Thursday, May 14, 2009

DFB – “Operation Snake Eater” – The Germinal Events (Metal Gear Solid 3) – Part XI

You know, I'm still sore that there's no official release of The Art of Metal Gear Solid 3, but I'll guess I'll have to live with that. For anyone looking hard enough however, they can dig up a good deal of Shinkawa's work for the game online. I realized yesterday that the possibility of another Metal Gear title being announced is what drained my desire to write. Luckily, I'm nearly at the end of the blogs anyway and now that I know what drained the desire, it shouldn't affect too much anymore either way. Hopefully, Kojima is announcing some new franchise to embark on, and I'll be proud of him if he does. Though I won't act like I'd be unhappy with a Zone of the Enders 3 either. That picture from yesterday suggests a horror game if anything and that's just exciting to contemplate. I don't think Kojima really has horror up his sleeve (I'm being presumptuous I know), but I do think he could make a pretty good "thriller". Oh well, we'll see. ANYWAY, let's get started with today's Snake Eater entry...


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, 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

Snake is deployed back into Tselinoyarsk (in roughly the same area), in order to meet with an NSA code breaker (ADAM) who will provide him with aid during his new mission. As he makes his way towards the meeting point however, he finds a white horse. Knowing that such a breed of horse should not be roaming around in the middle of the Soviet wilderness, he inspects the creature. Just as he pets it however, he hears The Boss taunt him from behind. Just before he can act however, The Boss once again disarms him within the blink of an eye. After destroying her gun, she lectures Snake on the ethics of his own loyalty. She then mounts the white horse and advises Snake to go back home and if she runs into him again, she'll kill him. Just before she leaves however, a light drizzle starts up and Snake seems to notice a hooded soldier hovering around The Boss once again. After informing Major Zero of what just happened Snake continues towards the facility. As he arrives, he meets a woman on a motorcycle. She can't provide Snake with the password to prove that she is his inside contact, but she does save his life from an ambush of soldiers. Snake takes this as incentive to grant her some degree of trust. She reveals herself as EVA, the other of the two NSA code breakers who also defected to the Soviet Union. After giving Snake expertly customized M1911A1 handgun and Mk22 Tranquilizer gun (she also gives him scientist fatigues in order to infiltrate labs), she advises Snake to rest for the night. Para-Medic contacts Snake and advises him to rest as well, as he was just in an ICU unit the previous day. Snake takes this to heart and sleeps for the rest of the night.

Upon waking the next day, Snake pervertedly watches EVA get dressed (she thinks she's asleep). However, Snake immediately observes from a window that the special Ocelot unit from GRU has the building they're currently in, surrounded. Not being able to afford her cover being blown, EVA departs under trap door in the floor. Snake follows her not too soon afterwards and very proficiently subdues the Ocelot unit. As he begins to depart the area, he hears a gunshot. Going back to investigate, he finds EVA (wearing her motorcycle helmet which hides her identity) being held by Ocelot himself. He teases Snake for his CQC stance and shows him that he took his advise to heart; he has now acquires a Colt Single Action army, a fearsome revolver pistol. Snake doesn't seem deterred by Ocelot having the upper hand and he proceeds to arrogantly goad him to shoot him. As Ocelot attempts to shoot him, he discovers that he's out of bullets. EVA uses the situation to immediately disarm him and mount her motorcycle. Using the bike, she knocks Ocelot to the ground and Snake lectures him once again, telling him that he should have a good grasp on how many bullets he has left in his gun. Ocelot angrily scoffs and runs off. EVA pulls her gun on the fleeing Ocelot, but Snake stops her, telling her only that "He's still young...". EVA then uses her bike to swiftly make her way back to base. She has to reach base before Ocelot or else her cover will be blown entirely. Snake then proceeds to make his way towards the lab (using the directions EVA gave him) in order to locate Sokolov.

