Cleaning The Slate

The last month or so has felt pretty stagnant for me games-wise. In a move that's more reminiscent of me five years ago than me right now, I've been wanting to start a lot of games, attempting to start quite a few of them, and not finishing any of them. I've ended up with a few games that currently stand unfinished, a couple of which I've lost all desire to play. This blog is an attempt to clear my gaming slate, by drawing a line under some of those games and vowing to tackle the others with renewed vigour. I'll begin at the most obvious place...

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

So long Snake. Catch you again later in the year.

Readers of this blog will be aware that back in May I embarked on a quest to play through every canonical Metal Gear game as part of a Metal Gear Madness challenge. Peace Walker is the eighth and final game of the challenge, but try as I might, I just can't muster the will to keep playing it. It's not that it's a bad game - quite the opposite, I think it's one of the best games in the series. Its gameplay is an awesome evolution of the micro-management concept debuted in Portable Ops, and its position in the series' overarching narrative makes it a very interesting game to follow story-wise. I just... don't want to play it any more. I think I'm just all Metal Gear-ed out right now, having played seven other titles in the stealth-action series back-to-back. I've made it up to the point where Snake fights the third AI weapon (the Cocoon?), but just cannot bring myself to play any further. I'll probably return to it and play through the remainder of the game before the year is out, but right now I just want to put it down and forget about it for a month or two. Apologies to anybody who was awaiting the final instalment of the Metal Gear Madness blog series, but you're going to have to wait a little longer.

Pokémon LeafGreen Version

Gotta catch 'em all... or at the very least, beat the Elite Four.

I started playing Pokémon LeafGreen back at the end of April, with a view to gradually working my way through an adventure in every region from the franchise before Pokémon X&Y are released in October. I kept up my Pokémon training alongside the first few Metal Gear games in the first half of May, but my commitment slowly began to taper off until I put the game down in mid-May, and I haven't returned to it since. Right now my team of level 50-something first-generation Pokémon are sitting on the steps of the Indigo League HQ, braced to face the Elite Four, and as yet I haven't taken the plunge and stepped through those hallowed doors. Right now I'm in two minds as to how to re-approach LeafGreen. One option, the sane option, is to turn the DS back on, pretend the two-month hiatus never happened, lay waste to the Elite Four and watch the credits roll. The other, much less sane option is to start my adventure from scratch and train a whole new bunch of critters from the Kanto region. The first option is the most likely, and it probably won't be long before I take that plunge and add LeafGreen to the list of games I've beaten this year. Then I can comfortably move on to SoulSilver and have some fun in Johto.

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

I'm determined to finally see the credits roll on this excellent portable SRPG

It's incredible to think that my on-again, off-again relationship with this game has been going on for around a year now. It was either late summer or early autumn that I turned to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance to scratch my strategy RPG itch, and even though I've sunk around sixty hours into it, I'm still quite a way from the end. Recently I've been feeling my desire to get back into it return, so I'm sure it won't be long before I rejoin Marche, Montblanc and the rest of Clan Gaslight on their adventures in Ivalice. I think I'm about two thirds of the way through the main story missions, with about 130 of the game's 300 missions completed. Hopefully another twenty hours or so will finally see me able to cross this off my Pile of Shame after all these years.

Saints Row 2

Saints Row 2 is a perfect 'switch-your-brain-off' kind of game - just what I need right now

I won't beat around the bush here - the primary reason I'm playing this game is because of Ryan. One thing that's been nagging at me since I heard the news is the memory of his voice on pretty much every Bombcast of late 2011 saying, "You should play Saints Row The Third!". So I bought the Full Package edition for my PS3, but I've run into some problems with the console overheating and have had to put the game on hold, at least until this unbearable heatwave is over. Unable to play SR3, I've instead fallen back on Saints Row 2, which I own for the 360. It feels a lot closer to my memories of the original Saints Row than the opening hour or so of SR3 did, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I've taken over about two thirds of Stilwater at this point, having crushed the Ronin and nearly finished dealing with the Sons of Samedi. It's an exercise in silliness and mindlessness, but there's no denying that causing wanton destruction on such a large scale is damn fun. At this rate I anticipate I'll be done with SR2 within the next week or so. Hopefully by then the heatwave will have passed, and I'll be able to play my PS3 again.

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So that's where I'm at games-wise right now. My immediate plan is to drop Peace Walker for the time being and focus on Saints Row 2. In the meantime I'll probably wrap up the unfinished business in Pokémon LeafGreen and then swap it for Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which I may even start taking to work and playing on my lunch breaks. When all that's done and dusted, I'll be able to consider my slate clean (or at least significantly less messy than it is right now). I realise this is a blog written primarily for my own benefit, but if any of you have stuck around long enough to reach this point, then you have my thanks for reading it. Take it easy, Giant Bomb, and I'll see you around.

...Oh, and while I remember, there's one more loose end to tie up:

This is coming back, very very soon

Dan

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Currently playing - Saints Row 2 (X360)

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Requiescat In Pace

I know a lot of people on this site are writing blog posts in light of the terrible news we've received this week. I realise everything that needs to be said has already been said by others much more eloquent and affected than myself, but reluctant though I am to go over well-walked ground, I feel an urge to post something of my own, if only as a means of personal catharsis. I'm not posting this to the forums - there are more than enough threads already open in memory of Ryan, and I don't wish to add to them. Selfish though it may sound, this is more for me than it is for anyone else.

I'm not a prominent force in the Giant Bomb community, by any stretch of the imagination. As such, I was never fortunate enough to exchange words with Ryan, either online or in person, and I deeply envy those who did. Yet in spite of this, the news of his passing still hit me like an anvil falling at terminal velocity. I think that's a fitting testament to the kind of guy Ryan was - once encountered, never forgotten. Despite his acerbic tongue and dry cynicism, he was an instantly likeable character - indeed, it may well have been those things that drew me towards him in the first place. Although I was merely a fan of his work and nothing more, his personality and manner made him feel more like a friend than a journalist I respected, and while I'll forever be grateful for that incredible rapport, it has made coming to terms with this news incredibly difficult. The thought that his presence will no longer be felt on this site makes me feel empty inside.

