sunnuntai 22. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Metal Gear Solid (1998)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 1998
Available on: PC, PS1, PSN
Developer(s): Konami, Digital Dialect
Publisher(s): Konami, Microsoft
Players: 1

Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear had been enjoying cult status ever since the release of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in 1990, and it looked like this MSX2-exclusive game would be the end to a short but remarkable series of revolutionary stealth action games. The truth is that Kojima was simply waiting for the right moment. In 1998, a behemoth of a video game took the whole business by storm and left a lot of game designers gasping in disbelief. Cinematics the like no one had ever seen in a video game. An amazing storyline. Realistic, physical, incredibly diverse gameplay. These are just some qualities which made Metal Gear Solid one of the most critically acclaimed video games in history. Three direct sequels, a few spin-offs, a couple of handheld exclusives to fill in the gaps and one direct remake later, spanning two different generations of console gaming, this PlayStation classic does more than holds its own – Metal Gear Solid is one of the most beautiful gaming experiences in history.

Solid Snake vs. all the best villains

David Hayter : Solid Snake
Cam Clarke [as James Flinders] : Liquid Snake / “Master” McDonnell Miller
Debi Mae West [as Mae Zadler] : Meryl Silverburgh
Jennifer Hale [as Carren Learning] : Dr. Naomi Hunter
Christopher Randolph [as Christopher Fritz] : Dr. Hal “Otacon” Emmerich
Paul Eiding [as Paul Otis] : Col. Roy Campbell
Kim Mai Guest [as Kim Nguyen] : Mei Ling
Greg Eagles [as George Byrd] : Gray Fox / Donald Anderson
Renee Raudman [as Renne Collette] : Nastasha Romanenko
Patric Zimmerman [as Patric Laine] : Revolver Ocelot

Six renegade members of FOXHOUND take over a nuclear weapon facility on Shadow Moses Island, just off the coast of Alaska, and threaten to launch a nuclear attack if the U.S. government refuses to hand over the genetic remains of the greatest soldier who ever lived, Big Boss. A small counterunit led by former FOXHOUND officer Col. Roy Campbell is assembled by the Pentagon to do everything in its power to neutralize the terrorist threat. Campbell knows there is only one man fit for the job, and capable of infiltrating the facility on his own. He tracks down the embittered, broken drunkard he once knew as Solid Snake, and forces him out of retirement.

Let’s face it: by today’s standards, Metal Gear Solid doesn’t look like much. The quality of the graphics has often been spoofed by the later, way more fancy-looking games in the series, as well as its GameCube remake. It’s dark and extremely rough, but the level of details is much appreciated, the cinematic value of the game is more than OK, and in my honest opinion, I think that taking into account everything else that has been somehow squeezed into these two CD’s, the game is actually pretty damn good looking. The most relevant thing, which is of course to make out what’s happening all the time, is well taken care of. The FMV clips, usually associated with history, technology and physiology, spice up the game quite good and the footage is nicely translated to the CD format, with minimal twitch.

The sound of the game is... how do I put it simply? Phenomenal, perhaps?! There’s not a lot of background music, and there are very good reasons for that; you need to hear what’s happening in the game, from the footsteps of enemy soldiers to the sound of a moving surveillance camera etc., but when the music hits in choice parts of the game, it’s absolutely mindblowing! A total of eight composers worked on this game, which to my knowledge was an unparalleled amount of different musicians working on one game, at the time. Rika Muranaka’s “The Best Is Yet to Come”, which plays during the closing credits, is one of the finest songs ever created for a video game. It’s epic and beautiful, and therefore it sums up the game quite well. The voice acting is out of this world and I like to think that the VO work in this game was one of the main reasons why VO suddenly became a much more essential and deliberated part of video gaming. David Hayter, who is best known as a screenwriter and one-time b-movie actor, BECAME Solid Snake after this game. He is always associated with Snake – I remember being surprised after seeing the guy’s face for the first time, not to mention my surprise when he spoke in his own voice. I remember him being interviewed about X-Men 3 – I could be wrong about the movie – and suddenly the interview was about his phenomenal voiceover work as Solid Snake. Snake is like David’s alter ego, he totally loves his character just as much as we fans do. In that sense, I often compare him to Dominic Armato, who does the voice of Guybrush Threepwood in the later Monkey Island installments and remakes. As a trivia note, I’d like to mention that Armato later did a minor VO appearance in Metal Gear Solid 2.

