Arsenal Gear

        Metal Gear Solid 2 is a very… interesting game to put it mildly. It’s filled with all sort of ‘mindscrews’ and manipulations, so much so that even mentioning them, revealing that there is something to be hidden, is almost a spoiler itself. But of course, that’s par for the course with my work so far, isn’t it?
        Today I’ll be talking about the final area in the game, Arsenal Gear. Yes, the final stage is itself a Metal Gear. I told you there’d be spoilers! Anyway, Arsenal Gear is less a weapon as it is a floating military fortress, stocked with thousands of missiles, some with nuclear warheads, a small army of Tengu, soldiers enhanced like the Cyber Ninja, giving them above average physical abilities, armed with guns and high-frequency blades, allowing them to fire and deflect bullets.
        Oh yes, and the whole thing is also defended by no less than twenty-five Metal Gear RAY units, all controlled by a central AI. These aren’t quite as dangerous as REX and other Metal Gears in some ways, because they aren’t made to shoot nuclear weapons. However, they are made to take down other Metal Gears, which certainly gives them plenty to work with to stop any intruder, such as missiles, a water cutter weapon, or simply stepping on them.
        Compounding all this, the player arrives in Arsenal Gear in very… unpleasant circumstances. They’ve been stripped of all their weapons, are about to get interrogated by the Sons of Liberty, and are only saved by Olga, who lets them go before any interrogation can happen. Raiden is stripped of his equipment, and in fact his clothes, and he has to meet up with Snake, who should have his equipment.
        Obviously running around in a warship bereft of any way to defend yourself is a recipe for disaster, and the names of the various locations are creepy too- Jejunum, Ilium, Ascending Colon… at first I didn’t understand, but then I realized, I’m inside Arsenal. These names are like that of the human digestive system. What if it’s eating me… no, no, that doesn’t make sense.
        Creepy names aside, you might want to get some advice on your CODEC. Sadly, it seems the Colonel has lost his mind, and says some very strange and disconcerting things, some of which seems to be directed not at Raiden, but at you, the player. It certainly doesn’t help that occasionally the Colonel’s face seems to simply vanish and be replaced by a skull, which had me looking away from the screen when he called. And the calls don’t stop. No, they keep coming, stream after stream of terrifying and bewildering nightmare fuel.
        Speaking of nightmares, the music doesn’t help either, filled with ominous chanting and creepy noises; I’m no music expert, but I can tell it was expertly designed to induce panic and fear, tapping into something subconscious that would put anyone on edge. All while I’m trying to avoid detection and am completely defenseless. Why did I play at night…?
        A-Anyway! This entire segment comes with a dream-like, feverish quality. The music is creepy and unpleasant, sending chills down my spine and making me feel ill. You have no weapons, no way to defend yourself if you come under fire. You’re in an enemy stronghold with no less than twenty five giant robots, some of which you have to walk past on your way forward. Deactivated, yes, but how do you know they’ll stay that way? You have no help; your commander spouts creepy gibberish that makes you wish you could tear out the CODEC. The entire thing is downright terrifying.
        Thankfully, it seems much less creepy once you’re reunited with Snake, especially since you get your inventory back. Nothing seems quite as scary once you can shoot it- oh, and you get a sword too! Awesome. Not to mention you have Solid Snake as backup. Surely nothing can stop you now!
        And indeed the Tengu do try their best, but Raiden and Snake steadily advance through a corridor and into a circular room. Now the tengu come from all sides to attack, and it seems the game isn’t done playing with my mind- occasionally there’s a white flash and the game over music plays, seeming like I somehow died… but in the usual game over window you see the battle is still raging, and ‘Mission Failed’ instead says ‘Fission Mailed’. It’s less scary and more shocking, but it could certainly throw you off and get you killed.
        After this Raiden is separated from Snake, who stayed behind to fight Fortune. Raiden climbs up a ladder and finds himself in a wide open area, referred to as the ‘Rectum’. RAYs start coming closer to do battle, and this particular bout is what I would call an ‘endurance match’. See, you’re up against the RAYs stationed on Arsenal Gear. Don’t worry too much; they aren’t as tough as REX was in the previous game, since these are a mass-produced model. Further, they do have a few weak points.
        To start with, they are three attacks. They can fire a machine gun burst from their ‘arm’, homing rockets from their legs, step on you if close enough, and uses their water cutter housed in their mouth. As for how to hurt them, they’ll only take damage from Stinger rockets, much like Ray.
        Hitting them in the mouth does damage, while strikes to the knees will make them double over, stunned, and open their mouth, which can now he hit for double the damage. They can also be shot there when hissing at you or using their water cutter. If you run low on ammo, some will appear in the arena. Each RAY will only take about five or so hits before they collapse, but they will keep coming. Only one, or, later in the fight, two will get close to you, but at least three will generally be present in the background, occasionally firing rockets. It’s almost like they’re waiting their turn. Anyway, these rockets will rain down on your position, while the RAY close to you will follow you horizontally, giving you less time to react.
        There’s no time to rest and no respite in this fight. They will not stop coming until you destroy them all, or you die trying. Suffice it to say that as you go up against them you’ll become intimately aware of their attack cues and the right times to strike against them. How many you actually need to destroy, though, depends on difficulty, with it being only three on Easy, six in Normal, twelve on Hard, and twenty in Extreme mode.
Regardless of how many you face, the battle ends the same way- Raiden being exhausted and the remaining RAYs standing over him.
        And what proceeds from there, well… like I said, this game is infamous for mind-screws, and even if I am revealing a little, I’d rather not give the entire story. Still, I simply had to talk about Arsenal Gear. It was truly a mind-numbing level, built to scare the player and play with their minds, then wear them down with a seemingly endless bout. All in all, an excellent level, but not an experience I’d want to repeat.

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