In 2005, the legendary soldier Solid Snake infiltrated the Alaskan island Shadow Moses and destroyed Metal Gear REX, a bipedal tank with the ability to launch devastating nukes anywhere in the world. Now, nine years later, the world is still reeling from the consequences of the Shadow Moses mission. In Metal Gear Solid 4, Metal Gears have paved the way for more and more robotic soldiers, and the nanomachines that helped grant Snake his superhuman capabilities are now being used to control the masses, fueling puppet conflicts across the globe to build up the war economy.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is a game filled with what I can only describe as “anti-fanservice.” After years of players waiting for another full fledged Solid Snake title, they got their wish in a way that would make most monkey paws jealous. Want to control Solid Snake again? Alright, but he’s an old man now. Want to see Meryl again? Sure! Except she’s getting married to the guy whose only defining trait is defecating in his pants and being tricked by ketchup. Want to go back to Shadow Moses Isle? Well …
The once imposing military structure is now nothing but a former husk of itself, abandoned after Snake’s mission in Metal Gear Solid. Years of neglect have left the island a decrepit mess, punished by age and the relentless Alaskan winters. By the time Old Snake makes his return in Metal Gear Solid 4, the base is literally falling apart, and the ocean threatens to swallow Shadow Moses into the murky depths. Old Snake’s return to Shadow Moses is not only the last time you see the location in the series, it may be the last time anyone sets foot on the island in the Metal Gear universe.
But what a final visit it is. After stumbling through a blizzard, the snow parts as Snake finds himself staring down at the iconic Shadow Moses Heliport of Metal Gear Solid, and that’s when the music kicks in. As you descend on the base, the howl of the winds is traded for a stunning remaster of Metal Gear Solid‘s credits theme The Best Is Yet to Come, accompanied by the ability to hear classic audio clips from the GameCube remake when reaching the right location. Hearing the old lines when walking around the heliport can only be described as breathtaking, a wonderful way of paying homage to the times gone while still keeping Metal Gear Solid 4‘s melancholy atmosphere intact.
At no point is there that apparent than when Old Snake walks by the now rusted surveilance camera, and looks up to deliver Metal Gear Solid‘s immortal line.
And then it falls down and shatters.
It’s scenes like this where Metal Gear Solid 4 is at its absolute best, playing up the gamer’s nostalgia for the series before tearing it all down again. The rest of the mission in Shadow Moses may still be absolutely memorable, but there’s nothing in the rest of the game—or in gaming at all—that can quite replicate the feeling of returning to Shadow Moses Isle. While Metal Gear Solid 4 may not be the most overall sound title in the franchise, it’s these moments that remind me that convoluted plot or no, it is still very much the Metal Gear Solid we know and love.
Now if only Metal Gear Solid V got the memo.