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Metal Gear Solid (PlayStation) artwork

Metal Gear Solid (PlayStation) review


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INTRODUCTION
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Yes, believe the hype because Metal Gear Solid is indeed one of the very few titles that lived up to the expectations. Of course, some may argue that it should be noted that nobody was aware a bomb was about to the launched by Konami, but things nevertheless got heated once its release was finally made official. However, that's exactly also where this game is in an entirely unique category. Metal Gear Solid isn't just one of those mere numerous titles which keep coming out year after year. It is much more than a video game. It goes as far as redefining a genre that had been abandoned over the years and does so remarkably by relying on an astounding engine.

Metal Gear Solid is so cleverly designed you can only enjoy the whole thing once, twice, numerous times, but still ask for more. Metal Gear Solid is assuredly not perfect. It does have its flaws, some of minor importance and some which may affect your enthusiasm, but the unique experience more than makes up for whatever loose end suddenly gets in the way to make you question Hideo Kojima's skills. It is very likely such a thing will never happen though because as you play it, the good devilishly outweighs the bad and literally crushes it.

When a game is commonly referred to as ''Best Game Ever'', when the protagonist gets a cult following, when millions of copies are sold, you just have to know you're in for something memorable. Metal Gear Solid is certainly not a mere game. It is one of those things that will make you cherish life. It also just keeps giving and giving without ever losing its charm. It calls for your deepest feelings and easily transcends everything you've played before. The way it places you in the action is remarkable and enthralling and for this alone, it holds a special place in my heart.

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STORY
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As Solid Snake, a Fox-Hound agent, your prime mission is to infiltrate a secret base in Alaska alone. Your prime objectives consist in putting an end to a bunch of terrorists' nuclear threats and retrieving data from the latest Metal Gear prototypes. Once you have completed your mission, you may safely return to your base and snooze off.

However, things are nowhere as simple as they may seem.

Of course, it may have something to do with the fact that you are alone against a whole base which, in addition, hosts a bunch of gluttonous instigators obsessed with the idea of torturing you. But this is just a day's work for Solid Snake. What makes everything suddenly evolve in a bloody mess, which only you can take care of, is that the whole plan changes. The terrorists start to manipulate Snake, the hero himself has to baby-sit a rookie, in addition to dealing with a dark past and questioning his own presence on the ''battefield''.

True, Solid Snake is not really alone although he certainly undertakes the whole job single-handedly. Several acquaintances support Solid throughout his epic adventures and should he be stuck somewhere, he can always seek help from, them via the ever useful Codec. Should you decide to leave them alone and figure everything out by yourself, they will still annoy you by constantly calling you and repeating the same thing over and over again.

Then, there is Otacon, the stereotyped sissy scientist who even craps his pants during the game. But then, what would any espionage game be without one of those funny, strange, but so lovable guys? And since he does help you after you have rescued him, Otacon doesn't necessarily add to the wide cast of characters solely designed to put more emphasis on the protagonist.

Besides, the villains themselves are as charismatic as Solid Snake. And that is what makes Metal Gear Solid so different from every other game. Most titles concentrate solely on the main character. However numerous enemies may be in a title, however delusional they may act, they are present only to thrust the hero forward even more (as if that was even necessary). Metal Gear Solid is entirely different though. As far-fetched as such an idea may seem, you may even like one of the bosses more than the lead.

Yes, I am not ashamed to say that I like Vulcan Raven and Cyborg Ninja more than Snake himself. Both wicked characters, although they are very intent on killing Solid, do deserve merits for their heroic way of fighting. Attacking someone from behind never crosses their minds although Vulcan Raven carries a whole arsenal of weapons with him and Cyborg Ninja can easily brush all your projectiles aside.

In the same way, Revolver Ocelot, Sniper Wolf and Psycho Mantis are bound to raise a lot of interest. Each comes with his own distinct skills and Psycho's reasons for becoming a terrorist may even have you feel some pity and compassion for him once everything is unveiled. All of them are nothing to Liquid Snake, the ultimate bad-ass, though. However obnoxious, sly and harsh Liquid Snake may be, you cannot help but admire his intelligence and his unequalled tenacity. The way he manipulates Solid Snake is absolutely stunning and as you attempt to kill him to beat the game, all these fabulous instants cross your mind and make you realize what a great villain he truly has been.

