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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!!!

Iconic Characters in Video Games
Storytelling in Games
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John Burton
John is a tat­tooed as­tronomer. He hearts games, movies & beardy mu­sic. He also bakes a lot and looks through tele­scopes less of­ten than he’d like. Helps with GamerGiving char­i­ty stream­ing as well!
John Burton

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