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Snake: "Eva, I wanted to ask you about Ocelot..."
Eva: "Yeah, I know. He's pretty infatuated with you, isn't he?"
Snake: "That's not what I meant. Aren't the Ocelots an elite unit?
Eva: Yeah."
Snake: "So how'd he get to be their commander? He can't be any older than 18 or
19. I can't believe he's already a major..."
Eva: "I heard from the Colonel that he's been given... special treatment."
Snake: "Special treatment?"
Eva: "Yeah. He's the son of some legendary hero or something."
Snake: "No wonder he seems to have the right stuff... So who is this legendary
hero anyway?"
Eva: "Beats me."


Along the way, Snake comes across a deep crevice leading to a cave that he's supposed to enter. Before he can contemplate a way down however, Ocelot appears once again. Arrogantly showcasing that he now has two Single Action Army pistols, he challenges to a handgun duel. During the battle, Snake observes that Ocelot has found some sort of new & natural high for the reload time that a revolver pistol necessitates. Taking advantage of this, he's able to defeat the young gunman. However, as they continue fighting, a swarm of hornets descend upon them all. Most of the Ocelot unit that was told to watch the pistol-duel, is either injured or killed by hornet stings as they all attempt to flee the scene. Ocelot himself uses the spinning his pistols in order to prevent injury to himself, he advises Snake that they'll meet again and then also departs. Snake then jumps into the crevice to avoid the mass of hornets and is forced to navigate the dark cave in order to proceed towards Sokolov. Along the way, he questions Eva about Ocelot (who she notes is infatuated with Snake). She's only able to inform him that Ocelot was born to a "legendary soldier" on the battlefield. The woman who gave birth to him was shot and forced to give birth, leaving her with a scar that was shaped like snake. Because of his heritage, Ocelot was taken in by GRU and Volgin and raised to be the prodigy he is now.

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The Pain: I've caught you at last. We are the sons of The Boss. I am The Pain. I
will guide you to a world of anguish beyond your imagination. Let's get
started!


As Snake nears the exit of the cave, he comes to confront the first of the Cobra Unit, The Pain. This soldier assaults Snake using a variety of tactics, mainly based on the massive amount of hornets he can seemingly control at will. Using the moat surround his position, Snake is able to avoid most of his attacks and is able to defeat him. Making his way further, Snake encounters advanced Soviet attack platforms and is forced to make his way down an aqueduct in order to to proceed towards the lab. As he reaches the docks of a building, he observes (through binoculars) Sokolov being captured from attempting to escape. Volgin makes an appearance and sadistically runs an electric charge through Tatyana, Sokolov's wife. Volgin vows to torture Tatyana every time Sokolov attempts to resist him and continues to electrically shock her (while sexually molesting her as well). Ocelot then makes an appearance and holds Sokolov at gunpoint. Using a game where he juggles three revolver pistols (one of them holding a single bullet), he pulls the trigger in Sokolov's face six times in order to test his luck. Just as he finishes the sequence, The Boss interferes, catches one his pistols and fiercely takes it apart. She reprimands Ocelot (as a mother would scold her son) before telling him that the Cobra will take care of Snake. She also announces that The Pain is dead, which angers Volgin immensely. She then advises The Fear (who just appeared) to take care of Snake, and the agile soldier jumps off to confront him. The Fear also wheeled the The End out with him and Volgin questions to boss to his condition. The Boss cryptically asserts that The End will wake up when he's needed, nothing more. As everyone departs from the docks, Snake notices the same hooded soldier hovering around The Boss again as it begins to rain. After she leaves, Snake holsters his binoculars and proceeds to make his way inside the warehouse.

