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Exhibit G: Arsenal Gear


Are you ready for some fun?

So you've frozen the bomb in the ladies' bathroom, led a hydrophobic nerd girl around by the hand, and been inappropriately touched by the President. What else could there be to do? How about being stripped naked—literally and figuratively—and forced to run through cold hallways that are named after parts of the human bowels, while being told to turn off the game?

Like the final areas of most action games, Arsenal Gear is designed to push the player to the limit... but not in the way that we're used to. Yes, the odds are stacked against you more than ever, and yes you need to stay extra cautious if you want to make it out alive, but there is an extreme psychological aspect to deal with as well, as we're confronted by the most glaring indicators of a false reality yet.

The levels of madness in Arsenal Gear have been remarked on many times before, but people seem to glaze over the implications in favour of making fun and playing along. That's natural when you're faced with something that challenges your beliefs. We all know it wasn't included by accident, and there's certainly no way to play through it without thinking about how crazy it is. It truly is like a surreal nightmare, from the music to the pause menu, and it's all a way of illustrating something.

Here is a topical breakdown of Arsenal Gear. Click on a section to open it.

The Torture Room

At this point in the game the player is completely confused, and should be at least a little worried about what's next. We've just been betrayed and knocked out by our hero as well as our Gray-Fox wannabe, just as the whole Big Shell falls apart around us... It's like the Tanker sinking all over again!

There are several important metaphors to think about here. Firstly, the destruction of the "Big Shell" reflects the destruction of the big illusion we were running around in. The false front is gone, exposing the tender underbelly of the simulation. It's vulnerable to attack and criticism now. It's daring us to destroy the dream, and all the false promises that come with it.

Secondly, the player feels as naked as Raiden. We want to cover our shame and hide from this embarassing turn of events; we want to be able to pretend that we're important, that our mission is real, and that everything will be OK if we just keep going. We need to find Snake!

We're naked except for our dogtags, which obviously represent our identity. It's literally all we have! But is it any coincidence that Solidus has just finished feeding us a tragic and juicy backstory about Raiden's "true past"? Could Raiden have once again invented a story about his identity to protect his ego from harm? To prevent him from being completely naked? First he thought he was "Snake" from FOXHOUND, and now as that identity is stripped from him he becomes "Jack the Ripper". If Kojima intended for Sons of Liberty to truly illustrate a point about self-delusion and the challenge of questioning the reality around us, something like this was necessary.

The torture room is also where Olga talks about the S3 Plan, and wonders aloud if Raiden will "handle the truth"...


The A.I. In Your Head

If ever the so-called "Fourth Wall" was broken, it is here.

Our illusion is once again demolished, and this time it's by our own "support team". They interrupt us from going forward, remind us that it's just a game, and try to give us reasons to stop playing. Or wait... are they talking to us or Raiden?

Kojima has not yet revealed that the "Colonel" (and apparently Rose) is A.I., and so we are left to speculate on why this is happening and what it means. Do we continue playing the game, even when the game is telling us to stop?

It's interesting that this happens as soon as your former identity as a FOXHOUND operative is finally destroyed, because it means that the people telling you to stop playing are actually the "bad guys" who you shouldn't take advice from. What are they hiding? Why don't they want you to continue the mission? It's simple reverse-psychology! We later discover that the S3 Plan sought for us to finish the mission in spite of knowing that it was a lie, and so the game wields the truth like a weapon for you to avoid! Those who value their silly mission above the truth will fall for their trap, and those who value the truth above all have no choice but to quit. It's the S3 Plan in action.


The Floating Graphics

Throughout Arsenal Gear we see floating vector graphics, defying logic.

These are seen surrounding the Metal Gear RAYs in the hangers, but the most mind-boggling example is in the aptly-named "Ascending Colon", where all of the doors are locked and we are constantly annoyed with calls from the "Colonel".

Rotating graphics travel behind the walls, clearly reminiscent of a VR training stage. And in addition to this, there is a trail of honeycomb-shaped graphics flickering beneath our feat as we run around. I wonder where those are taken from...

Eventually, after wasting enough time being trapped in this dreamlike corridor which is named after part of the colon, our radar is replaced entirely by a random movie of an attractive asian woman. Your reality is once again falling apart at the seams, but unlike before, Kojima forces you to sit here and dwell on it for a good while.

The Pause/Fission Mailed Screens

Welcome to the pause screen!

To reinforce that Raiden's perception of reality is directly tied to A.I., our pause screen has been swapped with this cryptic image, involving some big shells and a Snake. I recall reading about the Asian mythology behind this picture, and noting any appropriate coincidences between it and the game's story, but in the end it serves to make the game seem even more surreal and nonsensical.

And let's not forget the infamous "Fission Mailed" screen, which appears as you fight the Tengu ninjas with Snake. The A.I. is literally controlling what you see and hear, to the point where they can summon your mission failed screen whenever they want!

But there's more significance here than that. Because just like the regular Mission Failed screen, this screen contains statistics where you are, how strong your arms are, how much ammo you have, how Alerts you've caused, etc.. Why? The messages are slightly coded so that they aren't easy to understand, so obviously they weren't designed to be a practical reference tool to the player. Is it just an "Easter Egg"? Or is it yet another hint that this mission, like all the ones Raiden has done before, is taking place inside of a computer simulation?

There are simply too many glaring indicators to write them all off as "jokes" or "winks". We were meant to question what we were being shown, and be confronted by the virtual reality we were trying to enjoy.


