By ThePhantomStranger 6 Comments
Disclaimer: There will be spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 4 and Arkham City so read at your own risk. Also I'm assuming you've played MGS4 and Arkham City.
Second Disclaimer: This will be a rather exhaustive post on this odd subject.
So I'm a bit late to the party on this but I want to talk about endings and perhaps rant a bit about how the story in Arkham City is kinda of awful. I'll be jumping around a bit but let's start with an inflammatory list on the endings of two games.
- Metal Gear Solid 4 has a surprisingly mature ending
- Arkham City has a surprisingly 90s Watchmen chasing ending
Am I locked yet for clearly trolling? No? Alright let's expand on this starting with MGS4.
On the bombcast a while back the crew discussed Metal Gear Solid:
Ground Zeroes The Phantom Pain Snake's Revenge and with it the ending of Metal Gear Solid 4 came up. They felt the ending was a cop out. Snake lives to be squished into another game through nonsensical de-aging nano-machines or something right? That's MGSV right?
Only one problem with that though.
This isn't snake it's Big Boss. Sure they look exactly the same and they even use to have the same voice actor but the point is that it isn't Snake. Clearly Snake decides against suicide for another, perhaps story based, reason. Clearly you could argue they were merely keeping Snake alive as an option if you want to retain your cynic's badge but there are still logistical problems.
Why bother keeping Snake alive in such a state that you have to come up with unparalleled levels of bullshit to de-age him when you not only have Big Boss but also Raiden who is clearly presented as "badass" now. MGS4 sets up a means to continue the story forward without Snake in a leading role. Raiden is not only turned into Grey Fox but given a stronger supporting cast in the form of his son. Sure like all of this story it's incredibly hokey and not all that well executed but it's still there staring you in the face.
So why have Snake live? because this a game about war and Snake's relationship with violence. Obviously. I mean we all knew this right? Hell if I had more time I could point out why I think this is one of the best anti-war games I've ever played (haven't played spec-ops) and how this edge article is total wrong. The point is Snake thinks himself nothing more then just an old killer sent to do some wet work. Every other character in the game tries to convince him otherwise.
Meryl is obviously concerned during the Europe stage and keeps trying to talk him down from getting involved until Snake pisses her off. Otacon desperatly asks Snake to leave the incredibly suicidal fight near the final act. A lot of characters met along the way are uneasy about Snake taking all this on. Yet Snake is needed to get the job done, in some ways war could be necessary, at the cost of only living for the violence of war. In some ways Snake is only himself in the midst of violent tactical espionage so when he's given a reasonably heroic reason to die in the form of not only this suicide mission and the foxdie mutation it seems like a good end for Snake right?
Let's ignore the part near the end when the foxdie in his body is countered by other foxdie because if Kojima wanted Snake to shoot himself then he wouldn't have had that line in there. Instead let's focus on the, again poorly executed, side proceedings to MGS4.
- Sunny cooks eggs
- Meryl has her own squad
- Mei Ling is running a ship
- Meryl gets married
These events aren't just "where are they now" or fan service bits but something rather different to a non-snake Metal Gear Solid. These are people with lives that move forward. Sunny gets better at a mundane skill, Meryl moved on from just a soldier to someone in command, Mei Ling has also moved up in the world (kinda), and then Meryl gets married and Snake doesn't show up.
Why doesn't Snake show up? He's still Snake and he hasn't had life that moves forward. His life is still in war. His function is the "killer" and that's no longer needed after bringing down the end boss hallway. He doesn't quite think of himself as a person with a life that can continue after all the violence. He wouldn't fit in at the wedding and he wouldn't be comfortable there. He's going to kill himself even though he doesn't have to. He just wants to die.
Then he gives a subtle bit of a whimper while that gun is in his mouth. If he killed himself right there would that have been better? Is moody always better? Why is it bad that Solid Snake's dad basically comes in at the last second and asks him not commit suicide for no reason? Is this ending inherently inferior to the Joker dying in Arkham City?
Why bring up Arkham City? It's the complete opposite of Metal Gear Solid 4. All of it's individual scenes and moments are incredibly well executed but the story connecting them is absolute garbage. The only thing that both do is use the gameplay to make you feel like the character you're playing as. They're both good games for different reasons.
At the end of Arkham City the Joker dies and it's treated like some big moment where everyone gasps and awes. It wasn't exactly lauded as a moving ending but it wasn't considered a cop out. In fact I'm likely the only person, besides maybe Chris Sims of Comics Alliance, to tell you that killing the Joker was unintentionally pandering and incredibly shallow. It'll help if you've played Arkham City for this. In fact go play Arkham City right now because it's a good game.
So Arkham City starts out
with a catwoman segment that kills the pacing with Bruce Wayne, who is Batman *gasp*, getting captured by Hugo Strange.
Batman is captured. Professor Strange knows his secret. Great opening.
Oh what? All that's ignored afterward so that Mark Hamil can have a dramatic exit? Oh. Great.
The game's story starts out strong enough by having Batman escape but with the caveat that if Strange wants to he can tell the world that Bruce Wayne is Batman. This provides far better tension then when Joker latter hits with some
foxdie of his blood. It's an intellectual threat rather than the physical bodily issue of poisoning. If you are remotely aware of Batman you know that he's almost unfair in how easily he overcomes death traps and crowds of thugs. The game is great at making you feel like you're Batman not just by beating up mash pits worth of enemies but through the Riddler's death traps in the form of puzzles.
