Leaving All That Crap in San Hieronymo Behind
You said it, Miller.
Editorial by Ravi Singh, Posted on July 18, 2010
This is the first part of a two-part series of editorial articles covering Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. The second part analyzes how Big Boss drastically changed since the events of 1974 and the will of The Boss.
Playing through Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, watching the second ending and unlocking all of those god damned tapes makes you wonder about the title that takes place prior to it. Well, yes, you do think about Snake Eater, but I'm talking about Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. Is Portable Ops even part of the series canon anymore?
The two games are very similar. They both are non-numbered Metal Gear Solid games on the PSP. They both take place in between Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear. They both star Big Boss. They both take place in Latin America. They both have Big Boss buddy up with someone who gives support to Solid Snake decades later in Zanzibar Land. They both have you getting soldiers, managing them and even sending them to virtual conflicts.
Of course, there are the differences as Peace Walker takes Portable Ops and makes nearly everything better. It's almost as if Peace Walker really is Hideo Kojima's replacement for Portable Ops, similar to how Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was developed as an official sequel to Metal Gear when he found out about Snake's Revenge. Sure, unlike Snake's Revenge, Mr. Kojima actually produced Portable Ops and was involved with the basic plot of it. While I would love to believe that it isn't, Portable Ops is still officially canon. Thing is, Peace Walker takes a great effort to stay the fuck away from Portable Ops.
The only mention of anything relating to Portable Ops is also the most damning. Near the beginning of the game, Kazuhira Miller, full of relief, tells Snake, "Finally, we can leave all that crap in San Hieronymo behind…" Is Miller talking to Snake… or is he talking to us? It would be a bit odd if it was anything but a nod to the player. Miller was not involved with the San Hieronymo Takeover which happened in 1970. Besides, that was fucking four years ago and dealt with the beginning of FOXHOUND, which Snake leaves. Why bother mentioning it?
A MILITARY WITHOUT MONEY
They're so broke, they had to hire a French guy to make their sign out of the remains of a cardboard box Snake and Miller had too much fun in.
Let's go back to what happened in between 1970 and 1974 according to Peace Walker. At the age of twenty-four, Miller left the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and became a mercenary. Snake, on the other hand started FOXHOUND in 1971 according to the ending of Snake Eater, but left in 1972 becoming a mercenary. Sometime in 1972, the two finally met.
Snake: You mean Colombia?
Miller: Yeah. After I quit the JSDF, I made my way there and got myself a position as a drill sergeant for a band of revolutionaries, despite the fact that I'd never seen a day of combat.
Miller: [...] Unlucky for me, though, you were in the service of the Colombian Army.
Snake: That's right. And two years later, here we are…
Between 1972 and 1974 saw the start of Militaires Sans Frontieres (MSF) with Snake and Miller as founders. They set up headquarters in a shack at the Barranquilla Coast in Colombia with no more than ten soldiers. Then we see Big Boss riding a motorcycle and smoking a cigar. Thus begins the game.
Nothing seems out of place. MSF is a low budget operation because they can't really tax it's citizens for a military budget. It's only citizens, if you could even call them that, are a few soldiers. Snake also can't tap into the money The Patriots have access to. Snake, however, should have access to funding though according to Portable Ops. Remember, Gene felt that Big Boss was similar to him and upon his death gave Big Boss a microfilm with information on his Army's Heaven.
Okay, so maybe all Gene had left was a M16, three guys and a fraction of the annual salary of a jizz mopper. It's still something that is never fucking mentioned. In fact, all you hear especially in the beginning of the damn game is how they need money. You will hear Miller talk about it
He even hints that he's double-crossed Snake in order to expand.
The "business angle" might be something completely different of course and it's plausible that Miller is lying to Snake during the ending, but there is some truth in the fact that MSF went from what could at best be a local private militia to a nuclear power. This being the same MSF that didn't even have a helicopter for transport in the beginning. Either Gene pretty much gave Snake the equivalent of pocket lint or the event simply did not happen. Hey, maybe Snake accidentally washed the microfilm in the laundry.
