A Formal Analysis of Metal Gear Solid 2

James Clinton Howell

IV: Losing Metal Gear Solid

MGS1 inconsistently matched Player and Actor Objectives. Snake often failed to achieve his goal when the player had played MGS1 well. Metal Gear activated rather than shut down when the player had successfully completed the PAL card sequence. Likewise, when the player had successfully drained the lifebar on Metal Gear Rex’s radome sensor, MGS1 withheld Snake’s expected victory when a more powerful warrior destroyed it for him.

MGS1 supplemented Snake’s failures with roughly equivalent victories. The player experienced delayed but effective catharses. Snake had unintentionally killed two hostages by simply sharing a room with them, yet he brought Meryl and Otacon through emergencies that they wouldn’t otherwise have survived. Sniper Wolf took Snake prisoner after the player had defeated her, and Snake later killed Wolf after the player had beaten her again under similar circumstances. MGS1 followed Snake’s empty victory against Rex’s radome with a real chance to destroy the machine. Even MGS1’s good and bad endings complemented each other and affirmed the pattern of failure and redemption: if Snake had failed to save Meryl, the player could load his Clear File and try to save her on a second playthrough.

MGS2 denied the player any opportunity to redeem Snake’s failure during the Tanker Chapter. It gave Snake patsy objectives and left him to drown when the player succeeded. The sole member of Snake’s radio support team, Otacon, screamed Snake’s name during the Tanker Chapter’s final moments—an acoustic reference to the player’s in-game failures in MGS1 and MGS2.

The player later learned that Solid Snake had survived the Tanker Chapter to appear in MGS2’s larger gameplay segment, the Plant Chapter. However, Snake returned beyond the player’s control, a hard departure from the Series Map. The player controlled a new actor: Raiden.

This sole betrayal of the Series Map drew legendary outrage from players toward both Raiden and MGS2.

MGS2 changed certain visual and acoustic details to displace the Plant Chapter from the Series Map. If Snake had died under the player’s control during the Tanker Chapter, the screen faded to black, and the player saw MGS1’s death screen heralded by Snake’s old death theme. If Raiden died, though, the screen flashed white, and the player saw a death screen with a clunkier layout heralded by a flat blast from a keyboard synth. Background music had narrated that Snake fought a boss when he encountered Olga Gurlukovich during the Tanker Chapter, and the music included variations upon MGS1’s memorable chase theme. The background music during Raiden’s boss fights differed substantially, withholding any acoustic references to MGS1.

These corruptions forced the player to abandon the Series Map. The map’s fabric wasn’t totally ruined, but, like the withering empire’s, it promised less than before. The Plant Chapter dealt with the player’s lingering expectations after MGS1’s verbatim experience had been denied.

These expectations formed the Scenario Map.

<< III: The Series Map Denied        V: The Scenario Map >>

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