Why It’s So Fucking Awesome – Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

“I hear it’s amazing when the famous purple stuffed worm in flap-jaw space with the tuning fork does a raw blink on Hara-Kiri Rock. I need scissors! 61!”

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, is really, really good. It is quirky and weird in the way quite a few Japanese-developed games are, but it also discusses some profoundly deep and philosophical themes for a video-game and really leaves it up to the player to interpret them as they wish.

The game-play is not the main allure for Sons of Liberty, at least not to me. Don’t mistake that for me disliking the game-play, because I really enjoy it, but it’s the meta-narrative and post modern elements to the story that make me love it and think it’s awesome. However it’d be silly to discuss one without the other so I will tackle the game-play first.

In Sons of Liberty you play first as Solid Snake and later as Raiden, both highly trained special forces operatives who are on black ops missions. However Snake works independently of the government in this game, while Raiden is employed by Snake’s old special forces unit, FOXHOUND. Anyway both characters have almost identical tools at their disposal. They have a radar in the corner of the screen which shows a rough outline of the surrounding area as well as guards and their cones of vision. It makes the game feel fantastically puzzle-ish, or like a game of cat and mouse, as you can keep an eye on the radar for the enemies you cannot see and try and evade them or catch them in a trap.

While in MGS4 and on wards you could manipulate the camera freely,  in MGS2 you are restricted to set camera angles, but it never really gets in your way too much. You can take over against walls and slide along, maybe in-between the wall and items that are nearby like a vending machine. You can also tap on the wall to draw a guard’s attention  or peek round the corner and shoot at a guard. You can sneak up behind a guard and throw him over your shoulder, knocking him unconscious…or you could be cold and merciless and snap their necks.

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|You can see the soliton radar in the top right of the screen.

If you are outdoors and it is raining then you can catch a cold if you don’t take cover and when you go inside not only will you cough and sneeze for a short while but you will leave damp footprints that guards can spot and follow. You can also lay down adult magazines such as Playboy to distract guards and then sneak by them or hold them up before shaking them down for ammunition or dog tags. You can shoot out lights to darken an area, causing any guards in the vicinity to first check the power then search for a possible intruder. You can use seagull droppings to make guards slip or become distracted and slip by them or laugh as they fall over railings to their death.

You can get in cardboard packaging boxes that are marked for each area of the facility and be shipped around by guards who are otherwise unaware that you are piggybacking off them for free and quick transport. You can put out flames with a fire extinguisher, or shoot the fire extinguisher or smoke a cigarette to see infra-red lasers that bar your way, possibly rigged to explosives. You can shoot said explosives to prevent them from detonating and you can use chaff (magnetized aluminium) grenades to disable security cameras and drones for a short while, but at the expense of your own soliton radar. You can also hide in lockers, hide the bodies of unconscious guards in lockers, gaze at AV Idol posters dotted around the facility and “accidentally” blow up the President of the United States with a NIKITA Guided Missile Launcher.

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Somewhere in this room is the President. Try not to blow him up!

It’s a veritable laundry list of gameplay options but the point is that Sons of Liberty, and the Metal Gear series in general, is INSANELY detailed from a gameplay point of view with so many options and details that it is mind boggling that they bothered to do this when 99% of players might not notice in the entire time they play Sons of Liberty, let alone in a playthrough where they specifically decide to go out of their way to discover new things. In-fact I’ve just realized that I forgot a few more things, such as the longer you stay on the Big Shell facility the more cockroaches might gather around you, cockroaches that you can dispel with a freezing spray you use in the early game to stop multiple bombs and you can also hang over ledges, shimmy along, do pull ups to increase you muscle strength, and also yank guards over the edge and send them plummeting into the ocean.

You can also shoot bags of flour that fills the area with a white haze, shoot fruit like watermelons that explode dynamically and also shoot bottles that make sounds and shatter uniquely and dynamically depending on where you shot them. Kojima Productions did this in an age BEFORE physics middle-ware, so they had to program each item individually and the range of things to do makes this so MIND BLOWING, considering how much trouble it would be to get it working with a physics engine. They really were a developer that went above and beyond, with Kojima once noting something along the lines of “…it may seem like a lot of extra work…but if one player was to notice something out of place the illusion would be ruined. So if only one player sees it and goes “WOW” then it was worth it”.

Anyhoo, there’s not a whole lot more that can be said about the gameplay before we get into territory best reserved for the story discussion of this essay, and what a complicated but bizarrely awesome story it is.

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Concept art by Yoji Shinkawa (amazing artist) for Metal Gear RAY, one of the two “Metal Gears” to debut in Sons of Liberty.

So…where to begin with the story…I feel like I will have to discuss the story in quite a linear fashion to explain it all, although I would recommend people play the game anyway, however one aspect of the story that is almost impossible to experience nowadays is part of the meta (beyond the-) narrative aspect…and that involves the marketing of the game, pre-release.

Before Sons of Liberty was released all marketing for the game showed the hero of previous Metal Gear games, Solid Snake, in footage from both the opening Tanker chapter of the game and the gameplay sequences set on the Big Shell facility. There were also some gameplay sequences on the Tanker that never occurred in the game people played such as Snake running through a sinking Tanker as it’s decks filled with water…however…when the game came out players discovered that you only played as Solid Snake for the Tanker portion of the game, and for the Big Shell part you played as the effeminate Raiden, a new FOXHOUND operative who was being sent on his first major mission.

People were dismayed that they didn’t play as Solid Snake, who was designed to be that cool action hero archetype with a gruff persona, and instead played as a “whiny” pretty-boy in Raiden. HOWEVER…there is a reason for the marketing duplicity and deception and hopefully by the end of this (there’s a way to go, so go make a pot of tea and some sandwiches) you will understand…a bit. Also go read Paul Auster’s the New York Trilogy, which was a direct influence on Kojima when writing this game…especially when it comes to the post modern themes of identity and memetics.

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Raiden, about two thirds of the way through the game. He was deliberately designed to look effeminate and be very “green” to act as a vehicle for new players to the series.

So. The first part of Sons of Liberty, known as the Tanker Incident, takes place in 2007, roughly 2 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 1. In the interim, Solid Snake has teamed up with Hal “Otacon” Emmerich, the engineer and scientist responsible for the design of the mecha from MGS1, Metal Gear REX. Together they form most of Philanthropy, a philanthropic group (shocker) that aim to remove all Metal Gears from the world or at least expose to the public they existence. Sometime after the events of MGS1, the existence of REX was revealed to the public and then-President George Sears was forced to resign in disgrace and disappeared from the public eye shortly after.

Fast forward to 2007 and Philanthropy have received intelligence that a new Metal Gear, code-named RAY, is being transported down the Hudson River in New York City and out to sea. It has been developed by the United States Marine Corps and the information came from Otacon’s sister, Emma, who works at the Pentagon. When the Tanker the USS Discovery is underneath the George Washington Bridge, Snake descends from the bridge onto the deck. His objective is to obtain photographic evidence of RAY and expose it to the public.

Snake has to get photographic evidence of RAY and get off the Tanker before it passes the Verazano Bridge, where Otacon is waiting to extract him. In a knowing action-hero train of thought, Snake comments that he has a bad feeling about how the mission is going to turn out and soon witnesses a hostile takeover of the boat as Russian mercenaries eliminate the USMC above deck and take over communications and control of the ship. Snake was able to take a picture of their leader and relay it to Otacon before proceeding with his mission.

