Whether you’re new to the world of Metal Gear Solid or if you’re a series veteran, I think we can all agree that the story here is one hell of a clusterfuck. With the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain looming over us like a colossal shadow, I’m sure newcomers and fans alike will be scrambling to catch up with the story before diving into the next chapter of Big Boss’s life.
Before jumping straight into The Phantom Pain, you’ll need to at least be familiar with the events of Snake Eater, Portable Ops, Peace Walker, and Ground Zeroes – all the entries that have focused on Naked Snake and his transformation into the legendary soldier, Big Boss. Considering the convoluted nature of the story in Metal Gear Solid, I’m well aware that there may be little details that I might miss in this lengthy story summary, or plot points that I may flub. If you spot any inaccuracies, do let me know in the comments and I’ll fix them post-haste.
Alright. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s start talking Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
The game is set in the 1960s during the Cold War period, and Naked Snake is part of the FOX unit – a special division to handle top-secret sneaking and infiltration missions and other black ops. Basically, it’s one of those ‘if the enemy captures you, we’re gonna pretend we don’t know you’ type deals. The two founders of the FOX unit were Major Zero and The Boss, Snake’s mentor.
The game kicks off with Major Zero telling Snake that the US government needed someone to retrieve a nuclear scientist within Soviet territory and bring him back to the States. The scientist, Nikolai Stepanovich Sokolov, had originally wished to defect to the USA back in 1962. It seemed that Sokolov wanted to defect because he had become afraid of whatever nuclear weaponry he was working on for the Soviets and the kind of destruction it could bring about. The CIA was successful in bringing Sokolov and his family over the Berlin Wall. However, soon after that, President Kennedy got word that the Soviets were planning to place missiles in Cuba, thus kicking off the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Considering the threat of having Soviet missiles aimed directly at the States from Cuba, the US government decided to resolve the issue by striking a deal with the Soviet Union. In exchange for removing the missiles in Cuba, the Soviets wanted Sokolov back. That’s right, history students; the history books tell us that the incident was resolved when the US removed their own missiles from Turkey, but that’s actually just a big cover up for what the Soviets really wanted: Sokolov. Everything you learned in school was a lie.
However, The Boss soon finds out from her contacts that the weapon Sokolov was working on was nearing completion, and if they wanted to prevent the Soviets from obtaining a nuclear trump card, they had to extract Sokolov once more. And thus, the Virtuous Mission was born. Naked Snake was tasked to enter Soviet territory, find Sokolov, and get him the hell out of there.
Snake’s support team on the Virtuous Mission included Major Zero (though he calls himself ‘Major Tom’ during this prologue chapter), Para-Medic, and The Boss herself, whom Snake hasn’t heard from in five years. So yeah, there’s some tension going on with those two.
The mission goes rather swimmingly, and Snake eventually finds Sokolov in Rassvet. However, Sokolov warns him that there’s an anti-Khrushchev faction within the Soviet Union that plans to overthrow the Premier, and come after Sokolov themselves. This faction is led by GRU colonel Volgin, who happens to be a large man with the ability to deliver lightning punches. Volgin’s plan was to kidnap Sokolov and use his weapon to overthrow Khrushchev and gain control over the Soviet Union.
Before Snake and Sokolov can escape the area, however, they are ambushed by a group of KGB operatives. Thankfully, the Ocelot unit, led by GRU major Ocelot, quickly takes down the KGB men. Snake tells Sokolov to run on ahead, while he takes on Ocelot with his impressive CQC (close-quarters combat) techniques – a fighting style developed by The Boss and himself.
Snake quickly catches up with Sokolov but before they can get any further, he encounters The Boss herself on a rope bridge. She isn’t there to act as an ally; Snake finds out that she’s defected to the Soviet Union and is aiding Volgin in his quest to overthrow Khrushchev. The Boss’s own elite Cobra unit kidnaps Sokolov, and she also explains that Sokolov himself, along with two miniature nuclear shells she’d stolen from the military, were gifts from her to her “new host”. Volgin also makes an appearance on the bridge and tells The Boss to kill Snake if he isn’t there to join them.
The Boss engages Snake in CQC, breaks his arm, and throws him over the bridge into the river. Snake manages to grab The Boss’s bandana as he falls. After doing so, she joins Volgin on a chopper and watches as he launches one of her nukes to destroy the OKB-754 research facility, also known as the Sokolov Design Bureau. I know it doesn’t seem like a terribly important detail, but Volgin blowing up the facility is a terribly important detail. But more on that later.
At the end of the Virtuous Mission, which was, of course, a massive failure, Khrushchev accused the US of having launched that nuke because they had detected an American aircraft within Soviet airspace. President Lyndon Johnson then explained that the US was not responsible for the nuke, and also revealed that The Boss had defected and had taken two portable Davy Crocketts with her. In order to prove the US government’s non-involvement in this issue, Khrushchev demanded that they send another man in to kill The Boss and clean up the mess they’d made.
Operation Snake Eater
Unsurprisingly, Snake was chosen for Operation Snake Eater, and he was tasked to assassinate The Boss. The KGB also provided aid by putting him in contact with ADAM and EVA, two NSA agents who had defected to the Soviet Union. Snake’s first objective would be to head to Rassvet to link up with ADAM.
However, as soon as he lands, he encounters The Boss, who proceeds to swiftly kick his ass with more CQC badassery before warning him that she would kill him if they met again in the future.
