So, we’ve finally arrived at the main event of our Metal Gear retrospective: the plot summary. As you could imagine, it gets pretty overwhelming when trying to summarize the most important plot points of a series more than two decades in the making. As such, I’ll try and hit on the critical elements in chronological order (as opposed to the release order), while embellishing enough to give at least some idea of the finer details of the plot, where interesting or applicable. The summary will be spread over two posts because of my not wanting to crush you with a wall of text in one sitting, so look for the second part nearer to the weekend.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Set during the height of the Cold War in 1964, tensions between the United States and Soviet Russia are high. The previous year, John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas; the year before that, the Cuban Missile Crisis had pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war.
It is in these circumstances that Naked Snake (later Big Boss) is sent beyond the Iron Curtain as a member of the newly found FOX (Force Operations X) unit. His mission is to rescue a defecting Soviet scientist named Sokolov who is secretly developing an advanced nuclear-equipped tank called the Shagohod – or translated to English, the Treading Behemoth. Two years prior, Sokolov had already successfully escaped the Soviet Union by successfully crossing the Berlin Wall. However, he was in poor health, and was recuperating in a US hospital in West Germany when the Cuban missile crisis flared up. To the world, the compromise between the superpowers was that the US would remove nuclear missiles deployed in Turkey, while the Soviet missiles would be removed from Cuba. The real trade off, however, was that the US return Sokolov to the USSR. Agreeing grudgingly, Sokolov was handed back to the Russians, and was forced to continue his work on the Shagohod.
Infiltrating the USSR via a HALO (high altitude, low opening) jump, Snake is tasked to retrieve Sokolov, and bring him back to the West for good. On his mission, Snake is supported by a team of various experts via radio transmission. One of his advisors is The Boss, a legendary US soldier and mentor to Snake since the start of his military career.
The mission goes smoothly, with Snake making contact with Sokolov and leading him nearly all the way to the extraction point. Before they can evacuate, however, Snake is confronted by The Boss, along with a Russian GRU colonel named Volgin. For unexplained reasons, The Boss defects and provides her Volgin with two experimental miniature nuclear shells stolen from the US. Alongside The Boss stands all the surviving members of her the famed unit she created and commanded during World War II, the Cobras.
Sokolov is captured by the Cobra Unit and Snake is heavily injured in combat by The Boss, allowing Volgin and his cohorts to escape with the Shagohod. Volgin, a member of the Stalinist faction that would see the current Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev deposed and the hardliner Brezhnev faction come to power in Russia, detonates one of the nuclear shells to cover up the theft of the Shagohod. The detonation renders Naked Snake infertile, which later leads to the Les Enfants Terrible program, which created three clones of him via in-vitro fertilization.
Having detected the US aircraft which deployed Snake flying over Soviet soil, the Soviet Union concludes that the United States is responsible for the atomic detonation, tipping both nations to the edge of a nuclear war. The political fallout from a US nuclear detonation on Russian soil is catastrophic. Blaming the entire incident on the actions of the traitorous Boss, the US denies any official involvement with the attack. In a secret conference between US President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, a deal is hatched to prove the US’s innocence and restore peace. The United States agrees to stop Volgin’s renegade faction, destroy the stolen Shagohod and assassinate the American defector responsible for the crisis, The Boss.
A week after being rescued from the region, Snake is redeployed into the Soviet jungle as part of Operation Snake Eater, to fulfill the United States’ promises. During the mission, he gains the assistance of another American defector, ex-NSA agent EVA, who defected a few years earlier. After numerous encounters with the elite Ocelot unit (led by a young and brash Ocelot), and defeating every member of the Cobra Unit, Snake succeeds in locating Sokolov and the stolen Shagohod, only to be captured in Volgin’s military stronghold, Groznyj Grad. After witnessing the apparent death of Sokolov, Snake is tortured and loses his eye when Ocelot shoots to kill EVA; Snake ultimately escapes.
When he returns to the facility to destroy the Shagohod, Snake learns of The Philosophers. Made up of the most powerful men in the United States, Soviet Union, and China, they were originally convened after World War I as a sort of shadow government with the aim of preventing another large scale, global war. After World War II, however, the organization began to splinter, and split into three branches – one for each country represented in the original group. By this time, the group had amassed a massive fortune of nearly $100 billion (roughly $1 trillion today, adjusted for inflation.) The funds were hidden away in banks around the world, and became known as the Philosopher’s Legacy. Volgin had gained possession of these funds – his father was one of the original Russian members of the group – and Snake learns that part of his task is to retrieve the Legacy on behalf of the US.
