Tim Tan Huynh

Metal Gear Solid 3 redux

  • 9 Aug 2023
  • The story of Metal Gear Solid 3 is a callback to a different time. The same is true for the game itself.

MGS3 might be my all-time favorite video game. It’s definitely in my top-three. The Metal Gear series is definitely my all-time fictional universe. Playing Metal Gear Solid 2 for the first-time is my fondest gameplay-focused experience, but the hype for MGS3 is my fondest anticipation-focused experience. I have vivid memories of that time, even though it’s been 20 years.

The first trailer emerged days before E3 in 2003. We in the Metal Gear fandom scrutinized the footage. People noted how the character model, the dive animation, and even the title font had similarities to MGS2. Was the footage an elaborate fan-made hoax? The official announcement of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater at E3 ended that debate. The discussion shifted to questions about the game’s place within the series lore.

The main selling point of MGS3, then and now, is its 1960s setting. It’s a prequel to the prior games as well as the later ones. It’s the origin story of Big Boss, known as Naked Snake in the game. He’s the ultimate foil-foe to Solid Snake, the main character of the series. One could argue that Big Boss is the main character of the series. In any case, Big Boss had been a mysterious figure at that point. In the prior MGS games, he’s much lauded, yet never present.

The early Cold War setting informs the story. The director and series creator Hideo Kojima is an avid lover of the James Bond movies. His love is clear in the game’s opening sequence and its many Bond tropes. The plot features a femme fatale, an impenetrable fortress, a sadistic villain, a revolutionary weapon, an interrogation scene, a daring escape, and more. The Connery-era Bond movies are obvious inspiration.

The story of MGS3 has more nuance, though. As mentioned, Solid Snake isn’t necessarily the central figure of this series. Likewise, Big Boss isn’t necessarily the central figure of this game. That role, in some ways, belongs to The Boss. She is Big Boss’s mentor who betrays him and becomes his ultimate foe. I agree with the notion that MGS3 is as much about The Boss as it is about Big Boss. The former being a woman in an androcentric genre is amazing.

The relationship between The Boss and Boss reflect the central theme of the series. The Metal Gear games are about heritage. The first MGS deals with genetic heritage, and MGS2 deals with cultural heritage. MGS3, then, deals with contextual heritage. The game shows specific events having profound impact on individuals and societies. This impact in turn shapes the world, culture, and even genetics that people pass to others.

I remember some clever promotional material for MGS3. It shows the MGS abbreviation and each letter represents one facet of heritage. “M” represents “meme,” the basic unit of cultural heritage as coined by Richard Dawkins. “G” represents “gene,” the basic unit of genetic heritage and the phonological inspiration for “meme.” “S” represents “scene,” the place, situation, or group of interest. MGS3 revolves around the 1960s Cold War scene.

I cherish that pre-release period as much as the game. I can still see the MGS3 wallpaper on my computer desktop and a series timeline in a Notepad draft like it’s yesterday. I can never forget updating my fan site with the latest information on the regular. I also can never forget all the instances of my hosting provider suspending said fan site because of excessive bandwidth usage. I miss one message board in particular and its regular posters.

The remake’s announcement has made me think about the ephemeral nature of digital culture. My fan site that had once been so important to me is preserved only in bits and pieces. I don’t have any backups of the content that I’ve spent countless hours producing. That message board that I’ve mentioned has no traces at all. Those pages and those posts—and any memory of them—are destined to be the digital equivalent of tears in rain.

The upside is that new pages and posts will take their place. The means of dissemination might change; E3 becomes less relevant each year because of social media, for example. On the other hand, stories like the Metal Gear games and the Oppenheimer movie are worth re-telling and re-visiting. I’m encouraged that MGS Delta, and the rest of the Metal Gear canon, is releasing to a new generation of platforms and a new generation of people.