Hey everyone, we’re back with another “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn”. Part 6 is going to be a special one since I will begin discussing what is pretty much my favorite series of video games ever: Metal Gear Solid. I’ve played basically every game in the series, but I of course am not counting the random handheld games that aren’t even connected to the main series canon like Metal Gear Acid, which I think was some card based game or something…whatever. However, the PSP game Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops was one game I wish I had the chance to play since it’s a sequel to Metal Gear Solid 3 and a precursor to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. The game had some important story elements in it I would have liked to find out about by actually playing the game instead of checking that Metal Gear Solid Encyclopedia I downloaded. A shame that game was never included in that Metal Gear Solid Collection I got.
In any case, the Metal Gear Solid series had the strongest influence on me than any other series of games in my twenty-something years of gaming (only Mass Effect comes close). The level of complexity and intrigue in the series’ story is simply unmatched by any other game I’ve played, even when I compare it to the best movies out there. Just when I thought I had a certain character or story element figured out, the game would throw me a curveball to keep me guessing about certain characters’ true goals and where the story is going next. The series’ strong focus on story isn’t for everyone since it leads to an incredibly large number of cutscenes in each game. I actually liked the cutscenes, so I was able to deal with it.
Thankfully, the gameplay in each title was equally awesome and helped balance things out with its focus on stealth and shooting action. And those boss fights…freakin’ awesome. The main character Solid Snake is also one of my top, if not my top, favorite video game characters of all time. He’s badass, he kicks ass, he’s slick, and he still has a heart somewhere in there. Even without Solid Snake, there were a number of other characters in the series, both heroes and villains, that were quite memorable. One other thing I came to really appreciate about this series was its soundtrack. I normally don’t care all that much about a video game’s soundtrack, but so good was the music in each Metal Gear Solid game that I actually bought the soundtracks for the first four games, and I never do that. Kudos to the genius that is Hideo Kojima, he truly is an artist of the video gaming world. Alright, let us begin going over each game in this awesome series.
Metal Gear Solid (PS1)
This game. Holy crap, this game. Even though the original Metal Gear Solid is nearly two decades old, it has aged incredibly well compared to most other PS1 games. Never mind that the story is arguably the best one in the series (more on that later), but the gameplay remains fun and engaging even by today’s standards, despite the fact it is kind of archaic. This may sound like the words of someone currently high on fanboyism and nostalgia, but rest assured, I’ve played this game and its sequels many times, and the original Metal Gear Solid would still entertain any gamer who’s even remotely into stealth or shooting gameplay.
The story is also damn near perfect. Hell, I’d even go so far to say that it is perfect. Yeah, it’s perfect. Character development in the game’s story was at an all-time high for the series. As I advanced through the game and joined Solid Snake as he faced increasingly deadly enemies and dealt with all the betrayals and conspiracies he was forced to endure, I grew to respect and admire him greatly. Pretty much all the supporting characters in the game were also fleshed out and weren’t simply there for show, they served actual purposes in the narrative. All of the boss fights, except maybe the first one, were exceptional, and even the enemies Snake battles in these boss fights were more than just two-dimensional enemies to dispose of.
While most of the boss enemies were rather freakish and possessed unusual abilities, they came across as actual people who had experienced much pain and suffering in their lives, and I ended up actually feeling sorry for most of them. Even today, these boss characters are still remembered and praised for their awesomeness in countless forums and Youtube vids dedicated to the topic of all time favorite video game bosses: Gray Fox Cyborg Ninja, Vulcan Raven, Psycho Mantis…a lot of the great ones were from this very game. Simply put, Metal Gear Solid is a timeless classic and is one of the best games I have ever played. Metal Gear Solid gets a score of 100%.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS2)
The sequel to Metal Gear Solid certainly lived up to the high standards set by its predecessor, and then some. Back in the day, this game impressed the hell out of me, and given that it was released on the PS2, its graphics absolutely blew me away. Even by today’s standards, the graphics in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty are quite good and they definitely pushed the PS2’s power to the max. The gameplay was also improved compared to the first game since now you could enter into a first-person perspective to shoot enemies with better precision and even climb over railings and hang from them.
