Jack: You mean the Soviets pulled out of Cuba just to get their hands on Sokolov?
Zero: That’s right.
Jack: What the hell was he working on?
A Russian rocket scientist, Nikolai Stepanovich Sokolov worked on the USSR’s space program before he was assigned to work on Volgin’s nuclear tank, The Shagohod (which went forward after his rival Granin’s project-the Walking tank Metal Gear-was rejected)
Fearing the power of his weapon, and what Volgin might use it for, he decided to defect to the United States. His family was saved first, but he collapsed due to exhaustion after his escape attempt, and couldn’t be transported to the USA fully for extraction, having to stay in Berlin.
The Cuban Missile Crisis then came about, but in the world of Metal Gear, it wasn’t our withdrawal of missiles from Turkey that made the Soviets remove theirs from Cuba, but our return of Sokolov to them. Once returned, Sokolv became a pawn in internal strife between the faction of Volgin, and that of the Soviet premier Nikitta Khruschev. Sokolov was put under guard to keep him from falling into the hands of Volgn, who wanted to overthrow Khruschev.
Intelligence from the USA seemed to confirm that Sokolov’s weapon was nearing completion, so the newly formed FOX unit was sent on it’s first mission-“Virtous mission” to rescue the scientist. This was also in part redemption for FOX commander, Major Zero, who had tried to orchestrate the defection in the first place.
The rescue and extraction initially went fairly smoothly, with Jack-AKA Naked Snake-rescuing the scientist despite opposition from the GRU’s Ocelot unit. However, upon passing a suspension bridge near the extraction point, Snake was confronted by his defecting mentor, the Boss, and her cobra unit which quickly captured Sokolov.
Over the next few weeks Sokolov continued working on the Shagohod, and was reguarly intimidated by Volgin and Ocelot. However, he also worked with EVA, who was a spy in their midst, giving her the Shagohod data, although she was more interested in the true goal of her-and the Boss’s-misson, the Philosopher’s legacy.
Eventually, Snake-during operation Snake Eater-was able to catch up with Sokolov, and attempted to rescue him once again, but Sokolov was now convinced that he’d be used by either side to develop weapons. Resigned to his fate, he did let Snake know that the Shagohod’s weak spots were it’s fuel tanks, before he was shot and then beaten to death by Volgin.
Sokolov later appears in the “Portable Ops” game, where it was revealed he faked his death and had started creating the first Metal Gear. However, the game’s place in the canon of the series is debated, especially how it conforms to the development timeline of the Metal Gear itself.
Although it was ultimately the Metal Gear whose legacy would continue, the Shagohod still played an interesting role in things. It’s design is certainly slightly Metal Gearesque, although it uses screws for propulsion instead of legs.
A similar weapon-the Pupa-would be designed by Huey Emmerich for Peace Sentinel as part of the Peace Walker project. However, it possessed no nuclear weapons.
Some of Pupa’s parts-mainly it’s jetpack-would be recycled into the first canonical Metal Gear, the ZEKE, so in a way the Shagohod did have a lasting legacy on the MG designs….