Along with Jeff and Brad, Ryan was one of the three key figures that I followed over from Gamespot a little over five years ago. While Brad was always the guy whose tastes most clearly matched my own, Ryan was the one I felt like I could identify with most on a personal level as a fellow cynic. Brad was my go-to guy for reviews, but Ryan's presence on a video practically guaranteed entertainment that was on my wavelength. There are simply too many of his Quick Looks that captured my heart for me to number, so I'm not even going to try. His deconstruction of video game movies in his own series 'This Ain't No Game' was required viewing for as long as it ran. At the other end of the spectrum, his interviews with game developers were wonderful to watch, his likeability managing to transform any interview scenario into something more closely resembling drinks with friends at a local bar. As gaming journalists go, he was one of the very best.

If there's one thing that I will personally remember Ryan for, it's the fact he introduced me to Assassin's Creed. His love for the series, which manifested on the site in the form of some excellently-written reviews and highly entertaining Quick Looks, was practically transferred to me through osmosis as I absorbed the content. I went out and bought the games on his good word, and fell hopelessly in love with the whole franchise. Assassin's Creed II is without doubt one of my favourite games of this generation - hell, one of my favourite games of all time, even - and I never would have played it if it wasn't for Ryan.

Last night I raised a glass and pumped out some choice Summer Jams in honour of Ryan Davis. Pretty soon, I think I'm going to get stuck into Assassin's Creed: Revelations and rediscover my love for that franchise all over again, as a means of thanking him for opening my eyes to those games. In the coming weeks and months my thoughts and love will be with Anna, Jeff, Brad, Vinny, Patrick, all Ryan's friends and family, and with his larger family - the Giant Bomb community.

The irreplaceable Ryan Davis - once encountered, never forgotten

Dan

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Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker HD Edition (PS3)

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Metal Gear Madness - Episode .07

Welcome back, one and all, to the penultimate instalment of my Metal Gear Madness challenge. Formerly known as the Metal Gear May Madness challenge, it was a calculated attempt to play through the entire Metal Gear canon within the month of May. Despite failing to hit that challenging milestone, I've been continuing the challenge into June, mainly because I still have a desire to see the whole series through from beginning to end. If you want more details regarding the specifics of the challenge, you can find them in this introductory post. If you want thoughts on a particular game, I've grouped all the previous episodes together in the table below:

The Episode Roster
Episode .01 - Metal GearEpisode .02 - Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
Episode .03 - Metal Gear SolidEpisode .04 - Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Episode .05 - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake EaterEpisode .06 - Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

This seventh episode is all about the series' epic finale, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

Episode .07 - Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Hello, Old friend...

This is essentially the game that this whole challenge has been leading up to. See, until yesterday I'd only beaten Metal Gear Solid 4 once, all the way back in 2009 when I borrowed a PlayStation 3 from one of my university flat mates. When I picked up a PS3 of my own earlier this year, a copy of MGS4 wasn't far behind. Keen to revisit the chapter in the Metal Gear saga that I'm least familiar with, part of the reason I devised the challenge was to create an excuse to play this game again, this time with a nice lengthy refresher on all the plot points that came before in the hope that some of those twists might not seem quite so bat-shit insane.

The first thing that's noticeable making the leap from Snake Eater and Portable Ops to MGS4 is just how 'modern' it feels to play. With the aim and fire controls moved to the shoulder buttons, combat is a lot less clunky than it was in previous games in the series. I want to go on record here as saying that I've got nothing against the shooting controls in MGS2 and MGS3 myself, but there's definitely a fluidity to the more conventional set-up of MGS4, and that in turn makes combat a bit easier to deal with. What's really great, though, is how this shift doesn't compromise the unique nature of the Metal Gear control scheme - the item and weapon selection menus are still governed by L2 and R2 respectively, X still presses Snake to the ground, and Triangle is still your all-purpose action button. It doesn't feel like every other third-person shooter out there - it just feels like Metal Gear with better shooting, and that can only be a good thing.

MGS4's visuals are among the best from this generation of consoles

Aesthetically it's brilliant, too. In the five years since its release there's no doubt that Metal Gear Solid 4's visuals have been surpassed by a handful of titles, but there's no denying that it's still one of the best-looking games of this generation. Everything within the game is painstakingly detailed - the character models, the environments, the weapons... all of them look great. The voice acting is also arguably the best in the series to date, although David Hayter's performance as Old Snake doesn't quite live up to his reputation (the aged nature of Snake in this game means a lot of Hayter's performance feels over-acted, especially alongside some of the other characters). Harry Gregson-Williams's score is, as ever, an aural tour-de-force.

Then there's the story - the main thing that drew me to this game when I first played it four years ago. If anything, I think I actually enjoyed it more this time than I did back in 2009. That's probably due to the nature of the challenge, which meant a lot of the plot points from the other games were fresher in my mind than they were on my first go round. It made a lot of the thread-tying that MGS4 does seem to make more sense, and served to cement its position in my mind as a fitting coda to the series. In some respects my opinion has changed for the worse, though - I was originally a fan of the game's closing cut-scene and the big twist it brings, but this time around I was less willing to accommodate that ending. I'm not entirely sure what specifically has caused that change of opinion, but coming into the game off the back of the entire series left me feeling indifferent about that particular moment.

Drebin is one of my favourite new characters in MGS4, but the service he provides seems superfluous

Aside from issues with Hayter's performance and that ending, my biggest complaint about Metal Gear Solid 4 is that in some areas, it feels like its scope is much wider than it needs to be. This is especially apparent in the case of the game's huge arsenal of weapons. Through Drebin's shop, Snake has access to a huge array of firearms including several different handguns, sub-machine guns and assault rifles. It's an impressive arsenal, to be sure, but one that struck me as largely unnecessary. Snake Eater had a lot of weapons, but its strength was in its variety rather than its depth. I honestly don't see why Snake needs five or six different kinds of assault rifle at his disposal, especially in a game where the player is advised to avoid combat at all costs. It doesn't hurt the game, per se, but it does feel weirdly out of place in a stealth game.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is unique in the series in that it gives you cumulative statistics at the end of each of its five acts. In keeping with the standard set by the other blogs in this series, I decided to capture all five ranking screens. They're listed below in Act order from left to right. Considering this is only my second time ever through the game, I'm intensely proud of how low some of those figures are (although as the time probably indicates, I was playing very slowly and cautiously for most of it). Along with the Gecko title you can see I've been awarded with, I earned the Inchworm and Scorpion emblems too.

