Already a seasoned veteran of the newer Metal Gear Solid titles, Nick goes back to his roots in this reflective piece for fans of the stealth action series.
As the pixelated credits roll, chip-tune theme song blaring into my ears, seeing the name ‘Hideo Kojima’ among the credits for 1987’s “Metal Gear” inspires flashbacks of my life as a gamer. The year is 199X and my mother is taking away my just-opened copy of Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation after seeing the opening level- a bit of good parenting that my less-than-ten-year-old self found utterly heart-wrenching. 2002 sees my brother and I playing Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty’s ‘tanker stage’ about a hundred times before finally investing in a PS2 memory card, and finding out that the rest of the game was nothing like what we’d seen. It’s 2004 and I’m sitting with what I call the “strategy tome” for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, trying tirelessly to figure out the best possible camouflage techniques and wildlife to “procure on sight.” Outside the Times Square Virgin Megastore late one night in 2008, I stand among a crowd of hundreds waiting to grab their soon-to-be-released copies of Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus. The Metal Gear saga, in all its backwards, convoluted glory, has been a staple of my gaming life. Hell, I still play almost exclusively as Snake in Super Smash Brothers Brawl to this day. So when I picked up the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection a little while ago, I decided I’d get the Metal Gear foundation I never had by playing, well, "Metal Gear," and moving forward from there.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from this game, but when I reached the end I scratched my head, thinking about how this seemingly insignificant, paper-thin story arc was the seed that grew into the labyrinthine monstrosity the series is known for today. Whether there was some kind of plan for the story way back when this game was being developed is irrelevant to me. What’s incredible is not only the daunting task Kojima Productions has faced time and again trying to build on this tale of espionage without stepping on the toes of previous titles, but the alarming degree of consistency Kojima’s seminal stealth-action series has kept throughout its lifespan.
It’s comforting to find that many of the techniques I’d honed in later Metal Gear titles served me well in this one. The key cards, binoculars, cigarettes, !’s over guards’ heads… all the standard fare made an appearance. At the beginning of the game, when I came up to the first set of two trucks I instantly knew that I’d find a handgun inside. Grabbing a remote controlled missile to shut down a computer on the other end of a maze-like room was no surprise to me either, and hiding in a cardboard box was actually refreshingly effective this time around. With the guards and cameras lacking the intelligence to question its presence, a part of me began wishing all the MGS games could be this simple. Having played this game for the first time in 2012, I felt like a time-traveler sent back from the future (Kyle Reese, perhaps?) who knew all the answers to modern day problems because he’s experienced them countless times already.
It’s nice to see story beats that have echoed and mutated in future Metal Gear titles as well. The initial scene for example, shows up later in the openings of Metal Gear Solid and Raiden’s part of MGS2, as our heroes emerge from the water to infiltrate an enemy facility. Of course, Big Boss is a huge player in future episodes, as his presence (or more often, his absence) is the driving force for each game’s story. When he started feeding me false information near the end of the game that would send me back to the beginning each time, I couldn’t contain my excitement- I knew what would be coming. The random radio calls about turning off my console and aborting the mission explained a lot more about “I need scissors. 61” than I ever realized.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned by playing "Metal Gear," more than any other game in the series, it’s this: SOLID SNAKE IS A BADASS. Yes, in future games he’d go on to destroy an army tank armed only with hand grenades, out-gun master snipers, down countless HIND-D helicopters, and single-handedly turn the tide of cybernetic global warfare, but that’s nothing compared to his antics in this game. Ambushed and captured, Snake finds himself locked in a lonely prison cell. All his equipment confiscated and no ketchup bottle or squeamish guards in sight, there is truly no way out… or is there?!? With a little advice from Big Boss, the rookie infiltrator Snake PUNCHES straight through a BRICK WALL in order to escape. WITH HIS FIST. I’m not even sure there are words fit to describe the momentous milestone in badassery that this represents, but as it was happening I could only respond with a gaping jaw.
Sporting a killer soundtrack of galloping, exciting action tunes juxtaposed with the cautious themes of stealth and a bunch of awesomely stupid boss names (which we’ve also come to expect in Metal Gear) like “Bloody Brad” and “Dirty Duck,” Kojima’s original "Metal Gear" still packs a solid punch after all these years. Pun intended.
Nick Hawryluk is the senior producer, director and editor of Press Play the Webseries. He also runs and contributes articles to the Press Play website. Check out more of Press Play's content at www.PressPlayTV.com