Review: Metal Gear Solid

For my delve into the world of Playstation, I wanted to start off with a game that I didn’t play the first time around, but one I knew I would enjoy. Being a fan of Metal Gear, the choice was simple: the classic Metal Gear Solid. Yes, believe it or not, until recently, I had never played this game. It was just one of those that slipped me by. Of course, the hype around this game is legendary so I went in expecting great things.

That being said, I’m going to shock a lot of people by saying that I didn’t find the game to be everything I expected. I think perhaps the hype overshadowed the actual game a bit. Or maybe it is just an example of a title that has not aged well. Then again, it could just be me. Who knows. But here’s the rundown of my experience with Metal Gear Solid.

First off, it’s important to note there are two version of the game. The original version and the enhanced “Twin Snakes” version. Twin Snakes was an exclusive edition for the Nintendo Gamecube. The game features better graphics and a more modern control scheme. But purists claim that the enhancements are actually game breaking and take away from the challenge. For this review, I played the original PlayStation version.

First off, let me begin by saying that I am a huge fan of the original Metal Gear. I also enjoyed the sequel. Metal Gear Solid is the third entry in the series. Again, you assume the role of Solid Snake. In this game, Snake is sent to infiltrate a remote base in Alaska that is being occupied by terrorists. The group has kidnapped two VIPs and are holding them hostage in exchange for the remains of Big Boss (the bad guy from the first games). As you proceed thru the game, more plot details become clear and an absolutely fantastic story unfolds that would make Tom Clancy jealous. I stop now before I ruin it.

The storyline is a major focus of the game. More so than even the first two installments of the series. In fact, I daresay that a slight majority of the game is spent watching cutscenes rather than actually playing. Personally, I don’t mind that at all. I love games that feel like interactive stories. But I can imagine some really action-focused players might be turned off by this.

MGS is an example of a “3D” game. Unlike the first two entries in the series, the camera is not fixed overhead, but instead adjusts according to the situation. Sometimes you see things at a birds-eye view. Other times, action is viewed from the side or at an angle. But aside from this change, the game is very much like it’s predecessor, Metal Gear 2. The mini-map is again present in this title. This allows you to view enemy patrols so as to avoid being detected as you sneak around the base. Sometimes, everything on the map is not always displayed on the screen and personally, I find that somewhat difficult to work with. I had this problem with MG2 as well.

For the most part, the camera works well. But there are several spots in the game where it just didn’t seem to focus on the things when I needed it to. For example, there’s an area in the game where you are navigating a series of caverns, and at one point you need to crouch and crawl thru a passage. I knew the passage was there, but multiple times during my playthrough I had a hard time finding it because the camera would not reveal it.

My other gripe with the game is the playcontrol. Sometimes, things feel very loose. Other times, Snake feels like he’s walking around with a bad case of rigor mortis. It certainly struck me as odd. I feel like the shifty playcontrol caused me a lot of unnecessary deaths in this game. And I died A LOT.  I found the game to be quite difficult. I’ve seen people online talk about how simple the game is and how completing it in one sitting with no deaths is not that uncommon… Well, I can’t say I share their level of skill. Even on the easy setting, I found the game quite challenging.

But enough of the bad stuff. Aside from my camera gripes and my issues with the controls, the game is really good. As I said, the story is simply top notch. The sound and graphics are also very well done. A lot of things in the game look blocky and pixelated, but that’s way these software-rendered 3D titles looked. All things considered, the art in the game is superb.

Players familiar with the old Metal Gear games will feel right at home. Just like before, the goal is: infiltrate without being detected. If you’re detected, enemies will swarm you. When this happens, your only choices are either fight or run. If manage to elude them and stay hidden for long enough, they will give up and sound the All Clear. Also, just like with the previous titles, there are various Boss Fights scattered about as well. Each of these is unique and feature their own set of challenges. Upon defeating a boss, Solid Snake levels up and gets stronger.

Konami has littered the game with easter eggs too. There are references to other popular titles as well as cute use of the PlayStation hardware. For example, there’s one part of the game where Snake receives a massage – you are instructed to hold the controller to your arm… The controller then vibrates. The game is filled with crazy little things like that. I found these to be a nice touch. The game features different endings depending on what actions you take. The ending also affects how you are able to replay the game. This “new game plus” scenario was very much ahead of it’s time.