Well, there you have it - seven games down, and just one more title left to play in this epic journey through Kojima's flagship franchise. It probably won't surprise you to learn that I've already made a start on Peace Walker, specifically the HD Edition of the game which I downloaded from the PlayStation Store last month. Early indications are that the expanded control system is a lot more friendly than it was on the PSP, so I'm sure I'll end up having a lot of fun sinking hours into this version of the title. As ever, you can expect the next (and final) episode of Metal Gear Madness when Peace Walker's all wrapped up. Until then, all that remains to be said is thanks very much for reading, and I'll see you around.

Dan

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Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker HD Edition (PS3)

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Metal Gear Madness - Episode .06

May may have ended a couple of weeks ago, but one thing that's soldiered on undeterred is my Metal Gear Madness challenge. Formerly dubbed Metal Gear May Madness, the original aim was to beat all eight canonical stealth games in the Metal Gear series within the month of May. I didn't succeed, only managing to make it through the first five games, but I decided that time constraints be damned, I'd come too far through the franchise to put it down now. A quick name change and a renewed sense of purpose later, and here we are, pressing on through the remaining three games in the series.

If you want more details about how the challenge came about and which games it encompasses, then check out the inaugural entry, which should answer any questions you may have. If you've missed a specific game in the series, I've laid them out in a handy-dandy table below:

The Episode Roster
Episode .01 - Metal GearEpisode .02 - Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
Episode .03 - Metal Gear SolidEpisode .04 - Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Episode .05 - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

All caught up? Good stuff. Now let's press on, shall we? Roll hastily-doctored title card!

Episode .06 - Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

It's all about building an army of recruits in Portable Ops

It took me a while to get around to playing Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops after wrapping up Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater at the end of May. Admittedly, that was partly because I had problems locating my oft-neglected PSP's mains charger, but it was also because I felt like I was starting to get burned out on the series. After about a week of procrastinating and making excuses, I plunged into Portable Ops proper, and the result was a largely pleasant one. It's a solid stealth game that tells a pretty interesting story sandwiched between Snake Eater and Peace Walker. It does some new things with the series' gameplay, debuts some cool unit management subsystems that serve as the foundation for the Mother Base stuff in Peace Walker, and successfully migrates it all to an episodic format that's conducive to short bursts of play.

Let's start with the new stuff, shall we? The first obvious change is that rather than presenting one continuous mission, Portable Ops is broken up into smaller bite-sized missions. There's still an over-arching story tying all these missions together, but it's presented in something much closer to an episodic fashion this time around. This small change does wonders for making the Metal Gear formula work on a handheld platform because it makes it much easier to drop in and out of play on the move. It also adds a bit of variety to proceedings, with several different kinds of missions available including gathering intel, rescuing captive soldiers, sabotaging enemy strongholds and hunting down useful items.

The game's hand-drawn cut-scenes are a big departure from the series norm, but they fit in surprisingly well and look great

The other big change is in the game's focus on soldier recruitment and unit management. It's possible for Naked Snake to recruit any enemy soldiers he encounters on missions, and once these recruits have been talked round to your way of thinking, you can take them out on missions with you or station them in a number of dedicated off-field units. Recruits with high senses make great spies, while those with strong tech and medic skills flourish in your R&D and Medical units respectively. Building strong units has positive ramifications on gameplay - the Medical unit will create medical supplies, the R&D unit will develop new gadgets and weapons, and effective Spy units will report back with info on side-quests and provide more detailed maps for the game's many environments. Each recruit also has their own proficiency with different kinds of weapons, as well as unique traits that make them suited to specific jobs such as dragging recruits back to the truck, or returning items back to base. It may not sound much like Metal Gear on the surface, and it's not as easy to lose hours in the menus as it is in the subsequent Peace Walker, but it's a cool system with a surprising amount of depth and reward.

Portable Ops's biggest strength, though, is without a doubt how successfully it manages to migrate the gameplay mechanics and depth of the last couple of Metal Gear Solid games onto a handheld system. The gameplay is fundamentally identical to that of Metal Gear Solids 2 and 3, which means most of the nuances from those games are present here. Crawling, sneaking, wall-pressing, dragging bodies out of sight, popping out of cover to shoot, CQC... In short - if you could do it in Sons of Liberty or Snake Eater, you can probably do it here, too. Considering the limitations of the PSP, I think the fact they've squeezed so much depth into playing Portable Ops is seriously impressive. The fact they subsequently managed to go even deeper with Peace Walker verges on mind-blowing.

Something I failed to mention in the bulk of the blog is that Portable Ops's few boss battles are pretty lacklustre

Unfortunately, that level of depth comes with a trade-off, and it's in the control department that Portable Ops's most telling sacrifices have been made. The PSP's reduced button count and single analog nub means that most of the functionality feels a bit shoe-horned in, with a lot of buttons serving more than one purpose. The control system also doesn't really account for one important thing in a stealth game - finesse. These two frustrations combine to cause my personal biggest frustration with Portable Ops - namely, the fact that it's far too easy to make clumsy (but costly) mistakes, and often through no fault of one's own. This is amplified by the game's dependence on soldier recruitment, which means you'll often have to get close to a soldier and use CQC to incapacitate them before they see you and raise the alarm - not an easy task with such a fiddly control scheme.

There's also no denying the constant feeling that Portable Ops wants to be something bigger than it actually is. Its seemingly throw-away title belies a fairly important and well-developed canonical story that serves to bridge a few gaps between Operation Snake Eater and the remainder of the series. People refer to Peace Walker as the bona-fide missing link, but the story of Portable Ops explicitly sows the seeds of Outer Heaven in its own right. Without wanting to spoil too much, I particularly appreciated the stuff they did with the Null character, even if it was playing pretty fast-and-loose with the already-established canon. It's a shame that this bridging of the gap happened exclusively on PSP, under a moniker giving no indication of its relevance, and in a game that Kojima himself seems reluctant to acknowledge (the game's absence from any of the HD collections is telling). As it stands, it just feels like an episodic, squad-based Metal Gear spin-off with delusions of grandeur.

As has become customary for this series, I've taken a photo of my final game ranking to share with you on this blog. It certainly makes for less pretty reading than the one for Snake Eater, which I'm still fiercely proud of. It took me quite a while to get through the game, although I'll put that down to my commitment to exploring all the various spy reports that came in. The number of alert phases triggered in particular is just plain embarrassing, especially after I made it through the previous game with just two. Take a look for yourself below. Just try not to laugh too much, okay?

