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A Look at What It All Means
Ten articles have been created in this series, and all ten have have analyzed different aspects of Metal Gear Solid 4 with the hope of forming a picture of the hidden agenda by director Hideo Kojima. This intermission takes a break from the specific in-game analysis and simply reviews we've said so far, putting it into context.
The Mystery of the Missed Point
Some people think that the purpose of these articles is to simply complain about how much I hate MGS4, or insult the intelligence of Hideo Kojima; this is absolutely not the case. If there's one thing that this series of articles strives to accomplish, it is to defend the decisions of Hideo Kojima as being cunning and multi-layered. That's why every article is divided into "Obvious" and "Hidden".
|Think of it this way: if nothing in Metal Gear Solid 4 has a hidden purpose — no meta-commentary — then all of its perceived problems really are as bad or good as they seem on the surface, because they must stand on their own merits. The decision to make Solid Snake old, war routine, or nanomachines the explanation for everything are all awkward to defend on their own, as is apparent in the many reviews that gave the game a perfect score. IGN, for example, said: "Indeed, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots shatters the proverbial bar, becoming a technical, cinematic and gaming standard that future action and stealth titles will be judged by". Notice what's missing there? How about the story, messages, themes, and characters? It's completely shallow, and for those fans who care about these things (the true fans) it just doesn't ring true.
Layers exist sometimes.
Of course they do have a second opinion at the end of their review, but it just heaps more mindless praise onto the pile: "This game is emotional, powerful, fun, beautiful, deep, engaging, and just about every other positive adjective you could assign it. Metal Gear Solid 4 pulls you in and doesn't let you go until the final, final credits roll." Huh? I guess I can see why a professional game reviewer who's accustomed to playing shit like Forza Motorsport and Project Runway: The Game would be so impressed, but to those who understand the series, it's got some real problems.
This is also why the community itself was divided. Some argued that everything made sense and was fun, while others tore apart implausibilities and felt sorely disappointed. The argument rages on to this day in some forums, although for the most part it has settled into a general agreement that it the game was "quirky".
And yet, to dismiss these decisions as "quirks" is to miss the point entirely.
Kojima was not silent about his attitude of the game, as I explained in this article. Between being pressured by death threats, including the "Alan Smithee" shot in an early teaser, and saying he wanted to "run away from MGS4 creation" in an interview, it should be obvious that he didn't want to work on the game. Kojima's admission that Snake's apparent suicide had a "hidden theme", which was that "I wanted Snake to die so that I can move on," tells us for a fact that there is at least one hidden theme connecting in-game events directly to Kojima's experience and feelings about being forced to work on the game. Of couse, it's not that we didn't already know that Kojima liked to translate his personal feelings into his games, but this alone sets a very clear precedence for further analysis.
The Story of a Storyteller
And with that in mind, let's look at this revealing confession from Kojima:
"Once again I'd intended for MGS3 to wrap up the series, but so many people wanted to know what happened after "2". Things like the identity of the Patriots and so forth. I had planned on leaving those mysteries as mysteries, but people weren't convinced that the series was wrapped up." (source)
He wanted to leave the mysteries as mysteries, plain and simple! And since he clearly doesn't mind translating his feelings into major in-game plot points, isn't it entirely possible that Kojima — feeling frustrated that so much of his work had been in lost in translation or otherwise neglected — decided to turn the "Great Mysteries of Metal Gear" into stupid farces? If for no other reason than to spurn those who weren't happy with "leaving those mysteries as mysteries", and thus prove his point that they shouldn't have been answered in the first place?
Of course, the evidence in these articles isn't supposed to be official by any stretch of the imagination, but they strive to stay true to the spirit of the game and be aware of the kinds of tricks that Kojima could very well be using. More importantly it keeps in mind the story of a disgruntled Kojima faced with enormous pressure to finish his "mission" at whatever cost, and asks what kind of double meanings he could have implanted as subtext to those who know how to look for it.
So as we continue to look at the game, I hope you'll take it as it's meant to be understood, and not as a simple critique of the "mistakes" or "flaws" Kojima is responsible for. In its own right, MGS4 is a brilliant game if this multi-layered story is true, and shouldn't reflect badly on Kojima at all. Considering how well he has proven himself in the past, and how well he manages to juggle blatant fanservice with hidden themes, I think it is a testament to his creative prowess.