As Snake reached the bridge he discovered that the USMC had set the ship on a course for international waters and that it meant RAY was practically combat worthy, not a prototype as Philanthropy had thought. However Otacon also notes that this was outside the operational range of the Navy, which suggested this was an action taken entirely by the USMC themselves, suggesting shadowy motives at play…Snake noticed a Russian woman outside the bridge and went to confront her, and met Olga Gurlukovich, daughter of the commander of the mercenaries and who refused to leave the area of operations despite being two months pregnant.

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Olga Gurlukovich, someone who is most definetley not what they seem to be…

The two of them fight briefly, with Snake rendering Olga unconscious, however he was soon photographed by an Army Drone, taking him by complete surprise…Otacon soon reported back saying that the leader of the mercenaries was Sergei Gurlukovich, a nationalist who wanted to restore “Mother Russia”to its former glory as a world superpower and probably planned to use the USMC’s RAY to achieve that, by holding a nuclear gun to the head of the world.

Snake made his way into the Tankers hold, engaging the Gurlukovich Mercenaries along the way, and arrived to find the Marine Commandment Scott Dolph giving an address to the USMC and that the Marines below deck were entirely unaware of the takeover. Otacon also detected that their communications were being monitored by someone and suggested that Snake use a local computer terminal on the ship to send the photographic evidence to him. Setting about his task, Snake took the photographs of RAY while Dolph gave his speech and sent them to Otacon without issue…however, that’s when things went south.

As Dolph’s speech came to an end Revolver Ocelot, a villain from the first game who escaped Snake while working under the directions of President George Sears, appeared and remarked that Dolph had a silver tongue and like all Americans, was too in love with the sound of their own voice to tell the truth. Ocelot also revealed himself to be working with the Gurlukovich Mercenaries, and Sergei took Dolph hostage as the mercenary forces surrounded the USMC. Sergei revealed that he wanted to use RAY to restore Russia to its former glory, but Ocelot revealed his duplicitous nature when he told Sergei he had different plans – with Sergei immediately assuming that “You’re still taking orders from Solidus!?”.

However Ocelot revealed his true allegiance to be with “The Patriots”, with Dolph remarking that he was surprised the “La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo” were involved with RAY. Ocelot executed Sergei and his bodyguards before detonating the plastic explosives that the Gurlukovich Mercenaries had already planted around the Tanker, thinking it would be to sink it in order to mask their escape. As Ocelot prepared to pilot RAY out of the sinking Tanker he became aware of Snake’s presence and called out to him, curiously imitating the persona of Snakes brother, Liquid. He claimed that Snake was “drowning in time” (a prophetic reference to the events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots where Snake and his clone-brothers are revealed to be suffering from accelerated aging as a result of their genetic engineering).

Ocelot used RAY to tear the Tanker apart and the sinking resulted in the deaths of the vast majority of the USMC stationed on board and, seemingly, the death of Solid Snake. RAY’s theft had been orchestrated by The Patriots, whoever they were, and Snake and Philanthropy had been framed by The Patriots as being behind the “terrorist incident” with the photograph of Snake by the Drone acting as some of the proof. Philanthropy’s evidence of RAY was discredited by The Patriots, but some conspiracy theorists were still convinced and it’s existence.

The official story was that Solid Snake, a mercenary no longer under the command of FOXHOUND, had formed a mercenary outfit and stormed the Tanker to steal RAY to make them a world superpower. The Navy had dispatched the USMC to take back the Tanker, fearing an environmental catastrophe if the Tanker’s oil content split into the ocean, but Snake sunk the tanker, killing everyone on board. The Big Shell facility was constructed offshore to act as a cleanup facility, but in reality it was a veil for more sinister motives…

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RAY, escaping the sinking Tanker.

The main plot points introduced in this portion of the game were the existence of RAY, a new Metal Gear unit that was seemingly created independently by the USMC. Due to Dolph’s surprise at the “La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo’s” knowledge of RAY it would suggest that RAY was created, in part, to be used as a weapon against them. The return of Ocelot was also significant mainly due to his new-found Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which caused him to temporarily think that he was Liquid Snake. The reasons for that wouldn’t be revealed until MGS4, but it’s also a plot point that is quite redundant and unimportant. The act of information manipulation by The Patriots to place the blame on Snake is also a bit of foreshadowing towards one of the major themes in the game.

The original version of the game would have replaced the Tanker with an Aircraft Carrier, and while some aspects of the game would have largely remained the same I suppose the ecological disaster aspect of an oil Tanker sinking would not. After the Tanker incident, Ocelot reports the success of his mission to a “Mr President” although whether this is referring to President George Sears/Solidus or the incumbent President Johnson is unknown, although considering where his allegiances lie at this point in the story it is safe to assume he is talking to Solidus.

Now, before we move onto the main part of the game, the Big Shell, it may be pertinent to briefly discuss events that happened between the Tanker incident and the Big Shell incident, involving a Navy Seal unit known as Dead Cell.

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Concept Art by Yoji Shinkawa for the members of Dead Cell around the time of the Big Shell Incident. They act as an allegorical representation of the real life Red Team, who prepare the United States for surprise terrorist attacks and preparation methods and carry out operations around the country to train soldiers. I found it bizarre but quite fascinating that a group who served that purpose existed in real life. From left to right the picture shows Vamp, Fatman, Fortune and Solidus.

Dead Cell was formed by President George Sears during his brief Presidency, with the purpose of carrying out surprise assaults on bases, embassies and the like in order to provide anti-terrorism training to Navy SEALs and the USMC. All of it’s members were referred to only via the code-names; Fortune, Vamp, Fatman, Jackson, Old Boy, Chinaman and later, Solidus. Shortly before the Big Shell Incident, the leader of Dead Cell, Jackson, was found guilty of corruption and theft of government funds as well as treason and was sent to prison for life, awaiting the death penalty . While Dead Cell protested his innocence and appealed to the Supreme Court they never managed to have the case re-examined and Jackson died of exhaustion in prison, apparently having lost the will to live after having his good name besmirched so.

The US Military wanted to arrest all members of Dead Cell but they refused to give themselves up, however members Chinaman and Old Boy were killed in a trap set by the Military, leaving only Fortune, Fatman and Vamp alive. It would later be revealed that The Patriots manipulated the flow of digital information in order to frame Jackson and Dead Cell and paint them as a terrorist organization while Vamp would later reveal to Raiden that they only ever acted under orders from the President and never did anything illegal. Fortune was distraught, as she came from a military family (her father is later revealed to have been Scott Dolph from the Tanker Incident) and her place in Dead Cell was something of an honor, but Fatman (who had always been somewhat unhinged) did not care about the events.

Sometime after these incidents Dead Cell became aware of the underground existence of President George Sears, known by his code-name of Solidus, and joined him and the surviving Gurlukovich Mercenaries in forming the Sons of Liberty and participating in a hostile takeover of the Big Shell during a visit by President Johnson. By the end of Sons of Liberty every member of Dead Cell, bar Vamp, would be dead.

The name Sons of Liberty is a knowing reference to the real life group the Sons of Liberty, which was created as a secret society to fight taxation of the then thirteen american colonies by the British Government. While the group disbanded after the Stamp Act was repealed, the Patriot groups preceding the American Revolution took up the name the Sons of Liberty. It plays quite a pertinent role in explaining the end part of the game and the motivations of one of the major antagonists, so it is worth keeping in mind that the name holds significance and is not simply pontificating.

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A hazy view of part of the Big Shell facility where the majority of the rest of the events of Sons of Liberty would take place.