With Portable Ops out of the way, the challenge is now three-quarters through. Just two games remain - Metal Gear Solid 4, and Peace Walker. I actually double-dipped on Peace Walker earlier in the challenge and picked up the downloadable PS3 version from the PlayStation Store, so that's where I suspect I shall be playing it. Hopefully that will eliminate some of the fiddly control issues I encountered with Portable Ops. If I decide I'd rather experience it on a handheld further down the line, I guess I could always partake in a little Transfarring. Right now I'm ploughing through Metal Gear Solid 4, and am currently a fair way into Act Three. If all goes to plan, you can expect the seventh instalment of Metal Gear Madness before this week is out. Thanks very much for reading, and I'll see you around.

Dan

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Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)

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Metal Gear May Madness - Episode .05

We're back, baby! Nothing stops the Metal Gear May Madness train from rolling on to its next destination! If you're unsure what that destination is, you can find an outline of the journey here. If you think you may have missed your stop, please check the route planner below:

The Episode Roster
Episode .01 - Metal GearEpisode .02 - Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
Episode .03 - Metal Gear SolidEpisode .04 - Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Right now we're pulling into the fifth station on this eight-stop line - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Please mind the gap when boarding and alighting the blog.

Episode .05 - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Is Naked Snake better than Solid? I certainly think so

It's no secret that Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is my favourite game in the Metal Gear franchise. Actually, it probably wouldn't be unreasonable to call it one of my favourite games of all time. Most of the praise I've heaped on the preceding games also holds true here - Snake Eater boasts a gripping, labyrinthine story punctuated by dramatic twists and cinematic showdowns, solid and surprisingly flexible stealth gameplay, and some of the greatest boss fights ever to grace the medium. Oh, and it's got the obligatory nuclear-capable tank as well (even if it isn't technically a Metal Gear). This is all well and good, but there are two problems with this succinct description. For a start, it doesn't differentiate Snake Eater from anything that came before it (or should that be after it?), and second, it doesn't justify why I love it considerably more than any other game in the series. I'll therefore try to spend the next few paragraphs doing exactly these things.

I'll start by waxing lyrical about the gameplay changes, because they're easily one of my favourite aspects of Snake Eater. There's an increased emphasis on survival in Metal Gear Solid 3, a fact best illustrated by the new camouflage, hunting and healing systems, all of which are well integrated into the established sneaking experience. Changing uniforms to blend in with Naked Snake's surroundings, capturing and eating animals to maintain stamina levels, and using supplies to treat serious wounds all add extra layers of depth to the otherwise fairly simple stealth mechanics of the Metal Gear franchise, giving the player more things to micro-manage and maintain without ever overwhelming them.

CQC keeps the player's combat options more flexible

Combat is augmented by the CQC system, a much-needed overhaul to the series' melee encounters that allows Snake to grapple, throw and choke without having to un-equip his firearm. It's a simple change that's hugely appreciated in tight spots, although the controls can be a bit fiddly and awkward, sometimes resulting in a feeble choke instead of the knock-out throw you originally intended. Finally, there's the fully-3D camera. Debuted in the Subsistence release of the game and now included as standard in the HD re-release, it makes surveying Snake's surroundings much slicker than the previous top-down perspective. Individually, all of these additions serve to improve the experience of playing Snake Eater. Together, they transform it into something that's leagues above its predecessors.

All these adjustments to the series' core gameplay are supported by Snake Eater's setting - the forests, rivers, mountains and research facilities of Cold War-era Russia. Snake Eater's environments are completely unlike anything else in the Metal Gear series. They're wildly varied, beautifully detailed, and surprisingly interactive. They complement the new gameplay mechanics perfectly, the natural outdoor environments providing a perfect backdrop for Snake's reliance on camouflage and survival techniques. Snake Eater's maps are also much more open than those of previous Metal Gear games, giving the player more choice in how they navigate them. Put simply, if Metal Gear Solid 2 gave the player a bigger arsenal of moves at their disposal, then Metal Gear Solid 3 gives them the space in which to use those moves to their fullest. This added freedom and the way it encourages the player to experiment is another reason why I've long favoured Snake Eater over its brethren.

See that wood? You can shoot through that. Just another example of Snake Eater's commitment to attention-to-detail

Ultimately though, it's the little touches that have resulted in Snake Eater holding a special place in my heart. The Metal Gear series as a whole is famed for its attention to detail - a fact I've largely glossed over in previous entries in this blog series, but which it's pretty much impossible to ignore in Snake Eater's case. The game is full of these small design choices that go a long way towards making the game an unforgettable experience. Things like the way food you've caught will rot in real time according to the PS2's internal clock, or how sabotaging enemy camps will have subtle effects on guards in the vicinity (destroy a food store and they'll become hungrier, for example). Perhaps the most impacting of these touches for me personally was the revelation that you can defeat The End simply by saving the game during the battle and waiting for eight real days, after which he'd die of old age. Metal Gear Solid 3 is a ten-hour experience at its core, but could easily be stretched to several times that by a player diligent and curious enough to seek out its subtleties.

It's difficult for me to pick fault with Snake Eater, largely because the game itself sits so well with me. If I had to offer up one piece of criticism, it would probably be directed at the game's lacklustre frame-rate, which is a pretty bitter pill to swallow immediately after the crisp, clean aesthetics of Metal Gear Solid 2. It's been a while since my last foray into the Russian jungle, so I can't say for certain whether the exceedingly choppy frame-rate is down to the game itself or simply a by-product of (or worsened by) the PS3's emulation. Either way, it's definitely detrimental to the experience in places. It's a real shame, especially because the game is so gorgeous otherwise. Thankfully, it's my understanding that the HD version (which I'd imagine is now the most readily available version) runs at a flawlessly crisp sixty frames per second, effectively eliminating the game's biggest fault for a modern audience. Seriously though, when a janky frame-rate is my biggest criticism of a game, I really have to be clutching at straws.

As with all the other games, here are my final rankings for Snake Eater. I'm pretty happy with all of them - it's arguable I took too long playing through the game, given the constraints of the challenge, but I found myself really wanting to savour the experience of returning to my favourite instalment in the series.

Now, I realise I said above that nothing stops the Metal Gear May Madness train. However, one pretty big obstacle is sitting on the tracks in the form of the end of this month. Right now there are only two full days left in May - two days in which I've given myself the mammoth task of finishing three more Metal Gear games. I think that's a challenge that even Solid Snake himself would struggle with. For that reason, I'm declaring here and now that the Metal Gear May Madness challenge is all but a failure. Or, to keep rolling with the train metaphor, I think it's pretty safe to say at this point that Metal Gear May Madness is on course for a spectacular derailment.