Historically speaking, the first time the phrase "Metal Gear" was used in the Metal Gear canon was in Snake Eater. Granin got drunk and talked about why his idea of a bipedal tank was better than Sokolov's Batmobile.
Granin: Yes, a walking tank – a robot! Are you familiar with the theory of the missing link between apes and humans? Well, this technology will be the missing link between infantry and artillery. A kind of metal gear, if you will. And this magnificent metal gear will make a revolutionary step forward in weapons development.
Snake: Metal Gear…
According to Portable Ops, not only did Volgin "guess" wrong when he thought he beat Sokolov to death, but had Sokolov develop a walking nuclear tank.
Ghost [Sokolov]: It would be impossible – for the Shagohod. But what if it were something smaller and more mobile… for instance, a walking tank? And what if you used a booster far more powerful than the Shagohod's, like the Saturn rocket they used to launch the Apollo Lunar Module?
Snake: A walking tank… Of course. At the same time Sokolov was developing the Shagohod… the Granin lab was developing a bipedal walking tank at Groznyj Grad… called Metal Gear… Ghost, are you Granin – the man who designed Metal Gear…? No… Granin must be dead. He was killed by Volgin.
Ghost: Granin… that name brings back memories. But go ahead and believe I'm Granin if you like.
Snake: So Metal Gear is actually a walking nuclear tank equipped with multiple small nuclear warheads?
There were actually two Metal Gears at San Hieronymo: RAXA which was a prototype meant to be used for performance evaluation and the Intercontinental Ballistic Metal Gear (ICBMG). Despite being quadruped (they used four legs) everyone continues to refer to them as "Metal Gears" throughout the title. With Peace Walker though, we hit a bump in the road. Portable Ops establishes that Sokolov was rescued by Gene, defected to the United States and began working on Metal Gear using Granin's research.
Snake: But can it use Soviet warheads? Oh, wait… the blueprints for Metal Gear were originally Soviet-made, too.
In order to see why this causes a problem, let's follow the paper trail. The ending of Snake Eater has Ocelot tell the DCI that he managed to get a hold of Granin's documents.
So this means that Sokolov should have Granin's papers now because the CIA gave it to him. This makes sense. Out of fucking nowhere though, Coldman got a hold of Granin's work, gave it to Huey and then later blackmailed him when Huey plagiarized it into his own work into developing the AI weapons.
Snake: Soviet… Bipedal… You mean Granin.
Huey: You know him?
Huey: That was also Coldman. He used his Agency contacts to get a hold of it.
Snake: Giving you stolen information then using it to blackmail you… Damn.
Huey: I knew it was Granin's work the minute I saw it. See, I'd been corresponding with him for a while.
Huey: Letters. Between scientists doing the same kind of research… He always complained that nobody understood his ideas on bipedal locomotion.
Snake: Ah… So you're the "American friend" he was talking about.
Huey: Obviously he didn't write a word about the technology in his letters. Except for one time. "If by chance anything should happen to me, I entrust my research to you. Better that than handing it over to these ignorant so-called scientists."
Snake: Sounds like him, all right.
Huey: Then one day his papers actually came. It wasn't hard for me to imagine what had happened to him. I felt it was my duty to carry on his work after him…
It is possible, of course, that Sokolov "lost" the blueprints to Metal Gear and the CIA managed to get it back. Then Coldman used his CIA connections to get it back and then gave it to Huey who coincidentally was in contact with Granin for years. Oh, and did you know these papers included details about the Shagohod? With Granin's butthurt commentary added?
Snake: A nuclear tank that launches IRBMs. It competed against Granin's system for approval.
Huey: Oh, the thing with the rockets. Designed by a guy named… Sokolov, right? …Heh heh.
Snake: What's so funny?
