Metal Gear Chronology Part I

Taking your understanding of the Metal Gear franchise from Zero to Solid

Originally posted by Stuart Kirkman

With the exciting announcement of Hideo Kojima’s new venture, Death Stranding, at Sony’s E3 2016 conference, this might be a good time to look back at the games that the man is best known for.

The Metal Gear series has 10 main entries, which jump around a massive and complicated timeline. This series of articles will break everything down in a way that’s easy to digest, for anyone who (like this guy) was profoundly confused by it all.

The games split their focus between Solid Snake; the hero of the first few titles, and Naked Snake; the original soldier from which Solid was cloned. In this way, there are some noticeable parallels to be drawn with the Star Wars movies, as the first games in the timeline are about the corruption and eventual fall of the hero. The second half is all about his (sort of) son, who is unaware of his own lineage at the start of the story but later comes to right his (sort of) father’s wrongs and redeem the good name of… Snake.

For the first half of this story recap we’ll be looking at the prequels which focus Big Boss when he was known as Naked Snake. Here’s a quick overview of the timeline:

  • 1964 – Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
  • 1970 – Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
  • 1974 – Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
  • 1975 – Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes
  • 1984 – Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
  • 1995 – Metal Gear
  • 1999 – Metal Gear: Solid Snake
  • 2005 – Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes
  • 2007 – Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
  • 2014 – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

In part one we’ll be going through the third entry in the main MGS series, and the first true Metal Gear game on the PSP, which wasn’t actually directed by Hideo Kojima but does have an interesting story (which has only been partially ret-conned since).

Metal Gear Solid 3 – Snake Eater

Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater

The first thing to do with each of these games is briefly introduce the main players in the large cast. Several of them will appear throughout the series so it’s useful to have a quick reference at hand.

Naked Snake – This is the codename Big Boss uses at the beginning of the story. At this time he is a secret agent working for the CIA.
The Boss – A female soldier who taught Snake everything he knows, including his code of ethics. She has been a very important role model by this point.
Major Zero – Leader of the CIA’s FOX Unit and another disciple of The Boss, Zero one of the main people Snake speaks to during his mission via Codec.
Eva – An ex-NSA agent who defected from the US a few years ago, and whose allegiance is perpetually unclear.
Colonel Volgin – The Russian commander of the Cobra Unit, a Soviet counterpart to FOX which has soldiers with special abilities.
Revolver Ocelot – An American member of the Cobra Unit who will have an ongoing relationship with Snake throughout the game series.

The opening chapter of this story is called the Virtuous Mission, which has Naked Snake sent into a Russian jungle to extract a soviet scientist called Sokolov, who has been helping Colonel Volgin to develop the first iteration of a Metal Gear, known as the Shagohod. Snake makes his way to Volgin’s Cobra base to extract Sokolov and escort him back to America. Unfortunately this is all ruined when The Boss defects to Russia, joining Volgin and the Cobra’s and taking two mini-nukes with her. She beats the crap out of Snake and throws him off a bridge. Sokolov is re-captured by Cobra and as they all escape Volgin fires one of the nukes to cover his tracks, leaving him with one left over. Snake is extracted from the hot zone using the Fulton Recovery system and returns to America to heal. The Russians detected Snake’s aircraft when he was dropped into the region, so they blame the United States for the nuclear attack. This story is set during the Cold War, so these events aggravate an already tense relationship between the two countries. To restore peace the US label Boss a traitor and agree to eliminate her and Volgin, who has gone renegade with his Cobra unit.

One week later Snake is redeployed to the jungle to fulfil the terms of the agreement in a follow up mission called Operation Snake Eater. He is supposed to meet up with an undercover agent called code-named Adam, but instead finds Eva who is also working as a double-agent in Volgin’s camp. With her help he makes his way from place to place, defeating Ocelot and then the rest of Cobra Unit one by one as he goes. Snake reaches Groznyj Grad (Volgin’s fortress) where Sokolov and the Shagohod are both being held, but he’s captured in the process. Volgin kills Sokolov and tortures Snake, during which he has one of his eyes removed. In one of many similar prison-break scenarios in this series, Snake escapes custody then returns to Graznyj Grad.