The other voice actors used pseudonyms because they were sure the game would flop and have a negative effect on their careers. Despite this, they definitely gave the game their all, and more... and lo, over a half of them are LEGENDS in their business – at least one of them’s heard in about every other game. Jennifer Hale is nowadays possibly best known as the voice of Samus Aran, and Paul Eiding... well, he’s Paul Eiding. Check out just about every video game released within ten years and you’ll find his name from the cast list at a 50% certainty. The huge cast of characters, equal to that of a short RPG and their amazing presentation make Metal Gear Solid, the game as well as the whole franchise, perhaps the most enjoyable story in gaming.

Good stealth, good health.
When we think of the gameplay, and the playability, of Metal Gear Solid, we have to think how God damn amazing this game was when it came out – not how it has been surpassed by each of its sequels in terms of the main character’s moveset. It’s already pretty hard to start describing the game, it was so diverse back then and took time to perfect – surprisingly, the basic action wasn’t that hard to learn even if listening to my friend’s instructions left me completely dumbfounded. How in the hell was I supposed to remember what each button did? Like I said, the learning curve wasn’t as bad as it seemed, but perfecting performance was.

Your main HUD consists of the Soliton, and the weapon and item you’re currently holding. The Soliton radar is like a blueprint of your surroundings, which recognizes anti-personnel movement, its stress level and line of sight. When an enemy notices something out of the ordinary, such as your footprints on exterior snowfields, or hears footsteps, his stress level or feeling of caution increases and he starts following the prints or sound on your tracks – so you need to find somewhere to hide before he sees Snake in flesh and starts blazing his gun, alerting everyone else in the process. Alert mode has four different levels: Normal, Caution, Evasion and Alert. Caution happens when an enemy can’t see Snake, but knows of his presence by hearing a gun go off, for example. Evasion is basically the same, but the enemies are seen leaving their position and searching for Snake instead of keeping a keen eye on their original surroundings. Alert is the real deal and whenever that hits, you need to hold on for dear life in every way you can. These Genome soldiers have a tendency of multiplying by the second. The most ideal way to make progress is to avoid combat with Genomes altogether, by moving in shadows as exclusively as you can. It’s incredibly hard, but rewarding.

Before we start going over Snake’s different physical abilities, let’s take note of the menu which is SMOOTH. Keeping in mind how tedious it was to use the menu in the old school Metal Gear titles, let’s take a look at this one: L2 and R2 are the triggers for the two different menus. Just hold one of them down, and use the D-Pad to choose the item. It’s that simple. The amount of different weapons and items you (can) accumulate in this game is huge, and you should really look into what serves your purposes the best, throughout the game. Most bosses can only be beaten by using certain weapons and items, but a lot of other situations can be handled in several different ways, depending on what you have on you. The key card system from the first games is still in and it’s a nuisance, in a different way though. This time, all the doors are numbered, which makes the use of the cards a lot easier, but finding everything using the key cards requires a lot of backtracking, which unfortunately happens quite often in general, even if you’re not here to explore. The end of the game features the most ludicrous backtracking bit of them all, and you have to go through the retarded sequence to advance in the storyline. The radio no longer is a problem when there are enemies around; it’s kind of like built inside Snake via nanotechnology, so Snake is able to communicate using complete stealth during the call. All communications, whether you want to call someone yourself to ask for advice or find out more about the story, or to answer an incoming call, are managed simply with the Select button.

OK, then onto all of the stuff you can do... at least most of it. So, you can do this in several ways. You can go out all guns blazing if you wish, but you need to keep in mind that you have a restricted amount of ammo and that the game gives you many liberties in being as tactical as you possibly can. The chance of playing a shadow, in my opinion, is this game’s finest method. You can hide behind and under almost anything. Whenever you crawl and hide under, for example an elevated trunk, first person view automatically comes along to you can see all the shit going down in every direction and will know when it’s safe to move. Whenever you hug a wall, while standing or crouching, to hide from a guy on patrol or a camera or whatever, the camera pans over to Snake so that you can get the best possible angle on the enemy soldier and make your decisions based on his movement and behaviour. First person view can be used to scan the surroundings at any time Snake is standing freely, but you can’t shoot or move while it’s active, which is kind of a bummer.