Huey: No, I was just remembering some of the "commentary" Granin added to the Shagohod papers. You should have seen the way he bad-mouthed it. It was too conservative, too ugly…
Snake: I can imagine.
Huey: He was so angry when he wrote that he smeared up the ink. And you know how shoddy the paper is over there to begin with.
It's entirely possible that the papers were whored out like that. It's just strange that not only did Granin's work get passed around like that but that information about the Shagohod with the hate filled opinions smeared all over it remained intact through all of this. Did the RAXA and ICBMG plans get taken by the CIA as well or did Sokolov take that to his grave? It doesn't seem like these were given to Coldman. Especially when you find out why Huey and Miller decided to name MSF's bipedal weapon "Metal Gear."
Snake: Good point. We can't keep calling it "our bipedal weapon."
Hal: I had a talk with Miller, and we came up with "Metal Gear ZEKE."
Snake: Metal Gear… ZEKE…?
Hal: Yep. As you know, "Metal Gear" was coined by Granin.
Snake: And "ZEKE"?
It's not that it's strange that they named it Metal Gear, but rather why they did so. Granin coined it. That's fine and all, but whatever happened to those two walking nuclear tanks by Sokolov that Snake took out just four years ago? Those, too, were based off of Granin's plans, right? Oh, and don't give me any shit about Huey and Miller wouldn't have known about RAXA and ICBMG.
Well okay, Huey doesn't know anything about RAXA and ICBMG since Coldman might have just wanted the papers Ocelot got, but Miller should… otherwise, what exactly is the "crap" that happened in San Hieronymo is he talking about? Snake should be knowledgeable about RAXA and ICBMG's existence but either he found them unworthy of any mention or bumped his head within four years and forgot about them.
A DEVIOUSLY CUNNING COLDMAN
Portable Ops' biggest revelation was that "a single, deviously cunning strategist" set up the events that unfolded in Snake Eater that led to The Boss being terminated in order to prove the United States' innocence. This includes Volgin launching the nuke at the OKB-754 design bureau in order to frame The Boss. This plot twist was revealed by Gene and Big Boss' response was believably frantic.
Due to the rather flawed presentation of Portable Ops, a lot of people believed Zero was the strategist but that simply is not the case. Zero is mentioned in another scene where Gene is talking to Ocelot on the phone and refers to Zero not by name, but rather, "the man with the same codename as Null." In some ways Portable Ops hints at the DCI being the cunning strategist, but it's really Guns of the Patriots that helps answer the question players were asking since Portable Ops' release.
Peace Walker doesn't necessarily change things too much. Instead of it being the guy who gets shot in the end of Portable Ops, it reveals Coldman as the man who planned Operation: Snake Eater.
Snake: You were involved…?
Coldman: The operation to eliminate the traitor? I planned the whole thing.
Snake: Shouldn't a suit like you be back at Langley? What the hell are you doing here?
Coldman: …It's what the CIA does best. Ensure people in the know keep their mouths shut, or else pack them off someplace where there's no one to listen.
In Coldman's first appearance in Peace Walker, he is overheard in an argument with Huey. He reveals that he was once an active DCI, a job title he wishes to recover.
Now at first glance, this little problem is nonexistent. Coldman was the DCI in 1964 and then was transferred to Central America, mainly to keep his ass quiet. The man who got shot by Ocelot in Portable Ops was the active DCI in 1970. Coldman should be the DCI in 1964, right? It checks out. The thing is, the DCI in Portable Ops is the same DCI in Snake Eater.
DCI: And who are you?
Ocelot: My name is ADAM. Remember me now? At last, we meet in person.
The DCI talked to "ADAM" in a phone call at the end of Snake Eater. This is the same conversation where he talks about getting Granin's documents. This means that the active DCI during that phone call should be the same guy who Ocelot kills in Portable Ops. This is the same man who's hand Snake refused to shake.
