A Week of Metal Gear Solid — Day Six: You’re pretty good!

In the run-up to my most anticipated game release in years, I thought I’d take a look back at some previous Metal Gear Solid games in the most arbitrary way I know how: tedious list-based fanwank! Each day until The Phantom Pain is in my sweaty, shaking hand I’ll be taking a look at one aspect of what makes the MGS series special and rating each game from best to worst. (Or worst to best, depending on your perspective!)

Good ol’ Ocelot. He’s everybody’s favorite gun-spinning, double-crossing, apple-crushing, torture-obsessed, moustache-sporting, trenchcoat-wearing supervillain(?).

Metal Gear Solid has lots and lots of characters, and while most are integral to the contained plot of whichever games they appear in, Ocelot is one of the few that has broad importance to the saga as a whole. While it’s hard to keep tabs on his plots and allegiances from story to story, it hardly matters when he’s chewing on the scenery.

Here are some of my favorite Ocelot moments!

#6: No Ocelot! Waaaahh!!

No one character appears in every single Metal Gear Solid game, but Ocelot comes close; Peace Walker is the only game he doesn’t grace with his presence. If Peace Walker has a bright and glaring failing, surely this is it!

I suppose it could be argued that this is an essential slice of Big Boss’s life story, free from hyper-manipulative agents such as Ocelot. And from a narrative perspective, I will grudgingly concede that three or four more layers of backstabbery wouldn’t have improved anything.

But in his absense there was nobody to spin guns or crack wise. Big Boss just completes his mission without anybody taking the piss. What a shame.

#5: Taking the Tanker

There’s not a lot of context for Ocelot’s actions throughout Metal Gear Solid 2. At first he’s working with Gurlukovich, but then he shoots Gurlukovich. Later he needs the President alive, so he shoots the President. He needs Olga and Solidus and Fortune to help take the Big Shell, so of course he shoots all of them too. At times it really feels like he’s betraying people for the sheer thrill of it. And also he’s possessed by a magic talking arm…? Weird. It all reeks of setup for a sequel, which I suppose was his primary role in Metal Gear Solid as well.

He makes a hell of an entrance, though. First, he emerges from the shadows at the end of the Marine commandant’s speech, complete with deprecating, sarcastic applause. Then he shoots everybody important, acts all smug about it, and proceeds to blow up the tanker you’ve spent the past two hours carefully sneaking around. And while most MGS villains wait until the final act to hop inside of a Metal Gear and start lipping off, Ocelot decides to break tradition and do it right at the beginning. All that’s missing is a bout of maniacal cackling.

Sure, there’s that stupid bit where Liquid Snake’s dead arm is taking over his brain, or whatever. But I choose to believe, within the context of MGS2, that Ocelot is just letting Liquid think that’s what’s happening.

#4: Betraying Colonel Volgin

Metal Gear Solid 3 is chock full of fantastic Ocelot moments. Set during the Cold War, we are treated to a much younger, much cheekier Ocelot. In that simpler time Ocelot still had all the bravado and aplomb he’s so well-known for, but hasn’t yet tempered it with experience. As a result, quite a lot of MGS3 shows Ocelot taking his lumps, not from magically-appearing ninjas or supernatural talking hands, but simply the result of his own lack of humility.

There’s always the question of just who’s side he’s on, though. Very early on Ocelot develops a rivalry with Naked Snake that transcends his orders as a Soviet officer or an American CIA double-agent. While most of the rest of the characters seem to be disciples of The Boss, Ocelot becomes infatuated with Snake instead. As a result we’re treated to a lot of great character moments where Ocelot, dangerous though he is, just so very desperately wants senpai to notice him.

My favorite scene, though, is Snake’s confrontation against the dispicable Colonel Volgin. When Volgin orders Ocelot to stand down, depriving him of the showdown he feels he deserves, you actually feel for the little bugger. Ocelot responds to the situation by abandoning all pretense of being Volgin’s subordinate and openly starts rooting for Snake to win, going so far as to throw his equipment to him and giving him some encouraging finger guns.

