I feel I speak for every Metal Gear Solid fan when I say this past weekend was an emotional roller coaster. Hearing David Hayter and Paul Eiding reprise their roles as Solid Snake and Colonel Campbell in those new Ford ads led to a huge mix of emotions. Euphoric nostalgia, hatred of seeing something so beloved used in a commercial context and another reminder that Hayter was replaced as Snake in Metal Gear Solid V; a travesty that, along with its lacklustre story and horrendous sexism, still didn’t keep it from being my game of 2015.
Those Ford ads really left me thinking about the original Metal Gear Solid. I’ve been reliving all the memories I have from the 25 times I’ve played it through (no regrets). All the great boss battles, the guards who shrugged off getting shot like it wasn’t suspicious, and of course all the iconic story moments I can recite verbatim. There are so many I’d love to gush about, but for the sake of this In Memoriam, I’ll focus on a huge death. So yeah, SPOILERS and a lot of low resolution screenshots from here on out.
While infiltrating the nuclear weapons disposal facility on Shadow Moses Island, in Alaska’s fox archipelago, that was attacked and captured by Next-Generation Special Forces being led by members of FOXHOUND (sorry, did you question my verbatim quoting skills?), Solid Snake encounters a soldier by the name of Meryl Silverburg; a rookie who joined the incursion to emulate the ideals she perceived from the glory days of Snake and her uncle, Snake’s commanding officer Colonel Campbell.
Initially, Snake is wary of Meryl, wanting her to stay out of the way of his mission as he felt she was too “green” for the task at hand and that her hesitation to kill would be her downfall. But at the behest of Colonel Campbell, as he is secretly Meryl’s father, Snake promises to keep her safe and over the course of their time together they bond. Yes, it’s a clichéd the-two-leads-fall-for-each-other-during-a-crisis-event story, but hey, it was nearly 20 years ago, cut it some slack.
Anyway, around the mid point in the game Meryl is wounded by Sniper Wolf, a member of the FOXHOUND unit, and by the time Snake can get the weapons necessary to fight back she is captured. As Snake, you best Sniper Wolf in a battle of scopes, but alas she still knocks you out and captures you too. Upon regaining conciousness, Snake finds himself stripped of his gear and strapped into a giant electronic torture machine, with another FOXHOUND member, Revolver Ocelot, waiting to interrogate him.
What follows is something I still, to this very day, think is one of the hardest challenges ever in a video game.
Ocelot informs you that he’s going to pump a gazillion volts of electricity through Snake’s body and, in another classic case of Metal Gear Solid fourth wall breaking, you’ll have to repeatedly press the Circle button to replenish your health as it drains over time. If you die, game over. If you survive several rounds, you get to go to the jail and maybe have a chance to escape.
Now, the speed with which you need to press the Circle button to restore health quickly enough to stay alive is something I’m still convinced mortal humans cannot achieve. I was never able to pull it off myself, and I was in the best, most limber shape of my life at the time, being around 10 years old. In subsequent play-throughs I had to get my brother to pass this section for me, as he somehow had the finger dexterity of a group of knitting grannies. Probably explains how he can bash out 50,000 word novels in a month, the talented bastard.
Anyway, like I said, that was how I got past it in future play-throughs. What about my first one? Well, Ocelot gives you the option to “submit”, to end your suffering and be taken directly to the jail. The catch is that Meryl will take your place, and in her critical condition it isn’t likely she will survive.
And thus this moment becomes the deciding factor as to which ending of the game you will get to see: the one where you find Meryl alive right at the end and you escape the facility together or where you find her lifeless, and Snake curses his/your cowardice, weakness and failure before escaping with frequent pants-pisser and all around everyone’s-second-choice Otacon.
So Meryl, forgive me. Damn. I gave in to my fear, I gave into my pain. I sold your life to save my own. I’m a loser. I’m not the hero you thought I was. I’m noth- ahem, sorry, was quoting verbatim again there. Excuse me.
To be fair. it all turns out all right in the end. I assumed the Otacon ending was canon as Metal Gear Solid 2 begins with Snake and him fighting terrorism together, but Meryl makes a return in Metal Gear Solid 4 so clearly she didn’t die. I still sacrificed her that very first time though, and I felt really guilty about that.
But Otacon does give you “Stealth Camouflage” to use on your second play-through if you escape with him, something far more useful than Meryl’s unlimited ammo bandana, so I didn’t feel guilty about it for long…
RIP (But not really because she comes back) Meryl Silverburgh