In an exposition-heavy cut-scene he learns about ‘The Philosophers’, who were a group of powerful people from Russia, China and the US who secretly control the world from the shadows. This Illuminati-esque group broke apart after WWII, but their $100 billion in funding was divided up and hidden in various banks across the globe. This ‘Philosopher’s Legacy’ has been obtained by Volgin, and both the US and Russia want to get their hands on it. This turns out to be the true motivation for everybody’s actions, including Major Zero’s reason for sending Snake to Russia in the first place.

Snake defeats Volgin and destroys the Shagohod, then goes to confront The Boss in an emotional battle. Snake doesn’t want to kill his old mentor but he ultimately has no choice. He’s under orders and his code of ethics tells him this is the only course of action. In the end she gives her gun to Snake and tells him to kill her, surrendering and accepting her death. After the battle he escapes with Eva and a microfilm containing details of the Philosopher’s Legacy, which Boss passed on before she died. He and Eva spend a steamy night together in a cabin but by morning she’s gone, taking the microfilm but leaving behind an audio tape that reveals the truth.

It turns out she has been acting on behalf of China, who are the third party interested in the Philosopher’s Legacy, and she also explains that The Boss didn’t defect after all; she was under orders to infiltrate the Cobra’s and recover the Legacy for the US. She knew that her mission would end in her death and she carried out her orders all the same. Snake is given a medal and awarded the title of ‘Big Boss’ for his efforts, but immediately afterwards he quits the CIA and visits the unmarked grave of The Boss. This is the start of Snake’s disillusion and contempt towards his country and military service. He struggles to resolve the actions of his mentor, disagreeing with the way she surrendered to him, and hates having been used as a pawn in a plot that forced him to kill the person he admired most.

At the very end of the game a conversation is heard between Ocelot and the Director of the CIA, during which Ocelot explains that Eva escaped with false details of the Philosophers Legacy. He has been acting as a triple-agent on behalf of the CIA the whole time (codename Adam) in order to obtain the Legacy for the US.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops

In this game the cast is slightly smaller, but has a few familiar faces:

Naked Snake – Now retired from the CIA after the events of Snake Eater and trying to live the quiet life.
Roy Campbell – A member of the Green Beret’s who teams up with Snake, and will have an ongoing presence in the series.
Major Zero – Snake’s former commanding officer who is now in some trouble with the CIA.
Gene – The new commander of the FOX Unit and the main antagonist in this story. He is a product of the Successor Project which aimed to artificially create a replacement for The Boss and Snake now that they’ve gone.
Revolver Ocelot – The triple-agent is now working alongside Gene, though his true allegiance remains a mystery.
Null – A teenage assassin trained by the FOX Unit to be the perfect soldier. He is recruited by Snake and will eventually become Gray Fox.
Eva – This time Eva doesn’t play a major role, but she can be recruited into Snake’s army.

In the six years since the events of Snake Eater, the FOX Unit have split from the CIA and gone rogue. They are now lead by a commander called Gene, who is obsessed with genetics having been engineered to be Snake’s ideal replacement. Snake’s former allies have captured him in order to find out the location of the other half of the Philosopher’s Legacy.

The story begins with a member of FOX called Lieutenant Cunningham unsuccessfully torturing Snake to try to obtain information about the Legacy. Snake is imprisoned in a cell next to Roy Campbell, who was captured after his Green Beret unit was sent to investigate Gene’s base. He tells Snake that they are in Colombia at the site of an abandoned Soviet missile silo that FOX are now using as a base. Snake and Campbell prison-break the base and try to make contact with Major Zero, but he has been arrested by the Pentagon and blamed for the revolt of the Fox Unit. Snake is told that he needs to capture Gene and shut down his rebel army in order to exonerate himself and Zero of any wrongdoing.

