The Codec is the titanium-reinforced support of a series that seems to be constantly at risk of falling apart under its expository, acronym-laden dialogue. The Codec is a direct link to Snake, Raiden and Big Boss. It provides a convenient way to dump the vast amounts of information that Hideo Kojima has written. Characters standing next to each other would switch to it to prevent ‘eavesdropping’. This is how it could work. They are still in the same room and talking loudly. Imagine MGS2’s tired cutscene animators rubbing their cramps with their hands.
MGS2 allows players to subvert the seriousness by zooming in on faces or moving analogue sticks. Although it’s just a bit of silliness at best, it made MGS2 what its critics casually called the series that encouraged players to listen endlessly to endless conversations while wiggling their thumbs.
They are, more importantly, the way the series reconciles its love for scripted dialogue and its interactive nature. The Codec can make and receive calls, so players who want to get on with the action will not be bothered by the extra functions. The snake was running around Shadow Moses before Rockstar gave Niko Bellic a phone.
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There are many games where the protagonist sets out on a mission with a support team that delivers context and instructions to their earpiece. But MGS allows you to actively choose to use this support and even gives a basic logic of what you’ll be hearing and when. MGS3 allows you to equip a gun and ring weapon specialist Sigint. This will give you a detailed rundown of the technical specifications and more practical information. You’ll receive a briefing about what to do if you go to a new place for the first time. You can call anyone during a boss battle and get tactical tips or well wishes. MGS has a contextual dialogue system.
The Codec lets players customize their experience by choosing how much background info they would like to add to the story and how much assistance they will receive. Snake doesn’t need to hear accented words from her unless she provides background information on nuclear armaments and operational tips for the FAMAS assault rifle.
Kojima was aware that players would frequent the Codec, as it serves as a save screen. The way the three characters talk about your mission data’ is so straightforward that saving progress is no longer a complicated military protocol.
Unless Mei Ling keeps calling you and refusing to stop until you get fed up, and she sticks her tongue out at you. This is probably against protocol. It wouldn’t be MGS, however, if the Codec weren’t used for occasional fun. This could be Easter Eggs such as Mei Ling’s anger or digressions such as Para-Medic’s lengthy chats about movies. The latter has a strong thematic function. They establish Snake Eater’s 1960s setting, despite its jungle environment that leaves Snake isolated from the dominant culture.
The funniest Codec conversations are those that you have to dig the hardest for: the conversational throwaways that happen when you exceed the game’s behavioural limits, such as when you kill too many Huskies at Shadow Moses and get reprimanded by your comrades. MGS is a linear action series that has provided densely simulated environments. They are packed with optional interactions and mischief opportunities. The Codec allows the game to acknowledge that it has noticed your attempts to break the rules.
These silly and unrelated conversations are often the best of the series’ writing. The Codec is not only MGS’s most luxurious, but they are its heartbeat-pumping heart.