A Formal Analysis of Metal Gear Solid 2

James Clinton Howell

XIV: Ocelot into Water

MGS2 binged after it had purged MGS1. The player had needed to use Raiden’s sword and was forced to view Raiden in third-person—a kind of exorcism—yet the fight against twenty-five Metal Gear Rays once again immersed the player in his actor. He had to enter Raiden’s first-person view to fire Stinger missiles at the Rays, and he did so in an arena exactly copied from the Virtual Reality Missions in MGS1. Raiden appeared in the center of an octagonal stage, where (in MGS1) a woman had appeared whom the player voyeuristically photographed. Now Raiden self-consciously occupied the center of attention.

However, MGS2 expelled MGS1 right after Raiden gave up. It wrecked the possibility for Raiden to redeem his failures during the Plant Chapter, while it simultaneously opened the possibility to redeem Snake’s failures during the Tanker Chapter. It shut the player off from MGS1’s remaining cast, ensuring that he would never again witness MGS1’s drama during MGS2 first-hand. 

Enemies claimed Raiden’s expected catharses. Solidus Snake destroyed all but one of the remaining Metal Gear Rays, and Ocelot slew the invincible Fortune. Raiden’s principle antagonist, Solidus Snake, was revealed not to have been the most important enemy, but the real enemy’s manipulated patsy.

The final encounter atop Arsenal Gear confused all players everywhere. Liquid Snake spiritually possessed Ocelot, hijacked the remaining Metal Gear Ray, and dove off Arsenal’s edge. Solid Snake jumped overboard in hot pursuit.

Many critics have cited Liquid-Ocelot as MGS2’s cheapest trick. However, the criticism assumes that Liquid arose in Ocelot foremost as a narrative rather than a formal element. Liquid-Ocelot represented MGS2’s hardest purging of the Series, Scenario, and Solid Maps.

Both Liquid and Ocelot had been responsible for the events of MGS1, albeit with different levels of transparency. Liquid had been Snake’s most obvious enemy, while Ocelot had encouraged Liquid’s plans via conspiracy. Appropriate to form, MGS2 reversed that relationship when Liquid invisibly influenced Ocelot’s actions.

Liquid Snake loomed large in the player’s memory of MGS1. Liquid had wanted to revive the global demand for mercenaries, and MGS1 had narrated to the player that the plot’s emergencies had risen from Liquid’s pursuit of his goals. Liquid’s return during the Tanker Chapter had signified that the player would again need to contend with Liquid, clearly placing MGS2 on the Series Map. Snake’s rivalry with Liquid—brother versus brother—had formed a large chunk of the Scenario Map, and his return had recalled his persistence in MGS1. Finally, Snake had been recruited for MGS1 because he and Liquid were genetic twins. Liquid Snake had been responsible for the context that forced Solid Snake to become the hero of Shadow Moses.

Ocelot had shared Liquid’s roles, albeit passively. He had sold the blueprints for Metal Gear Rex after MGS1 and perpetuated its threat, making the sequel to Metal Gear Solid inevitable. He had also filled the role of Grand Conspirator, an element of the Scenario Map. Finally, he had prodded Liquid into igniting MGS1’s emergencies, thereby equally contributing to the events that made the Solid Map possible.

Despite MGS1’s hardships, Snake had left the battlefield on a hopeful note. Two of MGS1’s overt themes were an individual’s power to defy his genetic fate and the possibility of love under the duress of war. Liquid had believed that his and Snake’s “warrior genes” led them inevitably to war, and Snake had decided to defy Liquid’s fatalism by living peacefully with Meryl Silverburgh, MGS1’s love interest. One of MGS1’s supporting characters had expressed the game’s optimism in a single phrase: “Choose life—and then live.”

Liquid-Ocelot becomes more relevant to MGS2’s formal ambitions when we understand how the optimism of MGS1’s ending had failed. Snake’s relationship with Meryl had ended bitterly, and he became an isolated alcoholic. He only rediscovered meaning in his life when he returned to war as a field soldier for an anti-Metal Gear organization. The anti-Metal Gear organization had been formed when Ocelot sold Rex’s blueprints on the black market. Nothing that the player had achieved—either for his actor or the fictional world—had borne fruit. If anything, MGS2 began by affirming MGS1’s threats: Snake’s life lacked meaning unless he obeyed the genetic legacy that Liquid had preached; peace hadn’t sustained the love that had bloomed on the battlefield; and Ocelot had used Metal Gear to revive the threat of global nuclear war.

MGS2 dramatized everything that had gone wrong since MGS1 when Liquid-Ocelot appeared to have killed Snake. The player’s and Snake’s victories had been hollow. Everything that had justified a sequel to Metal Gear Solid—Ocelot’s role as a conspirator, Liquid’s role as a rival, and Snake’s role as a hero—had failed the player’s expectations.

MGS1’s form suddenly revived when Liquid-Ocelot appeared atop Arsenal Gear. Snake had a chance to redeem his former defeat to Liquid and Metal Gear Ray. Raiden’s and Snake’s shared battle through the hangar had suggested that the player would at least help redeem Snake’s failure, but MGS2 refused to cooperate. After having corrupted the Series Map by spoiling all of MGS1’s achievements, MGS2 barred the player from even watching how those narrative threads resolved. MGS2 had made Snake’s physical presence a condition of Liquid’s emergence—thereby reinforcing the Scenario Map—and the player couldn’t engage that element because Snake wasn’t his actor. Finally, Liquid had reappeared only after Raiden had realized that he wasn’t Solid Snake. 

Redemption had become possible at last, and the player couldn’t share it.

When Liquid Snake hijacked both Ocelot and Ray, MGS1’s two biggest enemies, its doomsday machine, and its hero all left. They took the Solid Map with them, and they left the player to crash Arsenal Gear into New York City. 

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