Gene’s forces consist of various unique enemies in the FOX Unit, and an army of former Soviet soldiers who had been stationed at the missile silo when Gene took it over. Snake tackles this problem by recruiting soldiers and building an army of his own. He works his way through the members of the FOX Unit before finally arriving at Gene’s guesthouse. While there he learns several secrets in another third-act revelation sequence, including the fact that the CIA wanted Gene to defect and The Pentagon was using Lt. Cunningham to push Gene into launching a nuclear attack on Russia, both with the goal of extending the Cold War. Gene actually knows all this and has an agenda of his own. He wants to launch an attack on America to destroy the Philosophers, the second generation of which have perverted the ideals of the founders and become war-profiteers who want to engineer everlasting global conflict. Gene wants to free himself of their influence and create his own army independent of any Governmental control.

It’s all fairly convoluted, but the important thing to take away from this are that Snake is given even more reason to distrust the CIA and the Pentagon, and in the end he seems to sympathise with Gene. He takes inspiration from the villain and builds his own army to match Gene’s while trying to take him down. This conflict within Snake will be explored further as the story develops. In the end Snake destroys an experimental Metal Gear model code-named RAXA and defeats Gene. Realising he is the superior soldier, Gene transfers all of the resources of  his private military force ‘Army’s Heaven’ over to Snake. Both he and Zero are vindicated of any wrongdoing.

The Intervening Years

In another post-credits phone call Ocelot speaks to Major Zero about the fact that he was trying to orchestrate the nuclear attack on Russia in order to frame the CIA Director and blackmail him for information on the Philosophers. When Snake caused his plans to fall apart Ocelot resorted to killing the CIA Director instead, taking the information he wanted. Zero is now in full possession of the Philosophers Legacy, and in the time before Peace Walker he disbands the Fox Unit and takes over the US portion of the Philosophers organisation, renaming them The Patriots. This group will control the US Government from the shadows with their vast wealth.

Zero and Snake found the FOXHOUND unit, recruiting Roy Campbell, Frank Jaeger (Null/Grey Fox), Ocelot, Sigint and Para-Medic (who appeared as advisers in the last two games). Snake later finds Eva, who also joins FOXHOUND. Snake and Zero’s philosophies are both informed by The Boss and her code of ethics, but as time goes on they diverge more and more. Snake wants to make a world where soldiers aren’t used as tools of the government, and he has a vision of a nation of soldiers that he will call Outer Heaven.

Zero wants to create a united world by controlling the people, using technology to control the flow of information in order to manipulate countries and their populations. Zero has always been power-hungry, and he uses Snake’s fame as a legendary soldier as a tool to gain influence. Snake resents being used in this way and Zero realises he’ll eventually leave FOXHOUND because of their differences. As insurance he extracts some of Snake’s DNA and begins the ‘Les Enfants Terrible’ project. As the surrogate mother, Eva gives birth to twin clones of Snake; code-named Solid and Liquid.

When Snake finds out about this he leaves FOXHOUND and starts his own group, the ‘Militaires Sans Frontiers’, a private military company based on Gene’s principals. The MSF take on some work for the Colombian Government, who task Snake with taking out a group of rebels. This is where Snake first meets Kaz Miller; on opposite sides of the battlefield. Miller is leading the group Snake has been charged with neutralising. Having been impressed by Miller during battle Snake decides to capture him and convince him to join the MSF.

This brings us roughly up to date with where Peace Walker kicks off, which is where we’ll pick up in part two of the chronology. Hopefully you’ve found this recap enlightening, as over the next few weeks we’ll be walking through every title in the series. Come back next week for a summary of the PSP classic, Peace Walker, and the Phantom Pain prequel, Ground Zeroes.

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