Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance departed from the traditional stealth-focused gameplay of the renowned Metal Gear series. Instead of the patient and meticulous approach to infiltration characteristic of the series, this installment boldly ventured into high-speed action and intense cyborg battles. In contrast to its predecessors, which emphasized sneaking past enemies and avoiding confrontation, Revengeance immersed players in relentless, high-energy combat scenarios. While the game’s shift in focus might tempt one to hastily label it as a mere button-masher, undermining its depth and complexity compared to the more thoughtful entries in the Metal Gear franchise, there is more to it. Beneath the seemingly frenetic gameplay lies a strategic layer that encourages players to master swordplay, timing, and enemy patterns. Far from being a mindless exercise in button-mashing, Revengeance demands a certain level of skill and finesse for true excellence.
Despite the overt intensity and violence in its gameplay, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance surprisingly emerges as a thought-provoking chapter within the broader narrative of the Metal Gear series. Beyond the visceral thrill of cyborg battles and razor-sharp action sequences, the game reveals a narrative that transcends the boundaries of a typical hack-and-slash adventure. Essentially, the storyline of Rising is a compelling critique of objectivism, challenging the principles of self-centeredness and individualism. Rather than glorifying the pursuit of personal interests at any cost, the game takes a stance against the inherent dangers of such an ideology. Through a nuanced exploration of its characters and plot, Revengeance serves as a platform for a profound commentary on the pitfalls of selfishness.
The game’s narrative functions as a cautionary tale, warning about the potential consequences of adopting an ideology prioritizing personal gain over collective well-being. It explores the manipulation tactics used by followers of objectivism, revealing how even well-intentioned cultural concepts can be exploited for malicious purposes. Rising’s narrative emphasizes the need to question the motivations behind ostensibly noble ideals. It encourages players to stay vigilant against the insidious influence of ideologies that prioritize individual desires over the greater good. The complex relationship between the Metal Gear franchise and the United States has been a recurring theme in the series, providing a nuanced examination of patriotism, militarism, and the fallout of war. While many of the franchise’s iconic protagonists are American, the games do not straightforwardly celebrate the nation’s values. Instead, they consistently offer a critical perspective on the intricacies of American policies and societal attitudes.
Disillusionment and Pursuit of Ideals
Despite the American roots of its heroes, Metal Gear does not shy away from scrutinizing the actions and decisions of the nation they represent. From the mysterious Big Boss to the cybernetically-enhanced Raiden in Metal Gear Rising, the protagonists often clash with prevailing ideologies and the treatment of soldiers within the United States. The games portray a recurring theme of disillusionment as these characters become increasingly critical of the nation’s glorification of warfare and its treatment of military personnel. This disillusionment, depicted with remarkable depth across the series, catalyzes the protagonists to break away from the established order and pursue their ideals. The narrative journey of characters like Big Boss and Raiden highlights the internal conflict faced by individuals proud of their American heritage. However, it grapples with the moral ambiguities inherent in the nation’s approach to conflict. It often leads the protagonists to embark on personal quests, driven by a desire to reshape the world according to their vision, even if it means challenging the nation they once served.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the most politically charged entry in the Metal Gear series, engaging in a thought-provoking examination of a philosophy that has significantly impacted American ideological landscapes: objectivism. Developing a narrative deeply rooted in the principles of Ayn Rand, the game explores objectivism as the ideological foundation, providing players with a comprehensive exploration of a worldview that champions individualism and self-interest. At the heart of objectivism is the assertion that reality is absolute, and reason is the paramount tool for understanding this objective reality. The philosophy advocates for the unrestricted exercise of free will, positioning it as the key to advancing personal happiness. In objectivism, self-interest takes center stage, asserting that pursuing one’s well-being is morally acceptable and a virtue. Additionally, objectivism aligns itself with capitalism, arguing that the economic system, driven by self-interest and voluntary transactions, is inherently moral and fosters individual flourishing.
