Metal Gear Rising: Vengeance was an odd entry into the legendary stealth saga, being more focused on fast-paced action and brutal cyborg battles than the traditional stealth of the series. As such, it can be easy to assume that the game is a brainless button press compared to the rest of its more thoughtful family.
Yet despite its ultra-violent gameplay, Rising turned out to be one of the most provocative chapters of Metal gearthe story of. In many ways, his account can be understood as a critique of objectivism and a rejection of selfishness. Through this discussion, the game issues a stern warning about the dangers of this ideology and how its followers can manipulate even the most well-meaning cultural concepts.
The Metal gear franchise has always had a complex relationship with the United States. Although most of its heroes are American, the games are often critical of the country. It is common for the protagonists of the series, from the legendary Big Boss to RisingIt’s Raiden’s own, only to become disillusioned with the nation’s treatment of soldiers and the celebration of war. This often leads them to pursue their personal ideals, for better or for worse.
Rising is undoubtedly Metal gearthe most politically charged game to date, exploring a philosophy that has been influential in the United States: objectivism. Developed by Ayn Rand, Objectivism is an individualistic idea that claims that reality is absolute, that reason is the best tool for understanding it, and that people should use free will to advance their own happiness. By extension, this means that self-interest and capitalism are both inherently moral.
Like Rand, Rising is also concerned with free will. Most of its actors struggle with control, struggle with their programming, or struggle to get out of a bloody past. However, the game also explores a more subtle type of control: memes, ideas, or concepts passed from person to person. This refers to both the combinations of words and images on the Internet and the transfer of culture. The game postulates that whoever creates the strongest meme can control their culture. Such claims may have sounded absurd in 2013, but in 2021, given the impact of social media on political movements and extremism around the world, Rising feels surprisingly prophetic.
In reality, Rising goes further by showing how even positive memes can be corrupted. The American Dream, the idea that anyone can achieve success through hard work, is itself something of a meme – one that inspires many people to reach greater heights. However, the villain of the game, Senator Armstrong, intends to “recover” it by purging the weak and making the country a country where only the strong survive. Although Armstrong does not define himself as an objectivist, his ideas are indeed Rand’s taken to their logical conclusion.
In For the new intellectual, Rand writes, “The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most … The man below … does nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus with their whole brain.” This argument claims that the company is built by great people, and that everyone is little more than a parasite escaping their success. As such, the powerful inherently deserve their power, and the weak should be grateful to them for building the world they live in.
However, as Raiden points out, Armstrong knows nothing about the “weak”. He lived a life of privilege that was not met on his own merits. This is also reflected in his famous nanomachines, which give him superhuman strength that he has never gained. For all their boastfulness, men like Armstrong fall short of their own ideals. In contrast, Raiden was stripped of his humanity and has since struggled to reconnect with it. This loss prompts him to protect the helpless from similar abuses inflicted by the powerful.
Attached to this rejection of the powerful, Rising denies objectivism’s assertion that capitalism is inherently moral. While the game isn’t necessarily anti-capitalist, the fact that Armstrong’s PMC perpetuates conflict and steals children’s organs for profit shows just how exploitative the structure can be. These grotesque twists and turns proclaim that capitalism can be corrupted because it is an economic system, not a complete theory of ethics. Instead of, Rising takes the more humanistic position that only people define their morality.
By making people responsible for determining right and wrong, rather than the systems around them, Rising offers its audience an alternative reinterpretation of the American dream. If society can be so corrupt that men like Armstrong can rise to the top without investing the proper effort, how can people lead successful happy lives? RisingThe answer is, even though the company is so malleable that it doesn’t make sense, it’s still worth protecting the people who live there. As the ending shows, that means everyone needs to pool their talents to help each other instead of relying on a few particularly powerful individuals.
What makes this clash of ideals so convincing is that it is a perfectly explosive answer to all the questions that the Metal gear series explored concerning the United States. Armstrong represents the thirst for power, even at the expense of others, that has motivated some of the darkest chapters in American history. Raiden, meanwhile, epitomizes the optimism of the nation. He comes to terms with his problematic past and risks his life to protect the innocent. One demands the power of the past, the other preserves hope for the future.
This distinction matters as some fans play Raiden echoing Armstrong’s words at the end as he embraced his rival’s ideals. However, after all the efforts Rising puts by rejecting them, it is unlikely to be the case. Both men were disgusted with the systems that poisoned corruption, but Armstrong blamed the weak while Raiden abhorred the strong. While Raiden unambiguously learned something from Armstrong, his willingness to wage his own war suggests that it was simply the desire to achieve his goal by whatever means necessary.
Metal Gear Rising: Vengeance never received a sequel, leaving Raiden’s future development in limbo. Nevertheless, his saga remains an incredible success in interactive storytelling. Despite all of its hammy action, the game engages in a controversial philosophy and strives to provide a thought-provoking rebuttal. It’s not the most subtle entry in the series, but it’s still as crisp as her more stealthy parents.
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