The Magic Snake

Perhaps the biggest problem facing the VR Theory is the presence and actions of Solid Snake in the Plant Chapter. After all, we're told that he is "not part of the simulation" by G.W., so obviously he must be real, right? And besides, how crappy would MGS2 be if Solid Snake was in our head?

But the evidence is all there to suggest that he too is imaginary. The fact that we want him to be real does not make him so—and in Raiden's case, it makes him even more suspicious. The Colonel was, after all, part of his expectations and experience, so there's no guarantee that Snake wasn't as well. Just look at the screenshot to the left, for example: Raiden is naked and trapped in a very surreal hallway, with swirling graphics and nonsensical codec calls. We become desperate for something or somebody to come by and save us; and as Raiden said before, he thinks Snake has his gear...

Eventually, it cuts to a cinema. Raiden's walking along, when we hear Snake say, "Amazing how you walk around like that." Raiden turns to see who it is... but as you can clearly see, the hallway is empty. The camera then cuts to Raiden's face, who looks surprised and says "Snake!" And in the next shot we see our hero, once again decked out in his sneaking suit, casually leaning against the same wall we just saw was empty. And as the script's notes reveal: "Snake wears the familiar bandanna on his head, which is rippling despite the absence of any breeze. This is the familiar Snake of old, beloved of fans." Wow!

Our prayers have been answered! Snake appears magically, right at our most desperate state, wearing his old suit and ready to help cover our nakedness, and he even gives us a shiny new ninja sword! He shares philosophical encouragement, spiritual direction and (ha ha?) "Infinite ammo."

Players, like Raiden, are more than ready to believe what we're seeing. The Colonel stops calling, Snake is our best friend, and we can even deflect bullets using our sword like Gray Fox from Shadow Moses! But when we soon find out that the Colonel was in our head, Raiden becomes paranoid.



Raiden: It was all -- an illusion? Everything I've done so far...?

Snake: Raiden!

Raiden: Snake -- what's happening around here?

Snake: I don't know. What I do know is that you're standing right here in front of me, not an illusion -- flesh and blood. It's your call. You can drop this if you want.

Raiden: No, I can't do that. Let's go...

Soon enough the "Colonel" calls, saying that Rose is being held in the holds...

Snake: It's a trap!

Rose: Help!

Raiden: Rose!

Snake: Raiden, get a grip!

Raiden: But Snake!

Snake: It's a trap. If the Colonel doesn't exist, there's no way he can take Rose hostage.

Raiden: Yeah -- you're right...

Snake: I am right.

It gets better after this, but the question must be asked: is Snake stupid? Even if he can somehow hear the voices in Raiden's head, his logic is absurd! The Colonel may not "exist", but somebody gave Raiden his equipment and traning; somebody gave him nanomachines and introduced him to Rose in the first place; somebody with very real and far-reaching power! ...Unless of course the whole situation is a dream, in which case logic is unnecessary. Raiden's reply is priceless:

Raiden: ...OK. But... Does Rose -- exist -- ?

Snake: Don't be weird, she's your --

Raiden: What if I've never really met her... If the Colonel is something that I partly dreamt up, then... everything I remember about her could be --

Snake: Don't jump to conclusions!

Raiden: You and Otacon are the ones who say the Colonel never existed. Is this what Olga was talking about?

For a moment, Raiden truly considers that everything and everyone is an illusion. "Is this what Olga was talking about?" Of course it is. Kojima made sure that the player would be confronted with the possibility of the VR Theory being true, even if they've tried to ignore it until now. "Snake" tries to whisk away Raiden's doubts any way he can, but he's just another illusion. His magical reappearance, "infinite ammo", and too-good-to-be-true mentoring are the manifestation of Raiden's unrealistic hopes about the legend he has come to worship.

"Not part of the simulation"? Ha! He's the key to making the simulation palatable! The simulation would never work without him! He's the one who cut the whole in the Big Shell for us to swim through in the beginning! He's been a key factor from the start. Being shunned by the "Colonel" is just another way to sell his believability to us! The ending simply reinforces this, as we will see.


The RAY Fight

I'll let the Bradygames™ Official Strategy Guide introduce the next area of Arsenal Gear...

It reads as follows: "Raiden climbs the ladder out of the Sigmoid Colon, arriving at a level that seems ripped straight from one of his VR training missions." Anyone with functioning frontal lobes would say the same!

And yet some people refuse to see the obvious. Because not only does this area resemble a VR stage, it is ripped straight from the photography stages of Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions! Notice the exact same glowing blue boundary? The exact same honeycomb shapes flickering under your feet? There is no escaping it... except through complete denial.

But there's more! After fighting (*snicker*) a dozen or so Metal Gear's by himself in this VR arena, he is saved from being stomped on by Olga, who appears out of nowhere, just like Raiden and Solidus before her. There is no hatch that Raiden came from, and Solidus just zoomed in from outside the glowing VR boundary. She drops down from above, even though it's outdoors.

Also, if you've ever noticed, Solidus actually vanishes into thin air when he leaves before the RAY fight. His image simply fades away, like a ghost. Think about that.

The illusion is falling apart more than ever, and yet it is the climax of the story! We're forced to decide — even if only subconsciously — how real this is. The serious plot and epic events are matched against the silliness of the old VR arena. We've seen all of the insane and illogical parts of the game, and now it's at its boiling point. The mind races to find some feeble way to rationalize the impossible, but ultimately fails.


Were we supposed to ignore these glaring facts? Does all of this, combined, mean nothing? Indicate nothing significant? Can this possibly be taken as reality? No, at least not reasonably. It requires absurd logic to say that this is realistic, plausible, or even physically possible... but what's the alternative?

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