Metal Gear Solid is above all a complex story, which relies heavily on factual events with a glimpse of fantasy thrown in. The result is a wicked plot with various twists that will keep you hooked until the end. Even after watching the ending, several questions will still haunt you such that you'll play the game again just to obtain the answers. This isn't your typical idiotic story. Kojima pulled something stunning to render his creation worthwhile.

Play it for the story alone! 10/10

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GAMEPLAY
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As intricate and involving as a story may be, it is absolutely nothing without a solid game engine. Metal Gear Solid is absolutely perfect in both departments and sets new standards that still remain unmatched. Snake can perform various actions. Obviously, he may use weapons and these range from his regular pistol to the explosive Nikita. Each weapon is given a purpose at a given point such that, after beating it, you can actually claim to have used all of them. The game goes as far as forcing you to look for the next weapon without which you will remain stuck and are unable to move on.

In addition to his shooting skills, Snake will baffle you with his wide array of actions. Snake can crouch, back against walls to remain unnoticed and his fists are more than enough to take down an overly curious guard. Wringing everybody's neck, or using someone as a shield, are yet more innovative actions that Snake can do should he suddenly find himself in a close situation. Masochists will perhaps want to torture the poor guards by inexorably but inexorably pressing on their necks until they make their last gagging noises.

What truly surpasses any other title is how you should play Metal Gear Solid. This isn't one of those overly dumb games where you just need to walk forward and shoot to no end. On the other hand, doing so simply means you are heading straight to the Game Over screen, which will lower your ranking.

Tactical Espionage Action !

Hence is how you should play Metal Gear Solid. Avoiding enemy encounters as much as possible is how you should proceed. If you still get caught, hide somewhere safe or quickly dispose of him before he alerts his comrades. If enemies come from every side of the screen, your best choice is to hide in some confined place where they will not find you. Once they resume their assigned positions, you may then come out again and quickly proceed with whatever it is you were doing. Caution is your best friend here.

Bosses will actually require you to think before you attempt anything. All the tricks you know must be used in order to defeat them. If you are foolish enough to overlook them, you are, once again, heading to the glorified Game Over screen. If you actually wish to move on, you will have to know precisely when to attack and when to take cover. All the bosses have their own skills, such as Cyborg Ninja's ability to become invisible, but you will exploit their weakness with the adequate tools and weapons.

Metal Gear Solid's unique play-style contributes to make the game noticeable larger that it really is. Indeed, it is a very short game in spite of its two discs. Yet, the amazing number of things you can do is more than enough to make it seem larger. The fun to be had turning the guards into fools, the fun of slipping behind a sleepy guard to knock him out, the indescribable excitement of breaking into a new room and quickly getting accustomed to the surroundings…All this conveys a unique experience to the gamer who remains enthralled by all the possibilities of actions he can choose in just one situation.

Everything is designed so that you make the most out of whatever you get and have at your disposal. Lurking in the toilets and blowing someone's head way while he gets rid of an excess of urine can be done only in Metal Gear Solid. Equipping the Stealth Suit and then proceeding to confuse a couple of guards by running around isn't something you do in every title. Metal Gear Solid has countless similar situations that soon turn comical if you know what to do.

While the game itself is serious and the evil doings of your foes are always there to remain you of this, it takes almost nothing to make it funnier than even Earthbound -considered as the funniest game ever by many. The creepy atmosphere is soon shattered as you run around and perform all kinds of useless actions and you soon find tears of laughter running down your cheeks. But goofing around, however fun it is, never gets even somewhat close to how the game really is when you sit down and play it like it should be.

Because, from this perspective, Metal Gear Solid will always be remain unequalled. The atmosphere of the game will rip through your flesh and each twist of the plot will give you goose bumps. Even ''horror'' games like Silent Hill won't fascinate you this much. The principles of Kojima's title are so well thought-out one simply cannot resist let himself swiftly flow along with all the characters.

Metal Gear Solid remains a double-edged sword with endless charm. 10/10

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GRAPHICS
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Forget about what you may have seen before. True, games like Final Fantasy VIII look better, but they fail to capture the essence of life like this title does. While still having a fair dose of fantasy elements, Metal Gear Solid focuses mainly on being realistic.

