By dankempster 7 Comments
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
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.
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.
Currently playing - Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (PS2)