After making his way across a highly booby-trapped section of the forest, Snake finally infiltrates the laboratory using the scientist disguise that EVA gave to him earlier. As he proceeds inside, he finds out that Sokolov has been moved to Groznyj Grad, a fortified fortress past some nearby mountains. The person who informs Snake of his location is Aleksandr Leonovitch Granin, a drunk Soviet scientist who not only tells Snake where Sokolov is, but provides him with a key to get there as well. Granin also tells Snake his dream of creating the missing link between infantry and artillery. In short, he wishes to put legs on a tank, which he passionately asserts would be the next step weaponry should make. He also tells Snake the secret behind Volgin's massive amount of financial funds. Supposedly Volgin illegally inherited the Philosopher's Legacy, a gargantuan amount of finances compiled by multiple countries. Snake dismisses most of what he says however, and departs towards Groznyj Grad in order to prevent Sokolov's completion of Phase 2 for the Shagohad. As he passes back through the booby-traped area, Snake runs into the second member of The Cobra Unit, The Fear. Using arrows tipped with venom from the Brazillian Wandering Spider, he engages Snake while concealed in stealth camoflauge. Sigint notes that this type of camoflauge is "perfect", bending the light around the wearer so that they appear invisible. Using his thermal goggles, Snake is able to see The Fear and swiftly defeats him as well.

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The Fear: I am The Fear... That bolt is coated with the venom of the Brazilian
Wandering Spider. Soon a most exquisite pain will engulf your entire body.
Your limbs will be paralyzed, your lungs cease to draw breath, eventually your
heart will stop beating. Ah, but what fun would that be? Not a fitting death
at all. The Boss' apprentice... I will give you fear such as you've never
experienced before. Come into my web... It is time... (he dislocated his arms)
for you to feel the fear!


As Snake begins to make his way towards a tunnel that will allow him ascend into the mountains, he is warned by EVA of yet another Cobra waiting to ambush him, The End. This is an extremely old and frail looking man who is hailed as the father of modern sniping. His body is apparently photosynthetic and he's been known to "speak to the forest". As Snake makes his way into Sokrovenno South, he confirms EVA's warning. The old man cryptically yells to Snake that their battle will be grand. True to his word, the ensuing fight was a grueling sniper duel requiring massive amounts of patience and observation on both soldier's part. Luckily, Snake was able to overcome the ancient sniper and proceeded to ascend an extremely extensive ladder into the mountains. While carefully scaling the mountain, Snake was able to avoid detection from soldiers and the newly developed Hind helicopters. Just as he makes his way to the summit, he discovers EVA (who told him to meet her there) getting dressed. She then gives him a key in order to proceed through an underground tunnel which will allow him infiltration into Groznyj Grad. She then very conspicuously questions Snake's relationship to The Boss and Snake simply answers that their relationship transcends the normal relations that men and women share. EVA also informs Snake that in order to get to the wing of Groznyj Grad that Sokolov is being held in, he'll have to disguise himself as Major Ivan Raidenovich Raikov, Colonel Volgin's lover.

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The End: I beg of you, grant me the strength to take this final prey. Let me
linger in the world just a little longer. I have already slept enough for one
lifetime... enough for an eternity. You have my thanks. I have to thank you
for waking me. If you hadn't shown up... my sleep... would have been eternal.
Do you hear me, Snake? I am The End. I am here to send you to your ultimate
fate. You'll make a fine quarry for my final hunt.


The two then hear loud clangs in the distance and proceed outside on the summit. EVA immediately departs to resume her undercover role, as Snake observes Volgin in the courtyards of Groznyj Grad (via his binoculars). Volgin is revealed to have killed Granin for suspecting he's a spy. Ocelot appears and announces his disdain of Volgin's tactics. Also making an appearance is The Boss, who announces the death of both The Fear and The End. Volgin is furious at this news, and Ocelot is beginning to grow highly suspicious of Tatyana. Snake then observes everyone leaving and proceeds with his own mission. Now equipped with EVA's key, he makes his way past newly deployed flamethrower-patrols and infiltrates the underground passage, leading directly into Groznyj Grad...