The character animations remain the best part in the entire game. Movements are life-like and it is actually as if you are yourself in the game once you control Solid Snake. The hero's facial expressions are accurately rendered and his silhouette, coupled to the movements, is the most beautiful visual moment in any video game. Watching Solid Snake move around and deal with enemies in his characteristic way actually makes you feel as if you are indeed the lead character of an action movie.

Because that's what Metal Gear Solid is, a movie that revolves around you. And, obviously, stunning graphics are used to achieve this and to convey this eerie feeling to you. Every single motion is as realistic as can be. There are unbelievably no mistakes in any of Snake's variety of actions. Enemy actions aren't as good with some miss-steps which can mainly be observed when a bunch of soldiers go into the heart-gripping Intrusion Mode. While most soldiers look alike although they divided into groups, they are nevertheless well-drawn and will certainly make your heart beat faster as they approach the wall behind which you are hiding.

Smoke, snow, and the drops of lava in the furnace are perfectly recreated to render the entire base even more realistic. It is no coincidence that every situation that arises in the game may also be encountered in real life. As Snake first infiltrates the base, pools of water reflect back the light emitted from the couple of lamps suspended to the ceiling. Crates, boxes, trees and tanks, which can be found everywhere if you actually bother to look around you -okay, maybe not tanks-, are other things which look very realistic.

The fact is that Metal Gear Solid, instead of relying on flashy colors like most other games tend nowadays, opts for the more appropriate sober appearance. The various rooms of the bases look barren, but actually add to the eerie feeling the whole game vibrates with. You will be tempted to loiter around just to gape in awe at the different structures found throughout your adventure, but will always be forced to concentrate on your mission. As an example, the cell look dirty and faded to reflect their decrepit situation.

FMV's constitute the most breath-taking part of the game. Every character, every wall, every tiny bit of something and nothing looks like it should be. No gratifying colors, no stunning light effects that only succeed in dazzling you and in putting an end to the charm, no exaggeration in them…Because Metal Gear Solid simply does not need them.

Instead, Solid Snake, Vulcan Raven and Psycho Mantis are brought forward as ''normal'' beings although each has his own reasons for being here. The way each character's personality reflects in the FMV's and through the designs never ceases to amaze me. Cyborg Ninga's outline is as accurate as can be and his swift movements will enable him to stab you in the back if you are not careful enough.

Such is Metal Gear Solid that you cannot help but be awed. Every instant of the game invites you to just put away the controller and take in the beauty of the graphics. The atmosphere in the game lives through the nice and smooth textures.

Yes, a lot of games look as good as, if not better, than Metal Gear Solid. But none of them capture every person's feelings so well and none of them make you feel as if you are in in the game. 10/10

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AUDIO
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I'll admit it; Metal Gear Solid doesn't have a particularly memorable soundtrack. As a matter of fact, aside from the intro theme (or main theme, as my father thinks, since he has heard it so much now), no track is truly great. Yes, they are good, but there are none of these themes that remain in your head forever.

However, they still do what they are supposed to do. They perfectly punctuate the action and, if anything else, add to the already tense atmosphere of the game. While you will not find yourself humming them, you will grow to like them and to wait for a particular track. You will know when to expect specific music and you will be happy once it plays.

The intro theme is better than anything else though. Its undeniable charm lies in the slow and optimistic way it trails off. The first time I booted it, I even refrained from pressing the Start button to listen to it for a while.

On the other hand, sound effects are as persuasive as can be. Your gun firing, soldiers running about and making one hell of a noise, Solid Snake sneezing and coughing, every sound effect is again extremely realistic. A knock on a wall will cause everybody to suddenly freeze until the closest soldier comes to investigate. Hold him from behind and break his neck to hear the distinct noise accompanying this action.

The sweetest part is the dubbing though. After the horrible dubbing of the Resident Evil series and any other game that attempted it, Metal Gear Solid blows some fresh air over an area which was never as good as it was meant to be. Prior to this title, good voice-acting and accurate dubbing were thought to be two totally impossible tasks. Kojima's work came to prove everybody wrong.

Before I move on to the dubbing itself, I find it more appropriate to talk about the voice-acting first because it is arguably the most important aspect when one considers the audio capabilities of a game. Unknown actors (at least, to me) lend their voices to all the protagonists in the game. Obviously, regular soldiers are a bit generic and common, but they are still impressive on their own since they never sound hesitant, nor do they mumble incomprehensible words all the time.

