I’ve been playing through metal gear solid again. For me, this is unusual, I never reread books, never (except for some exceptional exceptions) rewatch films and never replay games. Metal gear solid is different though, and for 2 very important reasons.
I originally got mgs in 1998, I’d never played through a game with such a gripping and deep story. From that era, the only game that comes close is half-life, and imo it’s a distant second. The way the game introduces the different characters is amazing, slow, drawn out affairs, deep back stories (which build on those from the mg universe, not that 14 year old me cared). The relationship between Snake, Otacon and Meryl (let alone the relationship of Otacon and sniper wolf…) is fantastic, their individual development from scratch, and that of their relationships with NPC’s was ground breaking. The entire Shadow Moses island base feels alive in a way not many other game have to date. Every part of the story is beautifully interwoven this is accentuated by the game allowing us to view them as we pass check points (when we hear that Ocelot killed Donald Anderson, even though we saw him die of a heart attack, this kind of subtle inference (this time to the character Decoy Octopus)). I can really only compare this game to the likes of The Last of Us, another one of the greatest games of all time.
This game, i think, has the greatest level design of any game ever. The tutorial level at the start is perfect, the first proper level is brilliant, and the base, the base feels real and operational. It feels like a good movie. The way the game uses different atmospheres is also incredible, the tutorial level is dark, cramped and simple, mimicking what one would expect to find in an underground loading bay. Once the player is confident with the mechanics the game moves to the first proper level/sequence. I will at this point clarify, i mean the area outside the base, the helipad and surrounding area. Although the inside space used (up to the DARPA chief) is also fantastic, the outside is just so striking.
I can’t emphasise this enough, this level is still my favourite of any game to which it is comparable.
There is a reason i chose level one as the featured image for this article, it’s amazing. After the helicopter leaves and you regain control, the fact there there are two different paths available to you instantly makes the player aware of the fact that they will be having to make choices, although at this point we have no idea of the consequences. The shear beauty of the level, the inclusion of the CCTV cameras, the snow tracking, the crawl mechanic, these factors all combine to make an outstanding introduction to the game.
The rest of the game is also superb, the way the environments vary both suddenly and seamlessly change (eg the passage way out from the office you fight psycho mantis in) is just simply fantastic and makes the game feel much larger, to list some of my personal highlights:
- Otacons lab
- The torture suit
- Comm tower sniper battle
- Vulcan Raven tank battle
These two factors, the story and level design are still unmatched in my opinion. Don’t misunderstand me, many other factors go into making computer games, MGS’s main flaw is gameplay. Shooting accurately is hit and miss, climbing into the elevator to fight the cloaked special ops troops with only a tiny amount of health bore testament to this! The game isn’t ageing well either, not in a way in which i think a remake/remastery is needed, but they need to move away from the open world mess that was the last game (if there ever will be another game). The closest game i ever played to metal gear solid was the first couple of splinter cell games, these had the same single player against the world stealth action traits. I hope to play games like these again, but with the last splinter cell coming out in 2013 and Hide Kojima leaving the franchise after the last game i’m not immediately hopeful.