The moment when Volgin shouts in exasperation, “Just who’s side are you on!?” is the moment Ocelot becomes the man he’s destined to be.

#3: The Torture Event

Leave it to Metal Gear Solid to make a rote button-mashing minigame engaging and memorable. The rules are simple: Snake’s life bar will constantly drain as Ocelot electrocutes him, and you can mash the button to make the bar goes back up. If you die, the game doesn’t let you continue. If you’re about to die, and you don’t want to replay the last hour of backtracking, you can hit another button to give in to the pain… but then you get the bad ending.

We know the rules so clearly because Ocelot explains them to us, as though it were a game. Which it is, I suppose, to the guy holding the PlayStation controller… but it doesn’t feel that way. While Snake is strapped half-naked to a metal table waiting for the shocks to start, Ocelot spells the situation out in terms that we-the-player understand all too clearly. He taunts us if we haven’t saved recently. Admonishes us for thinking about using a turbo controller. Calls us back to his torture dungeon, over and over, if we can’t figure out how to escape his prison cell.

By the fourth session, when your forearm aches and your hand is cramped up from all the mashing, Ocelot’s offer of making the pain end start ringing all the more true. The way he gets into your head with a combination of total moral depravity and gleeful fourth-wall breaking… it’s no wonder this horrorshow is Ocelot’s most famous scene in the series.

#2: Final Fist Fight

Throughout Metal Gear Solid 4 Ocelot (properly Liquid Ocelot, at this point) remains a step or six ahead of the player at all times. And yet, it still feels like a cheat, because there’s that nagging sense that Ocelot did all the work and got all the character development, only for Liquid to take over his brain at the tale’s end and take all the credit.

Ocelot doesn’t get to take control of SOP by setting off fireworks on the Volta. Ocelot doesn’t get to face off in an epic Metal Gear vs. Metal Gear battle at the docks of Shadow Moses. As great as these scenes are, it keeps coming back to that stupid talking arm from MGS2, and the knowledge that Liquid is stealing the spotlight. If Liquid was going to be the big bad in the end anyway, what was the point of that great after-credits monologue from MGS1?

But then we get to the final battle, not only of MGS4, but of the entire Metal Gear saga. No nanomachines, no weapons, no equipment; just two old men pummeling each other senseless, mano-a-mano. After a few punches, Liquid’s MGS1 character model flashes on the screen, and the name beneath his life bar changes from “Liquid” to “Liquid Ocelot”. A few punches later, the flash displays the talking arm scene from MGS2, and his name switches to simply “Ocelot”. What’s more, Snake’s name changes too — to “Naked Snake”.

Then the realization of what’s happening finally hits home: there never was any Liquid. Ocelot is such a chessmaster that he had to fool himself in order to complete his schemes. The player controls Snake in this fight, but we’re seeing things from Ocelot’s perspective. As Snake clobbers him, he regresses back through the damage done to his psyche over the years until, in his own mind, he’s a kid again, the world around him fades entirely away, and he gets his long-awaited tussel with Big Boss.

It’s a fine and fitting end for the character, but it’s cathartic for the player as well. After many years of cursing the stupid talking arm subplot foisted upon us by MGS2, we get to finish off the series with a real fight against Ocelot where we literally beat the Liquid out of him.

#1: Guess we’ll wait and see…

Ever since his first appearance in the Phantom Pain trailers, I’ve been giddy with anticipation to see what sorts of shenanigans Ocelot gets up to during his time working with Big Boss. This time around he won’t be a villain. Or, at leat, he won’t be an antagonist. It’s a new role for the character, and I’m more excited to see how it plays out than I am about any other part of the story.

Of course, it may all be a ruse, and there’s another heel-turn waiting in the wings to catch me off guard. If that’s the case, though, I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Godspeed, you marvelous bastard.

That brings us to the end of Metal Gear Memory Lane, but I have one more little surprise for you tomorrow, just as The Phantom Pain hits our PlayBoxes and X-Stations. Thanks for taking the journey with me!

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