Surreal Snakes and heroic metafiction

– What’s going to happen to us?
– There, there. We always end up in a universe where we exist. Remember Copenhagen?

Remember the self-aware, postmodern hospital soap opera that Nate watches in the first episode of season 3 of Six Feet Under? Well, if that network – COMA TV? – had a 24-type series, chances are it’d be pretty much like Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the PS2 game I’m currently playing.

 Quite honestly, I’m not certain whether MGS2 is a badly scripted, badly acted mess of a soap opera as done by Tony Scott, or whether it’s a clever parody of existentialist hi-tech conspiracy thrillers (ah, that old chestnut!). Whichever it is, the game is a weirdly compelling guilty pleasure. But yes, the writing makes Final Fantasy X seem a masterpiece of subtlety.

In part, the game is obviously tongue-in-cheek; the absurd conversations with Otacon when you save the game, or scenes like the one where you have to sneak across a walkway underneath a guard answering the call of nature make that clear. But what about the bathos of Otacon’s relevations concerning his quasi-incestuous relationship with his stepmother? And what about Peter Stillman (Paul Auster fans note the name!), the anti-demolitions expert who faked having a fake leg for years in order to gain sympathy? While the latter reads like bizarre black comedy, the game plays it absolutely straight-faced.

I can’t say I ‘get’ MGS2, nor can I gauge its tone most of the time, but I definitely want to know how it ends – even if people have it that it’s the sort of ending that makes you want to throw your Playstation out the window. But, dagnabit, did they have to make the cutscenes that long? I feel like I should take a day or two off in anticipation of an ending cinematic that’s bound to be (or at least feel) as long as Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

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