It can also be argued that Sons of Liberty had the most convoluted and complex story in the entire series with its focus on more secretive conspiracies involving megalomaniacal AI and Illuminati-esque organizations. The game’s climax had me especially perplexed when I found myself controlling new main character Raiden as he was running around naked and sneaking his way past enemies in a technologically advanced fortress; and this was in addition to Raiden’s commanding officer calling him literally every ten to fifteen seconds on his Codec and leaving him the most random and fourth wall-breaking messages imaginable. It wouldn’t be a Hideo Kojima game without some kind of random, trippy elements thrown in there. Speaking of the previously mentioned new main character, most gamers were disappointed that they ended up playing as Solid Snake for only the first 10% of the game and then were forced to play as the long haired, rather effeminate looking rookie Raiden for the rest of the game, and I kind of felt the same way. Despite that little disappointment, it still wasn’t nearly enough to make me dislike the game.
Stealth was basically the same as it was before with only a few notable additions. Alert mode would not automatically activate simply by striking and shooting enemies (now they had to actually grab their radios and call for help to raise an alert), knocked out and dead enemies could be picked up and moved so they could be hidden in other rooms or even stuffed into lockers, and this game first introduced the use of a tranquilizer gun that could allow players to effectively beat the game without killing a single enemy (if they so choose).
The boss battles were damn fun, though for the most part they weren’t quite as memorable or even numerous as the ones in the first game. There were also moments where the time spent watching cutscenes greatly outweighed actual moments of gameplay, with the first game being more balanced with its cutscenes to gameplay ratio. Back in the day, this used to be my favorite Metal Gear Solid game, but as I got older and my preferences changed, this game became slightly less perfect to me as I noticed more of its slight flaws. But make no mistake, this game still kicks ass. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty gets a score of 97%.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2)
I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Snake Eater when I first played it a number of years back. The series’ stealth mechanics had a bit of an overhaul and it took me quite some time to get used to it. In the first two games, enemies had a limited field of vision that was laid out on a little radar so you could basically run around at full speed right up to enemies and remain undetected so long as you stayed out of that field of vision and did not step on any loud surfaces. Moving from cover to cover very quickly was the way to get through those games without being spotted, but in Snake Eater that form of stealth was a big no-no. Most of the environments consisted of open jungles and fields, and running through them willy-nilly would get you spotted in seconds since enemies now had a more realistic level of vision and could spot you clear across the map. There were only a couple of indoor base areas and getting through them had you relying on wearing disguises, which was actually pretty cool.
This new form of stealth was quite an adjustment for me, but what made it a huge pain in the ass sometimes was the camera. Like in the first two games, the camera normally remained at a top-down view, meaning you’d be watching Snake move around from above. This worked just fine for the first two games since it gave you a good view of the more confined environments and the enemies within them, but for the more open environments in Snake Eater, it put the player at a distinct disadvantage.
Finding distant enemies would require you getting into a crouched or standing position and going into first-person view to look around, but anytime you weren’t taking advantage of your different camouflage outfits by lying in a prone position in the grass, dirt, rock, or snow, you were risking getting spotted by unseen enemies (and many times I did end up getting spotted by these annoying unseen enemies). I still enjoyed the game despite this annoyance, but I didn’t love it like its predecessors. It wasn’t until I played the Subsistence version of Snake Eater that I came to enjoy the game a lot more since the third-person camera was now fully controllable and could be freely adjusted with the right analog stick. That one change truly made all the difference for me and I went from liking the game to loving it almost as much as the other ones.
As for the story, Snake Eater was actually the first of MANY prequels in the Metal Gear Solid series that let you take control of Solid Snake’s father Big Boss back in his younger days when he was known as Naked Snake. As usual with this particular series of games, Snake Eater’s story was compelling and complex, but it didn’t quite grab me as much as the other games’ stories since it kind of dragged on a bit. Long cutscenes were nothing new with this series, but some of the cutscenes in Snake Eater were just long for the sake of being long and didn’t really go anywhere. Nevertheless, the characters were all pretty interesting and the last quarter of the game was fun as hell, thanks largely to a couple of exceptional boss battles; the rest of them were fun too, with one particular sniper battle ending up being a series standout. This game is often considered by fans to be the best in the series, but I respectfully disagree. It’s still a great game, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first two games or even the fourth one. Plus, I found the young Big Boss to be a less interesting character than his son overall. However, I will admit that James Bond-themed intro had me immensely amused when I first saw it. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater gets a score of 93%.
So ends the discussion of the first three Metal Gear Solid games, an excellent collection of games. Tune in for next week’s “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” to find out my opinion on the rest of the Metal Gear Solid games.