Fast forward to sometime in 2009 and the Big Shell facility is in full operations, decontaminating the area of the Tanker’s sinking. President Johnson is visiting when the facility is seized by the Sons of Liberty, apparently led by Solid Snake himself, returned from the dead. FOXHOUND dispatch Raiden to the facility in order to rescue the hostages and President Johnson and stop the Sons of Liberty, who had demanded thirty billion USD or they would destroy the Big Shell, igniting the crude oil left in the area, completely wiping out the bay’s ecosystem and becoming the worst environmental disaster in history. While two SEAL Teams (Alpha and Bravo) infiltrated the Big Shell facility by air, Raiden covertly entered by entering through a hole in the underwater fence surrounding the Big Shell facility, a fact Raiden noted as curious.

As Raiden entered the Big Shell via a deep sea dock in a strut on Shell 1 (the Big Shell being formed of two adjoined series of struts in a hexagonal pattern) he radioed the Colonel, his commanding officer, about there possibly being another intruder besides himself. The Colonel was surprised but ordered Raiden to proceed with caution. Raiden searched for a cargo elevator leading to the roof of the strut and saw another intruder besides himself disabling the guards and using the elevator, confirming the presence of another intruder. The Colonel confirmed to Raiden that FOXHOUND had not dispatched another operative and told him to use a local computer terminal to access the Big Shell’s Local-Area-Network (LAN).

The Colonel chose this moment to reveal to Raiden that his support staff for the mission would include his girlfriend Rosemary, who worked for other branches of the US Military as a counselor and information analyst. Raiden was unhappy as Rosemary being involved but nonetheless proceeded with his mission. Raiden’s nanomachines, microscopic robots that floated through his bloodstream, allowed him to interface with the Big Shell’s LAN and also engage in short range burst communication with anyone else equipped with nanomachines. Raiden proceeded to a neighboring Strut to continue his search for the President who had apparently been rescued by SEAL Team Alpha, but that is where he came face to face with Vamp…

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Concept Art by Yoji Shinkawa for Vamp, a member of Dead Cell and later of Sons of Liberty in MGS2. He survived to MGs4 but we don’t talk about that.

As Raiden entered a room on Strut B of Shell 1  he discovered the eviscerated bodies of SEAL Team Alpha and the President nowhere in sight. Vamp revealed himself, to be a semi-literal vampire like figure who seemed to move inhumanly fast, leaping and darting around the room as he teased Raiden, and using small blades to test his reflexes. However the sole survivor of SEAL Team Alpha opened fire on Vamp as he was about to get the drop on Raiden and Vamp fled the area.  The SEAL introduced himself as Pliskin and told Raiden about the origins of Dead Cell and Vamp according to their mission briefing. Pliskin also correctly assumed that Raiden was a member of FOXHOUND although he remarked that he though the incident was disbanded after the Shadow Moses Incident of MGS.

Pliskin is a reference to Kurt Russell’s character of Pliskin from Escape from New York, a movie that was an influence for Kojima when creating the original Metal Gear games. Of course, Pliskin is infact Solid Snake and while his appearance and identity won’t be a surprise for series veterans, the way the game tries to manipulate you by suggesting he is someone else  plays into its overarching themes of data manipulation in the 21st Century or digital age.

Raiden and Pliskin split up, with Raiden proceeding with his mission while Pliskin took a break to recover from his fight with Vamp. Before he left the area Raiden discovered that the NAVY Officer who would usually be handcuffed to a  suitcase that contained the nuclear codes and activation unit for the entire United States nuclear arsenal had his arm severed, most likely by Vamp, and the suitcase itself was missing. Raiden continued onward to the bridge that connected Strut B to Strut C.

On the B-C Bridge, Raiden encountered SEAL Team Bravo trying to apprehend former Dead Cell operative, Fortune. She had the President in her grasp. The SEALs were unable to hit her as mysteriously every bullet that hit her veered away from her and grenades were rendered inert. Since Raiden had been ordered to conceal his presence as much as possible, Raiden held back but was powerless and could only watch as Fortune retaliated by using a portable MAC Rifle (Magnetically Accelerated Cannon) to obliterate the bridge from underneath Bravo’s feet. She retreated into the Shell 1 Core along with the President, the nuclear football and Vamp.

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A 3D Map of the Big Shell facility. If you count the farthest right Strut as Strut A then in a clockwise fashion to F, connecting bridges where appropriate.

The Colonel called Raiden to convey new intelligence, that the SEALs helicopters had been destroyed by a Harrier under the command of the Sons of Liberty and that the SEALs, if nothing else, had successfully concealed Raiden’s infiltration. This could perhaps be seen as another example of data manipulation. However the Colonel went onto say that FOXHOUND had also learnt of C4 Explosives that had been placed strategically around the Big Shell and that Raiden should rendezvous with the disposal expert who was sent in with SEAL Team Bravo, Peter Stillman. Raiden met with Stillman in the canteen in Strut C, along with Pliskin who had made it there independently. Stillman briefed them on the situation, including the revelation that Fatman had studied under Stillman with the SEALs before Fatman was recruited into Dead Cell and was his best student by a mile.

He also revealed that a software engineer to counter any hijacking of the Big Shell’s security systems had been brought in with him, but that they’d got separated in the chaos of Fortune’s attack. Stillman told them that the C4 would have been planted by Fatman and designed specifically to obliterate the Big Shell facility. If any one section of the Big Shell collapsed the facility was designed to be able to cope with the strain, but if both “Shells” suffered damage to their structural integrity the entire facility would collapse in on itself and sink to the ocean floor. Stillman surmised that between the three of them it’d be impossible to actually defuse the bombs, and split his supply of Liquid Nitrogen Spray between Raiden and Pliskin so that they could freeze the detonators.

Raiden left to cover Shell 1, while Pliskin left for Shell 2 and Stillman hid in the pantry as he relied on a walking stick and would be too immobile to be of any help. After disabling the last bomb on Shell 1, Raiden was contacted by Stillman, who was now moving, and discovered some terrible news. The C4s that Raiden and Pliskin had disabled so far were in comparatively safe places and it far too small quantities to actually cause any structural damage to the Big Shell and realized that Fatman was calling Stillman’s bluff and that the “real” bombs were most likely hidden in the deep sea docks of both Shells. Pliskin was being waylaid by a heavy Gurlukovich presence in Shell 2 and Stillman was trying to reach the bomb himself, so Raiden was sent to Strut A to freeze the bomb.

He did so, but discovered from Pliskin that Stillman had been unable to freeze the Strut 2 bomb in time and had died in the explosion, but the structural integrity of the facility was still intact.

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Peter Stillman, hiding in the pantry. His name is a reference to the character of Stillman in Paul Auster’s City of Glass, a character who struggled with legacy and the memetic inheritance of identity.

As Raiden headed back to the cargo elevator he was confronted by Fortune, who seemingly longed to be allowed to die in battle, as her father had. Fortune attacked Raiden to provoke him but Raiden was unable to dodge past her or hit her with his bullets. After a moment Raiden was contacted by the Colonel who told him that Fatman had got into contact with them, declaring his independence from Sons of Liberty and that he had another massive bomb on the Strut E Heliport, which would bring down the entire facility. Vamp arrived to inform Fortune of Fatman’s betrayal and Raiden took her momentary lapse in assault to shoot at her, and while the bullet missed her, it hit Vamp square in the head.

Raiden moved past Fortune, who let him leave as she cradled Vamp’s body and after Raiden had left, Vamp mysteriously awakened…having shrugged off the apparently fatal attack. Raiden headed to the Heliport and disarmed the explosive only to be confronted by Fatman himself, wearing an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) suit. Fatman admitted that he didn’t care about the Sons of Liberty’s goals and didn’t share Fortune’s lust for revenge over Jackson’s imprisonment and death but also seemed suspiciously unaware of their demand for thirty billion USD. He wanted to surpass his mentor, Stillman, and become the most famous bomber in history by destroying the Big Shell facility and with it, the ecosystem in the waters around New York City.

