Developer: Konami (1998)
Console: PS1 (Played on PS3/PS Vita)
Reviewed by V1
Metal Gear Solid is a top down 3D stealth action game. The majority of the game will be spent sneaking, crawling & carefully planning each move in fear of being caught by one of the many soldiers, cameras or dogs patrolling Shadow Moses. You can enter a first person view at any time to help view your surroundings & better plan your next move. However, if stealth is not your cup of tea, a more balls to the wall guns out strategy is possible. This is a far more difficult approach as Snake can’t take too much damage before dying. But the control system is just not too friendly to the action route, this being a stealth game after all. So while your free to play it how you want, just remember “Snake, this is a sneaking mission” & the game wants you to play it that way.
Two more things this game is known for are; 1. Codec conversations, & 2. Set pieces/boss battles. Codec conversations take place as you progress through the story. They are frequent & they are long. They are probably the most divisive part of the Metal Gear games & it’s easy to understand why. I enjoyed them for the most part, but sometimes they seemed to come far too often. Parts of the game consist of tens of minutes of codec conversations sprinkled with mere seconds of gameplay. Thankfully these instances are rare.
The boss battles & action set pieces in this game are very memorable. I can’t imagine how mind-blown people were in 1998. From tank battles, helicopter battles & sniper battles in which you need to take anti-anxiety pills to stop a hand tremor. The final hours of the game basically throw stealth out of the window & it’s rocket launchers, machine guns & grenades FTW! So while the game may be a stealth game at its heart. The inclusion of action into the sub heading of the game is well earned.
You play as Solid Snake, a retired US Elite Special Forces operative, called back into action to stop his former team FOXHOUND. Under the new leadership of Liquid Snake, FOXHOUND has gone rogue. They have infiltrated a nuclear disposal site by the name of Shadow Moses & are threatening to use a new nuclear launching device, Metal Gear Rex, to attack the White House. They also have the DARPA Chief & the president of arms manufacturing giant ArmsTech held hostage (hmmm that’s strange!). Their only demand is the body of Big Boss, the original leader of FOXHOUND & the “greatest soldier to have ever lived”. Due to the delicacy of the situation, the US coaxes Snake out of retirement & sends him in alone to neutralise the nuclear threat & take out FOXHOUND. He is of course supported by some of his former team mates via codec. They keep Snake informed & offer advice as well as background info. Oh & of course, “Remember Snake. This is a sneaking mission!”
The remainder of the story is told through diary entries, historical artifacts & optional background on specific battles, war techniques & significant events from WW1. I thoroughly enjoyed these extras & believe they helped immerse myself into the game even more. I also appreciate the context they put on some of the more poignant parts of the story. However I understand that some will not be as receptive as others. There is a stark contrast between the real life pictures shown & the cartoony representation in the game itself. But like I said above, these are optional so you can ignore them if you want.
OK this is probably the hardest part of the game to judge. If it was 1998 it would be top marks all round. But it’s not & games tend to age faster than most mediums, especially PS1/N64 era games.
The textures in the game are fucking horrific. I mean there are massive blocks on just about every texture in the game. The characters don’t have faces as much as a mush of different coloured squares that kind of resemble a face. Animations are also very stiff & during some of the cutscenes they resemble puppets more than people. But it doesn’t really matter, because after the initial “state of your graphics mate”, you completely forget about the textures & faces & just get sucked into the game & the story. It has some of the best cinematics I’ve ever seen. Seriously, in the 16 years since, it seems only Bioware & Naughty Dog have caught up with Kojima’s vision & cinematic flair.
The soundtrack from MGS is fantastic & still holds up today. Sony’s decision to use CDs for the PS1 was a masterstroke & allowed for games to have much more effective scores. What doesn’t hold up is the voice acting. This is Resident Evil 1 levels of cheese we’re talking about here. Luckily the strength of the story wins out & you forget about the delivery, as you do with the poor textures.
• Incredibly cinematic.
• Excellent music.
• Great plot & some great twists in the story.
• Still holds its own today.
• Memorable bosses & set-pieces.
• Not a pretty sight in 2014. Especially on a big screen. I’d recommend the Vita if you have one.
• Some bad acting & some cheesy writing.
• Story can be confusing, especially if you’re going in with no previous knowledge on MGS.
• Some overly long codec conversations.
A true pioneer in the world of video games. Set the standard for storytelling in games for years. Still rarely challenged in 2014. If I was to judge this by 1998 standards, it would be a sin to give it anything less than a 9.5. In 2014 it has held up remarkably well so I’m going to give it an 8.5/10.