• Review: Metal Gear Solid

    Single Issue VIII (Written by IlluminatiRex)

    A strong man doesn't need to read the future, he makes his own.

    Metal Gear Solid Reviewers Note: Metal Gear Solid was purchased and played on a Playstation 3 System, and not the original Playstation. I will also be keeping story spoilers as low as possible, as the twists in this game are something that should be experienced by anyone as they play. This is also the first review in a review of the Metal Gear Solid Sereies

    Metal Gear Solid is one of the best games to have ever been made; and that's something I don't say lightly. It holds a place within the gaming community as an enigma within video game history, and it has easily secured its place as a legendary game and series. What is so special about this game released on the original Playstation, nearly 17 years ago, that helps is hold up surprisingly well today? Truth be told, a whole lot. While the graphics are certainly not up to par for today’s standards, I found myself quickly forgetting that and being drawn in by the gameplay and story. The graphics, especially for their time were wonderful but have obviously aged. The other aspects I feel haven’t.

    One of the famous bosses of the series, Vulcan Raven and his Minigun.

    The game starts off with an introductory cutscene, before you even get to the main menu. Narrated by Colonel Campbell (Solid Snake’s commander), this scene details Solid Snake’s mission. He has to infiltrate a Nuclear Waste Disposal facility located on Shadow Moses Island, which is in the Fox Archipelago in Alaska. The facility was overrun by FOXHOUND and Next Generation Special Forces (or the “Genome Soldiers”), a former Counter-Terrorism unit for the CIA that was rebelling against the United States Government. The group was led by Liquid Snake, a man with the same codename as Solid Snake (who was previously a member FOXHOUND). In addition to having to defeat FOXHOUND, Snake’s other mission was to save the DARPA chief, and the President of ArmsTech (a weapons development company).

    Solid Snake achieves one part of his mission.

    All of that is revealed before you even start playing. For those that don’t know, Metal Gear Solid is famous for its use of cinematic cutscenes, and its deep, twist filled plot. While at times the story can be confusing a bit convolueted at times, it's still very enjoyable and well written. It takes a fairly anti-nuclear proliferation stance, and an overall anti-war theme. It's an interesting combination, as arguably the best way to play the game is to avoid combat all together.

    The game is filled with a lot of cutscenes, and is relatively short (I played through the game in about 12 hours, in one sitting with minimal breaks. A good third of the game time was taken up by cutscenes. So that left about 8 hours of me actually playing). The cutscenes are really good for a PSX era game, the camera angles are well chosen and they make it feel like you're actually watching a movie. Other than cutscenes, the story is also revealed through the Codec calls. The Codec is a system in which Solid Snake can communicate with his team members, similar to a radio. You are given different frequencies for different members of the team. For example Mei Ling, who saves your game, has the frequency of 140.96. Each character interacts with Snake in different ways in these calls, and each have their own use. Nastasha Romanenko for example can give you information on different weapons and technology that you come across. It’s an extremely interesting way to tell the story and give the player information about different parts of the game.

    An example of a Codec Call with Mei Ling

    Outside of the story, the gameplay is exactly what is described on the tin “Tactical Espionage Action”. This is not a game in which you want to get discovered, or else it will be difficult to escape, and the endless amounts of enemies that will pursue you will certainly kill you. Close quarters combat is delegated to punching and throwing someone, and as such you won’t be able to fight many people off that way. Shooting, at first, is a bit of a clunky system as you have to use the D-Pad, and hold down the Square button to aim. While it takes some time to get used to, it makes sense for a game of both the period, and the style of gameplay it was aiming for. Hideo Kojima, creator of the series, did not want players to rely on shooting people, otherwise the stealth would be void.

    The stealth in the game is satisfying. Snake has a radar system called “The Soliton Radar System” which gives you a view of guard positions, guard Line of Sight, and buildings. If you get spotted, the Radar is jammed and is useless. Which is one of the reasons being stealthy is imperative. That’s the only piece of equipment that is given to you at the start of the game, the rest you have to collect on your own. This includes weapons such as the SOCOM Pistol, and equipment such as the Night Vision Goggles. You can also get close to any flat surface and hug it while slowly moving along it, and are able to knock on the surface to draw a nearby guard to the position. Memorizing guard patterns, and places to hide is essential if you want to stay out of combat, although silently shooting a guard is useful in some situations, in most it is not, lest you want to alert other guards and have your radar jammed. There are a few other stealth tricks, such as something the series is famous for, hiding in a cardboard box. It feels good when you avoid some guards, or sneak around them after distracting them with a knock. It is extremely satisfying stealth, as it keeps the systems simple and clutter free.

    Here Solid Snake demonstrates his sneaking abilities.

    While overall, you will be avoiding enemies, the Boss Battles are absolutely fantastic, and make sure that you use every trick available in your book to win. The bosses in Metal Gear Solid are legendary, and for a good reason. They are all creative, interesting, and the Boss’s themselves are oozing with personality. The most famous of these is the battle with Psycho Mantis. Mantis has Psychic abilities, and uses those to control others, and to read people’s minds. During the cutscene leading up to the battle, Psycho Mantis displays some of the fourth wall breaking humor that the series is known for. He’ll read your memory card for other games that were published by Konami, and tell you what you enjoy playing if any are detected. At another point, he says he can move your controller, so he says to put it on the floor as flat as possible. The rumble feature on the controller then actives, and the game acts as if Mantis is the one moving it. The battle itself also breaks the fourth wall slightly. Since Psycho Mantis can read your mind, meaning what you’re pressing on the controller plugged into Controller Port 1 (or in the PS3’s case, the controller you have activated as the first one), the way to defeat him is to plug in a controller to the second port, or to activate another controller. After this, it is possible to defeat Mantis, as he can no longer read your mind.

    However, the boss battles, while creative, do suffer slightly. They are the one spot where the gunplay becomes a nuisance rather than something helpful. Especially in the Psycho Mantis boss battle. Psycho Mantis will randomly teleport around the room, and you have to shoot him quickly. However, shooting and moving your aim at the same time is a slightly clunky process, and unless you are lined up exactly with Mantis, you won’t hit him (and you have a very good chance of getting hit by his attack as well). It’s only truly in those spots where the gameplay isn’t as tight as it should be. However, that being said, the Bosses are still extremely fun to fight even if it can be a bit tough just because of the controls. And, if you don't get how to beat a boss, the Codec system allows you to get hints from your support on how to defeat them.

    The game’s writing is generally very good. However, some things do get lost in translation from Japanese to English, or are just strange and campy. While there are definitely some comical lines, such as “It’s like one of my Japanese Animes”, they can also range to just awkward such as when Solid Snake says “You have a nice butt” to one character. While the dialogue itself can seem strange at times, the voice actors all did a wonderful job in their roles, especially David Hayter in the role of Solid Snake. Even then, the good lines all overshadow the bad, and you get lost in the complex story. And honestly, the strange campy dialogue is part of the charm of what makes Metal Gear Solid great. It embraces the camp and weird aspects, and they don't feel out of place in the universe.

    Liquid Snake, the leader of FOXHOUND

    Overall, Metal Gear Solid has definitely held up over the years. While it may not be the prettiest game around, it generally plays well, has an excellent story (which you REALLY need to experience for yourself), and is just really satisfying to play through. Not to mention there are multiple endings (although only one of those is the Canon ending). This is a game I can seriously recommend to anyone looking for an interesting story, a good stealth game, or just a good classic game overall.

    It is available on the PSX, the PSN for PS3, and within the Metal Gear Solid Legacy Collection for the PS3