Solid History: A Metal Gear Primer

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Nanomachines, PMCS, the return of Big Boss, and Metal Gear Solid IV (2008)

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Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots is the most recent console Metal Gear Solid game, and my personal vote for the best in the series. It’s a perfect culmination of all the weird, wild, wonderful themes that makes this franchise so downright memorable. Chronologically it’s the last game in the series and it’s told with hallowed language on the grandest scale Hideo Kojima could muster.

In the once-distant year of 2014, the world is run by Private Military Companies, the most powerful of which are commanded by Ocelot. Remember this is Liquid Ocelot, because Liquid’s old dead arm is still controlling Ocelot’s brain somehow. Solid Snake looks like he’s in his 60s. That FOXDIE virus he was infected with back in the first Metal Gear Solid? Yeah, that’s starting to take effect and he only has a year to live. However, the U.N. knows there’s only one man who can take down Liquid. Snake, even in his accelerated-aging, is the only hero we’ve got.

In Metal Gear Solid IV it’s finally stated that a lot of the crazy stuff that happens in this universe, from the super powers to Liquid’s arm taking control of Ocelot’s brain, can be blamed on nanomachines. These are microscopic pieces of technology that flow through your veins and regulate your body. The PMCs are all injected with nanomachines, which keeps them cohesive and controllable. Liquid Ocelot’s big play is to recover Big Boss’ body (again) and use that to access The Patriot’s core A.I. From there he can take control of all the nanomachines in the world, which would make him unstoppable.

Here you get a greatest hits of all of Metal Gear’s tropes. You run into Eva again, who knows where Big Boss’ body is. Raiden becomes a cybernetic ninja assassin and finally proves his worth, and there’s also an arms dealer with a pet monkey. But I digress. Snake isn’t able to stop Liquid Ocelot in time—he gets access to The Patriots A.I. and the nanomachines, which allow him to more or less shut down all the other PMCs outside of the ones he controls.

Liquid’s final play is to retreat to Shadow Moses where he can arm a nuclear warhead and destroy The Patriots’ A.I. once and for all, basically giving him undisputed domination of everything. Solid Snake, in his final mission, is able to stop Liquid before the launch of his missile. Snake uploads a virus that destroys literally all artificial intelligence in the world, and for the life of me I still don’t know why exactly that was the key to success. I mean, wasn’t Liquid trying to do the same thing?

Whatever, all A.I. is destroyed; the Patriot A.I. puppeteering our political processes are dead; people and armies are free of the nanomachines programming their actions. Liquid and Snake have a great final fistfight that recalls their first encounter back in Metal Gear Solid, and Snake wins. He destroys Liquid once and for all. For the first time in the history of Metal Gear, there isn’t some secretive cabal orchestrating things from behind the curtain. No Philosophers, no Patriots, no FOXHOUND, no nothing.

But there is one final scene. Solid Snake is in a graveyard and planning to kill himself before the FOXDIE takes him. But before he pulls trigger he runs into—drumroll please—Big Boss! He wasn’t dead! What? Wasn’t everyone trying to get to his body to program genome soldiers and access A.I. protocols? This doesn’t make any sense. But it’s so good to see him!

Big Boss proceeds to drop a whole bunch of exposition. He explains that, through some random skullduggery, Solid Snake doesn’t have the FOXDIE virus anymore so he’s not going to die, but more importantly he talks about the nature of The Patriots. Remember thousands of words ago Big Boss was one of the founders of The Patriots, before an insurrection between him and Major Zero caused them to part ways and lock in a secret struggle—the original Metal Gear, remember! Big Boss founded The Patriots under the doctrine of the original Boss, his mentor who he was forced to kill all the way back in Metal Gear Solid 3. However Major Zero’s corruption, reliance on A.I., and aspirations of world dominance perverted The Patriots from their original goals. I should mention that Big Boss is accompanied by a near-comatose man in a wheelchair and life support. This is Major Zero. Big Boss turns off Zero’s life support, finally ending their decades-long, franchise-spanning war in a hilariously overdramatic way.

With that, Big Boss turns to The Boss’ grave, and admits that all his mentor ever wanted was for her soldiers to work to leave the world as it was. And there we are, free of all the conspiracies that we’ve been wrapped up in since the beginning of this series.

Big Boss salutes The Boss’ grave, and slowly passes away. Solid Snakes lights a cigar in Boss’ mouth as he fades out, bringing the Metal Gear Solid saga to a close.

What to expect with Metal Gear Solid V

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So that’s a lot to swallow. I get it. Metal Gear lore is super complex and even through all that we didn’t scratch the surface of some of the characters. However we should talk a little bit about Metal Gear Solid V and where it fits into the overarching chronology.

Metal Gear Solid V takes place in 1984 which slots it ahead of Peace Walker and Portable Ops but before the original Metal Gear. You’ll be playing as Big Boss at a very pivotal time in his life. Remember in Metal Gear he’s the bad guy, a duplicitous leader of FOXHOUND and Outer Heaven trying to kill Solid Snake before he’s able to destroy the war machine he’s building in his war against Major Zero. In Metal Gear Solid V Big Boss is in Afghanistan and Africa—maybe we’ll finally learn what lead him to such maniacal means?

It’s also important to remember that Metal Gear Solid V appears to be the swansong for Hideo Kojima. Kojima is on his way out at Konami, which means the Metal Gear property, the game he’s worked on for four decades, will be handed off to someone else. Bet your bottom dollar that he wants to go out with a bang.

Luke Winkie is a writer living in Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter at @luke_winkie.

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