Tuesday, May 19, 2009

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


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.

Since I have roughly no Shinkawa art from MGS4, I decided to post YouTube videos of certain scenes instead. The production value is so high in this game, it creates its own problem, but what's writing about Metal Gear without actual on-hand footage of it's infamous scenes? Don't worry though, I'll get to that in the last entry for this title.

Plot Summary ~!~ My Progress

Snake wakes up a day later aboard the Nomad (the airship that he, Otacon, and Sunny live on). Otacon tells him that Rat Patrol were probably the ones that helped him and that Snake was extremely lucky to just have simply passed out. Many of the soldiers in the Middle East either went insane or their hearts stopped beating altogether. Otacon then turns Snake's attention an e-mail he received from Naomi just recently. In the video, she requests that Snake rescue her from Liquid's base in South America. Though she sent it to the old e-mail that Otacon used during the Shadow-Moses incident, Sunny was the one that decoded the sound file, allowing them to watch it. After watching the video, Campbell calls Snake and tells them that he's granted them access to land in South America.

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In The Middle East

Upon landing, Snake questions Campbell on the involvement of The Patriots in Liquid's plan (which Naomi revealed is to seize control of the SOP system itself). Campbell can't make any bold assumptions, but they both speculate that Liquid's goals stand opposed to the Patriot's own agenda for total control of the digital era. Between all of the PMC's (Private Military Company) action, the mass-media, and global perspective being totally controlled directly by The Patriots, Snake laments that Solidus' fears five years ago are now a reality. Despite the fact that Liquid's aims are against The Patriots, his goals are still one of perpetual military combat (Big Boss' dream). This means that no matter who wins, everybody will lose. Snake then witnesses one of enhanced women (who is laughing uncontrollably) that he saw in the Middle East, slaughtering more rebel soldiers at a nearby village. As she attempts to kill all of the inhabitants, Vamp makes an appearance. Both Otacon and Snake are shocked at his presence, but are more concerned with the fact that both Vamp and the woman seem to be anticipating his arrival. Not only that, but the woman is using the same camoflauge system as Snake's outfit, allowing her to mimic Snake's appearance.

As Snake makes his way towards the mansion that Naomi is being held at, he runs into Drebin once again. Drebin fills Snake in on the four women that he saw in the Middle East. They're known as the Beauty and the Beast Corps., and their primary objective is to eliminate him, Solid Snake. Drebin continues on stating that they're not actually soldiers at all, but traumatized war victims drowning in their own psychological torment. Snake and Drebin then observe one them flying overhead as they speak, Raging Raven. The other three are known as Laughing Octopus, Crying Wolf, and Screaming Mantis. Snake makes note that Drebin is not an agent of The Patriots and asks him exactly who and what they are. Drebin elaborates that The Patriots are nothing more than a simple AI system, a functioning law that has somehow gained its own digital sentience with the times. Snake knows that Liquid plans to seize control of SOP and relates this to Drebin, but Drebin notes that this would be impossible to begin with.Despite this, Snake remains skeptical as he knows Liquid somehow plans to break into the system.

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In South America

Snake then continues on, and through the help of a local Rebel/PMC conflict, he's able to infiltrate the mansion. As he makes his way towards the blocked off lab, he finds Naomi on the phone, using a syringe to halt some sort of attack she appears to be having. After making her aware of his presence, she finally explains the exact truth behind Snake's accelerated aging, it isn't accelerated at all. Because of the "Les Enfants Terribles" Project's fear of having "the seed of Big Boss" fall into enemy hands, Snake was genetically engineered so that he would die early, it's his original lifespan, as intended. In addition to being engineered for sterility as well, Naomi informs Snake of the most pressing matter. Due to the nanomachine's interaction with the FOXDIE in his body, the virus is beginning to "wear down", creating holes in genetic sequence gaps. This means that the virus is becoming indiscriminate about who it kills and Snake will become a walking weapon of mass destruction after three months (in addition to his body itself aging him to death within six months).

