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Part 7: Nanomachine Overkill

PART 8: Vamp Becomes Science

Much like Solid Snake, Vamp has changed since the last time we saw him. In Metal Gear Solid 2 there was no explanation for Vamp's immortality, his ability to move on top of water, run vertically up walls, or pin Raiden's shadow to the floor with throwing knives.  His creepy religious backstory explained his bloodthirst, but nothing else, and therefore fans were left wondering what was really going on with him. Loose ends abounded.

Those who studied his water theme noticed that he tended to "resurrect" when he came into contact with water; whether it was Fortune's teardrop, the filtration water, or the ocean water around the strut bridge. These inexplicable hints helped form a theory about some mystical connection that was never fleshed out. People turned to the unused Chinaman character to understand his conceptual basis, but this did nothing to satisfy their curiosity about the science-fiction excuses that were lacking.

After MGS4's "explanations", the question is why Kojima abandoned his original direction for the character, using retroactive continuity to explain some of the mystery, while ignoring other parts entirely. Why did Vamp become science?


Obvious Reasons

For those who wish to defend the Vamp powers "twist" (if such fans exist) the obvious answer is that... well... it's just more rational than having supernatural powers! Even the early Metal Gear games had crazy technology, so it only makes sense that there would be leaps in scientific ability by the time Guns of the Patriots takes place. Vamp's powers should be no different!

"Kojima isn't a scientist, nor is he a mystic; he's just a writer with a job to do."

In a codec conversation about the Haven Troopers and Vamp, Otacon says that when technology becomes advanced enough, it may as well be magic! It's Kojima's way of simply admitting that there isn't much difference between magic and futuristic technology when it comes to explaining the impossible. Kojima isn't a scientist, nor is he a mystic; he's just a writer with a job to do. In MGS4 that job was to reveal the mystery behind Vamp's powers, so he took the writer's liberty to explain a bizarre plot hole with a simple sci-fi excuse.

Would we really have been happier with some huge, detailed monologue about how it works, who made it and when? Fans complain about the amount of tedious exposition in the series enough already!

Another reason for making Vamp science is that it gives Naomi a deeper connection than simply being lovers who are fighting on the same "side". His powers are based on her research, as she explains, which means he owes her his life. Without the science, would we still have this scene?

Naomi: He was never immortal. His natural healing abilities were enhanced by the nanomachines inside his body. But after so many battles... He's finally reached his limit.

Vamp: Doctor... Ease my pain.

For the sake of character development, it works: rather than being strangers united by Liquid Ocelot's schemes, the two are profoundly tied together. If Vamp's powers were the result of some magical nonsense (or if they weren't explained at all,) it would once again feel like answers were missing.


The Hidden Reasons

Perhaps there's more to Vamp's scientific explanation than the obvious reasons mentioned above. Yes it "answers" some questions, but look at the backlash it has generated in the Metal Gear community and it quickly becomes apparent that this wasn't the best way to please fans. The demystifying of Vamp comes at the cost of his appeal. Did Kojima really not care? Was it just laziness once again?

Look at the conspicuous silence around Vamp's "other" powers, such as the "shadow stitching" technique he used in the filtration chamber of the Big Shell. The MGS4 Database says that this "Kagenui" technique uses hypnosis to paralyze the target... but it's nowhere to be seen in MGS4. Why not? I can understand why he wouldn't want to rehash the same boss tricks for gameplay reasons, but ignoring it altogether seems suspicious.

Or what about that problematic water theme? Obviously he included it for a reason in MGS2, but it's as if it has no significance in MGS4. Instead, it's all nanomachines. In MGS4, wall-running is explained with hooks on the boots and... whatever the name of that one science effect is... but in MGS2 he doesn't wear those hooks. He's just wearing normal boots.

The most reasonable answer for these omissions and excuses, in my opinion, is that Kojima wanted to create a clear contradiction between MGS2 and 4, so that fans would have to choose which one to believe. Rather than bridge the two games by acknowledging all of the character's mysteries, he widens the gap. Those who enjoyed Vamp in MGS2 are almost sure to be disappointed with him in MGS4, much like Solid Snake's inexplicable transformation. It wouldn't have been hard to come up with some pseudo-science explanation for the water theme; in fact it could have opened up even more interesting possibilities. But instead we have a gutted version of the character, slapped on as a generic "number two" for Liquid Ocelot, doing epic dance contests with Raiden on top of Metal Gear REX.

Actually that part was pretty cool so I won't complain about it. Still though, it's stupid, and it goes to show that Kojima wasn't even trying to do the series justice this time around.


Continue to next part

PART NINE: Product Placement

January 6, 2010

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