By incorporating objectivism into the narrative framework of Metal Gear Rising, the game prompts players to confront the implications of such a philosophy within the context of a futuristic, cybernetic world. The narrative serves as a canvas illustrating the consequences of prioritizing self-interest and unbridled capitalism, encouraging reflection on the moral dimensions of individual actions in a society governed by the tenets of objectivism. It encourages players to grapple with the potential consequences of a worldview that places personal gain above communal well-being. In line with Ayn Rand’s philosophical concerns, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance intricately constructs a narrative centered around free will. Many of its characters find themselves entangled in the pursuit of autonomy, wrestling with challenges presented by their predetermined programming or confronting the haunting echoes of their violent pasts. The game’s exploration of free will extends beyond individual battles against internal and external constraints, delving into the more nuanced realms of influence and control.
Memes as a Method of Control
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance introduces a unique element to its narrative by exploring a different form of control—memes. In this context, memes go beyond the internet’s playful combination of words and images; instead, they encompass the transfer of ideas and cultural concepts from person to person. The game puts forth a thought-provoking theory: the person who creates the most influential meme possesses the ability to shape and control their culture. This subtle method of control operates on the premise that ideas, once introduced into the cultural zeitgeist, have the potential to mold societal norms and perceptions. Remarkably foresighted in its assertions, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance anticipates the trajectory of societal dynamics, especially in the context of the transformative impact of social media. In 2013, the year of its release, the notion that the strength of a meme could profoundly influence culture might have seemed fantastical. However, as events unfolded in subsequent years, particularly in 2021, the game’s narrative resonated with an uncanny foresight. The rise of social media as a powerful force in shaping political movements and fostering extremism globally underscored the relevance of Rising’s insights into the potential power of memes in shaping the collective consciousness.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance goes even further into the complex network of ideas by providing a compelling narrative exploration into the potential corruption of positive memes. One such influential cultural concept is the American Dream—an idea that anyone can achieve success through hard work and determination. Essentially, the American Dream is portrayed as a contagious and uplifting meme that motivates countless individuals to strive for more significant achievements. However, Rising takes a dark turn in examining memes, illustrating how seemingly positive ideals can be manipulated and corrupted. The game’s primary antagonist, Senator Armstrong, focuses on the American Dream, intending to redefine and “reclaim” it according to his distorted vision. Armstrong aims to purify the concept by ruthlessly eliminating society’s weak elements, reshaping the nation into a harsh landscape where only the most vital individuals can thrive.
Distorted Pursuit of Uplifting Ideals
While Senator Armstrong does not explicitly align himself with objectivism, his objectives and actions effectively echo Ayn Rand’s philosophy pushed to its extreme logical conclusion. In this ideological journey, the game draws connections between Armstrong’s vision and the potential outcomes of unbridled individualism, demonstrating how even the most ostensibly uplifting ideals can be distorted when pursued with unrestrained zeal. By weaving these philosophical foundations into the narrative, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance not only immerses players in intense combat but also encourages deep reflections on the adaptability and vulnerability of cultural memes. Through Armstrong’s character, the game is a cautionary tale about the perils of pushing ideas to their extremes. It prompts players to critically assess the repercussions of unbridled pursuit of even the noblest ideals.
In the book For the New Intellectual, Ayn Rand expresses a viewpoint on social dynamics, summarizing it as follows: “The individual positioned at the apex of the intellectual hierarchy makes the greatest contributions, while the one at the bottom adds nothing to those above but reaps the benefits of their collective intelligence.” It eloquently summarizes Rand’s foundational philosophy of objectivism, which envisions a hierarchical structure where exceptional individuals, especially those at the intellectual apex, drive the progress and prosperity of society. According to this argument, society is conceived as a construct primarily shaped and sustained by the extraordinary contributions of those residing at the upper echelons of intellectual prowess. According to Rand’s perspective, these individuals act as the architects of progress, providing innovative ideas, creative insights, and leadership essential for the advancement of civilization. In contrast, those at the lower strata are viewed as passive beneficiaries, drawing upon the intellectual wealth those above them generate.
Meritocracy and Intellectual Pyramid
The concept further implies that those in powerful positions at the top of this intellectual pyramid inherently merit their influence and wealth. From this perspective, success is not just attained but is also a justified outcome of individual ability and accomplishment. In this worldview, the powerful are seen as the driving forces of societal progress, and the less accomplished are essentially beneficiaries of their intellectual generosity. Implicit in this argument is the idea that the less powerful members of society should express gratitude to the intellectually superior for shaping the world in which they live. The perspective assumes a sense of indebtedness, wherein less exceptional individuals are viewed as reliant on the intellectual prowess of their superiors for the very foundations of their existence. It reinforces a hierarchy of meritocracy, suggesting that the powerful not only deserve their elevated status but that their ascendancy is crucial for the collective well-being of society.