He revealed to Raiden that the heliport had multiple hidden explosives and challenged to disarm them while Fatman came after him, but ultimately Raiden was successful before being able to take Fatman down. With his dying breath, Fatman revealed that Raiden had yet to disarm the biggest bomb in the place, which was revealed to be inside Fatman’s EOD suit, which Raiden subsequently froze. While the bomb threat was now over, the Colonel reminded Raiden that the President and hostages were still in danger.

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Fatman, formerly of Dead Cell and Sons of Liberty, confronts Raiden on the Heliport of Strut E.

Pliskin contacted Raiden, telling him that the only way to extract the hostages would be via chopper and that he had spotted a Kasatka helicopter on the heliport in Shell 2 that he could fly, but that it would require multiple round trips to the shore and back as the number of hostages was estimated to be just over forty, while the Kasatka could only hold 12. Before Raiden could leave Strut E he was shockingly confronted by a Cyborg Ninja, a soldier within a mechanical exo-skeleton who insisted on conversing with Raiden only by communication between their nanomachines. The Ninja told Raiden that the President’s bodyguard, Richard Ames, was being held with the hostages in the Shell 1 Core but that the President was elsewhere, but that Ames would know. He continued to tell Raiden that he had multiple obstacles stopping him from getting into the Shell 1 Core.

First, the elevator in the Shell 1 Core was operated by a camera that the Sons of Liberty had programmed to recognize only Gurlukovich Mercenaries or the members of the Sons of Liberty themselves. Secondly, the Ninja did not know what Ames looked like but knew that he had a pacemaker and Raiden could use a Directional Microphone to listen to the hostages heartbeats to identify him..and thirdly that the room with the hostages in it was locked by a bio-metric scanner, necessitating Raiden to force a Gurlukovich soldier to open it for him. The Ninja gave Raiden a Gurlukovich Soldier uniform and also informed Raiden that the terrorists had the capacity to detonate a nuke from the Big Shell and that they hadn’t brought one here…it was there all along. The Ninja then claimed that the Big Shell was actually a “shell” facility to disguise the construction of a massive new Metal Gear unit that would ensure the United States’ absolute supremacy as a global superpower.

Raiden could barely register his shock before the Ninja had disappeared.

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The Cyborg Ninja of MGS2. The role of the character and appearance is a reference to Gray Fox, the Cyborg Ninja from MGS. There are plot and thematic reasons for this. It’s also worth noting that Gray Fox’s identity in MGS was that of someone Snake had once fought on the battlefield…

Using the intelligence received from the Ninja, Raiden infiltrated the Shell 1 Core and managed to locate Richard Ames, communicating with him via nanomachines. Ames claimed that both he and Raiden were working for the same people, which Raiden took to mean the US Government/Special Forces. He told him that President Johnson had been moved to the Shell 2 Core after Fatman’s betrayal and revealed that the Tanker Incident of two years ago had been planned by the President on the orders of “La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo” and it was specifically to house the construction of a new Metal Gear.

Ames surmised that the President must be helping the Sons of Liberty willingly as the “normal range” for his own bio-metric data was the password for the Nuclear Football, which in reality would allow the Sons of Liberty to take control of the new Metal Gear. Their conversation was cut short as Ocelot appeared in a neighboring room to talk with Olga Gurlukovich and apparently Solid Snake, leader of the Sons of Liberty. All Raiden could eavesdrop was that “Solid Snake” planned on creating something called “Outer Heaven”. Raiden returned to Ames and asked him about the thirty billion USD ransom and Ames was in complete shock, telling him that the terrorists had made no demands and that their goal was to detonate a nuclear bomb over New York City, causing an electro magnetic pulse that would wipe out the city’s electronics for days.

Ocelot approached Raiden and Ames, well aware that Raiden was not a Gurlukovich Soldier and told Ames that he was deliberately assigned to the President’s detail to make sure that he didn’t betray the La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo and then remarked his usefulness had come to an end, and Ames suffered a catastrophic and fatal heart attack.

Before Ocelot and the Gurlukovich Soldiers could apprehend Raiden, he was rescued by the Cyborg Ninja who covered his escape and told him to head to the Shell 2 Core to rescue President Johnson.

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Richard Ames, former bodyguard to President Johnson and someone who knew an awful lot about the real power behind the scenes.

As Raiden crossed the Shell 1 and Shell 2 Connecting Bridge he was confronted by “Solid Snake”, the leader of the Sons of Liberty. Pliskin circled overhead in the Kasatka and angrily proclaimed that man was not Solid Snake, revealing his true identity and the Sons of Liberty leader revealed himself to be Solidus Snake, also known as President George Sears. The Kasatka was briefly chased off by a Harrier, piloted by Vamp, and Solidus climbed aboard the Harrier before turning its attention to Raiden and the Kasatka. Using a STINGER Homing Missile Unit provided by the real Solid Snake, Raiden was able to disable the Harrier, causing it to plummet towards the ocean. The destruction in the cockpit of the Harrier also burnt out Solidus’ left eye. However before the Harrier hit the water it was caught in the jaws of a Metal Gear RAY unit emerging from beneath the surface. The RAY unit launched dozens of small missiles into the air, destroying sections of the Big Shell and forcing the Kasatka to flee before the RAY departed from whence it came, Harrier in tow.

After landing safely, Snake contacted Raiden and revealed his true identity, as well as the identity of the Kasatka’s Pilot and the SEAL Team’s software engineer, Otacon. Snake hadn’t died in the Tanker Incident two years ago and had managed to escape and that both Snake and Otacon where on the Big Shell to continue their work for Philanthropy and expose the existence of a new Metal Gear. Otacon revealed to Raiden that he had an ulterior motive, and that the La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo had moved Otacon’s sister, Emma, from her position at the Pentagon to that of the staff working on the new Metal Gear, seemingly as a way to dissuade Philanthropy from moving against them. Raiden surmised that the appearance of Metal Gear RAY meant that President Johnson had ceded to the Sons of Liberty’s demands and activated the Nuclear Football and he needed to find him, post-haste.

Entering the Shell 2 Core and overheard a radio conversation between Olga Gurlukovich and Solidus. Olga sought assurances from Solidus that after this was over, the Gurlukovich Mercenaries could return to Russia and live for themselves, but that she had unfinished business with the real Solid Snake. After she departed, Raiden was able to move in and find the President in the power room.

Confronted by Raiden, President Johnson first mistook his effeminate appearance for a female assassin in the employ of the La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo. Johnson then revealed a series of revelations to Raiden. First, the Patriots were an organization that secretly ruled over all of the United States and much of the western governments, and their power extended all the way to ordering the President what to do and even picking who won the election and became President. He explained that Solidus Snake was, after Liquid and Solid, the third clone of the legendary soldier code named “Big Boss” and that after Solidus was a commander in CIA Operations during the Liberian Civil War he was manipulated by The Patriots to become President of the United States.

When Solidus became President he orchestrated the Shadow Moses Incident and creation of Metal Gear REX as a way to confront the Patriots and challenge their total authority over geo-politics and global affairs. However Solid Snake’s actions had brought the development of Metal Gear REX public and Solidus was forced to resign and hid underground. President Johnson revealed to Raiden that he didn’t want to challenge the Patriots and went along with their plans for a new Metal Gear and the Tanker Incident so he could prove his worth to them and eventually join them. He confirmed that the Big Shell facility was a cover for the construction of Arsenal Gear: a colossal mobile submarine-fortress that employed mass produced an AI controlled Metal Gear RAYs to defend itself from any armed force in the world, even other Metal Gears.