Naomi then continues on, explaining Liquid's plan which is aptly dubbed "Guns of the Patriots". Liquid plans to seize control of the SOP system and in order to do so he needed to analyze the system's overall structure. A portion of his plan was carried out in the Middle East, as Liquid successfully removed the SOP system from all the soldiers in the surrounding area. The resulting chaos was the result of another reality stemming from the Patriot's system, emotion control. The nanomachines inside soldier's bodies are revealed now to be manipulating their own feelings and will in battle. Everything from combat-highs to second-winds are now purely synthetic. When the system was removed from the soldiers in the Middle East, all of their stored emotions from war flooded into their consciousness simultaneously, driving them insane. She also tells Snake that in order to seize total control of SOP, Liquid would need a certain "key", more specifically the DNA sequence of Big Boss himself.

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"Liquid Ocelot"

Suddenly, the FROG forces assault their position and Naomi is taken away while Snake deals with the assailants. After he finishes clearing them out, the hysterically laughing woman makes her appearance again to kill Snake herself, Laughing Octopus. Using mimicry and her enhanced mechanical tentacles, she engages Snake in the small lab area. Snake is able to overcome her however, and after Octopus sheds her mechanical suit, she attempts to strangle Snake before finally curling up on the floor in a fetal position. As Snake makes his way out (now using Octopus' face camo), Drebin calls Snake on his codec and informs him of Laughing Octopus' origin. She was a young woman living in Scandinavia and was forced to kill members of her own family by hostile soldiers. She was also forced to laugh while she did it and succumbed to insanity as a result. Drebin airily declares that Snake freed her from her torment and advises him to move on, as Drebin's business benefits from Snake's success.

As Snake moves on, he's contacted by Raiden over codec (who has warned Snake twice already). Raiden gives Snake advice on how to track Naomi's location and using his information, Snake is finally able to locate her being forced into a departing helicopter by Vamp. Snake then shoots Vamp in the head, but Vamp only seems to pass out temporarily as a result. As Irving and soldiers all begin firing on Snake's location, Drebin bursts onto the scene using his shop which doubles as an armored/camoflauged vehicle. Naomi leaps onto the top of his vehicle and Snake boards as well. Using a mounted turret, Snake is able to hold off the bulk of pursuing forces as they all make their way towards Otacon's position, who is standing by in a helicopter. As they make their way into the city however, Drebin's vehicle flips on it's side and everyone is forced to exit. Just as dozens of Irving arrive on the scene, Snake notices an armored figure standing on a building nearby, he instantly recognizes him as Raiden. Raiden then leaps from the building and effortlessly butchers the oncoming Irving. Raiden is also revealed to be using an updated powered exoskeleton, giving him a ninja visage, similar in design to both Gray Fox and Olga Gurlukovich.


Escaping & Raiden's Introduction

As Snake helps Naomi onto the helicopter, they depart to pick up Raiden as well. Raiden is then seen being held captive by several Irving units and Vamp. Vamp proceeds to torture the captive Raiden, but notices that Raiden isn't responding at all to his sadistic injuries. Snake uses a sniper rifle to shoot one of Raiden's restraints. Raiden uses this to his advantage, freeing himself and swinging the remaining Irving units around with his legs. He then engages Vamp in a brutal fight, which ends with Raiden stabbing himself through the stomach in order to pierce Vamp's abdomen as well. As Vamp passes out, Raiden immediately jumps on board Otacon's helicopter. Just as he makes it aboard however, he begins vomiting white blood everywhere. Snake asks if Raiden will be alright, but Naomi insists that he needs a transfusion of artificial blood. Otacon who still detests Vamp over his murder of Emma, questions Vamps mortality. Naomi remorsefully admits that his seemingly indestructible body is the result of someone finishing nanomachine research that she abandoned earlier in her life. Before losing consciousness, Raiden tells Snake to head to Europe in order to meet the current holder of Big Boss' corpse, Big Mama.