However, Raiden keenly observes that Senator Armstrong lacks a deep understanding of “the weak.” Armstrong’s life unfolded within the cocoon of privilege, shielded from the challenges faced by those without his advantageous circumstances. Compared to the principles he champions, Armstrong’s position of influence and affluence was not achieved through the meritocratic ascent he advocates. Instead, it results from a life shaped by inherited advantages and opportunities not earned through personal effort. This incongruity becomes even more evident when examining the source of Armstrong’s formidable abilities: his renowned nanomachines. These artificial enhancements give him superhuman strength, sharply contrasting with the very ideals he promotes. The irony is striking – for a man who advocates self-reliance and individual achievement, Armstrong’s prowess is artificially augmented, a product of technology rather than earned through the hard work and effort he celebrates.
Challenge to the Objectivist Assertion on Capitalism
In contrast, Raiden’s narrative trajectory embodies the opposite of privilege. Deprived of his humanity and thrust into a cybernetic existence against his wishes, Raiden has faced the significant challenge of reconnecting with the human experience. The loss of his former self propels him to safeguard the powerless from the abuses inflicted by those in positions of authority. Raiden’s journey is a powerful portrayal of resilience and empathy, transforming his struggles into a commitment to defend those lacking the means to protect themselves. His experiences stand as a strong criticism of figures like Armstrong, exposing the emptiness of their professed ideals and the disparity between their rhetoric and reality. Raiden’s pursuit of humanity amidst encroaching machinery highlights the enduring strength of the human spirit and the potential for redemption, even in dehumanizing circumstances.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance takes a bold stance by challenging a fundamental aspect of objectivism, precisely the assertion that capitalism is inherently moral. Rejecting this idea, the game presents a narrative landscape revealing potential corruption within capitalist structures. While not explicitly anti-capitalist, the game’s portrayal of Senator Armstrong’s private military corporation (PMC) engaging in reprehensible activities, such as perpetuating conflicts and profiting from the illegal trade of children’s organs, serves as a powerful illustration of how exploitative capitalism can become. The game refrains from depicting capitalism as an unquestionable bastion of morality; instead, it scrutinizes its darker aspects, revealing how economic systems, when unchecked, can be manipulated for nefarious ends. The heinous actions committed by Armstrong’s PMC underscore the inherent dangers of a profit-driven mentality divorced from ethical considerations. In doing so, Metal Gear Rising rejects the simplistic idea that capitalism ensures moral rectitude.
This nuanced viewpoint underscores that capitalism, as an economic system, does not inherently come with a comprehensive ethical framework. While it can offer innovation and economic growth opportunities, Metal Gear Rising argues that it lacks an inherent moral guide. The game emphasizes that the potential for corruption does not stem from the economic system itself but from the actions and choices of individuals operating within it. In contrast to the objectivist perspective linking capitalism to innate moral superiority, Metal Gear Rising embraces a more humanist stance. The game posits that morality is a result of human agency and decision-making. By highlighting the role of individuals in shaping their moral principles, Rising promotes a perspective that squarely places the responsibility for ethical conduct on people rather than attributing it solely to the economic structures in which they function.
Alternative Interpretation of the American Dream
By shifting the responsibility onto individuals to discern right from wrong instead of assigning ethical considerations solely to the systems around them, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance presents its audience with a compelling alternative interpretation of the American Dream. In a narrative where societal corruption can propel figures like Senator Armstrong to the top without merit, the game raises a crucial question: How can individuals lead fulfilling lives in a world where foundational principles may be compromised? Rising’s response to this existential question introduces a nuanced perspective. Even if society is susceptible to manipulation and distortion to the extent of losing inherent meaning, the game argues that there is intrinsic value in safeguarding the well-being of the people living within it. The narrative unfolds as a poignant commentary on the adaptability of societal structures, emphasizing that, despite the potential for corruption, it remains a collective responsibility to protect the vulnerable.
