Memorable Metal Gear Moments: Revisiting Shadow Moses

“A shadow of the inside. Of the old age.” – Old Snake, Metal Gear Solid 4

Revisiting Shadow Moses was one of the highlights of Metal Gear Solid 4 for many long time fans. We were now able to see the island from a different perspective, in more than one sense.

At the very beginning of Act 4, players suddenly find themselves back at the start of the original Metal Gear Solid. The graphics, sounds and game mechanics are all exactly as they were in the past. After entering the building, the game cuts to a close up of Snake’s polygonal head. Snake wakes up with a start, while his face quickly transitions into the detailed Old Snake head. Otacon notices Snake’s sudden awakening, and asks if everything is all right. “I was having that dream again.” Snake responds, still with distant thoughts.

Metal-Gear-Solid-4-Shadow-Moses-Island

Snake and Otacon approach the island by helicopter. Nine years ago, Snake arrived at the heliport by elevator, this time, he comes from a different direction. In front of him, he can see the base, the same structure of concrete and metal – but from a different perspective. Meanwhile, music begins to play. The Best if Yet To Come, which can be immediately recognized as the haunting song that played during the end credits of the original Metal Gear Solid game. This music not only reminds us of that history, but also invokes a feeling of something that has come to an end.

MGS4-Shadow-Moses-Base

MGS4-Shadow-Moses-Heliport

The facility, abandoned and crumbling, serves to illustrate Snake’s place in this new world: like the building and the technology inside, he is no longer needed. As Otacon remarks when booting up the old security system, it has become ‘totally obsolete’.

MGS4-Shadow-Moses-Lab

Perhaps one of the most explicit examples of this is the moment Snake sees the same camera he noticed 9 years ago. ‘A surveillance camera’, Snake utters, just like back then. But immediately after, the machine simply plunges off the wall. It’s no longer the threat it used to be, it’s now just a heap of junk.

Shadow-Moses-MGS4-Surveillance-Camera

Soldiers have been replaced by surveillance robots. The total absence of human beings only adds to the feeling of forsakenness that envelops this place. Or, as Mei Ling puts it during the briefing, it is ‘more like a forgotten island’. Something that simply lost its relevance and faded from the world as those involved have either passed away or moved on, willingly or not. ‘I thought I’d never go back.’ Otacon says. Snake has his back turned towards the camera. He is silent, not saying a word. We can’t fully make out what he is thinking or feeling at the moment.

On the island, it is as if the entire site has become a decor for Snake’s memories. Each room contains the elements as we remember them – but it’s just not the same anymore. It’s feels like Snake is in a dream about his past: the same, yet different.

MGS4-Shadow-Moses-Blast-Furnace

When Snake takes the elevator down to the second floor basement, dust and rubble come raining down. Like Snake’s body failing him more and more, this facility too has started to fall apart. Is this still the backdrop of Snake’s most heroic feats, or is it simply an worn down, outdated structure of steel and concrete?

MGS4-Shadow-Moses-Nuclear-Storage-Building

As Snake moves through the old facility, each location reminds him of what took place here nine years ago, and he can hear the voices of the people he encountered echoing in his head. They are voices of the past, of things long gone. Memories of something that is over.

MGS4-Shadow-Moses-Hallway

Snake has a different perspective on things now. He can still see the traces of his fight with Gray Fox. But he now has a new kind of understanding, about Gray Fox, about Naomi. “She must have hated me too.” he realizes.

Snake-Shadow-Moses-Stare

The same goes for Otacon. Looking back at his old working place, he remembers a certain birthday party celebrated right there in the laboratory – and the bitter irony of how their frivolous antics contrasted starkly with the monstrous weapon they were creating.

It is a walk down memory lane, but one that reminds Snake of just how much the world, and especially he, has changed. From, respectively, a giant threat and a young, bold hero, to a forgotten ruin and a vanishing shadow.

MGS4-Shadow-Moses-Nuclear-Warhead-Storage

As Mei Ling explained, soon after this final visit this entire island will be swallowed up by the sea. This too, is the result of a changing world. It will be erased from the earth, and it will be as if it never even existed. This is the same fate that awaits Snake, who, as Otacon notes at the very end of the game, can’t leave anything of his own behind to remind the world of his existence. No genes, no memes. He will simply cease to exist, together with Shadow Moses Island, and all the traces of their past, the reminders of their time, will be gone for good. As if they were just a myth.

MGS4-Shadow-Moses-Snowfield

  • Michel

    Great article, congratulations. Act 4 is pure art.

    • Nyxus

      Thanks. And playing that Act made me wish for a full remake of MGS1.

      • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

        Kojima talked about possibly doing one in an article through FOX Engine, but may have to get someone else to do it since he’s tight on time.

        • Nyxus

          Yeah, he said that would probably be a project for an outside studio.

  • Kaniebas

    Easily my highlight in MGS4. Kojima truly made the best fan-service he could!

    • Nyxus

      Agreed! I can’t really say what my high light of the game is (maybe the ending) but this is up there.

    • flying_fox

      And yet, in a weird way, it’s the opposite of fan-service! ^^ As shown in this great article, Kojima’s point is to show how the past glory of MGS1 will not stand the test of time, and has started to fade away.

      • Nyxus

        Yeah, I’ve always considered it to be more than just a fan service (like I tried to explain here). There’s more to it, related to the game’s story and theme.

  • Cartmangus

    It’s pretty insane how something like a camera falling and shattering can evoke feelings from a video game but damn it does. Returning to Shadow Moses was fantastic, hard not to get goosebumps when “Best is Yet to Come” starts playing, never gets old no matter how many times you replay the level. One of my favorite cutscenes in the game is Snake and Otacon back in his old lab, nothing of great importance happens there, just a great moment between the two, very nostalgic too, for all the right reasons

    • Nyxus

      Yeah, it’s a pretty quiet moment, but at the same time powerful. The two characters just reflecting on their past, while walking through the abandoned room (Otacon via the MKIII of course). It’s great.

  • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

    Greatest game ever! Would be nice if they game was remade in FOX Engine for PS4 but I doubt Kojima will go back and do that. This game will be remembered by me and many other hardcore gamers forever-long live SNAAAAAKEE!

    • Jonny McLaurine

      I like your enthusiasm but my issue is with people claiming “hardcore gamer”. In my life since I’m obviously older than you I remeber mg1 and mg2 considered by most gaming players my age as the hardest hardcore gaming game there was is and will ever be.
      There was no room for mistakes for if you fucked up . You had to restart whole game usually. When play station hit they made games more accessable to younger gamers. Please try not to think of hardcore and casual gamers. People say I am hardcore because I 100% every game I play. I Tell them I’m just a gamer. When you start thinking your a hardcore gamer and someone else is a casual , you lose focus on wha gaming really about.

      • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

        I know what you mean. I call myself hardcore gamer because it is about the passion. No matter how many games or play or how often they’re played if there is no passion it’s all pointless. That’s what I really mean by hardcore gamer. Besides playing a variety of games, and investing every ounce to connect to them, the passion must be alive to keep you going. I try not to think about people not as dedicated as I am being casual the thought actually rarely crosses my mind as something to really focus on. So for me gaming is about the passion, not categorizing and dividing the gaming population, though I do consider mobile phone games to be casual since they really don’t require much from the player whereas PC and console I consider to be full games as they should be, but that’s just my opinion. I’m not out to stereotype or construe what the industry is about. Happy Gaming.

        • Jonny McLaurine

          Love your answer. Tiz exactly what I tell my son

          • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

            Teach him the ropes and make him grow strong in mind and spirit and he will know his way, make sure you show him the classics 🙂 Never Say Die

          • Jonny McLaurine

            Hellz yea!!!! Now that’s what it’s about

          • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

            Never in Doubt

        • Jonny McLaurine

          It’s cool to me that younger generations get to experience Metal gear though I feel the expectations of the game are dividing people.
          For instance I grew up on NES and the original MG is fucking hard if not impossible to but only the best gamers getting to the end.
          When mgs was released and beaten a lot of older gamers said blah. The yougins are not hardcore fans because blah blah about difficulty.
          Me on the other hand was very grateful for the changes.
          Ok fas forward to now in Gz and TPP. Now so called hard core fans are saying blah blah Hayter is snake. They won’t even acknowledge snake was Mute virtually in the beginning. Now same shit is happening. People say only way your a hardcore fan is if HAYTER is snake? That’s imbecile thinking to me. Snake is suppose to be whatever hideo makes him.
          I would much rather him be mute if it has people saying David this and David rhat. Because they are losing the focus on snake.
          A hardcore gamer in my definition is the passion you speak of and having the balls to admit that you love GAMING not a queer attraction to a man who seems to think the mg universe is about his voice.
          What I think is every game should be voiced by someone different to get the directors point and story across for the game character.
          I love games and the makers trying to pull me into thoer universe.
          I just can’t fathom that people actually think without a certain voice the game will suck. I mean seeiously are they gamers or listeners? Keep the faith my young friend and remember that game generations change and with that change comes better ways to make games into interactive movies that YOU play and never become someone who thinks that these game creators owe something. Be glad that some like hideo will never sell out thier vision for idiots who are casuals because a hardcore gamer has passion for games and is 100% indebted to the creators for taking the time to create something to be able to get and feel the hardcore a passion.

          • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

            Yeah I myself haven’t played the original MG 1 and 2, just the other main titles. Gonna play Ground Zeroes when I get PS4 and then TPP. Then do the originals and every one after til I get to Revengeance. I think I’ll be able to beat it; I beat MGS1 3 times, though on easy, so I don’t think I’ll find it impossible. I myself am used to playing older games and difficult games, looking to challenge myself, so I actually felt nostalgia and had the lens of older gamers then who’d played some older games from the 80’s and 90’s when they first came out. Although I’m a 90’s baby, odd 95, I didn’t start until GameCube for some reason. It’s about story and game play and atmosphere for me. The graphics have never been a make it or break point for me unless the game is extremely aged to today’s standards. I personally don’t like that it’s not Hayter but I don’t think about it anymore much. Yeah it’s rather ignorant of them without playing the game first. I personally don’t mind mute characters, having grown up playing Nintendo, not minding the omission really. Can’t believe some people make a big deal about it, especially with Zelda. exactly. passion is in the gaming not the people behind it. I suppose I mean it would add flexibility and also flesh out the story more with a new personality. though some voices are too good to not be missed. let’s just hope that change doesn’t mean the destruction of what gaming is and becomes better, as although we’ve had good times there have been many bad times too in the past half half decade. I just hope gaming at its core doesn’t lose its purpose. I second that last statement. Hope to make games myself someday; finding programming hard to get used to. so many rules. just finished FFIX yesterday at 3:30 in the morning excellent game. A shame it was overshadowed on its release and never got a sequel. Hope it happens. They jacked up with the announcement of a PC port of FFVII waste of their resources and our time.

          • Jonny McLaurine

            I love your answers. You are the definition of a hardcore gamer. FFIX was awesome and ff7 is the best of the series. Seperoth FTW. If you make a game. I would be honored to play it. See some new ideas and views on the world. When I complaine about younger gamers, you are not what I talk about and I should remember that there is younger gamers that give me hope for the future. Ty you brought tears to my eyes of happyness
            P.s
            I never played the ports heh, but ff7 was cloud and sepiroth yea? Sometimes I get confused haha my as snake wouldn’t admit can get senile since I’ve played prolly 100k hours of games from Atari to ps4

          • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

            Thank you. I’m honored to hear that. I enjoyed VII also. After having played VII, VIII, and now IX, I really can’t say which I prefer, though IX erased any doubts I had about it. Only ones I’ve played. Plan to do X/X-2 HD Remaster on PS4. Happiness is what fills our void in life when all hope seems lost. Yup. that’s right. that last showdown between cloud and sephiroth was badass. I’ve played probably over 1000 hr at least of game time.

          • Jonny McLaurine

            Oh and you will love GZ on ps4. His facial expressions and words about things is just so cool to hear again. Ps4 is definitely a god send for the series

          • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

            Glad to hear it, can’t wait 🙂

  • Sorahearts

    It was a great game. I’m glad I played this

  • PrinceHeir

    really amazing stuff 😀

    man would it be mind fuck if Kojima did remake the MSX games, but you’ll play the original MSX version first, then it changes to the new 3D Remake slowly.

    that would be badass!!!

  • Ilja Y.

    First time I’ve played Metal Gear Solid 4 and started the 4th Act I was blown away emotionally. All those memories from MGS 1 came back.

    This is art. The Metal Gear Solid franchise formed me mentally in a special way and it became part of my life.

  • William of Orange

    Great article. Remember that part were you needed to memorize the password and snake jokes about not being “senile” yet. But when you type the wrong password, your psyche bar goes down and snake trying to convince otacon that he didn’t forgot it.
    Of all the depressing things people mention about snake’s physical and mental condition in mgs 4 (short life span, becoming a walking bio weapon,backpain,people not laughing when he makes stupid remarks or asks stupid questions,etc.,etc.), this was personally the most memorable one. I felt so bad that I forced myself to memorize it, until I would do a second playthrough.

    • Nyxus

      Yeah, first time I played it I hadn’t memorized it. It’s pretty painful, Otacon doesn’t really know how to react because he sees it really bothers Snake.

  • PsychoMantis18

    Nicely done; an enjoyable read as always. Extra points for passionately staying on topic and not making it about your fandom (as is sadly the case with many other sights these days)

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