Snake continues his mission, destroying the facility and the Shagohod tank, and finally confronts and kills Volgin. Snake and EVA escape together, heading towards the designated extraction point with a microfilm containing all the account information for the Philosopher’s Legacy. Before they can escape the region, Snake finally confronts his old mentor, The Boss, and the real reason for her â€˜treason’ becomes apparent.
The Boss was to fake a defection to Volgin’s faction, The Boss was the only American soldier famous and useful enough to be accepted into Volgin’s ranks as a defector. Under orders, she betrayed her own nation, taking the nuclear shells with her as â€˜proof’ of her goodwill in joining Volgin’s cause. Her mission was to reclaim the Philosophers’ Legacy for America, where the remaining members of the American branch of the Philosophers would later be known as The Patriots.
When Volgin detonated the nuclear shell on Soviet soil, the entire disaster was blamed on her, it being the politically expedient course of action. Naked Snake was needed as no more than a witness to her defection. It would lend credibility to her ‘betrayal’ of the United States. The problem arose when Volgin unexpectedly used one of the nuclear shells to cover his tracks.
The Russian government was in upheaval over the incident. A foreign detonation over Soviet territory was an act of war. Neither Lyndon Johnson nor Nikita Khrushchev wanted the Cold War to escalate into full nuclear conflict. Unfortunately, the balance of power within the Soviet government could not allow Khrushchev to hold back hostility simply by order. Action was necessary, and the USSR needed proof that this event was the act of an American defector, and not the US government itself. As such, The Boss was set up as the scapegoat for a mission gone wrong.
The Boss had a new objective: to play her part of defector to the end, and ultimately be killed by Naked Snake, her last disciple. Her sacrifice would directly avert nuclear war, yet it would never be known. History would see her as a traitorous, violent terrorist who instigated a nuclear crisis. Ultimately, she would die without the honor she so richly deserved for all her years of steadfast service, stripped of it when her own government effectively ordered her to fight, to the death, on the side of the Volgin faction. Understandably, this revelation is extremely harrowing to Snake, but realizing the stakes, he plays his part in the charade as well, killing The Boss with his own hands.
Snake and EVA escape to Alaska, and EVA seduces Snake. During the night, EVA disappears with the microfilm, and leaves behind a tape revealing herself to be a Chinese spy sent to steal the Philosophers’ Legacy for China – the other member of the original Philosophers.
Snake is awarded the title of “Big Boss” and given the Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts by Lyndon Johnson himself. Later, he arrives at an anonymous grave in Arlington National Cemetery: the final resting place of the The Boss. Laying down her gun and a bouquet of lilies upon the nameless gravestone he salutes, and leaves, completely disillusioned with the US government and armed forces.
After the credits roll, Ocelot is heard talking via telephone to an unheard party, and he reveals that the microfilm containing the information on the Philosopher’s Legacy given to EVA was a fake. The real data is in the hands of the yet-unnamed Patriots, thanks to him – he was a CIA plant all along.
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
Six years after the events of Snake Eater, Naked Snake’s former unit has gone rogue, cutting all ties with the CIA. The game starts with Snake already captured by this renegade outfit, being tortured to find out the location of the Philosopher’s Legacy. Snake is imprisoned in a cell next to Roy Campbell, the sole survivor of an American Green Beret team sent in to investigate the base used by the FOX unit after cutting all official ties to the US. Snake learns through Campbell that they’re on the San Hieronymo Peninsula, the site of a secret abandoned Soviet missile silo in Colombia.
They escape and Snake makes his way to a communications base, where he attempts to contact his old CO. Instead, he is greeted by his two old FOX comrades (from Snake Eater), who reveal that Snake and is being accused of instigating the FOX revolt and that the only way to clear his name is to find and apprehend the leader of the rebellion (and FOX): Gene.
To complicate matters, Gene has also convinced most of the Russian soldiers who were stationed on the base to join him by simply killing the leadership and assuming command over the former Red Army unit that was secretly stationed on the base, inside Colombian territory. In order to complete his mission, Snake must persuade enemy soldiers to join his ranks because of the scale of his mission. These recruits would later form the basis of the soldiers who would join Outer Heaven.
Snake and his squad defeat the top members of the FOX unit and eventually discover Gene’s real plot. Gene wanted to launch a nuclear strike at America, using the first Metal Gear prototype – codename RAXA. His aim was to destroy the Philosophers and thus remove the people in power who exploited soldiers (like himself) for their petty power struggles. His information on how to most efficiently coordinate his attack was provided to him by an â€˜inside source’ – ultimately revealed to be Ocelot.