However, Arsenal had a second purpose. It housed part of the Patriots AI Network, and specifically an AI called GW (short for George Washington). The Patriots wanted to use a global network of AIs to control the flow of information in the digital age, as the first 9 years of the 21st Century had shown them that society was increasingly relying on digital information and computers, smartphones and the internet and that the Y2K Crisis was orchestrated by the Patriots so that the global solution was infact a mask for Patriot engineered software being placed on every electronic device in the world. By doing this, the Patriots would be able to control the course of the world and shape history as they saw fit, while continuing to hide the identities of those behind it all.

President Johnson revealed that Emma Emmerich was the lead programmer behind the GW AI, and implored with Raiden to rescue her and upload a virus into Arsenal Gear’s systems to destroy GW before it could be activated. His information exhausted, Johnson tried to force Raiden to kill him, but Raiden, still reeling from the revelations about the Patriots, resisted. However his efforts were futile as moments later Revolver Ocelot stepped into the room, shot President Johnson and fled.

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President Johnson tries to force Raiden to kill him after revealing everything he knew about the Patriots, Big Shell and Arsenal Gear.

Snake got in contact with Raiden and revealed that Philanthropy had known about Arsenal Gear and the Big Shell due to a tip off from Emma, but that the confirmation of the intelligence meant the destruction of the Big Shell was meaningless as there were no chemicals that would wipe of the ecosystem, it would just be a facility crumbling into the ocean. Snake explained that Philanthropy had also discovered that Metal Gear RAY had been created by the USMC in opposition to the US Navy’s Arsenal Gear project, but in reality both groups had worked in secrecy but manipulated by the Patriots for their own ends.

On his way to Emma, Raiden was confronted by Vamp once more. Vamp revealed that even though the Metal Gear RAY units were not equipped with nuclear warheads like REX was, Arsenal Gear itself had a purified hydrogen bomb that could be used for their purposes and also confirms that Dead Cell never participated in any terrorist attacks and were framed as traitors by The Patriots, begrudgingly admitting that their role in aiding Solidus and the Sons of Liberty essentially made them terrorists. Raiden fought Vamp off before finding Emma, who took some convincing that he wasn’t with the Sons of Liberty themselves by revealing his usage of nanomachines. They set off back to the computer room in the Shell 1 Core.

As Emma insisted they take a short break, she revealed what she knew about the Patriots. She had been working on the creation of GW for almost a decade and confirmed that the counter measure to the Y2k Computer Bug included software processes that would aid GW in networking to any and every electronic device in the world. She insisted that GW was not yet ready for activation and still lacked the experience that would allow it to accurately filter the flow of digital information. Emma mentioned that a few days after the President’s visit, there was due to be a major test to provide GW with hundreds of petabyte’s worth of data to filter.

Due to RAY’s earlier attack, the bridge connecting Shell 1 and Shell 2 was too damaged, Raiden and Emma were forced to use the platforms running around the perimeter of the oil fence that surrounded the Big Shell facility. Emma slowly made her way from Shell 2 to Shell 1, with Raiden and Snake providing cover fire from Drones and patrolling Gurlukovich Soldiers. As Emma neared Shell 1 she was ambushed by Vamp who stabbed Emma in the gut almost as soon as Raiden shot him again, causing him to fall into the water. Raiden sprinted towards Emma while Snake provided covering fire and they took her to the computer room in the Shell 1 Core.

Emma began to input the data for the virus that would disable GW and once she finished, she shared a moment with Otacon before dying of blood loss. Worryingly, the virus had not taken effect and the surviving trio were left to come up with a plan to infiltrate Arsenal Gear itself with their only choice now being to take out Solidus himself. Otacon decided to finished evacuating the remaining hostages on the Kasatka and said his farewells before leaving.

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Snake and Otacon share a bro-fist moment before  parting ways, with Snake aware he may have to go down with the semi-proverbial ship to avert catastrophe.

After Otacon had left, Snake mentioned that they may need a hand getting inside. Raiden was ambushed by the Cyborg Ninja, who removed the filter covering its face to reveal that it was actually Olga Gurlukovich and she knocked Raiden unconscious, who could just hear Snake remarking that he never said he was on Raiden’s side before passing out. As Raiden came to, he found himself tied to a torture bed, completely naked, with Solidus and Ocelot watching him. Solidus claimed that he and Raiden have actually met before, long before Raiden joined FOXHOUND…when Solidus worked for the CIA in the Liberian Civil War and commanded a child soldiers unit, which included Raiden, then called “Jack”.

Solidus now sported an eye patch over his left eye – damaged when Raiden shot down the Harrier – with Ocelot remarking that he looked the spitting image of “Big Boss”, stroking Solidus’ ego. After Ocelot and Solidus left, Olga entered and told Raiden that sometime after the Tanker Incident, her child was born. However she was almost immediately snatched away by agents of the Patriots who forced her to work for them or otherwise her child would be killed. Olga could obviously not let this happen so went along with their plans, using the Cyborg Ninja’s exo-skeleton to aid him while masking her actions from the Patriots.

Olga said she would shortly free him before leaving the room. Raiden received a call from Rosemary via the nanomachines, and she inquired about his history with Solidus. Raiden confirmed it as true, claiming that he had been a child soldier in Liberia and joined FOXHOUND sometime after the war ended, undergoing virtual reality training through the Shadow Moses Incident and alike to become acquainted with FOXHOUND’s most dangerous missions. He claimed Solidus molded Raiden to be a ruthless killing machine. After Olga released his bonds and Raiden, naked and with no equipment, began to make his way through Arsenal Gear to meet Snake somewhere up ahead.

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Raiden, making his way through Arsenal Gear while naked and with no weapons.

As he began to make his way through the chambers of Arsenal Gear he noticed that the facility seemed to house dozens of the Metal Gear RAY units. He also began to receive increasingly erratic and strange calls from the Colonel and Rosemary, with the Colonel claiming he was once abducted by aliens and Rosemary claiming that she was with child. Eventually Raiden met up with Snake who had slipped on board whilst Olga had presented Raiden as a prisoner to Solidus. Snake handed Raiden his gear and together they battled their way past the forces stationed on Arsenal Gear.

Eventually Otacon got in contact and remarked that the signals Raiden has been receiving all throughout his mission have not been coming from the Colonel that Snake knows…from from on board Arsenal Gear itself. He surmised that the Colonel and Rosemary Raiden has been talking to were actually constructs of GW, created from information available to it about Raiden’s relationship with FOXHOUND and Rosemary. As they moved on however, they were confronted by Fortune who still believed that Snake had killed her father, Scott Dolph, aboard the Tanker two years ago.

Snake stayed behind to settle a score with Fortune while Raiden carried on. Raiden eventually emerged into a virtual reality chamber. Solidus mocked him over the intercom, telling him of the Patriots’ S3 Plan, also known as Solid Snake Simulation. Solid Snake was considered the greatest soldier of the modern age and the Patriots had used virtual reality training on people like Raiden to create near perfect copies of Snake himself. Solidus then unleashed a series of Metal Gear RAYs on Raiden, who barely managed to disable them before collapsing from exhaustion.

