Metal Gear Solid is one of the games that defined my childhood. Released in 1998, it was one of the defining video games of the fifth generation of consoles. It planted the seeds and expanded the story of protagonist Snake from the earlier Metal Gear games. The importance of this game is still being felt today with the fifth main iteration being released this year. As part of my ill-guided attempts to explore my nostalgia filter, I feel it is fitting to look back at the genesis of one of the greatest, and perhaps most confusing, stories in gaming.
You play as Solid Snake, the perfect spy. Deployed in the Alaska, you are tasked to eliminate the terrorist group FOXHOUND and secure the nuclear base and the secrets contained within. The cast of characters ranges from nerdly scientist Otacon to arch-nemesis Liquid Snake and his supporting cast of complete bastard terrorists. Like most games, the premise is very simple — something which has become a bit of a theme in these reviews. But in execution, oh boy, does this game excel. The number of twists and turns the story takes is incredible, and none of them feel cheap or done for the sake of shocking the audience. It’s rare for a game nowadays to employ even the most overused tropes in a way that doesn’t feel cheap. MGS employs them so well that it’s astonishing.
The voice acting and music demonstrate a real passion for the craft. David Hayter, the voice of Solid Snake, is worthy of mention. I’m sure he’s going to go down as one of the greats, and he’ll only be known for one character. Speaking of characters, they all feel so rich and developed. The villains have a real sense of genuine pathos. It’s not too often you feel so bad for killing a boss in a video game, but this certainly stands out as one of the first and best examples.
Ah. Now we get to the more difficult bit. I was a wee bit worried this might happen when I started on my journey. Metal Gear Solid has not aged well at all. Both the graphics and gameplay feel so dated that it took me a really long time to get back into the game. In fact, I’m not certain I ever did. More than anything, I was struck by how clunky and awkward the controls felt, something I definitely never thought the first time I played it all those years ago. I suspect this is a consequence of the 16 years’ worth of third-person action games since then. I’m in no way saying that MGS didn’t pave the way for improvement. But, unlike previous games I’ve visited, it seems much more dated than I remember. It also looks like a 16-year-old game. At the time of release these were the best looking cinematics available on a console. Now, however, it slightly resembles a recreation in Lego.
This is the first game I’ve played in my series of revisitations that has left me a tiny bit disappointed by its execution. Don’t get me wrong: the story and way the narrative is constructed is still fantastic, and there was a lot of little turns that I’d forgotten about. There was just a kernel of “oh, that’s a shame” in there. I’ve no doubt that this is the result of years of being spoiled by incredible games. MGS paved the way for telling really emotionally resonant stories using the medium.
After this, I spent a day turning it around my head. Metal Gear Solid is one of my favourite series. The original game was never the best though. That honour went to the third entry in the series. So I thought “Fuck it, I’m going to play 3 and see how that goes.”
Turned out to be the best decision I’ve made for a while…
TO BE CONTINUED!!!