To Be Continued...
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Snake: "Why'd you defect?"
The Boss: "I didn't. I'm loyal... to the "end." To my purpose. What about you,
Jack? What's it going to be? Loyalty to your country, or loyalty to me? Your
country, or your mentor? Your mission, or your beliefs? Your duty to your
unit? Or your personal feelings? You don't know the truth yet. But sooner or
later, you'll have to choose. I don't expect you to forgive me. But you can't
defeat me, either. You know me too well. Just look at that bandanna. If you
can't put the past behind you, you won't survive long. If we meet again, I'll
kill you."





Medical Malady
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Thanks to stamina in Snake Eater, the health bar itself is almost rendered obsolete in the process. I don’t applaud the addition of another bar for its own sake, but at the same time, I kind of do. The priority that the player must place on the stamina bar is a requirement for making their way through the game. The actual act of maintaining that bar itself was something I found to be rather enjoyable myself. I won’t deny however, that it’s one of the many reasons why the game is far more convoluted than necessary. There’s probably not even ten life medicines floating around in the entire game (the only actual means to replenish the life bar itself), but the game instead opts for constantly making the player aware of Snake’s condition (in other words it eliminates the life bar by murking things up). This is done through various injuries and hindrances, which can even be as tiny as Snake’s stomach growling (which may or may not tip off a guard to his location). When reaching such a facility of dense mechanics, there’s only one inherent flaw that I’ve always felt as an overbearing presence for the games. That would be the menu-base they’re all constructed around…

The Magical Backpack
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Snake’s back-pack is presented as a sort of auto acquirement system that newly picked-up items go into. If the player wants to use said item, they’re required to pause, go into the backpack and equip that item into their in-game HUD. I also traced around this in the Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, but Konami actually responds to the issue in this game by turning the amount of items acquired into an active game mechanic. Personally, I thought it had far more effect in Guns of the Patriots, but that’s because I usually felt compelled to be equipped with more items in that game (look at MGS4’s weapon roster and you’ll see why). I think there is a compulsion by plenty of gamers (myself included) to have some sense of uninterrupted presence as far as real-time play goes. There’s no need for actual “downtime-play” either (making the defense of the menu becomes useless in many contexts) because the game has that on its own merit. This could also loosen the slack for a more playful use of "thechanical" pacing in other arenas as well.

The Gunshot Theory
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It seems that every Metal Gear Solid slightly tweaks the microscopic effect being shot has on Snake. It’s a slight variance with substantial filtering consequences. Actually being knocked over is a more frequently recurring response from enemy patrols in this game, and even the gunshots themselves sort of generally riddle Snake’s movement. It seems like MGS as a series got very caught up in the action portion of its own namesake. No doubt that it does it fairly well (and its part of the reason why the fanbase is so resolute), but it’s always fighting against the stealth part of the game inherent to the experience overall. In some instances, one could construe these areas as where the player is being urged to run around going nuts. I’m borderline here I know, as I’m straddling that there is a right or wrong way to play this game. I don’t think it’s wrong to assert however, that picking up a stealth game and playing it as a shooter to be somewhat of a self-induced buzzkill.

Namesake Ninny
In addition to the Medical Malady section, this runs in the same beat by making the player have to consume food in order to keep their stamina up. With the amount of information given to Snake on every animal in this title, the game almost rubs the Pokemon-esque boner it delivers. I’ve even had a few playthroughs where I kept my Tsuchinoko as a pet. It’s also a conveniently constructed lie on my part, as it’s why the linearity of the game felt so drab; I often found myself actually hunting animals at times to force the illusion of a vast open space. The innate menu-misuse has its offense here as well, as it would certainly be too complicated to apply reality past a certain extent. I also perceived the game apologizing to me through the menus. The examples of this apologetic tone include very small details such as Snake voicing his opinion of every item he eats. It keeps the “problem” itself from becoming overwhelmingly glaring and also to also induce a sense of sustenance upon the player from the simple act of pressing a button.