But that won't be the end of this absurd challenge, which was always just as much about re-experiencing this incredible franchise of games as it was about ridiculously unfair time constraints. I still have Portable Ops, Guns of the Patriots and Peace Walker left to play, and I have no intention of simply dropping tools and not experiencing those segments of the series' story. Metal Gear May Madness will be going off-road and continuing into June - a challenge failed, but not forgotten. I'm planning to pick up Portable Ops tonight, and start sneaking my way through its campaign, May be damned. You can still expect blog updates on the remaining games, probably under a slightly revised title, as and when I beat them. In the meantime, thanks very much for reading guys, and I'll see you around.

Dan

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Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (PSP)

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Metal Gear May Madness - Episode .04

It's a little later than planned, but at last, here's the continuation of Metal Gear May Madness - an attempt on my part to play every single game in the core Metal Gear canon within the month of May. If you're not sure what's going on here, I'd advise you to stop and read the inaugural entry for the series here - it'll explain what I'm up to, and how I'm doing it. If you've missed any of the episodes concerning individual games, you can find them presented in the table below:

The Episode Roster
Episode .01 - Metal GearEpisode .02 - Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
Episode .03 - Metal Gear Solid

This fourth episode in the series is all about Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. As well as being the franchise's first instalment on the PlayStation 2, it was also my own initiation to the Metal Gear saga, so it's sure to be a pretty nostalgic journey at the very least. Read on to find out how I got on with Kojima's original mind-fuck...

Episode .04 - Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

The PS2's increased graphical horsepower brings Kojima's vision to life like never before

The first thing that crossed my mind booting up Metal Gear Solid 2 for the first time in about six or seven years was simply, "Damn, this looks good". I want to clarify that I'm not playing the HD re-release here, just the Substance expansion of the original Sons of Liberty that came out just over ten years ago. Sure, the textures may be a little blurry and the animation isn't realistic to a fault, but there's a consistency to MGS2's visual package that makes the whole thing a joy to look at. Coming into the game straight off the back of the original Metal Gear Solid, there's something marvellous about seeing the likes of Solid Snake, Otacon and Revolver Ocelot appearing fully realised this time around, their in-game appearances no longer as restricted by limiting hardware. Similarly, the extra graphical punch means that the sense of scale debuted in MGS is amplified ten-fold here, perhaps best illustrated by the outdoor moments on the Big Shell and that epic boss fight against multiple Metal Gear RAYs near the game's end.

Unlike the graphical leap from Metal Gear 2 to Metal Gear Solid, this time around the aesthetic advancements are backed up with some seriously meaty additions on the gameplay side of things as well. The protagonists of Metal Gear Solid 2 have a huge array of new skills and manoeuvres at their disposal too, such as hanging from railings, peeking round corners, and being able to fire any weapon from a first-person perspective. This last enhancement is definitely the biggest, because it imparts a whole new tactical approach to combat for the series. Being able to pop out of cover and squeeze off a headshot with any weapon actually goes a long way to amalgamating the series' previously distinct combat and stealth mechanics. This new-found mechanical symbiosis is further aided by the introduction of non-lethal, tranquilising weaponry for the first time in the series. It doesn't turn the game into a run-and-gun shoot-'em-up, but it does even the odds somewhat. Thankfully there are a host of improvements to the enemy AI as well - guards are smarter than ever in MGS2, and interact with each other in much more sophisticated ways that make the dreaded Alert Phase even more of a threat. These enhancements render the increased move-set and new gadgets not only useful, but necessary.

I'm pretty sure we'll never see anything quite like the reveal of Raiden in gaming again

And then there's the story. It's something I've grown to appreciate about the game more and more as I've become more enveloped in the series as a whole, because it's only by knowing the franchise that it's possible to realise just how much of a gamble Kojima took with this one. The decision to ditch Snake as the protagonist in favour of Raiden wasn't met with approval when the game was originally released, but I personally think it's one of Kojima's bravest and most brilliant narrative decisions through the whole franchise. It's a bait-and-switch that I simply couldn't see happening in the leak-prone environment of the modern games industry, and we're unlikely to see anything like it ever again. The plot itself is well crafted too, for the most part, mirroring the events of the Shadow Moses incident while still managing to feel original, and packing twists so tight they make the narrative of Metal Gear Solid look like a Roman road by comparison. It's definitely a thrilling plot to follow.

For every occasion that the story of Metal Gear Solid 2 hits the right mark, though, there's another moment not too far off where it overshoots the mark and simply refuses to turn around. Nowhere is this more true than in the game's closing ninety minutes or so, which piles a series of revelations onto the player with so little breathing time that it's easy to lose track of what is actually going on. Hell, I've played the game multiple times in the last ten years and I'm still not completely sure what the S3 Plan really is. MGS2 is also the first game in the series where Kojima's propensity for cutscene-driven storytelling starts to win out over the actual gameplay. In simpler terms, it often feels like you're watching Metal Gear Solid 2 more than you're playing it. That's not an inherently bad thing - I personally enjoy the way Kojima chooses to tell his stories, and I love watching the plots of the Metal Gear games unfold just as much as I love playing them - but the cutscene-to-gameplay ratio of MGS2 is much closer to 1:1 than those of its predecessors.

This time around I've had to snag two photos of my end-game statistics - one for the actual statistical side of things, and another for my final ranking. Interesting story - this is actually the first time I've ever played the Substance version of the game, having previously only owned the original Sons of Liberty. As a result, I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've actually received a codename while playing MGS2 (I seem to remember Sons of Liberty tied all that stuff up with the now-defunct clear codes, so you had to go online to find out your ranking, a luxury I didn't have back then). I'm fairly happy with the statistical side of things, although once again I think there were a few too many enemy deaths, especially considering I had the luxury of knock-out weaponry this time around. I'm pretty sure most of those deaths came about in the game's boss battles and mandatory alert stages, but that's still a figure I'll definitely be trying to reduce in the next game.

These are my end-game statistics...
...and this is my codename and now-obsolete clear code.

