Solid History: A Metal Gear Primer

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The birth of the Snakes, the founding of Outer Heaven, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010)

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Okay, now things get weird. I know we’ve just mucked around with triple agents and military industrial complexes, but now we’re getting into the pseudo-spiritual and downright bizarre directions Metal Gear Solid can go. Are you ready? Because it involves cloning.

You’re probably wondering why we haven’t mentioned Solid Snake yet. Solid Snake is, of course, the most iconic character in the series and the guy you play as in most Metal Gear games. All this other stuff has been important, but shouldn’t he be in the picture too?

Well, two years after Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Big Boss is injured and put in a coma. Major Zero is worried the undisputed Greatest Soldier of All Time won’t recover, so he takes some of Boss’ DNA, calls up Eva, who uses her womb as a surrogate mother for three baby Big Boss clones. Their names are Liquid Snake, Solid Snake and Solidus Snake. Liquid and Solid are both imperfect clones and have Boss’ recessive and dominant genes respectively, but Solidus is supposedly the marquee “perfect Big Boss.”

Big Boss awakes from his coma, learns he now has three baby warmachines running around, and is disgusted with Major Zero’s actions. Big Boss leaves the Patriots, and goes on his own little spirit journey, which is covered in a game called Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.

In Peace Walker Big Boss starts an organization called Soldiers Without Borders to investigate a secretive Costa Rican army, and quickly realizes that these Costa Ricans are building a Metal Gear. Which, you know what? We’re a few slides in and I haven’t explained what a Metal Gear is, which is funny considering its the namesake of the whole franchise. Remember the Shagohod? The mobile nuclear-bomb dispensing tank we talked about all the way back in Metal Gear Solid III? That’s basically the prototype of all Metal Gears. They’re giant pieces of armor that shoot nukes and there’s always a few lurking around in every game of this series.

Anyways, so the Costa Ricans are building a Metal Gear called Peace Walker. Peace Walker threatens the whole world with nuclear annihilation, but with the end goal of bringing peace. If you make sure the world governments know that launching a nuclear missile is guaranteeing the apocalypse, nobody would push the button, right? Right!?

It doesn’t work: the Americans manipulate Peace Walker’s mainframe and turn the missiles on Cuba, which forces Big Boss to destroy it. This sours relations even more between the U.S. and Big Boss, which leads to Big Boss establishing his own, and I quote, “military base nation” called Outer Heaven (!) to take the fight directly to Major Zero’s Patriots.

The debut of Solid Snake, the duplicity of Big Boss, and Metal Gear (1987)

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Up to this point we’ve talked about the parts of the Metal Gear story that have played out on relatively modern consoles like the PS2 and PSP. This changes now. Remember how I said chronologically this franchise is all over the place? Well, now we’re going to jump and talk about the original Metal Gear, which was released in the mid-‘80s on the MSX2 and NES. Did Hideo Kojima have any conception of the vast, conspiratorial contexts these games would be sorted into while he was designing them? I have no idea. But let’s get started.

Metal Gear is the first time we play as Solid Snake. At this point he’s just a rookie agent in FOXHOUND with no idea that he’s a clone or that Big Boss, the Greatest Soldier of All Time, is his genealogical father. Solid Snake looks and talks exactly like Big Boss, which doesn’t make total empirical sense because he’s supposed to be an imperfect clone with only Boss’ dominant genes. The reason for this, obviously, is because when Hideo Kojima decided to make Metal Gear Solid III he had to get his iconic character in the story one way or another, but I digress.

Solid Snake is assigned to infiltrate—wait for it—Outer Heaven, the world’s preeminent rogue military base nation, because they’re currently building a Metal Gear to war directly with Major Zero’s Patriots. Snake completes his mission, but all the while he’s got a sneaking suspicion that his commanding officer at FOXHOUND has it out for him. That’s probably nothing though, right? There’s no reason to acknowledge the possibility of dubious collusion thus far in this series, so why start now?

So yeah, Solid Snake is totally right to be suspicious. The commanding officer of FOXHOUND is—drumroll—Big Boss! Yes, Big Boss is the head of both Outer Heaven and FOXHOUND, which means he was organizing an assault on his own organization. Snake and Big Boss have this big 8-bit confrontation where Boss lays it down that by taking control of FOXHOUND he was trying to stall Snake’s mission long enough so Outer Heaven could finish building his Metal Gear. Snake wins the fight, leaves Big Boss for cough dead, and destroys the Metal Gear.

So this is interesting because Big Boss is literally the straight-up bad guy in Metal Gear. The first game of the series has you again, cough killing Big Boss and completing your mission. The dude we’ve been playing as in Portable Ops, Peace Walker, and MGS III meets a rather unceremonious end in the very first game in the series. That’s what people love about Metal Gear Solid—you can connect the dots over the course of generations, and it’s pretty thrilling when it all comes together.

Anyways, Big Boss is not finished. That’s why I was coughing at you so much just now.

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