Monday, May 18, 2009

DFB - “Liquid Sun” (Metal Gear Solid 4) – Part XIII

As Always: The Plot Summary is here simply to provide the reader with a loose grounding on where I'm at in regard to what I'm writing about (hence my apprehension at editing it at all), and also because it's very therapeutic for me to type out prior to hitting the subsequent topics. It remains an expendable part of the blogs, so please skip them if you're not into it.

Plot Summary ~!~ My Progress

Roughly five years after the Big Shell incident, the world has become dependent on war itself. There’s no reason or higher purpose behind fighting anymore because it’s all part of an economic system that the planet is now reliant upon. Roy Campbell proceeds to make contact with Solid Snake, who is now inexplicably aging well beyond his years, while living on board an airship with Otacon and Sunny (Olga Gurlukovich's daughter). Campbell's goal is to enlist Snake on a mission to assassinate Revolver Ocelot (who has been assumed to be completely under the control of Liquid Snake now). Ocelot was just recently spotted in the Middle East and Campbell cryptically requests that Snake assassinate him before he enacts an insurrection. Though tired physically and emotionally of his military career, Snake accepts the mission. After arriving in the Middle East, Snake is told to rendezvous with his contacts in the area, Rat Patrol 01. Along the way, he encounters the new model of Metal Gear, The IRVING. Though these aren’t “Metal Gear” in the strictest sense, Otacon informs Snake that with time even the very concept of Metal Gear has begun to evolve. This leaves these enhanced unmanned war machines as a dominant force in military action (Otacon notes there’s more Irving in service than tanks now).

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The Gekko, Codename: "IRVING"

Along the way, Snake meets a gun launderer named Drebin. Drebin’s appears sinister at first glance, but Snake decides to trust him as Drebin can allow him access to fire any weapon he picks up (the SOP system locks gun-use as well). As Snake meets up with Rat Patrol, he discovers that their commander is actually Meryl Silverburgh. She proceeds to tell him that Liquid is located in a camp not too far from their current position. She also fills Snake in on the entirety of the SOP system (“Sons of the Patriots”). The SOP is a system that registers each member of the military by use of nanomachines. It enhances their abilities to an extent and even allows them to share each other’s senses in order to act more effectively in battle. This also forms locks and restrictions on not only weapons but classified information as well. Snake observes that anyone under the SOP’s influence are unable say “Patriot”. Instead, their nanomachines literally force them to say “La Li Lu Le Lo”. The only member of Meryl’s unit who seems out of sync with the system is the goofy Akiba, who seems to have a constant case of diarrhea. After Snake finishes speaking with Meryl, the group is ambushed by FROGS, Liquid’s private guard. Using Meryl’s help, Snake is able to proceed back to the streets of the combat zone and make his way towards the camp that Liquid is currently located at.

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Streets of the Middle East

As Snake continues, he notices a group of mechanically enhanced women butchering rebel soldiers. Snake particularly makes note of one floating on a building nearby, levitating puppets that bear resemblance Psycho Mantis and The Sorrow, two paranormal soldiers. After the women are finished with their assault, they quickly depart and Snake moves on. When Snake finally arrives at the camp, he notices Liquid and a hooded woman standing inside a building nearby. Liquid then calls an order through his radio, which seems to send every single soldier in the city out of control. Snake is affected by this as well, but not to the extent everyone else is. He’s just able to catch "Liquid Ocelot’s" attention as he begins to black out. The hooded woman also appears beside him and reveals herself to be Naomi Hunter. Snake doesn’t seem to be able to make out what she says just as she departs with Liquid aboard a helicopter. Before passing out entirely, Akiba appears and helps Snake make his way out of sight. Apparently, Akiba is the only member in the vicinity that didn’t seem to go insane from Liquid’s recent order (even Meryl and her men went into uncontrollable convulsions).