The completion of Metal Gear Solid 2 means I'm now at the halfway point of the May Madness challenge - four games down, four games to go. Unfortunately, the timescale for the challenge doesn't stand quite so favourably - due to work and other commitments keeping me from my gaming time, it took me a crippling eight days to reach the end of MGS2. Including the remainder of today, that means I have just twelve days left to clear the four remaining games. So it's not looking great for the challenge, but I'm determined to keep pressing on. Next up is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, by far my favourite instalment in the whole franchise, and one I'm really looking forward to revisiting. Hopefully you won't have to wait another eight days for the next instalment. Until then, thanks for reading and I'll see you around.

Dan

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Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (PS2)

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Metal Gear May Madness - Episode .03

As May moves on apace, so too does the Metal Gear May Madness challenge. If you've managed to miss my entries from the last couple of weeks, then have no fear, because I've got you covered. If you're still unsure what the hell is going on here, I'd recommend reading the introductory episode to this series, which you can find here. If you've missed my thoughts on a specific game, you can find them by clicking the links in the table below:

The Episode Roster
Episode .01 - Metal GearEpisode .02 - Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

With all that out of the way, I do believe it's time to look at my most recent Metal Gear conquest - the series' first three-dimensional entry, Metal Gear Solid.

Episode .03 - Metal Gear Solid

The addition of a third dimension turns Metal Gear into the cinematic experience it always wanted to be

The most noticeable thing going from Metal Gear 2 to Metal Gear Solid is the graphical leap. To be fair, there are eight years and a lot of hardware advancements between the two titles, but that doesn't dull the impact of going from 8-bit 2D sprites to full-blown polygonal 3D. Judging it by the standard of its PlayStation contemporaries, Metal Gear Solid is one damn good-looking game. The level of detail in the environments and character models is extraordinary in light of the PS1's limitations. The third dimension also grants everything a greater sense of scale, something missing from the two MSX games and most apparent in the face-offs against the Hind D and Metal Gear REX, where Snake really does seem minuscule.

Moving away from the visual side of things, the next obvious thing to praise is the game's voice work. Sure, it's not the best voice acting ever, but it provides a lot of the game's defining personality, not to mention the depth it adds to the game's cast of characters. David Hayter's performance as Solid Snake totally defines that character, to the point where even in the two MSX games I was mentally reading his dialogue in that unmistakeable voice. Also worth mentioning is the game's narrative, which is practically labyrinthine in its intriguing twists and turns, and does a much better job than either of the MSX games at keeping the player on the right track as they infiltrate Shadow Moses Island. The further expanded Codec system is also responsible for this improved sense of direction, its huge bank of conversations ensuring the player is never stuck without advice.

With the benefit of hindsight, it's a shame the gameplay didn't make the same leap. Having played Metal Gear Solid immediately after Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, it's apparent just how little the act of playing the game has changed in spite of the huge leap in hardware. Snake has very few new tricks at his disposal in his first 3D outing, especially when considering the wealth of new tricks he picked up between the first two MSX games. The same can be said for a lot of Metal Gear Solid's "unique" gameplay elements, things that I didn't realise were lifted almost verbatim out of Metal Gear 2 until I finally played it last week. Things like having to recover a Codec frequency from the game's packaging, thinking outside the box to identify a woman disguised as a soldier, and the temperature-sensitive shape-shifting key - these were things that I originally found incredibly impressive about Metal Gear Solid, but my appreciation of them has been greatly cheapened by learning they're actually just rehashes of gameplay beats from its predecessor.

The first-person view mode makes for some pretty memorable moments

I don't want to give the impression that the game didn't make any gameplay advancements at all, though. By far the most telling enhancement is the inclusion of a first-person view function, which makes it possible to carry out much more detailed surveillance than in previous games. It also allows for the inclusion of a sniper rifle and a more sophisticated Stinger missile launcher, which in turn contribute to some of the game's (and indeed the series') most memorable boss battles. In fact, the boss battles are among the game's highest points, challenging the player in just about every possible area of skill (including mentally - who could forget that showdown with Psycho Mantis?). There are a ton of other improvements, but most of them are minor - things like the simplification of the card key system, or the introduction of chaff grenades to jam enemy electronics. They all contribute to a slightly deeper stealth experience, but stacked up against the differences between Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, they don't seems anywhere near as revolutionary.

All in all, I still think Metal Gear Solid is a fantastic game. It may not have innovated as much as I once thought it did, but there's no denying the game still holds up. I think it says a lot that my biggest complaint about the game is a retrospective one, one that up until playing Metal Gear 2 last week I didn't even have. I know a lot of people take issue with the game's control system, but that's something that's never bothered me personally. Sure, it may be clumsy compared to a third-person shooter, but in the context of the series' gameplay mechanics I think it works just fine. Once again, I've grabbed a badly-lit photo of my end-game statistics for your perusal. I was surprised by how much time I'd actually put into the game - it certainly didn't feel like a nine-hour journey. I'm also mighty happy with the Continue and Found statistics both being in single figures, although that's most likely due to me being much more familiar with this game than I was with the first two.

So that's three games in twelve days - spot on my projected pace of getting through a game every four days. Next up is Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the game that served as my original introduction to the franchise around a decade ago. Mid-week playing is a difficult thing to squeeze in for me (a fact hammered home by last week's arduous slog through Metal Gear 2), but I'll do my best to get into a position where I can share the next blog entry with you next weekend. I've already made it through the Tanker chapter, and with a personal best time to boot, so here's hoping I can keep up this momentum. Until next time, thanks for reading, and I'll see you around.

Dan

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Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance (PS2)

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Metal Gear May Madness - Episode .02

Before I get this episode properly underway, I want to do something I should have done at the start of the last episode and draw your attention to @demoskinos' blog 'Metal Gear March'. It's a challenge with an almost identical concept to this one, but it pre-dates my blogs by a couple of months, and is therefore much better. I highly recommend you read it - it's well written, and clearly demonstrates a deep passion for Hideo Kojima's flagship series. Check it out, I promise you won't be disappointed.

Now on to the main point of this blog - the continuation of Metal Gear May Madness! If you're still not aware of what I'm doing, I'll point you in the direction of the introductory blog I wrote for this little series, which you can find here. That should clear up any questions you might have about the mad endeavour I'm currently caught up in. When I posted my last blog, I'd just beaten the original Metal Gear. Next on my agenda was its sequel - Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. How did I fare with it? And more importantly, how does it fare against my harsh critical judgement? Read on, dear reader, and ye shall find out.

