Despite your thoughts about the game selection on the PlayStation classic, there’s nothing any of us can do to change them. With this in mind, and with its imminent release on the horizon, I felt it would be a good time to revisit some of the games that are included. First things first, Metal Gear Solid.
Usually, when I revisit older games I’m excited to do so. As I grab Metal Gear Solid from the box it has been sat in for many years (how appropriate) I’m overwhelmed by a sense of trepidation. I have always loved this game and would absolutely hate for it to be ruined for me. “Why would it be ruined?” I hear you ask. Well, the problem with games on 5th generation systems like the PS1, Sega Saturn or N64 is the graphics. Consoles before these stuck to 2D graphics enabling their games to still look half decent today. The PS1 helped to deliver 3D graphics to our living room, they looked great at the time. Today, not so much. I know graphics shouldn’t matter when compared to gameplay and I do agree, to a point, as long as I can play without bringing my lunch back up or going blind.
Before getting into the game I have to take a second to explain how my love affair with it began. 1998 brought about huge hype as Metal Gear was released in the civilized world. I say civilized as I live in England and we had to wait until 1999! A full 5 months (almost 6) after the Japanese release. By the time it made it to my country the hype was paramount. Back 20 years ago most gaming news came from magazines and word of mouth. Well MGS had been received well in other countries and the hype began way before that. It was in every magazine and everyone was talking about it. Demo discs (remember those) both helped and hindered with the wait.
And then it was there. Metal Gear Solid released in my country, after all this time. It was out. Not just out, sold out. Another problem 20 years ago is games would sell out. Having saved up my precious childhood money I couldn’t spend it and I couldn’t just order a copy online. These were dark, dark times. Luckily, I had a friend who managed to get a copy. I went to his house that day and we played for hours. It looked and felt amazing, providing quite a challenge. I remember we made it to the tank fight (not very far admittedly) and I knew I had to have it. The wait was torture.
There was a small independent game shop local to me who had stock, but, only of the special edition. This was far too high for my childhood price budget. I had to beg the owner, I wanted it, I needed it. In the end, we agreed that if they still had these editions in a few days he would open the box up, take out the goodies and give me the game. This is exactly what we did, but I had to pay for it. I mentioned saving up my money to buy this game, that was a slight lie. I had saved some, not enough. Local shops are always more expensive anyway and to get my prized game I had to part with money and my pristine Sega Game Gear, with games and in a carry case. An expensive trade that turned out to be worth it. I still have the collector’s edition box (minus the trinkets I never received) under the bed.
600 odd words just to start playing Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece today is excessive, I’ll agree. It’s also needed just to explain my relationship to it. I love it. Hopefully, I still will when my rose-tinted glasses have fallen from my face and lie broken on the floor. And if not there’s always Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes on the Game Cube.
Anyway. Booting up the game is a treat in itself. The music that plays during the Konami logo brings back a flood of great memories, making me eager to play. The music, in general, is great throughout. The theme tune is one of my favorite pieces of music from the industry, ever. Being a Japanese game, circle is the default button to confirm anything, instead of x and after mashing x a few times stupidly I was into the game proper. Well after the first load of cutscenes at least.
At this point, I’m going to assume that 99% of people reading have played Metal Gear Solid or are at least familiar with it to some degree. It came out in the last millennium; however, I will give a warning now: Spoilers ahead.
Gaining control of Snake (Dave) for the first time and I’m pleasantly surprised with how it all looks. Sure, it’s nowhere near modern standards of games and everything is very pixelated, but, I am able to see what is going on much clearer then I had anticipated, and I was always more interested in how the game plays these days. Although, I would say that the pixelated character faces add to the charm for me.
I’ll get this out of the way early on. It’s a Metal Gear game, as always there’s loads of dialogue to sit through. Mostly this is delivered brilliantly by the voice cast. David Hayter and Cam Clarke as the two Snakes really shine. There are a few bad moments from everyone and one particular character near the end is dreadful. The dialogue itself is as cheesy as you’d expect with a few moments that don’t feel OK. Snake hits on everyone and there are times that feel very sleazy, although I can’t tell if that’s because of the time of release or because of Japan.
I had two favorite pieces of dialogue that I wrote down whilst playing. The first went a long way in indicating how much common sense the intelligent people in this game lack. Snake and Ocelot are having a lengthy conversation about 4 stealth suits that make the wearer invisible as well as the weight limit in an elevator being exceeded. They say it’s strange as it would take 5 people to exceed the weight. It takes a while for the penny to drop. The second is when a character is believed to be dead. The said character then walks into view. Snakes response is “Uh Oh”. I enjoyed the bad dialogue greatly.
The tagline for the game is “Tactical Espionage Action”, this isn’t just a stealth game. In fact, there’s a lot less stealth then I had remembered. There are very few moments of sneaking around, which disappointed me, even if it was my fault for having a bad memory. The stealth that is here is just as exciting and fun to play as always. Using the, smaller than I remember, radar and learning the patterns of guards to work out the best way to sneak around them or take them out is just as rewarding as it ever was or ever shall be. Knocking on a container to attract a guard before running behind him and taking him down are some of my favorite moments in the series.