Cacophonous Concealment
The camoflauge in this game makes more sense than the Otacomo, but is still steps on its own foot constantly. This is the hyper-juxtaposition that’s played up when actually needing to apply different camos. It’s actually probably what gave rise to the Otacamo itself, as that actually is a real-time switch as opposed to this menu-based one. Between all of the areas and amount of switching required, this ends up being another reason why the player will find themselves menu-hopping more than necessary. It’s also another reason (big surprise) why I felt the linearity being pressed more in certain areas as well. Though the progress of the mission leads the player into the dead of the night, there’s only one area where it actually felt useful as an effect on how I played (the first trek through The Fear’s battle area the night before you face him). I honestly would have preferred that The End’s boss encounter took place at night (as ridiculous as that could turn out to be). This applies to the weather as well; there’s even an instance of downpour in this title, but not only is it a dream on Snake’s part, it’s extremely controlled. One COULD argue that the range of camoflauge in the game doesn’t necessitate its own use, but that just brings me back to the beginning of the thought process altogether.

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Recurring Thechanics

I don't want to spend too much time on these today, so a very quick run-through...

I’ve spotted an enemy!
In Metal Gear Solid 1,2, and 3. Snake makes the accentuated observation of sighting his first enemy sentry (Raiden is the one who does this in MGS2 but he is still a "Snake").

Disasterous Failure

Contrasting the previous thechanic, Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, and 4 present the player with an initial failure mission (Tanker Chapter, Virtuous Mission, Liquid Sun). I like that the games induce a sense of failure on the player's part, it robs the underlying objective of a game being so goal oriented (at the very least it blurs it).

"Penetrate The Enemy Fortress!"
All of the Solid games feature high stakes penetration sequences for their opening, Metal Gear Solid 3 is the only one that actually lets the player engage (it's a FPV R1 moment):

MGS1: - Snake swims into Shadow-Moses via sub-zero Alaskan water. The way the game played up the temperature on Shadow-Moses island is still one of the graces of the game that simply won't age.
MGS2: - Snake bungee Jumps off the George Washington Bridge onto the Tanker equipped with stealth camo. Raiden also swims through highly polluted water to enter The Big Shell. The pollution of The Big Shell was somewhat of a life and further contributes towards the experience being a simulated one as well.
MGS3: Snake participates in the world's first HALO jump, and the player is momentarily allowed to look through his oxygen mask as he's falling.
MGS4: Snake is disguised a rebel force on the way to engage a PMC assault in the Middle East. It's far more low key, but highly dangerous nonetheless.

Methodicism
Known for their convoluted plots, every action has a planned objective in terms of the narrative. The player is remains in the role of a pawn. In Snake Eater, they're ironically at their most loyal (since The Boss is the one manipulating the player), which is why the story itself touched so many. It even instills that same sense of righteous rage which gives rise to Big Boss at the end.

Locked up and Fucked Up
In all the Metal Gear Solid games (with the exception of Guns of the Patriots), Snake suffers severe torture (again for MGS2 this means Raiden and his was more emotional than anything else). Snake Eater presented the most physical beating that a Snake actually received and the player is forced to deal with it while a bag is over their head. Interestingly enough, Ocelot is present for all these scences:

1: Snake's electrical-shock torture in Shadow-Moses, which the player actually has to resist (Ocelot delivers the torture himself).
2: Solidus' revelation of Raiden's past while he's strapped to the same type of table that was used to torture Snake in Shadow-Moses (Ocelot quietly plays along with Solidus as he speaks to Raiden).
3: Snake gets the hell beaten out of him by Volgin and is tortured with a bag over his head afterwards (Ocelot finds his vocation for torture here witnessing Volgin's treatment of him). Not to mention this is the infamous event where "Snake" loses his eye.

What’s impressive is the amount that Snake Eater does well amidst all of this. It could have slipped up easily in any category ruining whichever aspect of the game would have been screwed up. However, there’s some proof in competence of game design of these games, and MGS3 does this by juggling a massive amount of mechanics to arguable & varying degrees of success.

~sLs~