Episode .02 - Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

When I played through the first Metal Gear last week, I genuinely felt like I was playing something truly innovative and special. After playing through Metal Gear 2, I feel almost foolish for considering its predecessor to be anything more than marginally ahead of its time. Metal Gear 2 takes pretty much every innovation made by its older brother and runs with them until it can't run any further. It addresses most of my criticisms with the first game, while also making a ton of advances in ways I didn't even expect. Metal Gear may be the most prominent symbol of the birth of the stealth genre, but Metal Gear 2 is without a doubt the origin of the Metal Gear franchise as we know it.

I guess I'll start where I started with Metal Gear last time - the mechanics. Structurally Metal Gear 2 is a very similar game to its predecessor - it takes place across a large base the player must sneak through without being seen, completing objectives and defeating mercenaries along the way. Some areas are locked off and require certain card keys to get into, which invariably means a bit of back-tracking at various points in the campaign. Where Metal Gear 2 differs from the original is in its refinement of the gameplay mechanics that exist within this structural framework. Take the stealth, for instance, which is hugely expanded on and improved here. For a start, Snake can actually crawl this time around! Being able to hide under things might not sound like a big deal, but it opens up a whole new avenue of possibilities that weren't available to the player in the first game. Enemy AI has been improved as well, making enemy soldiers harder to get around - as well as being able to turn their heads for different lines of vision, enemies also now respond to sounds made by the player, giving players much more flexibility in how they deal with and distract the occupants of Zanzibar Land. Even the card key system is refined and improved upon, allowing the player to collect 'all-in-one' cards that will open up multiple levels of door and minimising the frustration borne from the trial and error of trying to find the right card to open any given door.

Probably the biggest leap made by Metal Gear 2 is in its narrative, though. While its story isn't all that far removed from the original Metal Gear, the way Metal Gear 2 tells that story puts its predecessor (and pretty much every other 8-bit game I've ever played) to shame. There's a clear narrative flow here that guides the player from objective to objective, something we've come to expect from the series but which was notably missing from the very stop-start Metal Gear. Characters are given real personalities and back-stories, and time in which they can be seen to develop, a fact that's even true of the game's boss characters. The Codec (or Radio, as it's simply called this time around) is much more fleshed out as well, with most of the contactable characters having something to say in most of the game's many situations. It's no doubt benefited from an updated translation (I was playing the version packaged with Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence), but given that's the way most people playing it today will experience it, I think it's fair praise. The level of depth and scope to the game's narrative is consistently astounding, and definitely one of the game's strongest suits.

I find myself much less ready to throw criticism at Metal Gear 2 than I was at its predecessor, probably because it addresses so many of the complaints I had after finishing the first Metal Gear. I guess the game still leans a little too much on the crutch of trial-and-error for me, as even in spite of the better narrative flow and improved card key system, I still found myself at a loss for ideas to progress in quite a few situations. The fact the game's final boss battle actually encourages the card key trial-and-error situation was pretty disappointing, and kind of killed the impact of the previous two boss fights, both of which were awesome. Also, while my criticism of it being easy to escape enemy alerts is no longer relevant in Metal Gear 2, it did occasionally feel like it had gone too far the other way, with it being incredibly difficult to get out of the enemy's line of sight long enough to find a hiding place. This is a minor complaint though, verging on nit-picking, so I shan't labour it any further.

If you're a fan of the Metal Gear franchise and have yet to play either of these early 2D instalments, I'd advise you to take the plunge and check them out. The original Metal Gear doesn't really hold up, and is more worth playing as an interest piece, to experience the genesis of the series. Metal Gear 2, on the other hand, is still a legitimately fun and interesting game to play, with a story that's still well worth experiencing first-hand. As with the original Metal Gear, I've captured my end-game statistics in the photo below. I'm definitely a little happier with them this time around, especially considering I had no previous experience with the game before now. There are still a few too many kills on record for my liking, but hey, 87 is a vast improvement on 339.

That's now two games under my belt, with six to go. I actually finished Metal Gear 2 on Thursday night, so my current progress record is two games in nine days - slightly over par, but I should be able to claw some of that time back. I'm already a fair way through the next game in the series, Metal Gear Solid, which I should be able to finish by Monday, if not tomorrow. As soon as that's done and dusted, you can expect the third episode of Metal Gear May Madness. In the meantime, I'd like to thank you all for reading, and I'm sure I'll see you around.

Dan

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Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid (PS1)

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Metal Gear May Madness - Episode .01

Kept you waiting, huh? (That's the last time I'll do that joke, I promise.)

Welcome to the first proper episode of Metal Gear May Madness, a serial blog in which I'm chronicling my efforts to make it through eight core titles in the Metal Gear franchise before the end of this month. If you missed my first post and aren't entirely sure what's going on here, I'd recommend checking out Episode .00 for the finer details on what I'm up to. First up is the game that started it all - 1987's Metal Gear.

Episode .01 - Metal Gear

Metal Gear's stealth gameplay must have been groundbreaking in 1987

One of the most persistent thoughts I kept revisiting throughout my playthrough of Metal Gear was, "This must have been revolutionary to play when it came out". If ever a game has epitomised the phrase 'ahead of its time', it's Metal Gear. Released in 1987, Metal Gear boasts a surprisingly sophisticated story, and gameplay systems that must have seemed mind-blowingly innovative twenty-five years ago. Take the stealth mechanics, for example - it's possible to sneak around enemies and dispatch them silently, an approach that can't have been common in a world where action equated to the likes of the Rambo-esque Contra and Commando. Or the Codec (dubbed a 'Transceiver' here), the in-game communications device that provides both gameplay hints and story exposition. While both are fairly rudimentary early incarnations of their respective concepts, they represent a completely different way to make the player feel like a one-man infiltration machine. These innovations are layered over a more conventional Metroidvania game structure that's punctuated with keycards, cardboard boxes and RC missiles, making Metal Gear feel like a solid blueprint for all the games that followed. I also can't speak positively about this game without mentioning the boss fights, which are easily among the strongest portions of gameplay - a trend that later games in the franchise continued.

It's unfortunate that all too often, that initial thought was immediately followed up by, "Geez, this really doesn't hold up that well, does it?". See, conceptually I love everything that makes up Metal Gear. I just didn't have any fun actually playing it. Paradoxically, some of that is actually down to the gameplay systems I've just praised. While the stealth mechanics must have been revolutionary back then, they feel positively draconian in 2013 - soldiers have linear rather than conical fields of vision and no apparent sense of hearing, a fact you can abuse to sneak round them at ridiculously close distances. The nature of the game's Alert Mode also means it's very easy to lose your pursuers, in most cases simply by moving onto another screen. While the structure of the game is a solid enough precursor to what the series later became, the lack of player direction and the obtuse methods of obtaining some items often reduce the act of playing Metal Gear to an exercise in trial and error, trying every keycard against every door until something finally gives.