Solidus descended from the bridge to execute Raiden, but was stopped in his tracks by Olga. Since the success of Raiden’s mission in taking down Solidus determined whether the Patriots let her child live or die, Olga gave her life to save Raiden and ultimately her child. Solidus commanded the remaining RAYs to kill Raiden, but what had transferred of Emma’s GW Virus began to take effect and caused them to go haywire, causing Solidus to destroy the remaining RAY units himself, cursing the Patriots as he did so, perhaps thinking that Emma’s GW Virus was something of a “If we can’t have it, no one can have it” act from the Patriots. As Solidus approached Raiden again, Fortune arrived with a handcuffed Snake and Raiden passed out.

Raiden awoke again just as the sun was rising, on the 30th of April, 2009. Raiden, Solidus, Ocelot, Fortune and Snake were atop Arsenal Gear. Solidus revealed his ultimate goal, to take apart the GW AI and learn the identities of the Patriots, even as President he never met them face to face. He would then hunt them down and execute them while Fortune led the Sons of Liberty and commanded Arsenal Gear and its horde of Metal Gear RAY units to server as a diversion.

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Solidus Snake, also known as President George Sears, on board Arsenal Gear.

Ocelot chose this moment to chastise Solidus and the rest, revealing that he has been an agent of the Patriots all along. He explains that the similarities between the Big Shell and Shadow Moses Incident were more than mere coincidences. The renegade FOXHOUND Unit in the Shadow Moses Incident paralleled Dead Cell, Raiden’s quasi-familial relationship with the terrorist leader recalled Snake’s kinship with Liquid, a computer virus that mimicked the genetically-engineered nano machine FOXDIE virus were all events scripted to continue part of the aforementioned S3 plan, turning Raiden into the perfect soldier for the Patriots by putting him through his own Shadow Moses.

Just like President Johnson, the Patriots had manipulated Solidus and his ambition to wipe them out for their own ends. The one thing the Patriots had not accounted for was the appearance of the real Solid Snake, which explains why the AI-powered Colonel kept telling Raiden that Snake was not part of the simulated mission parameters. Ocelot proceeded to kill Fortune, revealing that her supernatural or magical luck were simply a part of Patriot technology that amplified her natural EMP field to render bullets and grenades inert. Ocelot climbed aboard a  Metal Gear RAY unit and unleashes it’s payload of missiles at the group, although somehow, in a really bullshitty way, Fortune somehow managed to render the missiles inert and save Solidus, Raiden and Snake before they were obliterated.

Ocelot then began to play the role of Liquid, as he had done on the Tanker two years previously. He proclaimed that Ocelot knew the location of the Patriots and would wipe them out, destroying them once and for all. He used an override to put Arsenal Gear on a course with Manhattan and used the RAY unit to dive into the ocean.

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Arsenal Gear, having crashed ashore and obliterating part of Manhattan.

Arsenal Gear crashed into New York City, destroying a large portion of Manhattan before screeching to a stop somewhere near Federal Hall. Solidus and Raiden descended from Arsenal Gear to the neighboring rooftops, Snake having disappeared chasing after the RAY unit. Solidus confided in Raiden that his anger with the Patriots partly stemmed from his own nature to be unable to pass on his memetic legacy. He was a clone, rendered infertile and would never be able to pass on his memories onto children, which is partly why he took Raiden under his wing so much when they fought in Liberia together.

He wanted to destroy the Patriots, not because he wanted to usurp them and ascend the throne, but because they would impose on global society what had been imposed on him by his very nature. Freedom, civil rights, opportunities and more would be taken away if the Patriots AI network began to manipulate the flow of digital information and Solidus wanted to stop that at all costs. Raiden received another nano-machine based call from the AI-based Rosemary and Colonel. The fragmented remnants of GW explained that in their current form, the Patriots existed entirely on a digital plane of existence.

The advent of the 21st Century and the digital age brought about a colossal overabundance of trivial information that would be preserved forever, accessible by anyone, and this threatened the development of society. The virtual reality training Raiden underwent wasn’t the goal of the S3 program…the S3 infact stood for “Selection for Social Sanity” and the entire incident on the Tanker and the Big Shell had been orchestrated by the Patriots to provide massive amounts of real world data for GW to process and filter. It had painted Philanthropy as being behind the Tanker Incident, manipulated Raiden into carrying out missions on the Big Shell, made him believe he was talking to Rosemary and the Colonel and told him what was true and what was false, all the while using an orchestrated event to manipulate his being, turning him into a soldier. GW was an unqualified, absolute success.

The memetic information that would be inherited by future generations was to be decided and curated by the Patriots AI network, since they believe themselves to be in a stronger position to do so, with ideals that put them above the ordinary people. Most of humanity has a tendency to prefer politically correct thinking over acceptance of uncomfortable truths and the Patriots considered this harmful to society as it would create huge quantities of false data and information that would obscure what was “true”.

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The AI-Colonel reveals to Raiden the nature of the Patriots’ plan and their AI network.

The AI then orders Raiden to assassinate Solidus, reminding him that Olga’s child will die if he does not succeed and that the real Rosemary can easily be eliminated as well. Solidus told Raiden that he wanted to kill him to use the nanomachines in Raiden’s cerebral cortex to extract the information he would have accessed through Arsenal Gear, before Ocelot rendered it inert and crashed it into Manhattan. The two of them fought viciously until Raiden struck the final blow, practically slicing through Solidus’ spine before Solidus fell from the roof of Federal Hall to its steps and collapsed at the statue of George Washington, longingly reaching an arm out towards the “Father of Liberty” before dying.

Raiden emerged onto the street amidst the chaos and met Snake who told him that he and Otacon would use the data left behind by Emma’s virus to find the Patriots, since if the AI she had designed was to hide their identities, it must know what information to filter out somewhere in the code. Raiden instinctively wanted to come with them, but Snake told Raiden that he had a life to lead, things to catch up on and people waiting for him – referring to the real Rosemary. Although the events of the mission had been a manipulation by GW and the Patriots every experience he went through, every sensation and emotion was his and his alone. It was up to him to decide what experience he wanted to pass on and leave for future generations.

Sometime later, Raiden reunited with Rosemary.

Even later, Snake and Otacon combed through the data that Emma had left for them. Otacon had found a list of names, supposedly of the Wiseman’s Committee, the ruling council of the Patriots…but they had all been dead for the last century…their last hope was another scenario orchestrated by the Patriots…

And with that, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty ends. Although, not really. I mean there is a grander plan and scope to the plot of Sons of Liberty that MGS3 didn’t have, and 4 was made to appease the people who wanted answers for every plot thread while V tried to replicate 2’s meta-narrative but screwed the proverbial pooch. I feel like to really talk about all the aspects of Sons of Liberty and why I love it, I have to talk about what Kojima wanted to do when creating the game, information we can glean from the design document of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

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Hideo Kojima, former head of Konami’s Kojima Productions and creator of the Metal Gear series.

The Design Document for what would become MGS2 was submitted to Konami at the start of January in 1999, a few months after MGS1 had come out and before Konami had been to react to any sales and real critical acclaim. Kojima wanted to call it MGS III, with the III standing for the tallest skyscrapers in Manhattan which would be the setting of the game. From the estimated production schedule you can tell that the game would have turned out quite similar, especially in regards to the Big Shell section;

November 1998 – Analysis of PlayStation 2 hardware

December 1998 – Outline for MGSIII finalized

January 1999 – Begin character designs, plan development

February 1999 – Announce that MGS sequel is under development for PS2

March 1999 – Acquire a PS2 dev-kit

May 1999 – Research trip to New York City. E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo)

June 1999 – Begin full-scale development

August 1999 – Research trip to offshore plant

Summer 2001 – Finish development

Winter 20001 – Release

Kojima then went on to discuss the pros and cons to taking various aspects from other genres in order to please fans of Metal Gear but also be approachable enough to attract new fans to the series. He said specifically that they would not “blatantly ignore the core players we acquired with MGS1 just to try to increase our player base and sales”. When it came to RPGs he noted that most sequels tend to be set at a different time after the previous game making it easier for new fans to get into it, rather than having a part two to a story that is deeply intertwined. However this also meant that players of the previous games didn’t always get to see character return.

