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Metal Gear Solid (PlayStation) artwork

Metal Gear Solid (PlayStation) review


I’m one of those people who, when it comes to gaming, tends to stay forever behind the times, often checking out major hits months or years after their initial release. This was especially true in the early days of Playstation where, during my childhood, I couldn’t keep up with all the gaming news. I also only had access to a small selection of games, the majority of which wouldn’t have been considered hits during their day. That’s why, years later, when I first heard all the hype and nostalgic reminiscing about Metal Gear Solid, I just had to see what all the fuss was about. And, well… I have to admit that I wasn’t disappointed. I was quite taken aback by the story and cinematic effects. I was impressed with the intense boss fights as well as the significance of stealth and the difficulty involved with executing it. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the game, and I’m not going to give it the perfect score so many people think it deserves.

Several lengthy opening sequences and an extensive Codec (a kind of ear-implanted radio) conversation later, you learn that one-man-army Solid Snake has been coerced into coming out of an early retirement. The military has sent him to a nuclear storage facility located on Shadow Moses Island in Alaska that has been occupied by a terrorist organization consisting of members of Special Forces group FOX-HOUND. There he must rescue two hostages taken by these terrorists as well as investigate their nuclear capabilities. Should he fail, this elite group will launch a nuclear strike against the world using a new, highly developed weapon.

Metal Gear Solid screenshot Metal Gear Solid screenshot

It’s your typical hero story: one man must save the world. And he’ll do so by single-handedly taking on five elite members of FOX-HOUND, sneaking past innumerable genetically enhanced super-soldiers, and disabling or destroying the very weapon he was sent to investigate.

Don’t mind that, though. Thanks to excellent storytelling filled with enough plot twists to keep you guessing, you’ll soon forget you’re playing a video game. And if you really get into it, you’ll think you’re at the movies. Without the surround sound or refreshments.

But who needs those traditional movie perks when you can play it instead? Even if you feel that the length and number of cut scenes actually detracts from the experience (you can skip them, too, but why would you want to?), you’ll find yourself enthralled with the variety and intensity involved in both stealth and combat.

You’ve managed to assassinate most of the guards in the Nuclear Warheads Disposal Facility, but there’s one left. He spots you. Alarms blare, alerting all to your presence. Soldiers appear out of nowhere – you’ve killed most, remember? – charging your position, firing automatic rifles along the way. You shoot back, but it is futile, for more keep coming. Your only option now is to run. Hide. Get them off your back. And hopefully do so before the noxious gas filling the room asphyxiates you.

If you’re any good, this scenario won’t ever hit you. With a variety of sneaking skills at his disposal, Snake can get around fairly easily without any trouble. Crawling prevents guards from hearing your footsteps or spotting your footprints. Tapping on walls attracts guards to the source of the noise, allowing you to dash around the corner unsuspected. Equipped with chaff grenades, he can disable all electronics, enabling him to run past those pesky security cameras unhindered.

But not everything available to him is successful all the time. Cardboard boxes are great for hiding when you can’t get out of a soldier’s line of sight in time. But only if you’re stationary. And if you’re unfortunate to be blocking his patrol route (even just a little), you’ll earn yourself a pleasant “Get out of my way!” accompanied with a friendly kick knocking the box off your hunched form. Time to flee. Again.

Metal Gear Solid screenshot Metal Gear Solid screenshot

Yet, this most fundamental part of the game is flawed. Thanks to a fixed aerial camera that scarcely turns with your character’s movements, you can’t effectively see around yourself. If there’s an enemy just around the corner, you sure as hell won’t see him, but he’ll definitely see you. And that normally handy radar won’t help you in an area with electronic jamming. First person viewing mode is too slow and unwieldy, often resulting in a spotting before you even know who’s there. You can cling to walls to peer around corners, but this has its limitations, and Snake is notorious for sticking to them at the worst possible times. Like when you’re being shot at. Or when you’re about to be caught. Or when you’re trying to flee. Or when you’re under a time limit…

At least fighting isn’t much of a problem….

…Oh. Wait.

Aiming is a farce. Snake turns with the speed of a depressed tortoise, so if you have enemies on all sides, you won’t hit them all without being shot to death. Not to mention it’s almost impossible to see what you’re shooting at. Only your pistol has laser sighting, but that only seems to work half the time, and your assault rifle chews through ammo so rapidly that you’ll be reloading every five seconds. Don’t even bother running with them, either. It’ll just get you in trouble.

Don’t mind that, either. Most of your fighting consists of bosses – those five members of FOX-HOUND – each with his (or her) own strengths and weaknesses. Hell, of the ones you fight more than once, most come back different each time. The first time battling Vulcan Raven, a native Inuit and shaman, he sits safely within the confines of an overpowered M1 tank. Face him again, however, and he’ll be all man, no machine to hide behind except his equally overpowered vulcan cannon. It’s a huge machinegun-like weapon that he can somehow support and fire on his back, and it will shred you if you cross his path.

But if you don’t think Raven is crazy and unrealistic enough, fighting terrorist leader and British badass Liquid Snake will have you scratching your head at his apparent invulnerability. The man survives everything that should have killed him. Solid blows him out of a helicopter, knocks him out of a bipedal walking battle tank, sends him over the tank’s fifty-foot ledge after intense hand-to-hand combat, and watches him crash his jeep as they all try to escape at the very end. None of this kills him. Though it should have.

Metal Gear Solid screenshot Metal Gear Solid screenshot

I’ll guarantee you’ll have a great time doing all of this, though. It’s always satisfying to hear your enemies groan in pain as you throttle them with automatic gunfire. Or sneak up behind a guard unseen and snap his neck. The crack will have your sadistic side roaring in ecstasy; the knowledge that you weren’t caught will make you want to do it again.

And despite the flaws in the plot, it does have its moments. I remember the sense of wonderment and awe as I learned about various betrayals and revelations. I recall thinking, “Oh, I know what will happen here,” then being completely stunned as one or more twists turned my thinking 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

MGS has a storyline that will have you laughing at the ridiculousness of some parts (terrorist demand #3: One billion dollars!) yet shocked and amazed at the brilliance of others (comrade Master’s true identity). Its controls may frustrate you, but the action will have you overjoyed. The multitude of ways to apply stealth and defeat enemies will leave you hungering for more, impatient to get through that next cut scene. And the goodies you receive for each of two endings will have you playing through it again once or twice just to feel invincible.

Metal Gear Solid certainly has its highlights, both good and bad. But set-aside the bad ones and you’ll have an awesome time. I sure did.

wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (April 29, 2018)

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