It is no secret I am a huge fan of the Metal Gear series, though I refuse to call myself a fan boy, and can happily admit that some games in the series are not up to par.
One thing that always amazes me is how engrained the narrative is in the game, and one of the biggest ways this is done is through the bosses. I am going to go through, in chronological order, and just talk a bit about what the bosses mean in the context of the overall universe.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
The Cobra Unit comprises of six members, named after emotions (with the exception of The Pain, which is a sensation, and The End which is a….thing?). They are all mostly superhuman, and rely on their powers over any other means of combat, which is precisely their role in the series. Kojima is trying to create a contrast to the later bosses, who rely on technology more than anything. The Cobra Unit are warriors, not drones with guns. Their naming shows a simpler time, where all they represent are an emotion, something intangible and pure.
Metal Gear Solid
Even though this was the third game in the Metal Gear series to star Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid was his big debut into mainstream computer gaming. How better to reintroduce everyone’s favourite bandanna wearing badass than slowly introducing all of his skillset?
The FOXHOUND unit here all specialise in one aspect of the game’s combat; gun play, sniping, hand to hand combat etc etc. Like prior entries to the series, save Guns of the Patriots, the weapons of the game are slowly introduced. Snake, Big Boss and Raiden collect weapons on site, and to create a difficulty curve, you get the weapons one by one, not in one big go. Kojima uses this arc to display all Snake can do. Clever when you think about it. Each battle symbolises Snake’s mastery over that weapon set.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
This time around the enemies are Dead Cell, an anti-terrorist group. Dead Cell serve two purposes, to varying degrees of success.
The first is to be an imitation of the FOXHOUND unit. You have the Snake brother boss, the one with weird powers, the gunslinger, and the highly mobile one you fight in an area filled with containers. In the S3 plan, this is there literal role, to imitate FOXHOUND. To quote Ocelot, “You’re the biggest collection of freaks outside of FOXHOUND.”
The second purpose is to demonstrate how war has changed. All the members of Dead Cell, save for Fatman and Olga, are powered by nanomachines or other technology. Vamp’s rapid healing, Fortunes inability to be hit with a bullet and Solidus’ strength are all the result of technological advancements. Previous villains all fought on the basis of their skills; they were pure warriors. That is not to say they are worse bosses, but what we have here are imitations, a sign of how war is changing to include technology to make soldiers out of anybody. Fortune, for example, is a civilian, made into a soldier by technology.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
And now, the final piece of the puzzle. The Beauty and Beast Unit, the SNAKEHOUND unit. A group of war victims kept in metal suits to give them fighting powers. All named after the bosses of Snake Eater and Metal Gear Solid, with the weapons of the bosses in Sons of Liberty.
See where I am going with this? What is it Big Boss says about the proxy Patriot AI’s at the end of Guns of the Patriots? “In the end they’re no more than a program. All they can do is repeat the same pattern over and over again.”
The B and B unit is a subtle indication to how war has developed under the Patriots and SOP. Instead of innovating the System sticks to what works, and repeats it in various combinations. They also are a contrast to previous enemies in the series, who have a backstory prior to you fighting them. You only find out who the B and B unit are after you have killed them. They are only humanised at this point. Until then, they are about as human as the weapons as you use to destroy them.
Hope you have enjoyed this. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Disclaimer: I have left out Peace Walker, not because I don’t think it is a valuable part of the Metal Gear series, but because I am only just playing through it now.