Sunday, February 2, 2014

Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker Makes No Sense!

I just finished Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker on PS3 and I have to say that the game has left me completely baffled (and frankly concerned) about the narrative future of the series.

The premise and motives behind the game's story simply make no sense. I say this fully aware of the fact that Metal Gear games always border on the absurd and wacky. But no matter how crazy the other games were, at the very least, they were intelligible, even if they required a great suspension of disbelief. Peace Walker is something different. It defies comprehension.

OK, on the most basic level, the story of Peace Walker goes something like this: Big Boss, after completing a mission that forced him to kill his former mentor, has become disillusioned with Cold War politics and the nation-state system. Out of this disillusionment, he founds an organization called MSF (Militaires San Frontieres) and its headquarters, an offshore facility dubbed Mother Base. The latter operates as a kind of haven for disaffected soldiers and mercenaries searching (I guess) for like-minded amoralists to hang out with.

In the game, Big Boss gets involved in a series of operations in Central American (in the mid 70s). The KGB and a new secret organization, Cipher, are involved in the development of a fully automated nuclear deterrence robot that is supposed to be necessary for detente because mere humans don't have the courage/evilness within them to annihilate the planet. Thus they need a machine to do it for them. Classic Metal Gear hijinks ensue, people are double and triple crossed. By the end, Big Boss has stopped at least three nuclear strikes against the United States from happening and acquired his very own Metal Gear prototype, Metal Gear Zeke.

Now none of this is that difficult to follow, at least when it's laid out. It's when you probe deeper into the matter that things become much less clear.

For instance, what exactly is MSF?  According to Big Boss and others, it's an organization without nationality, without a philosophy, without ideology. This is confusing on a number of levels. First off, it is a contradiction in terms. An organization, to quote Merriam-Webster, is "a company, business, club, etc., that is formed for a particular purpose." MSF, following Big Boss's definition, lacks such a purpose (this is what an ideology or philosophy would be). So MSF is an organization with no organizing principle.

Some might object that MSF does have a purpose. Big Boss says (more than once) that they fight for themselves now. OK, fine, but that's not a organizational principle. That's not a code that an organization can function by. That's willy-nilly saying do whatever the hell you want. Good luck running an organization with that notion!

There are a lot of other issues that hang on this lack of direction. Why are the mercenaries willing to serve MSF? What's in it for them? Big Boss talks a lot about the "freedom" that MSF provides, but never defines concretely what that freedom actually entails. The freedom to do what? Follow Big Boss's orders? Are these guys getting paid? I'm not even going to get into the absurd manner in which you recruit these people.

How does MSF fund itself? Does it take contracts? If so, doesn't that compromise its free-wheeling philosophy of no philosophies. Wouldn't that make MSF nothing more than a tax shelter for hired killers? If not, if they do discriminate between clients for moral reasons, how would they do that? Wouldn't that require a philosophy of some sort, i.e., a belief system or, yes, an i-d-e-o-l-o-g-y.

The biggest problems, however, involve Big Boss's motivations. What is he after exactly in this game? Why does he get entangled in the plots taking place in Central America? Again, there is a lot of talk of freedom (always in the abstract, never concrete), distrust of nation-state politics, and peace. But I don't see how a rogue military organization is supposed to help this situation. Are they supposed to act as a counter-force to the super-powers? Are they going to police the world and impose a new global order? But wouldn't such things simply replicate the authoritarian structures of power that Big Boss opposes? I don't see what Big Boss could be thinking here. What's more, Big Boss doesn't seem to know either. He just repeats the same platitudes again and again.

I suspect Big Boss's lack of clarity stems form the inherent lack of sense in the concept of MSF. This really does trouble me, mainly for what it bodes for the future. The next Metal Gear game (Ground Zeroes) follows shortly after the events of Peace Walker. As a result, I don't see how it will avoid getting bogged down in the same nonsensical premise that undermines the narrative of its immediate predecessor. That would be bad. Peace Walker was originally a PSP game. As such, I can see being a little forgiving about its production values in terms of scripting. But it is canon and its ideas and events can't simply be pushed aside in the next game. My worry is that Ground Zeroes (and the Phantom Pain after it), won't be able to put the pieces back together, so to speak, and Peace Walker's nonsense will infect the future games and make them stupid at best, nigh incomprehensible at worst.

But what do you think? Were you able to make more sense of MSF and Big Boss's motivations? Do you see ways that they could be made more intelligible in Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.


  1. You need to understand that Big Boss formed MSF because fighting is what he is best at and is what he knows how do. All he is trying to get across when he says no philosophy ect. is that is as simple as he fights to fight, not for a nation and not for belief. You're REALLY over analyzing it when you say that is a philosophy itself.

  2. Big Boss hears the Boss on the recording so he decides to enter the conflict. You can see how he might want to find out what is going on since a couple years back he killed her.