I’ve witnessed something of an anomaly over the last couple years. It seems that Metal Gear Solid, its sequels, and by extension, game creator Hideo Kojima, have become a kind of punching bag; a go-to for snide remarks about convoluted story, outdated gameplay mechanics, and a reliance on pretension and self-importance. So I feel it necessary state my own opinion, nay, my own bias, in as clear a manner as possible.
THE NUMBER IS 140. 15
Metal Gear Solid is the pinnacle of gaming on the original Playstation. As far as I’m concerned, few games on the system, if there are any, can surpass it. The story, in all of its twists and turns, is superb, and the music and voice acting are simply unmatched. Plus, the game’s amount of extras and Easter eggs to find almost by accident is just staggering. I could count the issues I have with this game on two fingers. One being the dated graphics, and the other being a few small gameplay issues that are nothing more than slight annoyances. Even after almost thirteen years, the game hasn’t lost that much of its luster.
This is a game that’s defined by its story and while slow at first, it kicks into gear pretty fast. Players play as Solid Snake, a retired member of the military special forces unit, FOXHOUND. He’s been tasked with the infiltration of an Alaskan military base to find out whether or not terrorists can launch a nuke, as they so claim. Of course, it’s never that simple. Betrayals, family ties, government secrets, false identities; all of the classic spy story elements are here. The story is told extensively through cutscenes, which could be good or bad depending on your tastes, and manages to be intricate, but done well. It can be confusing at times, as the game assumes the player can remember even the smallest plot points, but it’s told with certain grandeur found nowhere else . Almost as if it was retelling a story that could have happened in real life.
While voice work in video games tended to be sub-par for most of the Playstation’s life-cycle, Metal Gear Solid’s is one of the sole exceptions. The voices are convincing and rarely feel forced. It’s like the actors were genuinely excited to be working on this project, instead of just wishing they phoned it in. Fantastic voice work, while a great asset to just about any game, is pertinent here because of the wordy nature of the script. Numerous acronyms and abbreviations are used heavily. Without great voice actors behind it, the script would sound ridiculous and nonsensical, ultimately killing the main appeal of the game.
Just as consistent is the game’s music. It’s ambient when it needs to be, and can sometimes be simply beautiful to listen to. The ending theme, which even has lyrics, is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard in a video game to date. Even the Konami logo has its own jingle that’s fun to listen to.
Rounding out the audio trifecta is the sound effects. In most games, they would be an afterthought, hardly noticed by anyone who wasn’t specifically paying attention to them. In Metal Gear Solid however, they’re incorporated into the gameplay in ways that makes them meaningful. Tapping on walls can tell you which are the real boundaries and which are the fake walls, set up terrorists to confuse you. Sound effects also let you know how well you manage to evade notice from the enemy. Step into a guard’s field of vision, and the audio feedback will tell you that he found you and is ready to shoot you to death. Even sounds that would otherwise be ambient noises, like a wolf’s howl, are used to great effect.
Now, being on the Playstation, there still is that one pesky thing that really holds Metal Gear Solid from achieving its maximum potential: the graphics. I’m not usually one to complain, but there are some genuine problems here. The 3D character models in particular are affected, as they don’t even have mouths from which to talk. Instead, they jerk their heads around while their voice clip plays. This changes when using Snake’s Codec (a communication tool to talk to those aiding your mission), where 2D images are used, with lip-flaps. The difference between the two is almost uncanny, even accounting for how advanced the graphics were for this game at the time. Aside from this, you’ll see some serious jagged edges and confusing design layout, but they’re not too bothersome. For Playstation graphics, they’re actually pretty good, as there is no muddiness or extreme amounts of fog, but the character models could have been upgraded.
The gameplay is pretty solid, a bit stiff. Being able to sneak around and annoy guards is one of the more enjoyable moments I’ve had in gaming. Problems like the game not controlling as well when crawling, and high sensitivity during sniping arise, but it’s not too bad. I also would like to say that, despite the label of “Tactical Espionage Action,” the game offers a variety of gameplay that many other titles still lack, even today.
I enjoyed my time with Metal Gear Solid. Even modes like the VR Training missions were fun to blast through just for the heck of it. It has lost a bit of its luster due to its graphics, but it is still a fun game to experience. The story draws you in, and the audio and gameplay sell it. There aren’t too many Playstation games that can do that anymore, usually due to some inherent design flaw that came from the experimental nature of the time. However, Metal Gear Solid is one of the few exceptions, despite whatever battle scars it may have on the surface. A definite must play for any retro gamers out there.
The Good: A well thought-out story, stunning audio all around, Codec conversations, and the amount of little things that haven’t been done anywhere else.
The Bad: The controls whenever the gameplay switches things up, and having to suffer regardless of which ending is obtained.
The Ugly: The 3D graphics, especially the character models.
Score: 8.75 out of 10