In his analysis of other genres he realized that it was quite easy to make a sequel approachable for new players, but much harder to balance it while offering something for series veterans. Players who were series veterans would play the Tanker Incident part of the game because they would want a continuation of the series’ story and overarching narrative but players new to the series would start from the Big Shell sequence which would be easier to explain to brand new players than the Tanker. They would also include, on disc, a short novel that was written in-universe and summarized the Shadow Moses Incident so people who had not played MGS1 would get a brief understanding of its story.

The Tanker Incident segment was designed for series veterans who would note the increased amount of details, grander scale, and increased number of enemies in each area. They also wanted to provide some answers for series veterans such as more about “Solidus”, or President George Sears, who had been featured in a post-credits scene at the end of Metal Gear Solid 1. To attract new players they would have the main character be someone other than Solid Snake, so they can enjoy the story even if they haven’t played MGS1 as since both new players and a new character would be new to the series it would easier for them to immerse themselves than if Snake was the primary character.

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Yoji Shinkawa’s concept art for Solid Snake.

Raiden was also designed to be less “manly” than Snake, who looked quite akin to a typical action hero, in order to make the game more approachable to female fans as they might not want to play as someone so overtly masculine as Snake. Raiden was therefore designed to be the antithesis of the gruff, hard-boiled action hero.

Kojima also wanted a powerful and potentially iconic female character in the game, such as Fortune, who would be able to go  toe to toe with the heroes and also have the ordinary female character, Rosemary, who could provide a romantic element to the game due to her relationship with Raiden.

The Design Document then moves on to talk about the graphics for the game, and how they would be movie-quality and have spectacular cut scenes which they reasoned would not only increase the sales of the game but also the PlayStation 2 system as well, which would in turn increase their potential target audience. Kojima seemed a tad defeatist in his attitude towards other companies, expecting their financial heft alone to allow them to produce higher quality graphics, as Kojima’s games tend to have had a reputation for graphical excellence. MGS2 ran at sixty frames-per-second on PlayStation 2 at what I assume was a native resolution of 640×480 (DVD). MGS3 ran only at thirty frames-per-second but the detail was greatly increased. On PS3 however MGS4 ran at 1024×768 which was a slightly Sub-HD resolution and ran at an unlocked frame-rate that was sometimes below thirty frames-per-second and sometimes closer to sixty. MGSV ran at 1920×1080 and sixty frames-per-second on PlayStation 4.

There was also a small proof of concept game that Kojima Productions released called PT which he released with no fanfare and initially no proof it was from Kojima Productions as he wanted people to think it was an indie (independently developed) title and yet one of the first things it was praised for (other than being terrifying and tremendously fucked up with a screaming mud-baby)….was its graphical quality.

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A screenshot from P.T, a proof of concept for Kojima directing a new Silent Hill game with movie director, Guillermo Del Toro.

He also viewed the 21st Century as the age of women, where women would rise to more powerful and prominent positions and would be able to protect men…and regardless of her character design, you can actually see this line of thought carry through to Quiet in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Moving onward, Kojima summed up the themes for the game. Memetic inheritance and “What do we leave (pass on) to our children and future generations?” was first up. He mentioned that in Metal Gear Solid 1 they talked about freeing oneself from the bonds of DNA, with Liquid Snake wanting to both emulate parts of his fathers legacy but also hated that his life was precision engineered so that he designer to be capable of exactly what his creators wanted him to be capable of. In MGS2, Kojima wanted to revisit this but talk about our memories and the way we live our lives.

The S3 Plan, whether it be the Solid Snake Simulation or Selection for Social Sanity, contrasted with the Genome Soldier Project in MGS1, which essentially “designed” soldiers through gene-therapy. The relationship between Otacon and his sister, Emma, would also convey this theme with their shared genetic heritage yet their differing world views and lives. Kojima also wanted to explore environmental issues and what we leave for future generations, such as the false threat of the Tanker oil spill possibly obliterating the aquatic ecosystem around New York City.  Arsenal Gear itself also represented nuclear issues and Philanthropy would act like an analogue for NGOs and environmental protection groups who would want to see things like Metal Gear abolished.

The psychological harm of children from wars and conflicts, such as Raiden’s repressed memories of his youth as a child soldier operating under Solidus in the Liberian Civil War. The passing on of memories could be discussed when Raiden either forgets or chooses to forget his childhood, and in this sense is it the reality that is important or the message that is trying to be conveyed. The importance of preserving and being honest about our history, as much as Raiden’s childhood defined who he became, in the real world glossing over the World Wars, or slavery and racism, would be akin to denying that they ever existed and people need to know about them in order to have the best chance of not repeating the mistakes of the past.

Kojima also wanted to examine Artificial Intelligence with the role that the Patriots fulfill in MGS2. In the overarching series narrative, by the time of 2009 the Patriots essentially exist as a purely digital legacy, the people behind the scenes are infact GW and the other AIs while the founding members are either dead or brain-dead, or…in Ocelot’s case, in state of rebellion against his former allies. In a possible reference to the aforementioned New York Trilogy by post-modernist author, Paul Auster, Kojima also wanted to talk about the parts of one’s identity not constrained by biological barriers, such as Raiden’s name and past life. For instance at the start of the game you can enter a name, and let’s say your wrote your own name.

Come the final cut-scene, where Snake and Raiden talk in-front of Federal Hall amidst the chaos, Raiden gazes down at his dog tags which are supposed to be his  “real name”. Considering how Solidus refers to Raiden as Jack, although it should be noted his nickname in the Small Boy’s Unit was Jack the Ripper so it has other explanations, I think it is trying to make the point that your identity is not defined by your lineage (which you could infer from someone’s name) or your past, but your actions and thoughts now and what you wanted to leave for future generations. It doesn’t matter if Raiden’s dog tags read as John, Jack, Oliver, Alex, Eddie, Zara, Batman or whoever…it were his actions that defined him.

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An example of the Dog Tags that Raiden could produce from the end of the game.

Kojima also wanted to deal with the increasing digitization of the military. He wanted to think about restructuring due to expenditure cutbacks and the development of high speed computers and quantum computing that would be able to assess a raft of battlefield scenarios in ways and at a speed that humans never could. The increasing reliance on technology was noted by Kojima and he decided that in universe, at the time of the Gulf War the US had a force of about 761,000 troops which was later reduced to 495,000 and subsequently restructured.

Gene Therapy led to the emergence of “designer soldiers” that could be engineered for conflicts and situations. The S3 plan meant that any one could undergo hyper-realistic and authentic VR training and become an utterly lethal killing machine. The S3 plan could even be extended to the player, because given the fact that the revelations at the end of the game introduce the possibility that Raiden could have been the player in MGS1 and experienced it through his VR training, what’s to say that most of the events of MGS2 were not part of another level of VR training, recalling the real Big Shell incident?

