Op-Ed: The legacy of ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ ten years later – 11/21/2014

A young Big Boss in 'Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater'

A young Big Boss in ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’

Ten years ago on November 17, ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ was released for the PlayStation 2 and it truly demonstrated the storytelling craft of video games.

The game started as a way for Hideo Kojima to make amends with fans who were outraged over the bait and switch of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. At the same time the success of Vietcong had started a temporary fad of creating military games set in jungle environments.

Not wanting to settle for a game that panders to popularity, Kojima crafted an origin story that explores the political atmosphere and pop-culture of the 1960s. From the start the players is given a quick history lesson on the Cold War while the opening credits feature a theme song that pays homage to the James Bond films.

The year is 1964; tensions on the world stage are high as the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union threatens the peace of the world. At the same time the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev is being threaten by Colonel Volgin, who is plotting to replace him with Leonid Brezhnev. In the midst of all this, the Fox Unit commences the Virtuous Mission with the goal of bringing Dr. Nikolai Sokolov to the West.

A young Special Forces operative code named Naked Snake is deployed to find Dr. Sokolov. Everything goes according to plan until it’s unveiled that The Boss, the Mother of the Special Forces and Snake’s mentor, has defected to the Soviet Union. To make matter worse; a research facility is destroyed in a nuclear attack that was perpetrated by Colonel Volgin using the Davy Crockett.

As a result the world has on verge of a possible war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The only way to avoid a nuclear war is for Naked Snake to embark on a journey that will push him to the limits as he is tasked with eliminating The Boss. It is out of the tragic ashes of Operation Snake Eater will rise the legacy of Big Boss.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was universally praised by both gamers and critics for raising the bar with a thought-provoking story that explored several passionate themes while redefining the stealth genre. Ten years later it has been hailed as one of the greatest PlayStation 2 games while its story has been praised as one of the most memorable in gaming.

It’s one of the few PlayStation 2 games that have survived the test of time as several ports only updated the graphics while keeping the original content. What has made Snake Eater standout is the revolutionary gameplay it introduced and the moral themes it explored.

The gameplay broke from the traditional setup featured in stealth action as the jungle environment presented a new opportunity. It was not just about avoiding detection, but a focus on jungle survival and overcoming natural obstacles. The character had to be fed and have his medical needs attended to or it would be difficult to continue. This laid the foundation for other titles that included survival in the gameplay mechanism.

The story has been a memorable one because the game explores the themes of unquestioned patriotism and its consequences along with the bound of a mother and son.

The consequences of unquestioned patriotism is the most significant due to its role in American politics during the Cold War. McCarthyism banished the concept of questioning authority while unchallenged obedience to the government dominated the political landscape. For her country, The Boss is forced to make several life changing sacrifices, including killing her lover. In the end she was asked to defect to the Soviet Union than killed by her protege for being a “traitor.”

It’s after the success of Operation Snake Eater that Snake learns the truth. He then questions his own patriotism after his mentor was tossed to the wolves by the country she swore to defend. This sets in motion Big Boss turning his back on America that will reach to a major boiling point following the events of Ground Zeros.

The bond of a mother and son is also a very powerful theme explored during the events of Operation Snake Eater. Snake is consistently at odds with his mission of eliminating The Boss due to their past history that has created a relationship similar to that between a mother and child. Like a mother; she nurtured him as they have fought in combat together while being a major influences on his character.

This relationship and its challenges are best demonstrated when The Boss is able to easily subdue Snake on multiple occasions. It may appear that he lacks the skill, but in truth is he is unable to bring himself to hurt his mother figure. Snake is finally able to defeat her after overcoming his emotions but at a cost to his principles.

It’s because of these powerful themes that made the story of Snake Eater an emotional, driven work of art. Rarely had a video game had a story that would emotionally impact the player like Kojima’s did.

Finally, one should not overlook the musical score that was composed Harry Gregson-Williams. It’s a mix of some new sounds along with a familiar composition that helps build the dramatic tension in the story.

Looking back 10 years after its release, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is truly one of the most magnificent works of digital art. As gamers await the release of The Phantom Pain, the story of how it all began will be a true testament to the power of story telling in the context of a video game.

Written for Digital Journal 
11/17/2014
Original Article: Op-Ed: The legacy of ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ ten years later

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About Stan Rezaee
I'm a writer from San Jose who has contributed to several online and print publications.

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