Despite my initial complaints, I do have to hold the game in high regard. Overall, this game is fantastic. It’s worthy successor to the original games and hint of what’s to come with the series. The story is second to none and I cannot wait to see what happens in the future installments. (I know they have a reputation for being stellar). So if you’re fan of stealth games, military scenarios, or the original Metal Gear titles, this game is a worth a look. Of course, that assumes there are others like me who slept under a rock and missed out on this the first time it came out.

For those that can’t get enough Metal Gear, there’s also a separate title featuring Virtual Reality simulations for Solid Snake. I played them and they were entertaining, but I’m not sure they would be worth a separate purchase.

Difficulty: Varies –  There are two options for difficulty in MGS. I personally found the game to be a lot harder than I expected. So for first time players, I would certainly recommend the Easy setting to start. I’m not sure if my problems were due to actual difficulty of the game itself or if they were caused by the camera/playcontrol issues. But regardless, things did get easier for me as I continued to play the title.

Story: The story in this game is fantastic. Even before starting the game itself, there’s almost a half an hour or more of introductory movies and a synopsis of the first two games. These do a fantastic job of setting up the game itself. The game is filled with cutscenes and are fully voice acted. The story is also developed through conversations in the Codec Transmitter that has become a staple of Metal Gear.

Originality: While MGS is somewhat of a rehash of the previous games in terms of style, the migration to the PlayStation enables the game to stand on its own.

Soundtrack:  CD quality audio is here. The music in the game sounds great and is appropriate for the title.

Fun: Aside from the mild frustrations I expressed above, I really enjoyed the game. It felt both new and familiar and really took me back into those days of playing the original Metal Gear on the NES.

Graphics:  3D games without hardware rendering are a mixed bag. Konami did a pretty good job of keeping things look good. The game looks as good as can expected considering its age.

Playcontrol: Herein lies my biggest gripe with the game. And it must just be me because I have not had much luck finding others who share my frustration. But to me, the camera and playcontrol for the title was really bad. I got better as time went on, but I feel it was due to me learning how to circumvent the game’s quirks and not because the control scheme started making sense.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3- I know the general consensus is that Metal Gear Solid is one of the greatest PlayStation games of all time. And make no mistake, it is a GREAT game. I recommend it to everyone. But I cannot give it a perfect score simply due to my frustration with the game’s control mechanics. Then again, as I’ve said, I seem to be largely alone in this complaint. So maybe it’s best to try it for yourself and see.

 Available on: PSN

Other Reviews In This Series:

MGMG2MGS – MGS2 – MGS3 – Portable Ops – MGS4 – Peace Walker -MG Rising: Revengeance-  MGS5 Ground Zeros- MGS5 Phantom PainGhost Babel – Acid – Acid 2

Review: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

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Before leaving my reviews of classic 8-bit games behind and moving on to other horizons, I figured I would take the time to check out a title that I actually never had the chance to experience. I’m talking about the ever-elusive Metal Gear 2.

Much like some of the early Final Fantasy games, US gamers had to wait a long time to play an official version of MG2. Originally released in Japan only for the MSX computer system, it was finally officially made available to North American audiences in certain versions of Metal Gear Solid 3, along with the original true version of the first Metal Gear.

“But wait! I played Metal Gear 2 when I was a kid!” – I can hear some of you screaming at me… Now, for many years, I also owned and played what I thought was the sequel to the first Metal Gear game. Due to the success of Metal Gear in the western market, Konami commissioned a sequel known as Snake’s Revenge for western audiences. However, this game was not produced with the knowledge or participation of the original Metal Gear team. In a way, Snake’s Revenge is a false sequel. While not a bad game in it’s own right, it certainly lacked a lot of that Metal Gear vibe.

