Back to Main
Back to Classic Site


Back to Metal Gear Solid 2

Exhibit H: The Ending

 

The Meta-Narrative Goal

After the laughable RAY battle atop the VR training stage, we're nearing the end of the game. Fortune brings in a handcuffed Snake, and Raiden is knocked out by Solidus. When we wake up, we can look up and see the moon above; we're still on top of Arsenal. This is where everybody explains their true goals. Solidus wants to find out how to destroy the Patriots, while Fortune wants to steal Arsenal. Ocelot explains about the S3 Plan being the "Solid Snake Simulation" and shoots Fortune, but before he can destroy everybody she does her impossible and unexplained miracle. Following this, Liquid Snake takes over and escapes with RAY, while Arsenal Gear crashes through 6 or 7 city blocks of New York City — which would've been shown if not for the attacks of September 11th.

After landing and hearing Solidus' spiel, Raiden is called by G.W. Here is where the true goal of the Patriots is revealed, along with the brilliance of Kojima's meta-narrative. Since Raiden represents the player, then the S3 Plan (the game Raiden is playing through) represents Metal Gear Solid 2 itself. And just as the S3 Plan was directed by the Patriots, MGS2 was directed by Kojima. His intentions for the player were translated into the Patriots' intentions for Raiden: namely, to find out whether they compel a person with free will to follow orders simply by creating the proper context. Let's allow Kojima explain it:

Colonel: The S3 is a system for controlling human will and consciousness. S3 is not you, a soldier trained in the image of Solid Snake. It is -- a method, a protocol, that created a circumstance that made you what you are.

Rose: So you see, we're the S3. Not you.

Colonel: What you experienced was the final test of its effectiveness.

Perhaps the most brilliant part of this conversation is that even while they explain the S3 Plan to you, they are testing you! It's part of the mission: will you continue to follow orders, even when you know that following orders will result in the completion of the enemy's plot to control the world? Will you — like President Johnson — play out your part, despite knowing that it's part of the evil plan? Will you freely choose to be a puppet?

Colonel: Your persona, experiences, triumphs and defeats are nothing but byproducts. The real objective was ensuring that we could generate and manipulate them. It's taken a lot of time and money, but it was well worth it considering the results. I think that's enough talk. It's time for the final exercise. Raiden, take Solidus down.

Raiden: Think again! I'm through doing what I'm told!

Colonel: Oh really? Aren't you forgetting something?

Olga: If you die, my child dies.

Colonel: The termination of vital signals from your nanomachines means the death of Olga's child. Not to mention the death of Rose. She's wired the same way.

Raiden: Rose -- does she actually exist?

Rose : Of course I do, Jack! You have to beLIEve me!

Raiden : Damn...

The final exercise of the S3 Plan (ie. Metal Gear Solid 2) is to fight Solidus despite knowing that it's a part of the enemy plan. Raiden, like the player, feels like rebelling against the Patriots, but can't. He only has one choice, unless he wants to give up and turn off the game. But we've come too far and waited too long for this game to give up now, haven't we?

If we choose to finish the game by beating Solidus, we are treated to another disheartening and ironic pep talk by the enemy:

Colonel: Raiden, you have to beat Solidus! This is your last duty!

Raiden: We're not just pawns in some simulation game, you know!

Rose: Yes, you are. You're nothing but mere weapons. No different from fighter jets or tanks.

Colonel: And a weapon has no right to think for itself! Now, it's time to fulfill your purpose! Defeat Solidus!

If you're wondering how all of this fits into the VR Theory, it's simple: both Raiden and the player are now aware that, on some level, everything they've done is fake and meaningless. We both went into the game hoping to relive something like Shadow Moses, but were given a lie instead. We have both faced the possibility that everything was a digital illusion inside his head (as evidenced by Raiden asking whether Rose was real, even at the end,) and yet we've chosen to play along anyway, all the way to the end. We have, with our own freedom, obeyed the fiction. And now we're faced with the question of what it all meant. And of course, who should appear to help us with this, except our imaginary friend, Snake...

 

The Point

Snake : The memories you have and the role you were assigned are burdens you have to carry. It doesn't matter if they were real or not. That's never the point.

Snake : There's no such thing in the world as absolute reality. Most of what they call real is actually fiction. What you think you see is only as real as your brain tells you it is.

Why would Kojima include these lines if he didn't anticipate (by providing sufficient evidence for) the VR Theory? He wanted us to be faced with the fact that it was virtual reality, simply so that he could tell us that, ultimately, it's irrelevant!


Many players would beg to differ, trust me...


An illusion.

There's more to the game than wanting to play a stealth mission and kill bad guys. Those who demand that the in-game scenario be "real" (as opposed to VR) are guilty of not seeing the game for what it is; of being unable to handle the truth.

The point of the Metal Gear series is to cause you to think; to ask questions, impart morals, and pass on something meaningful. This can be done regardless of whether the actual events are "real" in the Metal Gear universe. The ending perfectly explains this, while also reinforcing it by showing us more of the implausible. We can turn a blind eye to it by pretending its real, or we can see it for what it is, and still retreive "truths" from the fiction.

We see that the street in front of Federal Hall is totally empty, except for Raiden. Then as Raiden stands around, crowds of people begin appearing from out of nowhere, walking in slow-motion. Aside from a few running cops, they're oblivious to the catastrophe. Snake appears out of nowhere too. Like the Colonel and Rose, Snake is part of the illusion, and his role is to make the poison pill easier to swallow. He's cobbled together from our hopes and expectations, and stays true to form here, making the ending seem satisfying, even though we've just given the Patriots the data they need in order to complete their test.

As explained in Exhibit E, the arrival of Rose proves different things to different people. The fact that she is also undisturbed by the situation, and is apparently the same person as the "Rose" in the codec conversations, creates a kind of paradox. Was the codec version real? What about after G.W. began clitching? Where does reality end and the illusion begin?

These are things we don't want to bother with. Like Raiden, we want to assure ourselves that Rose is real, and that everything is fine. The game is over, and we've done our mission just as we were told. Isn't that good?


The "lie" within the belief. Clever.

It pays to consider the meta-narrative at all times throughout Metal Gear Solid 2, but the ending in particular speaks to the player. We were coaxed into buying the game thinking that we would play as Solid Snake, but this was just a coax to get us into Kojima's twisted plan. We were betrayed, lied to, and for what? The point is to start over, as Raiden is encouraged to do, except with a new mentality. Throw away the old dog tags, and pick a new name. Don't pretend that it's real, but see it for what it is: virtual reality. A game. A story with "memes" and morals, and many layers.

Back to The Pitch

All original content © Terry Wolfe, 2008 - Present. Metal Gear, Metal Gear Solid and all related logos, characters, artwork, etc. © KONAMI CORPORATION
This is a fansite, and nothing on this site is intended for sale or profit.