Then Riddler is what makes the collectibles brilliant in that it turns the game into a puzzle game that also makes sure you're improving in your expertise of gadgets. When you finish enough collectibles you're treated to saving a Riddler hostage stuck in a death trap. You know Batman will save them and there's no tension on the story front but you get to do it!
The problem with the Joker gassing you is that it's a death trap you know Batman will get out of but you have no part in completing. There's no story tension but with the threat of revealing Batman's identity there is. You could have his identity revealed and still have another game but Batman dying from poison doesn't let you have another game.
So what is done with the threat from Hugo Strange? Nothing. There isn't even a mission where you have to prevent him from telling anyone. He just decides not to. Sure you could say he was delusional and thought he would win either way, that he had beaten him, but the story never explores that. Hugo Strange is pushed off to the side because the Joker is more interesting and has more cultural cred. Hugo Strange is disposed of in the most careless of ways.
Hugo Strange wasn't even the threat that we showed you at the beginning it was Ra's al Goul. Why Ra's al Goul? He's the guy who plots right? As the player you shouldn't even know him that well and only met him for a limited time. Yet imagine if you watched Batman Begins or have been reading the comics for a while. You know him better then poor old Hugo then.
This game is more interested as treating the story as a play pen for all the characters the audience is familiar with then telling any sort of story. This becomes even more clear when the Joker dies.
So before the Joker dies and you meet Ra's for the first time you also meet Talia and her transparent pants.
She shows up talking about how great a time she and Bruce had in Metropolis. That's the extent of her character beyond being a crazy assassin bent on bringing "order" to the world with her immortal father that wants Batman to kill him or something. It's not like there's time for the audience to understand why Batman has such a damn hard on for her, emotional speaking because physically speaking she really isn't wearing any pants, when latter he wants to abandon everyone to go save her.
Yes Protocol 10 is in effect and everything is exploding! Batman wants to leave all the criminal scum, plus some wrongly imprisoned citizens, to burn while he saves Talia. Alfred and Oracle intervene and it's supposed to be some kind of emotional moment that we aren't privy to because all we know about Talia is that her and Batman go it on in Metropolis once.
Now if you read the comics or watched Batman: TAS you'd know better and as fans of these things, and one of the writers for the animated series, the developers clearly knew more then they bothered to tell you. Why is this important? It's another thing they set up and then abandon when the Joker dies.
Yes the Joker dies after causing quite a bit of mayhem and killing Talia. Talia is that person in the image above that we spent a few paragraph detailing how much Batman loves her and is willing to let everyone else blow up ten times over. So after all the curtains collide and the smoke dies down who does Batman carry out mournfully and sets down lovingly on the hood of a police car?
Making a gay joke would be immature and likely very offensive that's not the point. The point is that there is no consistency to this story and characters do things without motivation. The only reason anything has meaning is because you've seen outside material related to the character. The only upside is that the individual moments are so well executed that you're tricked into thinking they have some kind of depth to them.
Noticed how I didn't say something like resonate with you or otherwise more personal things that you can totally have with this game because it's still a good game cursed by the current state of mainstream games storytelling.
It's not like the Joker dying couldn't have been a well thought out story. It's been done before in a certain comic that played to the Joker's character and his relation with Batman. Here he's groveling at the shattered vial at the end after stabbing Batman in the arm. It's ironic right? He tried to get the cure but then through his own efforts he failed! or put into better sounding words: the Joker trying to kill Batman instead killed himself.
Except for the part where the Joker isn't just a crazy guy who tries to kill Batman sometimes. Killing Batman is easy. Corrupting Batman is what Joker is there for. Why doesn't Batman just kill the Joker right?
At the end Batman says he would have saved him.
Sounds good right? Exactly the thing about trying to corrupt Batman and Batman resisting right? Wrong. The Joker doesn't do anything to try to corrupt Batman he just wants his cure.
It would be one thing to have Joker arranging for the moral dilemma of choosing Talia or saving the inmates of Arkham City but he doesn't he just wants some plot mcguffin. That's boring.
The Joker's death is meaningless. Solid Snake living is meaningful.
Yes this where I explain why the hell I've been talking about these two games.
Solid Snake whimpers at the feel of the gun in his mouth, it humanizes him, it shows how pathetic it would be to commit suicide for no reason instead of simply going to a wedding. He finally decides not to do it. He decides to move on from war and all the violence. It's a triumph. It is NOT a corporate cop out meant to let you have a billion more Solid Snake games.
Joker whimpers at dying without having had much meaningful effect on the plot for the entire game and without challenging Batman at all. He serves no function in the plot. He's useless here. His death is about as edgy as any comic written in the 90s trying to imitate Watchmen like they're a kid who watched something kewl on TV.
Don't worry this is almost over and thank you for staying with me through this long ass post.
The reaction to the ending of MGS4 I feel is based on the idea that true art is edgy and subversive... or maybe it's because MGS4 was super confusing and kind of poorly executed moment to moment...
Yeah OK it's probably the latter.