“Unfortunately, killing is one of those things that gets easier the more you do it.”
-Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid
“The following is a guest review by The Black Humor Mage.”
There was a time when most video games didn’t have a cinematic quality that made the player feel like they were actually playing a movie. I’m sure back in the 90’s every little boy and girl’s dream was to control the action hero of an action flick and in the process feel like they were this ultra-cool, tough, and brave hero themselves. Metal Gear Solid fulfilled this power fantasy that came with good gameplay, great visuals, and a convoluted plot that blew your 90’s-centric mind.
Now, I don’t have much of a nostalgic connection to Metal Gear Solid since I was too young to play it when it came out (I was three years-old at the time so I could barely coordinate my hands to even play a video game) but eventually when I got older I was able to play it on the Playstation 3. I don’t have to tell you that this game is amazing. Many of you have already played it but for those of you haven’t, I cannot recommend it enough. Once Snake goes up that elevator and the title shows up on the screen, you know you’re in for something good.
This game has such a legendary status in video gaming history, but I’ll do my best anyways to deconstruct it and give you a good review of it. First thing to note is the mad genius behind it all: director Hideo Kojima (believe you me, you’ll see his name plastered throughout the credits in any Metal Gear Solid game you play). It’s such an odd thing but I’ve never seen a creator/director of a video game give themselves this much credit. I guess the guy is just really proud of what he’s made. Metal Gear Solid offers tactical espionage action, which could actually work as an alternative title for this game. It’s a pretty linear game that involves sneaking your way from point A to point B, but it offers so much uniqueness and great moments in between that it won’t feel stale.
The 8-Bit Review
Metal Gear Solid does pretty great in this department, even though you can’t see the character model’s faces. It takes a bit of explanation but basically what makes Metal Gear Solid work visually is that there are no pre-rendered backgrounds or cutscenes. In the time of PlayStation One most games looked like this:
A lot of PSOne games had blocky character models against detailed backgrounds, a technique which hasn’t aged very well. It looks a little wonky and out of place. Metal Gear Solid works aesthetically because its graphics were cut from the same mold. Its polygons were sculpted nicely as well. It looked great back then and it has aged better than most PSOne games. Plus the dark, cold and damp atmosphere that Metal Gear Solid created really immerses you into the nuclear-facility-in-Alaska setting.
So there I am playing Metal Gear Solid, my face inches away from the TV. I’m so immersed by the sound of an orchestral choir singing death chants infused with synth instrumentals while I sneak past soldiers in sub-zero temperatures. It heightens the suspense in an already suspenseful game. That’s another thing, since you’re trying not to get caught for most of the game whenever you are caught it’s gripping. When a soldier spots you and the big red exclamation mark above his head makes one of the most iconic video game sounds, the electrifying alert music starts:
Then there’s “The Best is Yet to Come”, a beautiful song that packs an emotional punch whenever a tear-jerker scene occurs. If there was one song I had to pick to encapsulate the game it would be this track. Take a listen:
The gameplay in Metal Gear Solid works better than it should. Although it is a little clunky to switch from standing to lying on the floor or swiveling back-and-forth to shoot, the gameplay works overall. But it is definitely not the strongest asset of the game. It’s a small sacrifice to make for a video game that makes you feel like you’re playing a movie. Many times when a game tries to make it feel like a movie it involves a lot of pre-K level Quick Time Events.
The gameplay takes some of effort to learn, like switching weapons and items and quickly equipping/equipping them. But once you get the hang of it the gameplay becomes very responsive and it does what you want to.
The story is where Metal Gear Solid really shines. You play as an ex-military man who’s code-named Solid Snake. Snake is tasked with infiltrating a nuclear weapons disposal facility taken over by a special forces group turned terrorists: FoxHound. They’ve threatened the US with a nuclear attack in exchange for a VIP’s corpse and Snake is brought back from retirement by professional old-guy Colonel Campbell to stop the world from entering a nuclear war. It feels like a standard summer blockbuster with a one-man army taking down terrorists. Then Kojima starts layering this thing like an onion. The story becomes convoluted and has more twists and turns than a figure skater dressed as Spike Spiegel.
But it has its charm and you start to understand its underlying themes of soldiers who have no more use, nuclear deterrence, and the influence of your genes.
Then there’s the characters. Man oh man, you’re gonna need a bigger boat to fit all your favorite characters. Snake keeps in touch with his support unit and engages in witty banter with them constantly. Snake’s love interest doesn’t make you want to jump off a cliff. The bad guys are colorful and have fleshed out backstories so it makes for better boss battles. There’s a nerd that code-names himself Otacon. There’s so many characters that stand out and they’re so oddball but likeable and it makes the story better for it.
The challenge of Metal Gear Solid comes from having the patience of waiting for the enemies to walk away. It’s not a running n’ gunning type game, although there are sections where you literally run n’ gun.
And I did make a joke earlier about how quick-time events are awful, guess what? Semi-spoilers (spoiler: highlight to reveal), there are quick time-events. But more than halfway through the game Snake gets caught and is subjected to torture by professional torturer Revolver Ocelot. You have to push X repeatedly on your PSOne controller in order to endure the torture and it’s actually pretty hard. This is an example of a quick-time event that actually tests your endurance because my flabby bicep felt the burn. I feel it was a good way to connect yourself to Snake as a character and relate to his suffering.
Although it’s not the hardest game ever, it’s not a walk in the park. I died quite a few times but I never felt that my death was something out my control. Plus the codec calls you get give very useful tips. Metal Gear Solid is fair yet challenging that’s the mark of a good game. It’s a game that forces you to learn your from your mistakes, especially when trying to figure out boss battles.
Metal Gear Solid has good replayability because, for starters, it’s so good you’ll wanna beat it twice. Depending on how good you do you’ll unlock special items that are fun to play around with when you play it again. You can have a save file where you try to play as perfectly as possible or one where you can play with all the toys that you didn’t want to the first time around because you’d get caught. It’s not amazing because you’re essentially playing the same game again but it has good value.
This is probably one of the most unique games ever. It has so many one-of-a-kind features and moments that amaze you. For starters, the codec calls tell part of the story where you keep in contact with your team and others characters you meet in the setting. It gives a great opportunity to see the character’s faces since you can’t see them in-game.
I mean essentially they’re RPG speech bubbles with mouth animations and voice acting but the way it’s utilized into the game mechanically and plot-wise is genius.
There’s a lot of fourth wall breaking moments too. They’re really unexpected and utilized in clever ways. It’s not just like they know they’re in a video game but they tell you to interact with physical objects in real life. All of these things coupled with a really-out-there plot makes this one of the most unique gaming experiences you can have.
My Personal Grade: 10/10
You already know my feelings for this game. Of course it’s 10/10, you silly goose.
Aggregated Score: 9.1