The Metal Gear Solid series is one I will never take for granted, because I will always be a little bit afraid of it. The first game for the first-generation playstation was somewhat of a paradigm shift for me, in terms of realizing what types of games I could expect to play in coming generations of the home console market. It had a sprawling and ambitious story with equally ambitious gameplay mechanics that took the player on an adventure that seemed steeped in a mythology that would only be somewhat alluded to within that game’s universe…at least, for the time being. The sequel was equally ambitious, but confusing a lot of the time, as they had ditched the previous game’s hero in their effort to lay out a game that was just stupid-keen on meta-level, self-aware commentaries on itself and the culture it was being sold to.
After all this though, it was clear what kind of series we as users would be playing going forward. Ambitious, experimental, complex, not-at-all content with the same-ol’-same-ol’. Entirely unafraid of being enthusiastic with doing something very different with the very familiar, and let me tell you what, that’s exactly my bag, as far as my media consumption is concerned.
Sunday night I was blessed with my first Sunday-evening off from work in an especially long time. And after a lovely morning/afternoon spent with the missus and my parents, I hunkered down for the afternoon to continue with my recently-set upon journey to play through the Metal Gear Solid series, all of it,…chronologically. Each installment in the series plays around with the series’ overall plot mythology. Moving from contemporary settings, to past settings, future settings, bypassing present-day settings to go back to the past yet again, series creator Hideo Kojima has seen to it that players don’t remain anchored to any one character for too long. Heroes become enemies, enemies heroes, heartstrings are played with as you decide whom to morally plant your flag with in the long run. Such a task proves ultimately impossible as that moral landscape beneath your feet shifts with each entry to the series, so do one’s perspectives and memories.
This is something I came to a realization to last night. I love this series for how ambitious, irregular, and experimental it can be. But frig is the overall series’ story so complex that it can make for some difficulty in accessing. I won’t lie to you, before I set out on this quest of mine, I thoroughly went through various wikipedia articles to remember what happened when with whomever. Last night, as I played through Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater, I finally got to what I remember being my most frustrating experience with the game during my first (and only) go around with the game, the boss battle with “The End”, a master sniper with certain “ocular issues”. This match was designed to be sssllooooooooowwwww as hell. Taking place over multiple map tiles, with The End having a penchant for only firing at you from surprisingly far distances and throwing flash-bang grenades in your light-enhancing-googles-wearing face the second you get anywhere near him. You have to search for him through a relatively massive section of jungle as he just sits his hidden ass down and waits for you to cross his path. It’s a lesson in patience and the importance of focused observation skills. I think it took me 30-60 minutes to defeat him, the first time I played through the game.
I was fearing this part of the game when I embarked on my quest. I knew it was going to be long, probably frustrating, and I figured a testament to how I can overestimate my skills with games sometimes. But, well…I remembered to use thermal googles to discern the man from the rest of the environment’s foliage, and to use said goggles to keep an eye out for the man’s footprints. The match was over in ten minutes.
I honestly can’t explain the disparity. But I love that the game keeps surprising me.