Similar to last year’s post on Ocarina of Time, you may be asking yourself, “What does Metal Gear Solid 3 have to do with horror?” To which I would answer, “Well, quite a bit if you stop to think about it.” Then I would wonder how any of you managed to telepathically ask me a question, shrug my shoulders with apathy, and proceed to eat more candy corn.
In Metal Gear Solid 3, the player takes control of a former U.S. Special Forces Agent, code named Naked Snake (tee-hee), who is sent into Soviet Russia during the Cold War to rescue a defecting nuclear scientist named Sokolov. Upon saving the scientist, Snake is betrayed and left for dead by his former mentor, The Boss, whose elite squad abducts Sokolov and flees further into Soviet territory. After being rescued and having his wounds treated, Snake is redeployed with a new mission: defeat the Cobra Unit, rescue Sokolov, and eliminate The Boss.
Initially, it appears that the Cobra Unit is made up of only five members: The Boss, The Pain, The Fear, The End, and The Fury. But as Snake spies on the squad through his second mission, an additional member of the Cobra Unit is watching our hero at the same time. It seems that the return of The Boss to the Soviet Union has awakened some old friends. A pale man who cries tears of blood is following Naked Snake; the sixth member of the squad, a deceased soldier known as The Sorrow.
Unlike other members of the Cobra Unit, who impede Snake’s progress in creative ways (often based on their code names), The Sorrow actually aids our hero in his journey through the Soviet jungle. During cutscenes in the game, the player can press the R1 button to switch to a first-person view, where the phantom soldier will often appear, floating around with a coy smile on his face. During these times, The Sorrow will provide a clue or helpful tidbit; necessary information for Naked Snake to move forward. Later in the game however, as Snake nearly dies from jumping off of a waterfall, the player encounters The Sorrow in a sort of Spirit Realm, and that is where the true horror begins.
After diving from the cliff edge, Snake awakens in a river with The Sorrow hovering nearby. He informs the hero that he will, “know the sorrow of those whose lives you have ended,” and begins to float away, leading Snake downstream. The path that Snake must follow is based on a Japanese Buddhist concept of the afterlife known as the Sanzu-no-kawa; a river the dead must cross which becomes more or less difficult based on the weight of one’s sins. The difficulty of this in-game journey is directly based on how many enemy soldiers the player has dispatched through the course of the game. If the player eliminated every enemy on their way to The Sorrow, the river will be long and filled with tormented spirits who try to attack Snake. A player who utilized stealth and nonlethal means to make their way through the game will find the river very sparsely populated, and only have to dodge The Sorrow’s attacks as they make their way down the river.
Once Snake makes it to the end of the stream, a final corpse lies floating in the water, which is none other than The Sorrow’s body. As Snake approaches the remains, the spirit of The Sorrow rushes our hero, draining his life and stamina to the point of death. A game over screen appears, and the entire trial of the river seems to have been a waste of time. But if the player checks their inventory before trying to restart from the last checkpoint, he/she will find a revival pill, which will bring Snake back from the brink. The Sorrow will tell the player to return to their own world, and the nightmare will be over.
From the start of the game, the player has an option to use a tranquilizer gun to neutralize enemy threats. There is very little need for loss of life as Snake makes his way to victory. But as each player made his/her way through Metal Gear Solid 3, I wonder just how many lives were snuffed in the process; how many ghosts came back to haunt each player?