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A History of The Cardboard Box

by: Dabe ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

An almost universally known concept, due in part to its cross-game appearances, the cardboard box in Metal Gear Solid is one of the standout inanimate objects in gaming. This article looks into the Metal Gear Solid box a little further, explaining what it does in the games.

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    The Infamous Solid Box

    The cardboard box is synonymous with Metal Gear Solid. As seen in cross-game appearances, series protagonist Solid Snake often appears with his trusty box, the Nintendo produced Super Smash Bros. Brawl being the most recent example. Inanimate objects don’t usually hold such a high place within the pantheon of specific video games. Few examples can be gleaned -- such as the Phoenix mirror from Shenmue or the destructible car in Street Fighter’s bonus level -- from video games.

    This article will look into the historical beginnings of the Metal Gear Solid box. Also, after explaining its illustrious past alongside Solid Snake in the first couple Metal Gear Solid games, we’ll tackle the MGS4 addition of a usable barrel. Read on for information on one of gamings most memorable objects - the Metal Gear Solid box.

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    Uses for The Box

    In Metal Gear Solid, boxes are used as Solid Snake’s comical espionage item, as well as transporting him between various in-game locations. The first Metal Gear (on MSX2 & NES consoles) ushered in this trope. Snake could equip a cardboard box in order to avoid detection from both guards and the Outer Heaven surveillance cameras. Although enemies would attack Snake if he began moving within their line of sight, when stationary, the box was an effective aid in hiding within the landscape.

    Box 001   Metal Gear 2 (the 1990 MSX2 release) would add the ability to transport around the gameworld of Zanzibar Land. In order to travel the area, players would have to equip the cardboard box while perched on a working conveyor belt, seen in several places throughout the game. This mechanic was revamped in the release of Metal Gear Solid. Box A, B and C would each take Snake to a separate part of Shadow Moses, with the player having to remember which box takes him to each destination. To do this, instead of crouching on a conveyor belt, Snake would have to enter the back of strategically placed trucks and equip a specific box.

    Metal Gear Solid 2 ushered in a return to the conveyor belt system of Metal Gear 2. Instead of identifying the boxes through their letter however, players would have to use the appearance of each individual box to decipher where it could end up. Furthermore, all transporting was done in Strut E of the Big Shell facility, as it had a working conveyor belt. Metal Gear Solid 3 returned to the truck system found in the first Metal Gear Solid, box A, B and C would take Naked Snake this time to different areas of the gameworld.

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    An Addendum

    Box 002   With the curtain being pulled down on the series with the release of the fourth Metal Gear Solid, boxes would play a less direct role in espionage or sneaking, as technology and setting would alter Snake’s choice of disguise. Using the OctoCamo, Snake would find the box redundant in many instances, especially against the Gekko’s thermal imaging technology. He would find use for a similar item however, with players being able to use a barrel/drum can during the opening missions, rolling around in it and using it as a better version of the classic cardboard box.

    Unfortunately there was no transport mechanic in MGS4 and it further reinforces the redundancy of Snake’s trusted stealth aid by this time. With that said, the Metal Gear Solid box is one of the most iconic inanimate objects in gaming, having a storied history throughout one of the most beloved game series of all time.

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