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)

5 Comments
5 Comments
Posted by Video_Game_King

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.

Oh, man, seriously? Your introduction to the series was the meta rabbit hole that is Sons of Liberty? How is your brain still functioning?

Anyway, time to read the actual blog.

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 think that's the entire point of Metal Gear Solid. It's essentially a remake of the original Metal Gear 2. Hell, I think you even missed the elevator fight being ripped straight from Metal Gear 2 (the Four Horsemen?).

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.

If I remember correctly, this ended up being a criticism of the game come Twin Snakes, something that never made sense to me. Being able to shoot in first person doesn't mean a lot when I could always aim in it, anyway.

In fact, the boss battles are among the game's highest points

Not sure if I have to tell you this, but that's pretty much a theme running throughout all the series. Man, The End's an awesome fight, as is The Fury.

Posted by dankempster

@video_game_king: I'm not entirely sure how the back end of MGS2 didn't force my thirteen-year-old brain to seize up and combust. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that when I reached the point where the AI Colonel started to flip out, I abandoned all efforts to follow the story and continued with the sole aim of fucking up some Metal Gears. Every time I've played it it's made my head hurt, and I'm still not sure I fully understand everything that unfolds once the term 'S3' starts getting thrown around. Man, is it an awesome game though.

But anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself! Back to MGS1.

I think that's the entire point of Metal Gear Solid. It's essentially a remake of the original Metal Gear 2. Hell, I think you even missed the elevator fight being ripped straight from Metal Gear 2 (the Four Horsemen?).

I didn't mention the Four Horsemen because it's not something I'd never seen done before, whereas the other examples all seemed unique and innovative to me when I first played MGS. Regardless, it's certainly another example verging on being copy-pasted from MG2, along with the tower ascension sequence while being chased by guards. I get that a lot of it is supposed to be paying homage to MG2, and in that context it's quite cool. It's the illusion of innovation being shattered that's bothered me.

If I remember correctly, this ended up being a criticism of the game come Twin Snakes, something that never made sense to me. Being able to shoot in first person doesn't mean a lot when I could always aim in it, anyway.

You could only fire in first-person view with the sniper rifle and Stinger in MGS. The Twin Snakes employed MGS2's mechanics allowing you to fire any gun in first-person view. I get why people took issue with it, along with other mechanics like hanging from railings - because the original game wasn't designed with it in mind, and throwing it in there does alter the balance somewhat. It never bothered me personally, though.

Not sure if I have to tell you this, but that's pretty much a theme running throughout all the series. Man, The End's an awesome fight, as is The Fury.

Oh man, you're getting me excited about the prospect of playing Snake Eater already! Yeah, the series has always done boss battles really well, and I personally think MGS3's boss fights are the best of the bunch. That fight with The End really is something else.

Edited by Ravenlight

Reading only the hyperlinked text does a pretty good job of summing up the game. I'd add Otacon, Grey Fox, Liquid Snake, and the words Metal Gear and genes like 300 times.

Posted by csl316

Snake! Fire the stinger!!!

Edited by Sparky_Buzzsaw

It's really strange to think that there's only eight years seperating MG2 and MGS. That's... yeah, that's a bit impressive, when you think about it. The advancements in graphics and gameplay are staggering.

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