By dankempster 5 Comments
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 Gear||Episode .02 - Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake|
Episode .03 - Metal Gear Solid
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.
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.
Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance (PS2)