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End Act I



1 – Sense ~ Cutscene Complement Control
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From my point-of-view, “Sense” has been a reality since Metal Gear Solid [PS1]. MGS4 establishes its theme however, by not only the interesting concept and practice of the SOP system, but by the overhauled game mechanics it gives the player as well. To this point, the title begins to exude things that have both plagued and drawn people to and from the series for the past decade. The amount of craft that went into this game is unbelievable. The graphical fidelity is nothing more than a side-dish to the other things that the game is tossing around. If I had to personally criticize any portion of this, it would be that Kojima Productions probably gave too much to their audience. Particularly with how the first two acts juxtapose themselves against the rest of the game, the title takes on MGS3’s forte of juggling a mass of admirable game-feats. The simplest example is that the stealth mechanic is ironically at its height while its evolutionary stance in the game’s own universe becomes less and less of a necessity. The whole “No Place To Hide!” thechanic speaks here best. What’s even more interesting is that this also carries into the online experience as well. The SOP system makes the game a fairly competent online shooter (and it’s distinct as a competitive game as well). Speaking plain and simple, “Sense” for me comes from the “reinforcements” that the developers called in. The game enacts overkill without it ever tainting the experience.

MGS4 also shows realization to the series and how it’s up to the player to control their own pacing with it. I’ve noticed that this game particularly allows a more accessible approach to “sneaking” through the levels. By adopted the now popular over-the-shoulder view, most could probably make their way through this game playing it like a regular shooter. Personally, I don’t know why anyone would buy the game to do that, but my time was spent literally not firing my weapon in any way possible. Of course this can draw any of the acts into becoming two-three hour experiences because a methodical mode awareness has to be achieved to do so (it’s ironic that Raiden’s new-ninja-leaf dialogue alludes to this with his appearance as well). When someone actually takes their time to duck, crouch, crawl, and roll their way around, the game becomes an extremely fascinating experience. Everything that Kojima Productions crafted all becomes a major godsend in how to engage “stealth-action”. Things like the threat-ring only give one as much as they give it, and placing an extreme sense of failure on actually being seen helps with this. The otocamo, though a bit ridiculous becomes far more admirable in this respect as well. Given how synthetic the battlefield has become, having a visually-concealing suit mask thermal output is simply more important than something like stealth camo.

By the time the player actually comes across one of the contentious cutscenes, they actually flow into the game far more successfully. Given how high-stress the player can make the game for themselves, the excellently done scenes become amazing moments of reprieve at this point. If the player actually allows the cutscenes to compliment the game play, they further their own control over the game instead of exercising what they whine about constantly as “free-will”.

2 – Voice Time
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Not too long ago, Michael Abbot opined to me that David Hayter’s portrayal of “Snake” has been a one-note strike of bad acting. While I respectfully disagree with that, I think there’s something in that statement worth exploring. Amidst all of the sound design in the Solid games, "Snake’s" voice is the mascot of Metal Gear in many respects. Throughout the progression of every Solid title, I stand by the assessment that the original PSX game was his height “as Snake”. It’s subtle, but there’s a big difference in how each role plays out for Snake within every game. It’s also one that I’ll agree to people associating their passion solely in conjunction with the novelty of Snake’s ol’ rasp. There’s nothing wrong with that. Actually it’s good thing, especially in judgment for this title. This is because Snake’s voice becomes a sort of meta-parody on itself (as if he’s acknowledging some part of Michael’s aforementioned statement as well). There’s too many voice actors in this game that simply “make” their characters (e.g. how would anyone other than C. Randolph pull off Otacon?). Now I certainly won’t pretend to know all the going-ons behind voice acting, but I do know there’s a big area of unlocked potential regarding voice acting in videogames. What I admire most about the Metal Gear Solid series is that they seem so content on knocking on this “area’s” door and running away to hide in the bush.

