Continuation to: “The Decisions:Metal Gear Solid 2!”, a four part series analyzing the design behind Metal Gear Solid 2:Sons of Liberty, you can read part one and two here:The Decisions Part 1 and The Decisions Part 2
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty completely relies on it’s narrative to provide the player a reason for why events are occurring in the game the way they are; from a protagonist shift, to the player’s abilities and actions, I find that MGS2 completely depends on it’s narrative to justify what happens within the game’s world. Through plot, exposition between the characters through dialogue, and established circumstances, the reason behind the player’s actions are made apparent.
To start off directly with plot is quite dangerous, regarding MGS2 as there are many examples that could be used to make a claim regarding how the game’s plot affect it’s overall narrative. A key example that I am going to talk about in regards to the plot is the protagonist shift between Metal Gear Solid and MGS2. Before MGS2 launched, no one knew that the character Raiden existed. In an interview that I conducted with Quinton Flynn, the voice actor of Raiden, the only way that Mr.Flynn knew that he was playing a main character was only “through the amount of lines that I’ve recorded for the character.” This protagonist shift caused a lot of controversy simply because every MGS fan wanted to play as Solid Snake at the time, causing a general disliking of the new main protagonist, Raiden. However, the game explains this shift through the supposed death of Solid Snake. With the protagonist of Metal Gear Solid dead, someone else had to take the mantle of being “Snake”. Ironically, at the start of the game, Raiden is referred to as “Snake” for the entirety of the tutorial. Having established that Solid Snake was dead, and that we were a new character entirely, the player begins to embark on a journey through the ideas of a character that wasn’t a stealth veteran. As soon as Raiden’s portion of the game begins, you’re attacked with all of the mission objectives, concerns, and even fourth-wall breaking in which the “Colonel” tells you what you need to do to accomplish your mission. The plot establishes the game’s narrative in hopes of giving immediate justification for your actions, so that you are interested from the get-go. The first hour in Raiden’s section felt more like a tutorial than Solid Snake’s section, which is ironic because “The Tanker Incident” is a segment that can be played before “The Big Shell Incident.” It’s simple matters like that, that stuck out to me as I played the game. The plot established the game’s world for me, and why I am sneaking around and trying to avoid detection, however, the exchanges between the characters when you weren’t participating in any action, is what really drove the narrative home to me.
Through the exchanges that the characters have in the game’s codec system (means of communication between characters), you are given the backstory between characters, why the characters feel the way they do, how they feel regarding their actions and even their own personal thoughts. After every encounter, boss-fight, and exploration of a new location, you can call your “support team” to hear what they think about the situation. Despite being killed off in “The Tanker Incident”, Solid Snake makes a reappearance as “Iroquois Pliskin”, an undercover operative that infiltrated The Big Shell the same day that Raiden did. Though, his true identity isn’t revealed until the end game, through his dialogue with Raiden, it is revealed that he is in fact, Solid Snake. In a codec call between Raiden and Snake, he refers to a speech given by Gray Fox, a character in MGS, that truly had an impact on his character growth. Through these interactions, I was exposed to character development. Towards the end of the game, it is revealed that the game’s true antagonist, The Patriots, were pulling the strings all along. Within a matter of five minutes, you receive multiple codec calls from “The Colonel”, who is an A.I posing as the real Colonel Campbell from MGS, going haywire. Without the codec system, I find it hard to believe that you would be able to witness the increase in exposition in regards to the side characters. Besides Snake, you only meet: Otacon, Emma Emmerich, A Cyborg Ninja, the operatives of Dead Cell, and the President within the game’s world. The best way to look at MGS2’s story, is that there are always two stories occurring as you play: what you see through cut-scenes, boss fights, and gameplay, and what you hear in regards to the codec calls that you can make at any time.
To conclude this analysis, I would like to talk about how the narrative provides the player a reason for their actions and a purpose to take those actions. At the beginning of the game, the “Colonel” calls the player and explains to the player that their objective is as simple: “1.) Rescue the President”. Given an objective, the Colonel then goes on about how the mission is an “on-site procurement” based mission, which establishes a lore reason why Raiden doesn’t have any weapons to defend himself from the get-go. Due to this, the player is now given a reason to play the game in a stealth manner as intended, until they discover weapons within the base. Through the usage of the first codec in the game, the player is given an objective to complete and a means to go about it; avoiding detection. The narrative gives purpose, and reason, for the player’s actions in the system.