Who said that all action games had to involve a lead character running through corridors, shooting everyone in sight?
Fortunately, a young man named Hideo Kojima changed this idea back in 1987 when he released a simple game to Konami entitled Metal Gear. The concept was unlike any other, as it required smarts and stealth, rather than brute force to complete your objective. MG was released for both the MSX computer in Japan, and on the Nintendo Entertainment System (under Konami’s Ultra Games label) with high success. Then, in 1990, two versions of Metal Gear 2 were released. The MSX version: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake continued the great storyline that was started in the original, whereas the NES’s Snake’s Revenge only provided the same gameplay engine and lead character, but did not have any involvement from Kojima himeself, and Revenge didn’t sell as well, although being a decent game.
Surprisingly, Metal Gear was not released for a 16-bit system, and I always wondered what it would have been like on the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis, and after seeing another masterpiece by Kojima, entitled Snatcher for the Sega CD, my desire for a new Metal Gear was increasing, while watching Konami turn from a console juggernaut to a sports-loving disaster. Fast forward to E3 of 1997, and the first image of Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation is presented, and an interest in the Metal Gear series is rekindled. Now a year and a half after that first image, MGS is finally out!
Fans of the Metal Gear series will be pleased to know that this is the first U.S.-based Metal Gear that follows the original Kojima storyline. Once again, Fox Hound is involved, but this time, they are the enemy. This is the same Fox Hound who sent Solid Snake (the main character) into the Outer Heaven compound in South Africa back in 1995, and into the Zanzibar Land uprising in 1999. Snake, the man who laughs at the word "impenetrable", survived these two missions despite battles with the Big Boss, the former commander of Fox Hound who was also controlling the Outer Heaven facility during the first mission.
This time, Big Boss is also involved, but not personally. What happens is a group of renegade Fox Hound soldiers seize control of Shadow Moses Island off the coast of Alaska. SMI houses a nuclear weapons disposal site, and Fox Hound demands that the U.S. government surrender the remains of Big Boss within 24 hours, otherwise "nuclear winter" would be declared. Solid Snake is launched via torpedo tube to the enemy hideout, and carrying only a set of binoculars and his trademark cigarettes, he must complete two primary objectives. First he must rescue the DARPA Chief Donald Anderson, and Kenneth Baker, president of Armstech, designers of Metal Gear. And number two: Find out if the Fox Hound terrorists have the ability to launch a nuclear strike, and stop them if necessary. Most of the soldiers in the operation are genetically enhanced, and have improved vision and hearing, but no battle experience. But the six main Fox Hound commanders, are true veterans.
Each has their own special ability: Psycho Mantis is a psychic and telekinesis expert. Decoy Octopus is a master of disguise. Vulcan Raven is the heavy weapons expert. Sniper Wolf is a sniper so skilled that she can keep a target locked on for days without eating or sleeping. Revolver Ocelot is a master of interrogation and sharpshooter, relying on his Colt Single Action pistol to take out his prey. And finally, the commander of Fox Hound is Liquid Snake, almost an exact twin of Solid. Maybe there is more about these two than just the way they look. As mentioned before, Snake is only armed with binoculars and smokes to begin, but he is also equipped with a Codec. Similar to the transceiver that was used in the original two games, the Codec allows Snake to communicate with his commanding officer and anyone else he comes up with. He is also equipped with a Soliton Radar System, vital to provide information about Snake’s local surroundings. The only catch about the radar is that it tends to jam easily in certain areas.
Konami did a good job maintaining the original overhead view that was used previously, yet smoothly seaming in a first-person perspective on certain situations. For instance, using a cardboard box to hide in, Snake can switch into first person perspective to peer at a curious guard through the hole in the box. First person also works well in using the binoculars which can now be zoomed in and out (in contrast to the original game allows binocs to view one screen ahead), or when trying to get a lock with the Stinger missile launcher.
And speaking of control, everything is smooth. Whether it is sneaking up towards a wall to avoid a security camera or attempting to break a guard’s neck, the control layout provides easy to learn techniques. Even better, control is fully optimized for the Dual Shock pad. Any function can be felt with it, whether it is someone tapping you on the shoulder, or just the initial shock you get when you are detected. The Dual Shock will present each of those key moments. Perhaps the best example is when Psycho Mantis provides a thorough demonstration of his powers. Telling you to put your controller on the floor, the Dual Shock kicks in as if Mantis is controlling the movement himself. Dual Shock also is put well in one scene when your HQ’s doctor tells you to put the controller to your arm, which simulates getting an injection. Not only does this game arouse the senses of sight and hearing, but also the sense of touch.
And speaking of sounds, I am glad to admit the MGS has some excellent voice acting. After dealing with the horrid voice acting seen in games like Resident Evil, it feels good to see that MGS had received the right treatment. I was really impressed with the performance that James Flinders did as the evil Liquid Snake, a character that almost reminded me of Agent 006 in Goldeneye. And for you anime buffs who swore you saw the name James Flinders before, that’s because he was also involved in previous anime classics such as Robotech (Max Sterling), T.M.N.T. (Leonardo), and Akira (Kaneda). I was also impressed with David Hayter’s performance of Solid Snake, as his performance displays Solid’s emotions well, his torture from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, his cold emotion towards those he killed, and even a sense of caring for his allies.
But what I really think makes MGS a great experience is the whole atmosphere; one that brings out your real senses. From the fear of being detected with nothing but a pack of smokes or the feeling of sheer power that you get when launching a Stinger missile at a helicopter, or maybe it’s the sheer sorrow you feel when a comrade is struck down, MGS’ environment and atmosphere cannot be compared to anything else! Earlier this year a game called Parasite Eve was considered as the Cinematic RPG, but I seriously disagree. Metal Gear Solid is the real cinematic RPG. Combining the best in stealth action with superior production quality, and you got yourself a true winner. My only regret is that I wish I could give this game 6 GiN Gems, because I feel that it goes way above and beyond any action game of its kind. But in the meantime, I will give it a perfect 5.
Developers: KCE Tokyo
Platforms: PC, PlayStation