A Formal Analysis of Metal Gear Solid 2

James Clinton Howell

XI: Torture

All three Maps converged and exploded during MGS2’s climax, and their dissolution reversed the player-actor relationship. The player had previously influenced how Raiden behaved in context, such as whether or not Raiden abused hostages. As Raiden changed from an actor into a character, his decisions influenced how the player played the game.

The climax began when the digital battleship Arsenal Gear had activated and prepared to undock. Solid Snake betrayed Raiden and turned him over to the terrorists, sneaking aboard Arsenal Gear in the process. The terrorists stripped away Raiden’s clothes and equipment, and they bound him to a rotating bed that resembled a torture rack that had held Snake in MGS1—all within an exact reproduction of Snake’s former cell.

MGS2 inverted the expectations aroused by the identical form. MGS1 had made the player tap his controller’s buttons rapidly to keep Solid Snake alive on the rack. If Snake had died, MGS1 did not allow the player to continue. MGS2 completely deflated the expected tension when Solidus Snake strangled Raiden. A bar representing Raiden’s oxygen supply diminished, and on-screen notes told the player to tap his controller’s buttons to keep Raiden breathing. Yet the strangling sequence was so short that Raiden survived unharmed even without the player’s input.

MGS2’s torture cell offered the most extreme formal and visual reference to MGS1 along with the most extreme corruption of expectations. In the only environment exactly copied from MGS1, MGS2 denied the player either the tension or the catharsis he remembered.

MGS2 aggressively began to assert its uniqueness, starting with Raiden’s uniqueness from Solid Snake. Solidus revealed that Raiden had been a child soldier under his ward in the 1980’s Liberian Civil War. After Solidus exited, Ocelot told Raiden that they were “in the memory of Shadow Moses”—that is, inside the memory of MGS1.

It’s no coincidence that MGS2 revealed the Plant Chapter’s farce only minutes after it revealed Raiden’s past. As Tim Rogers has written in his essay “Dreaming in an Empty Room,” MGS2’s torture cell sequence most plainly exposed Raiden’s identity as a videogame actor. Faced with his superficial role, Raiden recognized his individuality. He cried; his voice cracked. 

Raiden resented the truth.

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