I’ve mentioned before that Silent Hill 2 is my second favorite game of all time; the first – and the one this post is mostly about – is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I adore that game. Actually, the whole series, but that one in particular. But why?
Because it makes you rethink everything you “know” up to that point in the series. It makes you rethink everything you “know” during the game, several times over. It makes you reevaluate the concepts of right and wrong, and does an incredible job of putting you in the shoes of a man who can’t even begin to understand where his loyalties should lie, as all the outlets for that loyalty are discovered to be nothing but false faces and elaborate lies. It also gives you a great deal of backstory on two of the series’ villains and manages to show you that maybe – just maybe – their actions in the other games of the series are, if not morally right, per se, are at least justified.
I’m coming back to this topic now as I finally got to sit and finish Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, which again puts you in control of perennial series “villain” Big Boss/Naked Snake, as he tries to deal with the rescue of two of his followers and a UN Weapons Inspection for his mercenary outfit simultaneously. As in previous iterations of the “Big Boss Prequels” (Portable Ops, MGS3, Peace Walker) nothing is quite what it seems, and poor Snake is going to get shafted yet again. Once again, Kojima is leaving us with more questions than answers – but hopefully that will be rectified when Phantom Pain, the real Metal Gear Solid V, is released, whenever that may be – but that’s almost to be expected. I mean, we have over 25 years of gaming, 10 “main” series entries and 3 spin-off titles, plus a couple of non-canonical entries, all of them with plots that are so convoluted as to make a stoned orb weaver’s web look nice and orderly.
But all of that is a sideline. I’m writing this because it bugs me that some people still call Big Boss a “bad guy.” Sure, he was the antagonist of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. Sure, his legacy and actions hover over MGS1, 2 and 4, motivating the actual villains. But given all the crap that’s happened to him, can you really blame him? I mean, let’s take stock of his “bad” list:
* Kidnapped the “creator” of the modern Metal Gears, forced him to build one, and then prepped to use it for World Domination (TM)
* Kidnapped a few of his former agents, built a new Metal Gear, and tried again.
* Founded a pair of mercenary organizations (MSF and Outer Heaven) that he intended to use to cause unending conflict.
* Attempted, multiple times, to murder his son/clone, Solid Snake.
Okay. Those are all pretty bad. But then, in MGS4, we find out that pretty much all of that was done in an attempt to bring his former comrade-in-arms, Major Zero, out of hiding so he could put an end to the Patriots, who were basically crushing the concept of free will out of the world. Maybe the ends don’t always justify the means, but he was aiming for something good in the end… even if he had to break quite a lot of eggs to get there. And, with the (unwitting) assistance of his son, a couple of doctors, his old ally/rival Ocelot and one child prodigy, in the end he succeeds. Maybe that doesn’t exonerate him for the wrongs he committed along the way… but at least he had a purpose other than becoming an Evil Overlord (TM).
But then take a step back, and look at the prequel games, and maybe you start to wonder if Big Boss’ extreme methods were perhaps a little justified. Here’s a list of the “bad” inflicted on him:
* His lover, mentor and surrogate mother, The Boss, seems to betray him, their country, and everything they supposedly stand for, leaving him maimed and nearly dead in hostile territory. Several times.
* His country and commanding officers use him to eliminate The Boss and her hand-picked elite commandos, forcing him to kill them all. This is made even worse when it’s revealed that The Boss never actually betrayed him, and that every event thusfar has been carefully orchestrated to lead to Snake’s having to kill the supposed “double agent”. And why? For a pile of money, basically.
* His “friend” Major Zero, once he has his hands on that money, uses it to start an organization designed to promote “peace.” To ensure that no one else will have to suffer the destruction of life and ideals that Snake went through. Recruiting Big Boss and several of his rivals, friends and contemporaries, the Patriots are born… but Zero quickly perverts their ideals, causing a schism that ultimately results in the Sons of Big Boss being created, Ocelot being forced into terrorism, Eva being shoved into hiding, Gray Fox (formerly a child soldier under Big Boss’ care) being turned into a robotic monstrosity, the death of Para-Medic (though she kinda had it coming, given what she did to Fox) and Big Boss being the puppet leader of Foxhound (at least until he starts Outer Heaven and uses one of his clones to begin his master plan to remove the Patriots.)
* All three of his known children are used as tools of the Patriots, put to the singular task of flushing Big Boss out, destroying his plans and dreams, and trying to kill him. Two of them eventually break free of the Patriots’ control and eventually assist in bringing about the freedom Big Boss desires, while the third finds his position as the Patriots’ tool actually used for Big Boss’ agenda, but the point remains: they turn his kids into weapons to use against him.
* His country mockingly gives him the title of Big Boss after forcing him to murder the only woman he genuinely cared about. What’s worse, both he and they know that it was all a smokescreen, and that “heroism” and “patriotism” had nothing to do with any of it.
* Two of his followers, one a child and the other masquerading as one, are kidnapped, luring Big Boss to come rescue them. While he’s occupied – eventually discovering that one’s been mind-fucked so severely that he’s half insane, and the other has had bombs surgically inserted into her – enemy forces – presumably under the command of Zero, though we’ll find out for sure once Phantom Pain hits – enter his mercenary organization’s home base under the guise of a weapons inspection, and slaughter everyone. Only four are known to survive; Big Boss, his pal Kaz Miller, Chico (the crazy child soldier) and Huey Emmerich (Otacon from other games’ father.) MSF is described as being huge, hundreds of soldiers in their employ; Big Boss treats his men as extensions of himself. And XOF/Cipher/the CIA/the Patriots/whoever slaughter nearly every single one of them.
I’m sure there’s worse in store for Big Boss when MGSV hits the shelves, but I really think he may be one of the single most justified and understandable “villains” out there. Admittedly, I’ve always had a soft spot for the bad guys, and really love when they have actual motivations and plans other than “let’s kill people and take over the world and stuff.” But given the things that have happened to him, I really can’t call Big Boss a villain, even given his actions in Metal Gear 1 & 2, or the actions his work inspires in MGS and MGS2. But that’s just my two cents.
What about you folks? Got a villain that you love, that you think is unfairly branded as a bad guy? Have some input or opinions on Big Boss, MGSV or the Metal Gear series in general? Drop ’em in the box below!