Screenshot from “Snake’s Revenge” – the unofficial sequel

For the REAL Metal Gear 2, we have a game that looks and feels a lot like the original, only with a deeper story and a few new tricks up its sleeve. In this title, Solid Snake is called back into action to find a missing scientist. Intelligence reports indicate he is being held in the remote military-junta controlled nation of Zanzibar Land. As Snake penetrates his way deeper into the enemy base things slowly reveal to be more than they appear. It turns our the nation is actually operated by none-other than Fox Hound’s old leader, Big Boss. After apparently surviving the Outer Heaven incident, Big Boss and many other of Fox Hound’s members founded the mercenary-run nation of Zanzibar Land where they plan to continue their antics…

The gameplay in this title is very similar to the original version. One thing that makes things a bit different is the new anti-personnel radar. This is a beacon of sorts that allows the player to see enemy movements on the surrounding screen. At first, I had a hard time getting the hang of it, which resulted in many detections and a rough start to the game, but after a while I got used to it and things fell into place.

The game  expands on the stealth aspect for the first title. And this time, the environment plays a bigger part. For example Snake can punch walls to distract enemies and even hide under trucks and tables to avoid detection. Coming from years of playing the original game, these new options do take a little getting used to. But once I got my mind wrapped around it, I found that I really enjoyed the new game design.

Again, I’m sad that it took so long for this game to see the light of day in the US. However, I’m thankful that we now have the ability to enjoy this classic.

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Difficulty: Medium – Like the original game, once you have mastered the art of sneaking around, and you’ve managed to earn a little gear and health, the game is not overly difficult. However, until you reach that point things can be pretty tough.

Story: Right from the start, the storyline is an improvement over the original. This game feature more two-sided conversations than the original. Plus, the background story of the game is much richer in detail than the first Metal Gear.

Originality: This game takes all of the stealth tactics from the first game and adds a new level of depth. It’s familiar, yet new at the same time.

Soundtrack: At first the soundtrack did not impress me at all. I found it to be dull and uninspiring. Oddly enough, as the game progresses it did grow on me a bit. But there’s still nothing worthy of mention here. One of the tunes sounds oddly reminiscent of the Rambo theme, in my opinion.

Fun: For the first quarter of the game, I found myself frustrated by the mechanics of the game. I guess I was expecting things to work exactly as they did in Metal Gear. They do not. Once I learned the new system and got the hang of things, I found myself enjoying the game much more.

Graphics: The graphics are very similar to the first Metal Gear for MSX. Appropriate for the title at the time. Not bad or specifically spectacular.

Playcontrol: As far as response goes, there’s no issues at all. Sneaking around takes bit getting used to, but the game handles well.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – I found this game to be slightly less enjoyable that the original. But, honestly, this is probably due to my own expectations for the game. That being said, I did enjoy the game. More than I thought I would. I think my love for the original Metal Gear just overshadowed this title by a small margin.


Currently available on: PS3 and Xbox 360 (MSX Version is included in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Legacy Collection, as a bonus game)

Other Reviews In This Series:

MGMG2MGS – MGS2 – MGS3 – Portable Ops – MGS4 – Peace Walker -MG Rising: Revengeance-  MGS5 Ground Zeros- MGS5 Phantom PainGhost Babel – Acid – Acid 2

Review: Metal Gear

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I have waited a long time to write this review. As a kid, one of my favorite games on the NES was the stealth-based, military themed Metal Gear. Despite it’s funky translation issues, this was one game that hooked me from day one. So much so, that I would daresay this game is what sparked my interest in other military-themed games and even films.

Metal Gear was not your typical NES game. It was not a side scrolling platformer, nor was it a fast paced action game. Instead it is a screen-by-screen overhead stealth-based title. In some respects, the play controls and style are a bit like The Legend of Zelda. Except, in this game, instead of rushing into an area headfirst with guns blazing, you want to sneak by undetected if possible.

The story of Metal Gear is actually pretty involved. But you’d never realize that by reading the game manual that came with the North American version. For some reason Konami (publishing under the name ULTRA), had a bad habit of turning many of their serious games into a comical mess during the localization process. Why the felt the need to do this, I’ll never understand. The North American instruction booklet gives goofy names to all of the villans, etc. If found it to be completely pointless and ridiculous.

In this game, you play a black-ops Special Forces agent code-named: Solid Snake. Snake is a member of a secret unit known as FOXHOUND. in the game, he is sent on a search-and-rescue mission. His goal is to free another FOXHOUND agent known as Gray Fox, who is being held in a secret military installation called “Outer Heaven” somewhere in the jungles of Africa.

Gray Fox was previously sent to infiltrate the base and determine the validity of reports regarding a superweapon known as Metal Gear. However, during his mission, Gray Fox was captured and imprisoned.

