Metal Gear Solid [PlayStation] – Review

Metal Gear Solid - Title Card

The hype and critical acclaim surrounding Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain got to me (it started last year with this). With my tendencies though, I’ve opted to ignore that title for now and jump in at the beginning: Metal Gear Solid. Technically Metal Gear would be the beginning, but whatever. My usual cohort is following suit and he’s postponing his time with MGSV until we make it through the core series. If there were any gaming series that would benefit from this way of playing, this would be the one. These games are dense with dialogue and exposition and understanding or linking them together coherently may come easier after freshly experiencing them. To assist, I’m going to be doing intense note-taking in the hopes that I’ll understand the narrative and characters even better.

He doesn't know what's coming.
He doesn’t know what’s coming.

Before ever controlling Solid Snake we went through about twenty or thirty minutes of backstory. Most of which was done through (optional) barely animated briefings and through these, the inspiration of Escape from New York was apparent. The characterizing aspects of Solid Snake and his initial mission mimicked Snake Plissken’s so closely I’m surprised there wasn’t legal action! We were also treated to a few Codec conversations and cinematic cutscenes illustrating Snake’s infiltration of Shadow Moses Island. The latter highlighted why it was, and still remains, so highly regarded. Hideo Kojima and Konami revived a classic series in the guise of a big-budget action movie and defined the modern era of storytelling in video games.

The story that unfolded over the next dozen hours centered on Snake’s stealth mission to recover two kidnapped figureheads associated with the U.S. Dept. of Defense and prevent the terrorist group responsible from using a bipedal nuclear equipped robot: Metal Gear Rex. The group responsible is actually the black ops Army unit that Snake once belonged to: FOX-HOUND. The current members have gone rogue, calling themselves the Sons of Big Boss, and are requesting the remains of Big Boss (the unit’s founder). They want access to his genes, which in the wake of the Human Genome Project the U.S. has been secretly isolating “soldier genes” and injecting them into soldiers, creating a “genome army” with skills more proficient than the average warrior. Big Boss was “The Greatest Warrior of the 20th Century” after all.

Just another classic scene.
Just another classic scene.

The story gets way more convoluted from there and at times, it felt like a break was needed to understand the events or conversations that just happened. I did strive to take comprehensive notes and playing with another person also helped to soak in the data and translate it into information. Once we’re done with the series, I’m going to try and understand everything as best I can and that’ll probably involve writing a synopsis of each game. The series, and this game in particular, doesn’t require in-depth note-taking to find enjoyment or some understanding but the lore is so rich that I feel like it’ll be rewarding and enlightening in the end.

For the most part, the events that take place seem plausible and with a little imagination, realistic. Maybe the thought that a bipedal nuclear equipped tank of sorts would be the ultimate weapon is a little farfetched, but this is a game whose inspirations also include mecha anime. The characters that make up the cast on the other hand, specifically FOX-HOUND, well, they’re less believable. They are, however, a rogues’ gallery of fascinating villains. The standout is of course Psycho Mantis, whose psychic abilities included reading the files on the memory card, predicting the player’s actions (forcing the player to plug the controller into the second controller port), and a few other “breaks” in the fourth wall.

One of the most memorable boss fights of all time.
One of the most memorable boss fights of all time.

The battle with him will remain one of the most memorable video game boss fights for a long time to come, but they all weren’t as great. The majority of them are very memorable, if only for the fact that the fights themselves were generally bookended with much conversation and featured the distinctly unique members of FOX-HOUND. Others will remain memorable to us specifically because of their difficulty. Whether it was the uphill battle we were in for because of Solid Snake’s limited health or the challenging situations we’d just gone through beforehand, I’d say a quarter of the fights took a half-dozen attempts each. One thing’s for sure, like the members of FOX-HOUND, each boss fight was unique and required different weaponry or tactics.

While the battles could be frustrating depending on the circumstances, the typical sneaking gameplay wasn’t so hard. Honestly, it didn’t make up a lot of the game in retrospect. The memories of my original playthrough ten years ago are filled with the feeling of helplessness after getting caught and just giving in to the enemy’s weapon fire in order to quickly restart. That didn’t occur to us often on this playthrough. We did get caught every now and then, but we were able to successfully evade capture or quickly eliminate a soldier or two before it escalated to total despair. I imagine we’re just playing smarter than high school me.

The showdown with Metal Gear Rex, like a few other boss fights, was no walk in the park.
The showdown with Metal Gear Rex, like a few other boss fights, was no walk in the park.

It’s been seventeen years since this game was originally released and I think playing it is still as vital to one’s gaming résumé as it was then. This is a cinematic game that was unlike any other at the time of its release and one that still stands out today. With a complex narrative, feature film presentation, and audio/visual qualities that were remarkable for their time (and still respectable today), Metal Gear Solid is a must-play game. I didn’t find playing it as enjoyable as watching it and trying to follow along with the intricacies of the plot could be difficult, but there were some brilliant sections and set pieces nonetheless. The stealth aspects remain a challenging and enduring appeal for me, but the negative experiences we had with a few of the boss fights outweighed the positives. It’s a landmark video game, all in all. On to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty!

10 thoughts on “Metal Gear Solid [PlayStation] – Review”

  1. Good stuff! I’ve started playing through the MGS series recently as well, though I started with MGS2. I probably should have started with the first MGS again since it’s been a good 15 years since my last playthrough, but I was curious to try the HD collection. MGS2 was fun, but I still had the same issues as before, namely Raiden being wayyyy too emo for my liking. I just started MGS3 for the first time today and I’m really digging it. Can’t wait to play more.

    Is this going to be your first time playing MGS2?

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    1. I played it a few years after it came out. My friend and I are a few hours into Raiden’s tenure and it’s rough! His character isn’t very likable, especially compared to Solid Snake. I remember liking this game way more than the original. Now I’m wondering why and hoping it picks up.

      I’ve never played MGS3 so that’ll be my virgin playthrough as well. Have you played The Phantom Pain yet?

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      1. Glad I’m not alone on disliking Raiden then, haha. The game still has some really cool moments, but yeah, I think MGS1 is much better all-around.

        The only other Metal Gear game I’ve played besides the first two is Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. I wasn’t a huge fan of that one, though Raiden was at least tolerable in it. I have Ground Zeroes via PS+ so I plan to check that out with my new PS4, probably after finishing 3.

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  2. Great review! I played this one back in the day and I have to say that I barely remember anything about it except for a “sneaking inside a cardboard box” sequence and looking through binoculars (or was it the sight of an RPG?) at a Helicopter pad. It’s interesting to see all of the other interesting features that they utilised back then.
    It was also the only MG game I’ve played, so I’ll hopefully move onto GZ soon and TPP in a year’s time when the GotY gets released – though I am tempted to get it sooner since it looks a treat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your memories check out! Having played about half of MGS2 at this point, it’ll take a lot for me to place that game above the original. Which is totally opposite of my memories of it. Oh well, it’ll probably pick up soon. I’ve heard little negative feedback regarding TPP and am looking forward to playing it… whenever I get around to it.

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