Just like in the first two Metal Gear games, your maximum health is quite pathetic in the beginning, but in increases every time you finish a certain objective, so no ranks this time, thank Thor. Rations are still used to replenish health, and this time, if you have Rations selected in the HUD’s item slot, Snake eats one automatically whenever his health drops to zero. Much appreciated!

The boss fights are some of the most epic duels ever seen in a video game. I don’t want to spoil too much for those few who are yet to experience the game, but I’ll go over some of the more familiar examples. A tank boss is pretty much mandatory homage to the first game, however this time we use grenades instead of Claymore mines – which are optional weapons in the game. Using grenades is quite easy compared to some of the other earliest 3D games which featured them. Of course, there are a couple of fist fights, a couple of showdowns with the world’s most dedicated sniper, and a freestyle, cat-and-mouse type of duel in a maze-like storage room. Intensity and moreover, innovation – the fight against Psycho Mantis is one of the most deliciously fucked up boss battles ever – are common features in all of the boss fights, in this game as well as the whole series.

The showdown with Metal Gear REX ain't
nothing short of epic.
The game gives us more liberties than any other game of its time. It has tons of secrets and unlockable goodies, storyline threads that unfold only by meeting special criteria, and a heap of ways to simply get by. Today, as a game it might not honestly be as enjoyable as its sequels, but it still arguably has the best, most dramatic and most straightforward story in the series, the best cast of characters to support it (the FOXHOUND line-up is pure gold), and tons of revolution packed onto two CD’s of non-stop tactical espionage action. Despite all the backtracking – especially the “hot ‘n’ cold” sequence, those who have played the game know exactly what I mean – the lacks in Snake’s physics and their relation to the very sensitive enemy A.I., Metal Gear Solid fuckin’ RULES. Those who criticize the game for its amount of lengthy cutscenes and conversations which might last for 30 minutes at their longest... fuck you. They’re part of the franchise and its style of storytelling, and part of the excitement, and you can always skip them, so stop complaining.

The game is quite hard on the first round, but once you know everything and go for seconds, it’s like dance. There are two different endings, special items which are unlocked one at a time after each playthrough and there are several ways to play the game. So, it certainly doesn’t lack replay value. What began in the 80’s as a curious stealth action franchise continued years later and became one of the most impressive force majeures in the game industry due to this one game that changed everything – from the development of the industry, all the way to people’s political opinions and general knowledge. In my books there are two video game franchises which can be called larger than life with good conscience, and Hideo Kojima created one of them when he gave birth to Metal Gear Solid.

Graphics : 8.8
Sound : 9.8
Playability : 9.3
Challenge : 9.0
Overall : 9.3


a.k.a. Metal Gear 3

GameRankings: 84.53% (PC), 93.30% (PS1)

The game was re-released with new features in 1999, as Metal Gear Solid Integral.

A popular enhanced remake of the game, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, was released on Nintendo GameCube in 2004. Many elements introduced in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty were applied.

The design team used Lego blocks to create a miniature model of Shadow Moses Island.

The game references 2001: A Space Odyssey. Solid Snake’s real first name is revealed to be David, which is also the name of the main character in the movie. Otacon’s real name is Hal Emmerich; HAL is the name of the computer that goes awry.

Solid Snake, whose look had previously been inspired by actors Michael Biehn and Mel Gibson, was now modelled after Christopher Walken and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Otacon’s last name is taken from Roland Emmerich, who is one of Hideo Kojima’s favourite movie directors.

Hideo Kojima originally intended Otacon’s character to be critically obese. The final concept was made by character designer Yuji Shinkawa.

Meryl Silverburgh’s character is based on one of the main characters in Policenauts, an earlier PlayStation game by Hideo Kojima, which was originally designed for the 3DO. Although the characters share the same name and appearance, they’re completely different personalities.

Yuji Shinkawa originally envisioned Meryl’s character as a preteen girl, similar to Natalie Portman’s character Mathilda in Luc Besson’s Leon (The Professional). After reading the script, Shinkawa scrapped the idea and designed Meryl after the Policenauts character.

One of Hideo Kojima’s greatest influences when creating Metal Gear Solid was the James Bond franchise. Bond’s tuxedo is an unlockable outfit in the North American and European versions of the game.

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