The late ’90s were a simpler time for us, and for Snake. Improvements found in later games are obviously not here. There’s no control over the camera, there’s no aiming and shooting in first person mode, no holding up guards or hiding bodies. The bodies of enemies just disappear, and all shooting is done from the 3rd person viewpoint and it can be quite fiddly with an auto-aim that doesn’t always work. Running and shooting are also quite annoying. The x button needs to be held down to do this, however, get it wrong and Snake just lies down. Far from ideal in the middle of a firefight. Hitting people or getting hit causes them to flash and grants temporary immunity, something that feels old-fashioned today.
As I mentioned, the stealth elements in Metal Gear Solid are lacking. At times it feels like a boss rush mode mixed in with cutscenes. Not as much of a problem when the bosses are, mostly, fantastic. Kojima loves his action moves and the bosses wouldn’t be out of place in them. Snake has to fight a tank, a helicopter, a man carrying a gun way too big for his body as well as the titular walking battle tank controlled by a British bad guy. Something for everyone and plenty of memorable moments. The lead up to the fight against a cyborg Ninja is brilliant, bodies are strewn around, the music takes a dark turn and the game starts to feel a bit like a survival horror. I loved it.
Like most fights, the bosses are fairly straightforward to beat once their patterns are learned. Being killed isn’t much of a problem though, as each area acts as a checkpoint. Dying can actually be fun in this game too. Upon Snake’s demise, a game over screen flashes up and one of the characters will talk over it, asking if Snake is OK or just generally screaming. I accidentally killed myself whilst fighting Ocelot and was treated to him calling me an idiot. To be fair to him, he was right. It was around this time I realized I had forgotten to test my memory card. Without it, I would have to finish the adventure in one sitting or I’d have to buy another one and restart. Thankfully it worked and saved me.
There are some staggering moments in Metal Gear Solid that to this day, in my opinion, haven’t been bettered. The fight with Psycho Mantis has to take first place. In the cutscene prior to the battle, the fourth wall is broken a few times, feeling great every time. Any Konami saves on the memory card are called out by Mantis to show he can read you like an open book, unfortunately, I had none on mine. I did, however, get called reckless as I had barely made any saves up to that point. Better than that though is when Mantis taunts the player by saying he can move their controller. Forcing you to place the pad on the floor the pad then vibrates and moves around. A nice touch that blew my mind all those years ago, and one that is repeated to a degree a bit later. Finally, with this boss, just as the fight is about to start the screen flashes to black, except for the word Hideo in the top right-hand corner. When I first played I had no idea I had to switch the controller to port 2, despite it being so obvious now. I even beat Mantis once without switching the controllers, a feat I would seriously struggle to do nowadays.
The entire game, as well as the series in general, are littered with great moments and Easter eggs. I could spend ages listing them and would still miss a few. One more I will mention is one that would have annoyed anybody renting this game from Blockbuster. During a Codec call, you’re advised to contact Meryl, only you don’t know her number. You’re instructed that it’s on the box. Literally. In one of the screenshots on the back of the game case is the number you need. A stroke of genius.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing through this classic again and my memories of it have not been ruined. That’s not to say there weren’t problems though, there are. Quite a few. Things that have always been in the game that may not have been an issue before or were glossed over.
Firstly, backtracking. I had remembered there was some backtracking, I just hadn’t remembered how much. After meeting Sniper Wolf, you have to go back to the very beginning to get a sniper rifle to take her on. At the end of the game, there’s a key card that must be taken to different environments, so it can be used, which is really a great way to say more backtracking.
The end portion of the game caused me a fair amount of frustration in 2018. Partly due to a lack of skills from myself and partly due to the game. The fight with Metal Gear Rex was difficult until I worked out the pattern, the fight with Liquid, on the other hand, was just unfair. There was a level of cheapness about the whole thing. I spent way too long on that fight and as I’m typing now the rage is still burning into my skin. There’s a timer which forces you to take him down as quickly as possible, which is easier said than done. He seemed to be hitting me despite his attacks being nowhere near me and I had the opposite problem. Sometimes my punches would connect yet not count. To make matters worse this would cause Liquid to retaliate with an unblockable combo. In a simple fight, I felt rage that I never even came close to in 1999. Having bested him I felt no sense of achievement or any relief, I just wanted to finish the game.
Despite the frustrating moments, I found this playthrough to be easy compared to when I first played. It took me 10 hours, including watching all cutscenes and spending a disproportionate amount of time fighting Liquid. My golden memories also stay intact. I enjoyed replaying this. The end of credits tease is just as great as it was, even though I know what’s coming. I’ve probably talked too much about this game and yet I feel I’ve not said enough. There’s plenty I haven’t mentioned that I would like to. I’d urge everyone to replay it, even if only for the nostalgia. For me, I just need to decide whether I want to replay on a harder difficulty or move on to another entry in the series.
What are your thoughts on Metal Gear Solid? Have you played this or any other Metal Gear in the series recently? Let us know in the comments.