The transceiver may be simplistic, but it's a clear indication of where the series was heading

I'm willing to admit that at least some of this criticism is probably borne by my decision to play through the game on Easy difficulty, a choice that I spent most of my subsequent time with the game deeply regretting. Easy difficulty makes Solid Snake much more resistant to enemy attacks, all but negating the impetus to avoid detection by the enemy. Knowing I wouldn't be in much danger if I was spotted made me play the game much more recklessly than I maybe should have done, a fact that's reflected in the number of alerts I triggered during my short time with the game - a whopping 133. When I originally played the game back in 2006, I did so on Original difficulty, and I don't recall being able to approach it in such a careless manner - quite the opposite actually, I remember Metal Gear being pretty unforgiving. It was a decision made in the interest of keeping this challenge viable, but one that's unfortunately sullied my memory of my initial experience with the game.

I've captured my end-game statistics and embedded them below, if that kind of thing interests you. I'm definitely less than happy with the number of alerts I triggered and the number of enemies I took out, figures that I hope to improve on in the other games.

That's the first game in the series under my belt, and we're only four days through the month, so even at this early stage I'm making steady progress in line with my prediction in Episode .00. Next up is Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, a game which currently holds the honour of being the only instalment in the core Metal Gear franchise that I haven't played before. I'll be hoping to change that in the next few days, so be sure to keep an eye out for another episode of Metal Gear May Madness coming soon. Until then, thanks for reading and I'll see you around.

Dan

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Currently playing - Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (PS2)

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Metal Gear May Madness - Episode .00

Oh Dan, will you ever learn that writing these serial blogs isn't good for your health? Don't you remember the gruelling, demanding task of both playing video games and writing creatively for several hours a day when you spent A Month in Skyrim? And what about the long-running, still unfinished blogging behemoth that is Enduring Final Fantasy VII? Haven't these exercises in episodic bloggery taught you that the whole experience is seldom more than a mentally draining endeavour that saps one's will and wrecks one's sleep pattern, all for ultimately very little pay-off?

Apparently not, readers. Yep, I've decided to once again grab the serial blogging bull by the horns and dive into another episodic project, with all the reckless abandon and personal disregard that usually entails. This time I won't be looking back on a divisive JRPG classic, or converting my adventures in Tamriel into a daily diary. Instead, I'm tackling another of one of my most-revered gaming franchises - the Metal Gear saga. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the inaugural instalment of...

Episode .00 - Kept You Waiting, Huh?

Well folks, here we are once again - at the start of yet another of my crazy blogging concepts. My aim for this one is simple - to play every core game in the Metal Gear franchise within the thirty-one days that make up the month of May. I'll try to outline some of the finer points and offer my reasons for pursuing the challenge below.

Why Am I Doing This?

To be honest, I'm not completely sure what's possessed me to embark on this crazy gaming quest. I'm fairly confident that a big factor in the decision was my acquisition of my own PlayStation 3 back in March, a purchase which finally rendered me able to play every core Metal Gear game within the comfort of my own home. I've been eager to revisit the series, whether in whole or in part, for some time now, so that desire to spend some more time with Solid Snake is probably an influential reason as well. Another possible reason is the recent confirmation of Metal Gear Solid V, an announcement which made me keen to revisit the previous games in the series as a story refresher. As for why I'm deliberately limiting myself to the next thirty-one days, I can only say that clearly the only thing I like more than a challenge is alliteration.

Which Games Will I Be Playing?

My plan is to try and make it through every game I own which is recognised as being part of the core Metal Gear canon. As far as I'm aware, that includes all the games below:

That's eight games in total, so I'll need to be working through them at an average of about one game every four days. This shouldn't be too much of a problem for the home console titles, which are pretty long but can be sped through with a few days' worth of committed playing. Where I'll most likely run into problems is with the handheld games, which are split into smaller bite-sized missions but ultimately add up to a longer playing experience due to all the sub-mechanics at work. I'll be playing them in order of release, rather than in the order of the series' timeline, mainly to avoid any hugely jarring mechanical discrepancies between the games (leaping from Peace Walker into the original Metal Gear doesn't seem like it would be much fun). In the games with selectable difficulties I'll be playing on the default Normal difficulty, so as to avoid any major delays to progress that harder difficulties can cause.

How Often Will I Be Blogging?

Anybody put off by the daily updates that constituted A Month in Skyrim won't have to worry about that this time around. I'll only be blogging about a game once I've finished it, so if I manage to stick to the plan of roughly one game every four days, then you can expect blogs to be posted on a similar time frame. Even then, the resulting blogs probably won't be too long, most likely topping out at a few paragraphs each (mainly because I'm going to need to devote as much of my free time as possible to actually playing the damn games). Entries will most likely offer some brief notes on what I enjoyed or didn't enjoy about each game, whether I think the older games in the franchise hold up, and perhaps even some jokey statistics and awards.

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In terms of other gaming, I've been a pretty busy boy since finishing up Telltale's The Walking Dead at the start of the month. I played BioShock Infinite, followed very closely by a return to Rapture with BioShock 2. I thoroughly enjoyed both games (Infinite more so than 2), and hope to write a blog shedding a bit more light on why in the coming days. Right now I'm caught tightly in the grip of Pokémon LeafGreen, a remake of the original Red and Blue games that's hitting all the nostalgic pleasure centres in my brain while being a little more bearable to look at than the crude monochromatic sprites on those old Game Boy carts. I've earned four of the game's eight badges so far, although I expect progress to slow a little in light of the initiation of Metal Gear May Madness. I've also invested in a copy of Pokémon SoulSilver, in the interest of continuing my adventures once I've mastered the Indigo League.

I hope you'll join me on this frankly insane quest to experience all of Kojima's crazy in as concentrated a form as possible. I'll be starting the original Metal Gear as soon as I get in from work tomorrow evening, so expect my first blog in the next few days, most likely this weekend. Thanks very much for reading, and I'll see you around.

Dan

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Currently playing - Pokémon LeafGreen Version (GBA)

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