The Arsenal Gear Project was another aspect of digitized warfare, with a colossal submarine, equipped with nuclear warheads and guarded by unnamed Metal Gear RAY units could patrol the world’s oceans, fend off practically any assault, and the entirety of the United States could be controlled from Arsenal Gear by GW and the network of Patriot AIs. The use-age of nanomachines was another example of the digitization of soldiers and warfare as it is noted in real life that scientists have been trying to create nanomachines to help them kill cancer cells and the like…but, almost to a tee, the military want to develop nanomachines as a form of mecha-biological warfare.

The nature of the Patriots AI Network and the increasing control of digital information is almost scarily prophetic, as governments around the world try to increasingly monitor people’s communications and online traffic and you only have to look at the way both sides want to control information news networks release in the upcoming EU Membership Referendum in the UK to learn that…if they could (have something like the AI Network) they sure as hell would.

It should also be noted that in the age of smart phones, smart watches, TVs, computers and the like everywhere…given how much we rely on those things the chapter in Sons of Liberty where Emma mentions that the public’s over-reliance allows them to be susceptible to suggestion which aids the Patriot’s goal to control the flow of digital information because if we rely on something then we give leeway to what enables us.

For instance since 2010 there has been at least an eighty percent increase, year on year, for the usage of personal computers or networked devices around the world.

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The GW AI in Sons of Liberty explains to Raiden how an over-reliance on digital information made it easy for the Patriots to assume control in a digital age. This was  written 15 years ago.

Kojima notes that the aim of the story in Sons of Liberty was to have a cacophony of betrayals, plot twists and reversals in order to confuse the player and have them be unable to say what was fact (truth) and what was fiction (false). However he noted that this was very difficult to do in video games because the medium typically doesn’t deal with that sort of thing and has rarely tried to do something with it before, with Deus Ex perhaps being the most notable example. He cited LA Confidential as an influence and stated that in MGS1 the intent was to have a clear story with twists and turns but one that ultimately didn’t leave too much up to the player but in Sons of Liberty he wanted a story that was entertaining, had lots of foreshadowing and twists, and gave the player food for thought.

For instance, every character in Sons of Liberty lies to someone at least once. Kojima wanted people to wonder about fact vs fiction, what is real, can someone tell the truth inside a virtual reality (how do we define it) and…is what we call reality the truth? If something is all you’ve ever known then you would assume it is real and it is correct, but what if it is not? The game is deliberately self-aware and ironic, for instance it mocks copious amounts of violence in video games, the S3 Plan could refer to the player as much as Raiden or anyone in game.

They were keen to make sure that the story was secondary to the gameplay, because no-one would want to see the story if the gameplay was no fun. Although you could probably thing of ways to improve it, for a game set in a fixed, largely indoor location, I feel like Sons of Liberty is quite close to perfect because it makes each area feel like a puzzle, and it remains tense and exciting, thrilling even, no matter how long you play for and with a variety of difficulties it accommodates a wide-range of players.

The Design Document then goes on to note some details about the two scenarios including the date, location and more;

TANKER CHAPTER

2006 (One year after MGS1)

Arsenal Ship (Disguised as an oil tanker)

Solid Snake and Otacon

Roughly thirty minutes

Infiltrate the Tanker > Destroy Metal Gear RAY

Infiltrate the Tanker Deck > Infiltrate Interior > Infiltrate  Hold (containing over 300 soldiers) > Plant C4s on Metal Gear RAY > Ocelot Activates Metal Gear

ARSENAL CHAPTER

2007 (One year after previous chapter)

April 30th, the anniversary of the day George Washington declared independence in New York City

Arsenal (Offshore plant near New York Harbor)

Raiden, The Colonel, Rosemary

Five to six hours

Infiltrate offshore plant > Rescue the President > Encounter Vamp & Solid Snake > Contact security guard > Defuse C4s > Deactivate PAL > Destroy GW AI > Destroy Metal Gear RAY > Arsenal Gear’s Rampage > Defeat Solidus

Now there are several scrapped plot lines, but it is quite interesting to see them, if only to note how the still prevalent theme of information manipulation was consistent from the earliest version of the story.

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President George Sears, also known as Solidus, when he was in office around the time of the Shadow Moses Incident.

At the end of Metal Gear Solid 1, Ocelot escaped Shadow Moses with a data disc containing a raft of data on Metal Gear REX that was circulated around the world and led almost every nuclear-equipped country to build their own version of Metal Gear. Countries like Iraq and North Korea are developing their own versions of Metal Gear, although considering the scientists who developed Metal Gear are either dead, working in the US, or Otacon, their efforts are all decades behind Metal Gear REX and RAY. The START 3 Treaty, oft discussed in MGS1, has still not been signed in light of the revelation that while the US wanted the world to reduce its nuclear stockpile it was secretly building a bipedal tank capable of firing a stealth nuclear warhead from anywhere in the world.

However, the exercise at Shadow Moses was a failure. The technology to launch stealth nuclear warheads was a failure, but Ocelot and Solidus covered up this fact in the leaked data to ensure global nuclear deterrence by ensuring that everyone was afraid of everyone else, believing they were equally capable of launching nuclear warheads and no-one would be any the wiser. Solidus was happy to leak the data knowing that most countries around the world would never complete a Metal Gear. Amidst the growing concern towards Metal Gear clones, the US develops Metal Gear RAY in order to combat other Metal Gears and defend America’s borders. Metal Gear RAY is developed by the USMC while the Army try to salvage whatever they can of the Metal Gear REX project, but are unsuccessful.

A second Gulf War is started when the United Nations Special Commission demands to conduct nuclear inspections in North Korea and Iraq, and Iraq refuses, taking eighty UNSCOM inspectors hostage with the US using airstrikes in response. The irony of the situation, the more things change the more they stay the same, does not escape Solidus or Ocelot.

The Genome Soldier Project from MGS1 has been scrapped and an “N Army” comprised of soldiers fitted with enhanced nanomachines has been adopted in the place of Genome Soldiers.

President George Sears has managed to hang on until the events of the Plant Chapter, having shifted the blame for REX and Shadow Moses on the ex-Secretary of Defense, Jim Houseman. The President is assassinated at the start of the Plant Chapter.

In truth, Solidus faked his death using a body double, going underground when Arsenal Gear was completed. He is the mastermind behind the games events and the current leader of Dead Cell. He plans to use a nuclear bomb, and detonate it over Wall Street to disable the Patriots stranglehold over the United States’ finances and plunging the world into chaos. Shortly after the Shadow Moses Incident the New York Stock exchange had been completely digitized by the implementation of part of the Patriot AI Network. Another AI is stationed as the NASDAQ Stock Exchange in Connecticut.

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A Gurlukovich Soldier aboard the Tanker.

All these elements have combined to make a fantastic game…and I actually feel like Solidus is one of the best characters in a game that I’ve played. So often we get villains in video games who are megalomaniacs hellbent on world domination for reasons that ultimately amount to Palpatine esque “UNLIMITED POWAH” but for Solidus…he had been raised as someone with a pre-determined destiny, to be used as a tool of a country and group (the Patriots) who had ideals of their own. He was put in the ultimate position of power, as President of the United States of America, and he ultimately discovered that those who pulled the strings were going to take away the ideals he admired…and he was willing to die for them.

It’s said that America loves a war-hero, yet Donald Trump criticized John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, and people lapped it up. Solidus lived and died for the ideals America was founded upon. It almost makes me want to write about another politician from the Metal Gear series, Senator Armstrong, but maybe that’s a topic for another time.

Don't_Fuck_With_This_Senator!

For now, this is all I can write on Sons of Liberty. It is an incredible game with a thematically rich story…and this has been a stupidly long body of text written over two days. I may revisit this in the future but for now…maybe something here has provided food for thought.