I love Huey Emmerich as a character. I don’t love the man himself. In fact, I’m open to the idea that Venom Snake should have executed him on the spot at his trial. But I love what Hideo Kojima did with Huey in Metal Gear Solid V.
Throughout MGS1, MGS2, and MGS4, Hal Emmerich (AKA Otacon) was a bright light amidst a whole lot of grim-dark characterization. Otacon wasn’t a perfect man, but he was a hell of a lot kinder and more benevolent than almost anyone else in the series at that point, including the ostensibly heroic Solid Snake. At the very least, Otacon was one of the few characters who lacked the physical and emotional capability to snap someone else’s neck at a moment’s notice, and thus naturally engendered some form of sympathy from the audience. Add on some healthy doses of intelligence, ingenuity, humility, and even humor, and Otacon ended up becoming something of an underrated fan favorite character in a series packed to the brim with colorful personalities.
However, in MGSV Kojima cleverly twisted the nature of Huey Emmerich. Kojima used the popular preconceptions of who an Emmerich is and how he’s supposed act to create a sort of narrative trap for players. In many ways, Kojima pulls the same trick with Huey Emmerich that he does with Big Boss, where the character’s legend both within and outside of the game is used to obfuscate the true nature of the man. In Emmerich’s case, the positive legacy of Otacon is used to initially trick players into sympathizing with Huey. The two men may look and sound nearly identical, but they are radically different individuals on an emotional and ethical level.
While Otacon strives to use his intellect and scientific passion to make the world a better place, Huey is… possibly a murderous, conniving, pathological liar. Or at least that is what Huey is accused of at his trial near the end of MGSV.
I must admit that I was pro-Huey for most of the game. I figured Kaz was being a raging nut-job as usual, and scapegoating a helpless, paralyzed sad sack like Huey was typical of a man so blinded by a desire for revenge. It wasn’t until the evidence was laid out at the trial that I thought Kaz might actually be on to something. Maybe it was just my affection for Otacon that lead me to trust a man who somehow had the unique capabilities to do lots of horrible things and seemed to chronically be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Yet I still can’t say for certain that Huey is guilty. There is a lot of evidence lined up against him, but the vast majority of it is circumstantial, with arguably only a single “smoking gun” to be found on one of his (admittedly abundant) charges. Maybe Huey is an absolutely horrible person who uses his sympathetic and familiar demeanor to cloak his crimes. Or maybe Huey is just an odd-ball who doesn’t fit into the testosterone-fueled world of private warfare, and is being unfairly targeted by angry, disaffected soldiers desperate to find an outlet for their rage.
Huey does get a trial in MGSV, but it can hardly be called objective. So I want to give Huey another trial. I will list Huey’s charges and provide evidence-based arguments for and against each count.