This minor discrepancy can be written off by a few ways, including having him transferred sometime before the end of Operation: Snake Eater to make sure he shuts the fuck up. Then again, how does he know about the Granin papers to begin with? So he has the be the DCI right up until Ocelot's final call which could have taken place prior to the handshake. That's fine but what about the new DCI identifying ADAM? It's not an outright contradiction in the fictional universe but it's all too strange.
Not as strange as Big Boss' reaction to Coldman's revelation though. Whereas he really wanted to know who set up The Boss' death when Gene stated that it was all staged, Snake seems to be only curious in Coldman's job. Either Big Boss is an idiot who would fail at a "connect the dots" assignment in a children's coloring book or maybe there was nothing to react to in the first place. Maybe Coldman just planned the 1964 mission and Volgin fired that nuke on his own will.
CALLING TO THE DIVIDE
One of the biggest similarities in Portable Ops and Peace Walker is the character development of Big Boss. While the two take the character to a slightly different direction, the two start with a Big Boss still traumatized by The Boss' death and eventually getting the fuck over it in some way.
Cunningham: Haha! Have it your way. Now you're a real traitor!
Miller: She what?
Snake: In the end, she put down her gun. And when she did… she rejected her entire life up to that point… including me.
Miller: What do you mean?
Snake: In giving up her life, she abandoned everything she was as a soldier…
Miller: And you consider that betrayal?
Snake: I won't make the same choice as her. My future's going to be different.
Snake: Yeah, that's right. From now on, call me Big Boss.
Typical Big Boss ending.
Thus Snake finally becomes Big Boss. A title he periodically rejects in Peace Walker and only occasionally downplays in Portable Ops. A title he finally accepts when he concludes that The Boss' calling is not his… a calling that The Boss died for according to Portable Ops and a calling that she gave up on according to Peace Walker.
Perhaps Gene or Paz don't know what the fuck they are talking about. It doesn't help that Snake's response to Gene are repeated inquiries to the identity of the "cunning strategist" (once again, an issue he seems hardly interested in by 1974) and his response to Paz is a metaphor of Snake being a gun which The Boss "threw down."
As usual, an explanation could certainly be made out of all of this. It's like that for most inconsistencies though. In Metal Gear Solid, Naomi Hunter referred to Dr. Clark as a "he." Despite the rumors, this was not a translation error as the Japanese version also used a masculine pronoun. In an attempt to explain away the obvious retcon, the Metal Gear Solid 4: Database claimed that Dr. Clark was super-secret and thus Naomi didn't even know what was between the doctor's legs and assumed that it was a penis.
The reality is simple though–Paramedic became Dr. Clark sometime between the development of Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots. It works much like how any explanation you or even a Kojima Productions official can pull out of their ass regarding Portable Ops and Peace Walker belonging in the same canon. That's no different from what The Database does though, which as it is, only supports Portable Ops as part of the canon.
Which ultimately brings up the question–can we really accept what Kojima Productions considered "canon"? The Database, which is canon, claims that Otacon's grandfather got Granin's plans for Metal Gear in the 1960's, Big Boss was the FOXHOUND commander from it's inception in 1971 to his supposed death in 1995, and that among other things that stands in the way of Peace Walker and in some cases other titles. Even the Database itself can't be in the same canon at times, with contradictory statements like Arsenal Gear crashing into Manhattan because Solidus lost control of it and because he did it on purpose.
Love it or hate it, Portable Ops, the Database and Peace Walker are all canon. Maybe the Database can finally "go back to zero" considering the obvious omissions… especially when Rising ends up contradicting the shit out of it despite being written by the same guy. Portable Ops though remains, taking place before Peace Walker even though Peace Walker continuously ignores it even in some advertising.
However, despite having Chronic Backstabbing Disorder (sorry Last Days of FOXHOUND), perhaps Miller is to be trusted for once. Maybe we really can, and should, leave that crap behind. It just makes things… way easier. Then again, there's plenty of other crap I'd like to forget. There's even some crap in Peace Walker that essentially could be explained but seems to be setting itself up for a sequel…