Gene’s dream was to found a nation of soldiers called “Army’s Heaven”. Snake destroys RAXA and eventually defeats Gene, stopping the rebellion in its tracks and ending the threat to the United States. After Gene is defeated, he gives Big Boss the funds, equipment, personnel, and all other information regarding Army’s Heaven, prophetically telling him that one day, he will have need of them. On his return home, Snake is awarded for his actions and establishes FOXHOUND afterwards.
In the end, it is revealed that Ocelot genuinely did want to see the American branch of the Philosophers come to an end, seeing them as outdated in their views. In a phone call to an unknown party, heard after the credits, he reveals that he has all the vital information needed to â€œend them.â€ He speaks of using the Legacy (still held by the Philosophers since Snake Eater) to establish a new group to supplant them: similar in nature, but differing in goals – The Patriots. He also mentions recruiting Naked Snake – now Big Boss – into this new group.
Seeing as how events transpired later in the series, it is unclear is Big Boss did in fact join The Patriots. However, given his history with authority, and the fact that he later founded Outer Heaven, I think it is safe to speculate that he did not. If he did become a member of the group, it was most likely under false pretenses, and he later betrayed them with the Outer Heaven revolt in 1995.
In the year 1995, intelligence reaches the Western world of a fortified state located 200 kilometers north of Galzburg, South Africa, known as Outer Heaven. The state was supposedly founded by a â€˜legendary mercenary’, but not much more is known about its origins. What is known is that the country is developing weapons of mass destruction. The US government orders FOXHOUND to infiltrate the country, assess the situation and neutralize the threat, if any is present. FOXHOUND first sent its best operative, codenamed Gray Fox, to accomplish the task, but all contact was lost with him after several days. His final transmission contains only the phrase â€œMETAL GEAR.â€
Solid Snake, FOXHOUND’s newest recruit, is ordered by the CO of the unit, Big Boss to rescue Gray Fox and carry out the same mission as he predecessor: investigate, and if necessary, neutralize the threat.
Upon insertion into Outer Heaven, Snake makes contact with the local resistance. Using all of his skills and the equipment he procures on-site, he manages to rescue Gray Fox. He learns from him that the weapon in question is a variant of the Metal Gear, codenamed TX-55. This is the first truly bipedal version of the weapons platform, which means it can launch a nuclear attack from remote and unconventional terrain. Outer Heaven plans to use Metal Gear to impose itself as a new world superpower.
In order to destroy the weapon and topple the Outer Heaven mercenaries, Snake rescues the lead engineer of Metal Gear project, Dr. Drago Pettrovich Madnar, as well as his daughter, Ellen. Armed with information on how to destroy Metal Gear, ever closer to the location of the weapon. As he progresses, he starts to notice that traps and ambushes being set for him are too precise, deduces he is being tracked. Throughout the mission, he stays in contact with Big Boss, who gives him tactical information.
Shortly before reaching the Metal Gear, he finally discovers the fact that the â€˜legendary mercenary’ who commands Outer Heaven is none other than Big Boss.
Upon breaching the base, Snake is able to neutralize the Metal Gear before it reaches completion. As he makes his way out of the compound’s basement, he is confronted by Big Boss himself. The CO of the FOXHOUND unit had used his connections within the US government and military to steal intelligence and divert attention from his own activities for as long as possible, allowing him breathing space in which to establish his own mercenary force in fortify it in the nation of Outer Heaven. It was his aim to have Outer Heaven become a truly powerful nation, able to stand up, in military terms, to the US (and by logical deduction, The Patriots, although they are never mentioned). Solid Snake, being a rookie, was chosen for the mission because Big Boss expected him to fail. He planned to use the captured operative as a source of misinformation to the US intelligence community. However, against all odds, Snake managed to render Outer Heaven completely harmless by destroying the Metal Gear prototype.
Having lost the Metal Gear and much of his forces and material, Big Boss starts the self-destruct sequence for the compound, and then engages Snake in combat. An underground battle ensues, and despite injury, Snake defeats Big Boss and escapes the Outer Heaven compound as it crumbles in flames behind him. After the ending credits, a message from Big Boss is displayed saying that he will meet Solid Snake again.
Obviously, the plot for the original Metal Gear doesn’t quite mesh with the overarching plot as revealed in Snake Eater and Portable Ops, for the simple reason that Hideo Kojima never planned to develop Metal Gear into the series it has become. As such, The Patriots are not even mentioned in the first game. As such, I’ve drawn a few conclusions that are not necessarily supported by information from the game, but that I feel are logical, in light of later revelations. Guns of the Patriots will hopefully settle this part of the saga once and for all.
Last Updated: May 28, 2008