The voice-over for the main characters really shocked me. Each individual's personality is accurately brought forward thanks to the great job of the different actors. No other game associates characters and voices so well. Vulcan Raven is as bad-ass as can be with his vocal chords almost tearing apart while Liquid's cunning and bad intentions show through the way he lets his words trail off when he mocks Solid. Revolver Ocelot sounds very obnoxious and Otacon, the poor chap, is totally confused and doesn't know what to believe. Similarly, the other important characters and even the lesser popular ones enjoy an excellent voice-over.

All these characters are nothing to Solid Snake himself though. The intonations stunningly suit his personality. It is possible to guess how he is and what he does for a living just by hearing him talk to someone. Of course, this is easily explained by the fact that he is the main character, but the heights reached in Metal Gear Solid remain prodigious.

In addition, the excellent dubbing contributes to making things even better. Dialogues are accurately lip-synched and there is truthfully nothing to complain about in this once very risky department.

Truly a work of art! 10/10

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REPLAY VALUE
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There have been a lot of complaints about the game's length. Metal Gear Solid is indeed a quite short game with FMV's and Codec conversations playing a huge part in it -more than two hours). However, the replay value is saved by the secret items -Stealth Suit and Bandana-, which are obtained by beating the game under certain conditions. One of these can be extremely tedious to get, so be prepared to sweat a lot.

Although the game itself is pretty short, it does not lack replay value though. The vast possibilities of action and the entirely different ways you can play it make Metal Gear Solid a game you will never grow tired of. The distinct difficulty levels ensure there is always something left to do with Extreme being quite impossible to beat for the inexperienced.

Some may want to play if for the story alone since it is so complex and has so many vicious twists. Others will just play it because everything is so fun. Although you may have already beaten the game ten times, stones still remain untouched. Certain parts in the game are so unique you will want to play it for these alone, such as your first encounter against Cyborg Ninja.

Don't let its short lifespan fool you; Metal Gear Solid enjoys a fabulous replay value. 10/10

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OVERALL
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Metal Gear Solid is, as bold as this may sound, the best game ever. With such an amazing concept and plenty of other nice features, it keeps giving and giving without ever becoming boring. A lot of people argue that it is still a short game and that even then, more time is spent watching FMV's and listening to Codec conversations than actually playing the game.

And you know what? They are right. These are, simply put, the only flaws Metal Gear Solid has and I easily understand that most gamers may have gripes them. However, the story is so exciting and poignant and the FMV's so superb they completely outweigh both faults. Moreover, it remains one of those very rare games that never get redundant. From this perspective, the length of the game can even be considered more a blessing than a curse as it hence has more appeal and won't rebut you should you think of playing through it again.

But, above all, Metal Gear Solid isn't just a game. Words fail to describe the sentiments that quickly overwhelm the player the second the game begins. Words fail to convey the excitement one feels upon getting into a new area and quickly scanning the map for potential threats. Every part of the game adds up to the next to make this game something entirely unique and extremely fulfilling. Even the sequel, while better graphically and having a truly memorable soundtrack, fails to be as intricate as its PSX counterpart.

Play it! Whether you like the genre or not! Whether you actually like video games or not!

Because Metal Gear Solid is much more than a mere gaming experience. Every gamer cherishes those fabulous instants which make video gaming so interesting. It may be Mario rescuing Princess Toadstool, it may be Sonic dashing back and forth, it may be Claire Redfield turning around and killing a few zombies in her typical style. Or it may be anything else since there are so many great games out there and only a biased mind will argue that some companies could never pull something similarly unique (hell, even Midway has Scorpion!).

At the risk of offending all these gamers, I'll say that ever since I got Metal Gear Solid, I stopped caring about Link, Sephiroth or the likes of Dante. Now, I see only one thing: Solid Snake single-handedly battling against a tank.

And those words which Vulcan Raven once muttered while looking at Solid Snake: ''You would be wise not to underestimate him, Sir. On the battlefield, he is a real a demon.''

I'll see you in Hell…

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*Liquid Snake is also the greatest villain of all time.

Rating: 10/10

siegfried's avatar
Community review by siegfried (February 08, 2003)

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