The culmination of the game serves as a poignant representation of this philosophy. It advocates for a collective pooling of talents and resources, promoting a collaborative effort where individuals unite to benefit each other. It starkly contrasts with the reliance on a select few compelling individuals, a concept critiqued throughout the game, mainly embodied by figures like Armstrong. Rising suggests that genuine fulfillment and happiness arise not from concentrating power in a privileged few but from a shared commitment to mutual support and collaboration. The intense clash of ideals between Senator Armstrong and Raiden in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance offers a grand resolution to the numerous questions the Metal Gear series has long explored regarding the United States. Armstrong symbolizes an insatiable lust for power, reminiscent of the darkest chapters in American history where the pursuit of dominance, often at the expense of others, has left an enduring mark. His character represents the ruthless ambition that has fueled some of the nation’s most troubling episodes.
Dichotomy Between Armstrong and Raiden
In contrast, Raiden embodies a poignant representation of the nation’s enduring optimism. Despite grappling with a problematic past and the challenges his cybernetic existence poses, Raiden chooses a path of redemption and selflessness. He willingly risks his life to protect the innocent, exemplifying a spirit transcending personal struggles for the greater good. Raiden’s character symbolizes hope, embodying the resilience and determination that have defined the United States at its best. The dichotomy between Armstrong and Raiden encapsulates a profound thematic exploration within the Metal Gear series—a tension between the dark undercurrents of power and the optimistic potential for positive change. Armstrong’s pursuit of the power of the past, rooted in a history marked by exploitation and dominance, clashes with Raiden’s commitment to preserving hope for the future. This clash is a symbolic battleground where the contrasting ideologies contend for supremacy.
Understanding the nuanced aspects of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance‘s conclusion becomes crucial, particularly in deciphering the meaning behind Raiden echoing Senator Armstrong’s words at the game’s end. Some fans might interpret this repetition as Raiden embracing the ideals of his formidable adversary. However, a closer analysis of the narrative reveals that their perspectives diverged despite both men sharing a disdain for systems fostering corruption. It is important to note that after the game goes to great lengths to debunk Armstrong’s ideals, Raiden is unlikely to adopt them fully. While Armstrong and Raiden disliked systems allowing corruption, the crucial difference lies in their attribution of blame. Armstrong directed his contempt towards the weak, advocating for their elimination to cleanse society of perceived impurities. In stark contrast, Raiden’s aversion was aimed at the strong, rejecting the notion that power justified exploitation. This fundamental difference underscores a core divergence in their ethical frameworks.
Legacy of Revengeance
Though Raiden undoubtedly learned something from his encounter with Armstrong, his subsequent actions suggest a more nuanced interpretation, particularly his determined willingness to engage in his struggle. Instead of outright embracing Armstrong’s philosophy, Raiden’s repetition of his words may be a strategic move—a calculated use of the enemy’s rhetoric to advance his goals. This pragmatic approach aligns with Raiden’s character, emphasizing his resolve to achieve his objectives by any means necessary, even if it involves employing the language of his adversaries. Despite the lack of a sequel, the future trajectory of Raiden’s character in the Metal Gear series remains an intriguing uncertainty. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, while not continuing the narrative directly, is an exceptional achievement in interactive storytelling. The game seamlessly combines intense, high-energy action with a substantial engagement in controversial philosophy, offering players more than just a visceral gaming experience. Instead, it presents a thought-provoking response to the themes and ideologies it confronts.
In the domain of Metal Gear, renowned for its subtlety and intricate narrative layers, Revengeance boldly sets itself apart as a more explicit and action-focused installment. However, its departure from the series’ traditional stealth gameplay keeps its narrative richness intact. On the contrary, the game stands alongside its stealthier predecessors, wielding a narrative precision that navigates through the philosophical complexities it addresses. Raiden’s journey in Revengeance attests to the series’ ability to evolve and adapt while preserving the core elements that characterize Metal Gear. The character’s resilience and transformation, set against a rapidly changing world backdrop, contribute to the game’s impact as an immersive and thought-provoking experience. Even without a direct sequel, Revengeance‘s legacy remains a distinct and memorable chapter in the Metal Gear saga.
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