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The game itself begins with Solid Snake sneaking into Outer Heaven. It’s the player’s job to try to avoid detection while collecting intelligence needed to locate Gray Fox. One really neat feature of the game is the “Transceiver”. This is essentially a radio that will sound off from time to time to give the player hints and background information. Initially, the only person you can contact on your radio is your commander, known only by his codename of “Big Boss”. However, as you progress through the game you will make contact with other team members.

Eventually, it becomes clear that the Metal Gear project is real. Metal Gear is a heavily armed walking tank, equipped with a nuclear arsenal. Thankfully, it has yet to be completed. As this information is uncovered and Snake dives deeper into the secrets of Outer Heaven, it becomes clear that he was never intended to succeed in his mission. The whole thing was a smoke screen. Despite this, Snake manages to destroy Metal Gear. But as he escapes the compound, he is confronted by none other than Big Boss. It is revealed he was the mastermind behind Outer Heaven all along. He had been using his connections to steal military intelligence, establish his own mercenary force, and fund his activities. His goal was to send a rookie in, hoping to have him captured and feed misinformation to authorities, but he underestimated Snake in the long run.

What a great story right! Sadly, if you’re playing the NES version of the game, you get a really watered down version of the above events. The translation team did an absolutely horrid job on the localization. Not to mention the various spelling errors and senseless text littered throughout the game.

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  Oh.. “have” it?

In fact, the NES version of the game is in reality a very poor port of a much superior version. The original Metal Gear was actually released on an obscure home computer system known as the MSX. Thankfully, the original version of the game has recently been made available in the USA. Having played thru the NES version countless times, I decided to experience the original MSX game for the sake of this playthrough.

Several differences were immediately apparent. First of all, believe it or not, the music in the NES version seems to be vastly superior in my opinion. The Nintendo port of Metal Gear is packed with a great in-game soundtrack. While the MSX version seems really weak in comparison. But aside from the soundtrack, the MSX version is without a doubt the definitive Metal Gear experience.

In it, Snake infiltrates the compound via an underwater channel instead of parachuting into the jungle. Also, in the NES version, you never actually battle with Metal Gear itself. Instead, you have to blow up the super computer that controls it… what sense does that make? There’s certainly some very weird decisions that were made for the NES version of the game.

This puts me in a weird position. I still like the NES release for many reasons, but I have to admit that the original version is definitely the one that a new player should pay attention to.

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Above: NES version of Metal Gear
Below: Original MSX version
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Difficulty: Medium  – Once you have mastered the art of sneaking around and you’ve managed to earn a little gear, the game is not overly difficult. However, until you reach that point things can be pretty tough.

Story: This game features an EXCELLENT plot and it’s told very well in the original version. It’s like playing through an action-packed spy novel. Really incredible stuff.

 Originality: The whole concept of “try NOT to fight” was something completely new at the time. When playing the game, you have pay attention to which direction guards are facing. Walk in front of them, and they will see you and attack. Patience is key, you have to learn to hide behind walls, and only to move at the proper time. This was really some great innovation at the time.

Soundtrack: As I stated earlier, the NES version wins this hands down in my opinion. The MSX music is appropriate, but it doesn’t seem to be very inspiring.

Fun: It doesn’t matter how times I play this game, it’s always fun. As I said earlier, patience is key. If you intend to storm through this game “Leeroy Jenkins” style, you won’t have a very good experience.

Graphics: For the most part, both ports of the game are similar graphically. The MSX version does seem to win here. I feel that either one could have looked a little better with more effort, I’ve seen better art in 8-bit titles. But in a weird way the gritty, dirty look of the game is actually quite fitting.

Playcontrol: As far as response goes, there’s no issues at all. Sneaking around takes bit getting used to, but the game handles well.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Even though I’m officially reviewing the canonical MSX version, both games get four stars from me. Metal Gear is one of those must have games. I highly recommend it.

Currently available on:  PS3  and Xbox 360 (MSX Version is included in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Legacy Collection, as a bonus game)

Other Reviews In This Series:

MGMG2MGS – MGS2 – MGS3 – Portable Ops – MGS4 – Peace Walker -MG Rising: Revengeance-  MGS5 Ground Zeros- MGS5 Phantom PainGhost Babel – Acid – Acid 2