Cutscenes in videogames are very rarely, if ever, interactive. Most of the time all the player is required to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the drama unfolding on the screen.
Even when interaction is evident, like pushing a sequence of buttons when prompted or controlling the camera, it is usually purely aesthetic and very rarely affects the actual gameplay or story.
Granted, most videogames are forced to lead the player to a scripted conclusion (the game would never end otherwise) and don’t really have the means to offer any kind of drastic choices; but, once a while, a designer will come along and attempt to shake up this common structure a bit.
One such designer is Hideo Kojima. His Metal Gear Solid series, while being one of the most well-received and commercially successful series ever, is known for pushing the boundaries of what we, as players, are used to seeing in a videogame.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a prequel to the original Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation. In it, you play as Naked Snake, a brand new hero in the series that mysteriously looks and sounds exactly like the Solid Snake fans of the series have come to know and love (I won’t ruin the reason behind the similarity).
This being a Metal Gear Solid game, the plot is remarkably complex and offers twists and turns every few minutes. For the sake of this article (and to avoid as much confusion as possible), I will just focus on the most important events and characters that relate to the moment I am focusing on.
In Metal Gear Solid 3, you are sent to a remote jungle in the Soviet Union (during the Cold War, mind you) to find and rescue a captured Russian scientist named Sokolov.
During the beginning stage of the game, you are assisted (over Codec) by your companion and mentor, known simply as The Boss. The Boss is a beautiful woman who single-handedly trained Snake in all his field tactics and techniques.
Shortly as the story starts to unfold, you come to find out that The Boss has defected and, in turn, has become the main antagonist to your mission. After a nuclear bomb is detonated with The Boss’s assistance, your new goal becomes to find and defeat your former mentor (now in possession of even more nuclear weapons), as well as search out Sokolov.
After playing through the entire game, experiencing some amazing and ridiculously memorable moments (a bunch of which will most likely pop up in this series), you finally arrive in a gloriously over-the-top field of white flowers, ready to face off with The Boss, your one-time friend.
This is when the next Memory Card moment occurs: not during the battle with The Boss (which, with its swirling flower petals, truly is a work of art unto itself), but right after you finally manage to defeat her.
Once The Boss is defeated, her body collapses onto the ground, crushing the white flowers underneath her.
It is at this moment when the traditional Metal Gear Solid cutscene begins. Snake walks up to The Boss and finds out that she is still alive, although barely.
Like in almost all dramatic death scenes, The Boss uses her last words to speak poetic about her life and the traumatic events that led up to her defeat.
Suddenly, the Boss hands you her gun (a Patriot) and asks you to take her life and put her out of her misery. She whispers that “there is only room for one boss” as you hesitantly grab the weapon from her and slowly stand up.
This is when the game presents a very dramatic and completely unexpected task for the player. Almost out of nowhere, the letterbox black bars that appear during a cutscene quietly fade away and you realize you have now entered actual gameplay.
Now you are faced with a horrible decision: as a player, you actually have to pull the trigger (by pushing a button on your controller) to kill your one time mentor and friend. The game won’t even continue until you do so.
Sadly, you can’t even move your character around the screen or re-aim your gun (in the hopes of maybe shooting somewhere else). All you are allowed to do (and all you have to do) is just push one simple button to end it all.
Once you summon up the courage and finally pull the trigger, a loud shot is heard as The Boss lets loose her finally breath.
In classic Kojima style, all the flowers around her turn blood red. From behind nearby trees, The Boss’s horse emerges, nudges his fallen master, and lets out a sad whinny into the setting sun.
As the music slowly grows louder, Snake softly grabs a falling (now red) flower petal, looks down, and wordlessly says his final goodbye.
You can watch the entire, breathtaking scene right here:
Shooting The Boss, while over in a blink of an eye, really is a pretty innovative and surprisingly memorable moment.
While it could have easily been incorporated into the always impressive cutscenes, making one, small creative decision to have the player perform this final killing shot makes the scene infinitely more powerful.
And, yes, even though you kill enemies (and bosses) left and right throughout the game, this really is so much different.
First of all, The Boss is presented as such a fascinating character. Not only does Snake have a history with her, but you, as a player, form a sick kind of bond with her, even though she is the main villain of the game.
Secondly, the moment itself is assembled so realistically (well, as realistically as something can be in the Metal Gear Solid universe). You can’t help but put yourself in the boots of Snake as he is standing over this completely helpless woman, gun drawn mere inches from her chest. Even though it is all in the fictional world of a videogame, you have to ask yourself if you have the strength to push the button on your controller, ending this character’s life.
And not only that, what happens if you don’t pull the trigger? Will The Boss eventually die on her own, allowing you to walk away without more blood on your hands? Or will the game just stay on this scene forever, never continuing until you perform the hardcore act?
I have played through this scene many times and each time waited longer without pulling the trigger, just to see what would happen. Unfortunately, it looks like the game really does not end until you choose to kill The Boss.
But that is the whole point of what Kojima is trying to accomplish: you make the choice to finally pull the trigger and end The Boss’s life. Even though it is a choice that has to be made, you are the one that has to make it, not Snake. Like other Metal Gear Solid games, the fourth wall is successfully shattered.
And watch the scene again. Notice how there is no music or anything playing once this moment approaches? Not only does this heighten the emotional impact of the scene in general, it makes the actual sound of the gunshot all the more deafening.
Although a lot of these creative decisions may seem small in the grand scheme of things, their effectiveness on the overall game is pretty phenomenal. It makes you appreciate even more the amount of care and detailed thought that goes into making a videogame.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is an instant classic and, like with this final showdown with The Boss, contains some of the most memorable and emotional moments in videogame history.
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