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Sony: Metal Gear Solid
April 12th, 2008 by Dan

The Story

Last night I finally got around to completing the Japanese stealth tactical action game: Metal Gear Solid. You play as Solid Snake, a veteran of (at least) two prior missions completed for the U.S. Government as a part of the secret, black-ops organization FOXHOUND. You’re sent to Shadow Moses Island to save some hostages and investigate terrorist ability to launch the nuke they are threatening to launch. If they can launch, you must stop it.

Newcomers to the game will be slightly confused by the story, unless they either play Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake or read plot synopses on wikipedia.org. Without some background, some of the concepts and people, like Outer Heaven and Big Boss, will not really make much sense.

Story is told either through in-engine cutscene or through codec conversations, which are radio transmissions between Solid Snake and his operations team. His team is populated by a team of operatives with hilariously stereotypical accents and names. Your game saving operative, Mei Ling, is, as you might guess, Chinese. So, like all Chinese people, she speaks with a light Chinese accent and often quotes Chinese proverbs and even some Western proverbs. Other highlights are the character with the British accent, Naomi Campbell, and the Russian nuclear proliferation specialist, Nastasha Romanenko.

Gameplay

Metal Gear Solid is a game explicitly focused on stealth (the full title is Tactical Espionage Action Metal Gear Solid) so gameplay revolves completely around not being spotted. On the lower difficulty levels, your HUD includes a radar that displays vision cones of security cameras and roaming guards. This comprises Normal mode. This is where you want to be, as guards will not be alerted to your presence and you can do wander as you please. Get spotted and the game will enter Alert mode. Guards will begin to converge upon your position, which is bad news. Solid Snake is bad ass, but he’s just a man and he’s not great at taking out multiple enemies at once. If you can manage to hide from the guards, you enter Evasion mode. A timer begins to countdown and if you manage to avoid being spotted again during that time, the guards will return to their posts.

The game encourages you to sneak and not kill. Gun reports will attract guards and bullets are surprisingly not great at killing soldiers in this game. There’s also the problem that, since this game is so old, you cannot shoot most of your weapons in first person mode, which makes it really hard to hit off-screen enemies. Snake also has tons of tactical gear like IR Goggles, Mine Detectors, Rations, and the ever-present (in MG games) cigarettes and cardboard box. What’s the cardboard box for? Snake can hide underneath the cardboard box to trick guards. Guards walk up, spot the box, go “What’s that?”, notice it’s a box and say “Just a box,” and turn around and resume their patrol. That’s unless you’re in their patrol path or the game is in Evasion or Alert mode. They will shoot the box or lift up the box if you get yourself in that type of trouble and the game will enter alert mode.

It all meshes really well, but the game is seriously hurt by how dated it feels in modern gameplay context. As I mentioned before, you cannot fire most weapons in first-person mode. Every guard on base instantly knows where you are once you are spotted. Guards are actually pretty stupid. If you’re standing right outside their vision cone, they literally cannot spot you. All of these issues were fixed once MGS2 came out for the PS2, but the point is that you have to forgive this game for being so old at times.

Everything does fit well together and it does play really well. Even on the Normal difficulty level, you will have a challenge as a new player as you get used to sneaking around and learn the boss fights and gaming conventions that have become regular staples to the Metal Gear universe.

Graphics

Not much to say here, the game is old. Cut scenes have no lip syncing, character models are very blocky and polygonal, textures are blurry and terrible, and the particle effects, like explosions and snow, don’t look integrated with the game. I do have it on good authority from my roommate Min that this game did look superb for its time, but do understand that if you play today, you will not find this game pretty.

Sound

I’m not a huge audiophile when it comes to games, so all I have to say about the sound in MGS is that I have no complaints with it. The voice acting sounds natural, the accents are kind of funny, the dialogue (which I should have mentioned in story) is funny, the guns sound good enough, and the famous codec and alert sounds are there.

Overall

This is my first review, so allow me to explain my super complex review process. Tons of reviewers I’ve listened to or read find themselves feeling tethered by the review number process or even the letter grade method that 1UP has adopted. They all want to just say “play this game” or “don’t play this game.” Since I’m not employed by a website and I can have rogue blogger status, that’s all I’m gonna do with my reviews of any type. So…Metal Gear Solid is a great game with a compelling story, great character interaction and humor, and challenging, original gameplay. To top it all off, Metal Gear Solid is one of the defining franchises of the modern video game era. From that perspective, it’s just a game that you have to play. I heartily recommend it.

Enjoy some trademark Kojima humor from his teaser announcing MGS4:


3 Responses  
  • Eric writes:
    April 13th, 200814:26at

    Good review. One of the benefits of the play/don’t play review is that sometimes I’ve seen what are some really harsh reviews for a game and then a number like 8/10. It’s like the person who made up the number and the guy who wrote the review were two different people.

    Your youtube video is no longer available. It’s bound to happen – I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

  • Dan writes:
    April 13th, 200814:28at

    Are you sure about that? I can see it.

  • Eric Mesa writes:
    April 14th, 200822:58at

    Bah, some evil Comcast thing. I can see it now


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