but there's a certain dynamic presented by turning heads that doesn't get picked up on. It was present in some places for Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots, but by then I was having issues elsewhere, which we'll cross when we get to that bridge.

Number Three: The game is obviously not room-based this time. In some cases, switching between certain types of rooms will grant the player an alert-phase reprieve but it's not often. Due to the layout of some of the rooms, Snake will constantly be spotted by pursuing guards until he can actually locate a hiding spot.

Number Four: The phases themselves were added to series in this title. In the original title, the alert phase was composed of a "!" & "!!" phase. One meant Snake had to leave the screen, the other meant, he had to leave the floor (or at least flee to an elevator room for a second). Evasion Mode, Alert Phase, and Infiltration Mode were started in Metal Gear 2. Showcasing a facility for guards to actively seek Snake out is commendable, but we also run into stalwart contextual issues here (i.e. read the entire introduction to the second N313 Metal Gear post).

Number Five: The interaction required by Snake's action sees a significant upgrade as well. Specifically being able to crouch and crawl offered a boost in dynamism for the game overall. Rooms with different types of flooring caused Snake to crawl, which was slower but far more effective. In turn, this further offers a nicely-fitting Jenga block on the already complex and frail-looking structure that any stealth title (let alone Metal Gear) presents. The title of this section is describing exactly where I noticed this fundamental presentation being expressed. I was hiding in a box while infiltrating the detention center. The guards actually expressed suspicion at my hiding place before shooting at the box to test that suspicion, stating after wards that the box was okay. Though they never actually lifted the box (I assume it started in Metal Gear Solid), the illusion that they actually noticed the ridiculous and staple-humor trick of the series is an admirable feat. The "okay box" takes on multiple meanings if one looks at it in an surprisingly positive light for a second.

I suppose the reason I keep comparing this title to the latter two Solid games is my introductory point. Those two games were the technological pinnacles (thus far anyway), and they showcase subtlety in the interaction between Snake and his pursuers. As a fair analogy, I like to think of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake as the outline for a stealth game thesis, to which Metal Gear Solid 3 & 4 show a competent (albeit half-way complete) essay.

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The first floor of the Zanzibar building.

Dynamic Melding

Instances where Kojima's quirky little cinematic flair actually leaks into the gameplay proper is priceless. It's another piece of interaction I see people disregarding in Metal Gear (in lieu for excessively bitching about cutscenes for an hour). Granted the player is actually hip to their own god damned tastes for second, they'll know what I'm talking about here. Instances like Fox warning Snake of the Night Sight actually does create cinematic gameplay if analyzed carefully enough. It's not simply the sequence>sequence>event equation most will couch it out to be. Even as the game spewed forth an almost cut-and-paste design for it's sequel, they seemed like more than mere homages. They were actual tested truths being made regarding the series. I don't begrudge other stealth titles, I love them as well, but this is another bullet point on the list of things that even titles like Splinter Cell can't do because of it's own context half the time. Of course there's a lot of subjective presence in that statement, but even as it stands...Metal Gear makes it's own world with tools like this and that's something you commend, not damn.

Solid Snake = Imagination

Over at Forwards Compatible this week, Lou presented how gamer's perception has become irrevocably tied to the notion of fiction (at the sake of their own imagination). My Second Take on it is preachy as always, but further carries into what I want to say here as well. If a gamer can't imbue the titles that they're playing from the get go, more fault lies on them than the game itself. Even in a borderline silly world like Metal Gear, placing one's self in the game is sometimes mandatory in order to maximize their own enjoyment. I'm not sure how many times I've passed along this statement but I'll do it yet again now:

"Let the game play you for a second, stop arrogantly forcing it the other way around simply because you have a controller in your hand"

Les Enfants Disque #2

Keep in mind that I separate this for the exclusive traits Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake & Metal Gear Solid share, not the entire series (aka Recurring Thechanics). There's actually a handful more of these as well but you'll have the play the game and see them for yourself (as they're more subtle and interpretive on the player's part). These are just the most obvious ones that jumped out to me on my most recent playthrough this year.

1 - Shape Memory Alloy

This is just the first time Snake has to change a key by exposing it to different temperatures. What separates this instance from Metal Gear Solid, is not only the backtracking involved, but the separation in narrative as well. Not only do freezing and warming the key take place at a greater distance (contextual-wise that is), but the realization of having to do so isn't terribly obvious (assuming the player isn't solely relying on some guide with their initial playthrough).

2 - Staircase Chase

Snake has to flee up to the top of the Tower Building in Zanzibar land in order to use his hang-glider. Unfortunately he's pursued the whole time by three pissed off guards. This mirrors the Communication Tower Chase in Metal Gear Solid where the player has to scale nearly thirty floors while under the same amount of pressure.