“What about you, Jack? What’s it going to be? Loyalty to your country, or loyalty to me? Your country, or your old mentor? The mission, or your beliefs? Your duty to your unit, or your personal feelings? You don’t know the truth yet. But sooner or later, you’ll have to choose.” – The Boss
When Snake finally arrives at Rassvet, he meets up with a woman on a motorcycle instead of ADAM. She is unable to provide the password “La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo” (oh boy), and she only gains Snake’s trust after protecting him from a GRU ambush. The woman reveals herself as EVA and provides him with a scientist disguise and a new handgun to help with his mission. She also tells him to head to Graniny Gorki, where Sokolov was being held.
Instead of finding Sokolov at Graniny Gorki, Snake encounters Dr. Aleksandr Leonovitch Granin, yet another nuclear scientist who was upset at Volgin’s decision to fund Sokolov’s Shagohod project instead of his own weapon, a bipedal tank which he called ‘Metal Gear’. Metal Gear?!???! Granin then tells Snake that Sokolov was in the Groznyj Grad fortress and also provides him with a keycard to reach the mountains. Before Snake departs, Granin also reveals his intentions to send his blueprints for Metal Gear to a friend in the USA.
Snake eventually manages to infiltrate the weapons wing in Groznyj Grad by taking on the disguise of GRU major Raikov. Snake finds Sokolov, who provides him with more information about how the Shagohod development is going. Long story short, things aren’t good. Before Snake can escape with Sokolov, Volgin enters the room and is able to see through Snake’s disguise fairly quickly by grabbing his balls. By the way, it’s heavily implied that Volgin and Raikov were engaged in a sexual relationship. Scandalous.
Volgin captures him and starts torturing him while repeatedly asking if the CIA knew about the Philosophers’ Legacy. What is this Philosophers’ Legacy, you ask? I’ll get to that really soon. EVA, who is disguised as Tatyana (Volgin’s lover and the Shagohod supervisor), tries to tell Volgin to stop with the torture. However, this makes Ocelot suspect that she’s another spy within their ranks and decides to test her by juggling his three guns, one of which contains a single bullet, and starts firing them at random. Snake interferes by swinging into Ocelot’s way just as he’s about to fire, and he loses his right eye in the process.
After the entire ordeal, Volgin, Tatyana, Ocelot, and The Boss leave the torture room. Snake soon manages to escape and make his way back to Groznyj Grad, where he plants C3 explosives to destroy the hangar. He encounters Volgin, Ocelot, and The Boss once again, and discovers that they have found out that Tatyana was a spy all along, as they found a microfilm on her, containing the Philosophers’ Legacy. The Philosophers were made up of the most powerful men in America, Russia, and China, and the Legacy was a vast sum of money accumulated by them.
Showdown with The Boss
Soon after, Snake fights Volgin, and defeats him along with the Shagohod. He and EVA then proceed to escape to the lake on Rokovoj Berej. EVA goes on ahead to prep the WIG for departure, but Snake stays behind, knowing that he still has a score to settle with The Boss.
The Boss shares her vision of a united world, and her hopes that the people of the 21st century will realize that the Earth has no east, west, Cold War, and that things like the Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union were just more areas for meaningless competition. She also reveals that she hoped to unite the world with the Philosophers’ Legacy. Snake fights The Boss and manages to finally defeat her. Before he ends her life with her own gun, aptly named The Patriot, The Boss tells him “there’s only room for one Boss, and one Snake.” She also hands him the microfilm containing the Legacy.
Snake gets on the WIG with EVA, and everything seems peaceful until Ocelot hops onboard for one last showdown. The two of them end the duel with mutual respect for each other, and Ocelot reveals that his real name is Adamska. Huh. Adamska? Sounds a tad familiar.
Snake and EVA hook up in a cozy cabin together, but she disappears the next morning, along with the Legacy. He finds out that EVA wasn’t actually the NSA agent he was supposed to meet, and that she was a Chinese spy tasked to retrieve the Legacy for the Chinese government. EVA also reveals in a recording she left behind that she was supposed to kill him but she didn’t, because of a promise she made to The Boss. EVA had attended one of the Philosophers’ charm schools, where she’d learned how to get close to people and manipulate them. But The Boss saw through her, because she herself had been an instructor at one of these charm schools.
The Boss wasn’t a traitor; the US government staged her defection so that she could retrieve the Legacy and destroy the Shagohod. However, when Volgin fired the Davy Crockett at the research facility (ha, told you it was important!), the CIA revised her original mission and decided that she would have to die in order for them to get their hands on the Legacy, and prove their innocence to Khrushchev at the same time. Snake learns that everything The Boss did was for her own country, and that she was a true patriot. The Boss knew that she would have to die in order for her country to obtain the Legacy. Even if she would go down in history as a traitor, she was willing to be killed at the hands of her own student for the sake of her country.
Snake returns to the States and inherits the title of Big Boss.
Oh, and Ocelot was the real ADAM that Snake was supposed to meet. But he’s actually a triple agent who was working for both the CIA and Volgin at the same time. He also mentions that the microfilm they obtained was only half the Legacy and that he suspected the other half was still with the KGB. Oh, and he also retrieved the Metal Gear blueprints which he thought might aid the US government at some point. Talk about convoluted plot twists. Oof.