3 – Technical Toilet
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You know, I meant to address this during Snake Eater, but simply forgot I guess? The Metal Gear franchise consistently handles its visual aesthetics extremely well. They’ve handled it so well in fact, that their numerous cutscenes always rely on the game engine’s own graphics. I tend to constantly get lost sometimes in how these visuals tie themselves to the game proper. The example I’ll use right is Snake Eater’s Rokovoj Bereg, as that boss encounter wouldn’t have nearly been as enjoyable if it didn’t look exactly the way it did. I really don’t think it’s fair to shove Guns of the Patriots into this area yet because the game looks too unbelievable in many respects (to the point where it’s a consumed expectancy we constantly take advantage of). Snake Eater just seems like where “gamers still are” when looking at their titles (or wanting to look at their titles anyway). The way the clothing flows during the Shagohod chase is still amazing; the way smoke and explosions show their technical limits while still maintaining a pleasing appeal is beyond words even to this day. There’s an active waste-function to what we see when looking at games now and it’s separating them from the game itself. Metal Gear has always tried to acknowledge that while still attempting to maintain a certain graphical standard for its otherwise ungrateful fans. Maybe I’m the only one that gets this?

Recurring Thechanics
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1 – “Are You and Otaku Too?”
The only thing that holds the radio-portion of this game together is the fact that it’s continuing Snake’s only friendship with Otacon. Given that everyone else has fucked him over or tried to kill him, Otacon is the only person who he doesn’t have a dysfunctional relationship with. The briefings between each act are a solid proof of this.

2 – Estrogen Empowerment
Not only does Metal Gear Solid 4 create a formidable SNAKEHOUND for Old Snake to fight against, they’re all females. I shouldn’t forget that Liquid Ocelot’s private guard is made up of entirely female soldiers (The FROGS). The “Snake” has gotten screwed over and has suffered unnecessary hatred from women throughout all four games and it all manifests in this title through four traumatized women. Though Solid Snake himself only shows interest in Raging Raven, they’ve all had their hand in the big steaming pot of "Snake-hate":

Naomi - FOXDIE
Meryl – Too Green to shoot.
Sniper Wolf – The only one that attempted to kill Snake AND have a relationship with him, heh.
Fortune – Nobody knows what happened in Arsenal Gear’s ascending colon, but it’s obvious she wanted Snake dead beforehand.
Olga – She fought Snake once on the Tanker and once aboard the Big Shell as well (before finding out that Snake & Otacon were actually the ones who saved her life).
The Boss – Probably the most meaningful relationship in the entire series, but she still constantly pushed the line between killing “Snake” and nurturing him.
EVA – Only relented from killing Snake to honor a promise made to The Boss.
Beauty and the Beast Corps. – Crazed war victims being manipulated by the lingering will of Psycho Mantis.

3 – “God’s Got a Sense of Humor Alright”
Melodrama and oddities aside, Metal Gear Solid 4 starts to form conclusions for how “families” have continually intertwined themselves in each other’s lives; they also end up either proving great aid to one another or causing each other great anguish (in both Fox and Naomi’s case, both). Not only that, but the title goes out of its way to constantly hammer in the player’s mind that these families are extremely screwed up (the Emmerichs for example). Ironically enough, the non-blood relatives often hold the best bonds. Even Snake and Big Boss himself are only reliving what Big Boss got from his makeshift-mother, The Boss (who only had a limited presence in the life of her biological son, Ocelot). MGS4 offers up a concluding cuisine in formal-family-fuckups. Normally I wouldn’t even classify this as a thechanic, but the amount of scattering it has across all four games absolutely has an effect on how the player constructs their experience from the title overall.

~sLs~

Tuesday’s Post: DFB – “Solid Sun” (Metal Gear Solid 4) – Part XIV
Wednesday’s Post: DFB – “Third Sun” (Metal Gear Solid 4) – Part XV
Thursday’s Post: DFB – “Twin Suns” (Metal Gear Solid 4) – Part XVI
Friday’s Post: DFB – “Old Sun & Naked Sin” (Metal Gear Solid 4) – Parts XVII & XVIII