3 - BOXED In

Technically "the box" has an appearance in Metal Gear as well, but between Metal Gear 2 and Metal Gear Solid, these were the only two instances four tenacious soldiers trapped Snake in an elevator and had their way with him. Metal Gear Solid uses it's cinematic muscle to give the moment more style, and Metal Gear 2 turns it into an outright boss encounter with four well-trained assassins.

4 - Stealth Camo Contextual

This is actually tied to the previous entry, but the same air of eeriness is given to the four camouflaged soldiers in Snake's elevator (Metal Gear Solid) that's given to the Night Sight in Metal Gear 2. One could also argue the ninja's genome hall massacre sequence taking this spot as well. It's interchangeable, depending on the threshold for someone's ability have their heart begin racing.

5 - Chicken Fights

In both titles, Snake has to not only deal with Metal Gear itself, but fight bare-fisted with it's pilot in a ridiculous (albeit cinematic) backdrop. He fights Liquid Snake on the head of Metal Gear Rex next time, but here he battles his revered war-buddy Gray Fox in a minefield.

6 - Echoes

There's dozens of echoed quotes in this game, which are elaborated on extensively with context for Metal Gear 2's sequels. The most notable one being Big Boss's ideal for both Outer Heaven and Zanzibar Land. An also notable observation is that the quotes either come from the people themselves in reprised roles (when they're supposed to be dead), or progenitor sources (e.g. The Boss passing the torch to Big Boss).

7 - Forced Female Escape

Both titles feature ending sequences in which Snake has to forcefully make his way off base while being pursued by a mass horde of guards. In both games he's accompanied by a female who served as his accomplice & love interest during the mission (both women also held the frequency 140.15). The most humourous part of this? Snake also disappears on both of them after the game is over...like a true player, heh.

8 - Snake's Half-Truths

In both games, and concerning the same "family", Snake informs a person of a truth that would have devastated them otherwise. It's never clear to as whether Gray Fox knew he was Natasha's killer, but given that the game makes no allusion to this whatsoever, I'll assert he didn't know. Snake witholding this information echoes very distinctly what he told Naomi Hunter in Metal Gear Solid, regarding Gray Fox himself.

9 - Radio Weight

More so than the first Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2 creates more of a "weight" that the player can place on his/her radio support. Oddly enough, the series tops off at Metal Gear Solid, dips in Sons of Liberty and re-emerges in Snake Eater (before violently crashing in Guns of the Patriots). There's a distinct equality in radio support offered only by Metal Gear 2 and Metal Gear Solid (which is only ever approached again by Snake Eater).

Recurring Thechanics

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Out of sight...out of mind.

Fucking Foot Fetish

Dr. Madnar apparently has a penchant for leading Snake to destroy Metal Gear through it's Achilles's heel, it's feet. Both the "MG:TX-55" & "MG:D" Models were dispatched in the first two famicom games by assaulting it's feet with explosives. This was dropped for Rex and Ray in the sequels, but stretching this thechanic for a sec, I should also point out that the only new Metal Gear in Metal Gear Solid 4 was the Gekko unit and the player dispatched those hybrids by shooting at their "nano-bleeding" legs. The thechanics never die...especially in this game.

Retracer's Remorse

Not only does this tie into my X-factor section from the previous blog, but it's used poignantly in the Metal Gear Solid series. Snake will have to backtrack noticeably during the course of the game almost for the sole reason of causing an outright shock in the player & Snake (which overlays for an experiential phenomena so many of us cherish):

Solid Snake: "THE TANK HANGAR, YOU MEAN I HAVE TO GO ALL THE WAY BACK THERE?!
Otacon: "Well...yeah."
Solid Snake: "WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU OTACON?!"
Otacon: "Um...nothing"
*hangs up*
(I twisted the context there a bit, but hey...it made me laugh)


Of course these were dropped and toned back in the sequels as Metal Gear 2 showcased borderline frustration-areas for the player in the game (i.e. having to seek out The Predator's level 9 keycard dropped in high-grass). Personally I love those instances, but what can one do...?

Formidable Areas

This title also further carries off Metal Gear's introduction for giving the mercenary boss encounters insanely advantageous positions to fight Snake in. The Predator and Night Sight areas are most prevalent in this title, as both areas were custom made for their abilities. When the ability of the mercenary specifically lines up and coincides with their respective abilities, it furthers the "cineplay" importance for the game itself. The actual casting off of all Snake's items for the Gray Fox encounter ties into this as well as the X-factors for the previous post. Having one's weapons stripped is certainly not new to games in general, but it's usage in this title is admirable nonetheless. With the pacing and rate of aquirement with one's items in this game, it almost plugs into the subsequent battle with Gray Fox and was no doubt, part of what made it special.

I rather like leaving the second post up to marinate for the rest of the week. Most people contacted me and told me directly that it gave them a chance to catch up over the weekend as well. As such, I'll continue Monday starting with Metal Gear Solid (PSX). Here's the two briefing videos included on the original 1998 version to get prepped.




Monday's Post: DFB – “The Shadow Moses Incident” (Metal Gear Solid) – Part VI

~sLs~