End Act II

Acts I & II
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Acts I and II of MGS4 are an amazing thing to play through. Plenty would probably argue that the game's flaw stems from how the latter three acts diverge from the formula here. First, I guess I should explain how the first two acts work. They basically let the player run free in a pseudo-open environment, making their own way through various accessible areas (particularly there's actually a few routes one can take in Act II). Act III will probably catch the most flak as Act IV is pretty much the epitome of what MGS4 absolutely nails and Act V is basically the conclusion of the narrative. I do grant merit to the first two acts because they actually come the closest to the whole no-place-to-hide notion that the game wears on it's sleeve. It's also an admirable feet that they kept the franchise moving along in outdoor areas, as this frees up a lot of interesting challenges for both the designers and the player.

I really do praise the whole Rebel vs. PMC conflict, because it gives the player a real-time backdrop thats far more engaging than simply some lush vista with patrolling guards. There's actually some sense of navigation and spontaneity here, despite the fact that it's all scripted. There's also the shallow-but-present choice the player has in regards to aiding the rebel troops. Sometimes it's a matter of practicality (guarding the bulldozer to help Snake into the mansion), but there's also some moments that really encourages the player to help against their own judgment. The best example of this begins exactly when the player gains control in Act II. They can let an execution of rebel guards carry out in order to provide them with cover, or they can free them and help them arm themselves to make their way forward. Usually they'll regard Snake's presence some weird old dude sneaking beside them, but if the player aids them enough, they'll begin to help Snake as well.

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The setpieces also speak for themselves. Although Act II's is a cheap-high (turret shooting aboard Drebin's vehicle), it does what it sets out to do extremely well. There are some odd portions of play though. The most notable for me was the minute the player is allowed to run through a market in order to make their way towards Otacon's helicopter. It almost comes off as a throwaway piece of playtime. Furthermore, scenes like Raiden's appearance and subsequent fight with Vamp should definitely stay cutscenes. However, some sequences felt more jarring than they should have. An example I'll use is the player's first introduction to the Beauty and the Beasts Corps. I honestly would have rather witnessed that scene in real-time somehow. This is becoming a recurring theme as it isn't the first time I brought this up in this series. I typically arrive back as the same concept of forcing contextual restrictions on the player. Honestly, I think that cutscene in particular would work more effectively if the player was only allowed to view it through the Solid Eye's binoculars. That being said, I still love watching the cutscenes, I just don't think the game necessarily needs them in some places, this is one of them.


Stance of Laughter



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The fight with Laughing Octopus occurs in the small enclosed lab area where Snake was previously speaking with Naomi. The most bothersome portion of this battle for me became the fact that Octopus always seemed to want you to find her. I actually preferred it the other way around. I certainly don't mean to imply that the entire battle should work around that, but the preceding FROG assault lets the player hide from confrontation in the same area. I always felt that this fight was at it's best when Octopus is crawling between the rooms composing the lab, crashing into windows as she moved in and out of the building. When she hides or mimics something, it always ended up coming off as no more than a gimmick (I would have rather spent my time judging where she was as she climbed on the roof of the building). On the plus side, she still remains my favorite boss from her appearance and demeanor. She's also the first one in the series to drop the F-bomb, heh.

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”You Sound Like a Ninja…”
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The latter half of Act II consists of an actual tracking sequence that is full of some good things and lined with plenty of bad things. If the player is willing to slow down the pace of this portion, it can become a very surreal part of the game. I think it's extremely nice navigating this part without the Solid Eye. The gimmick areas all stem from how the footprints themselves become laid out as a path. One of the better pieces of how this part plays out is the realization that Naomi has been picked up, therefore the footprints appear deeper. Between juggling the patrolling PMC troops and dispatched FROG squads, slowly easing through this portion is magnificent. I also found myself using the First-Person perspective a hell of a lot more here as well, but that's a mess better left to read about on my two-parter Video-Games as Art posts, which can be found here and here.

I'm letting everyone off easy today, no Recurring Thechanics until tomorrow's post.

~sLs~

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