Metal Gear Solid (1998, PS)

By I_Need_A_Life / February 5, 2005

In 1990, Metal Gear 2 was released in Japan on the MSX2. Unfortunately, the MSX was a dying system, and Metal Gear was quite the unknown game. Kojima then went on to do other projects, like Snatcher and Policenauts, but his true vision of what he wanted Metal Gear to be still hung in the back of his mind. Four years later, the PlayStation was released. This is when the four-year project that resulted in one of the greatest videogames of all time began. Metal Gear Solid places the player once again in Solid Snake's shoes, but this time, the game is 3D! Using practically the same mechanics as Metal Gear 2, in which the player had a radar, could crawl to avoid detection, knock on walls, etc., Metal Gear Solid goes one extra step in the method of telling the story. The game is presented as a movie, complete with credits during the first playable scene, hours of voice-overs, incredibly beautiful cutscenes, and the most fantastic atmosphere I've ever felt while playing any videogame. The story starts off a little slow, but as the game progresses, it becomes very deep, intense, and downright phenomenal. Basically, Solid Snake has retired from Fox Hound after the fall of Zanzibar Land, six years earlier, and now mushes huskies in the Alaskan wilderness. During this time, a secret nuclear weapons disposal facility in Alaska is attacked and seized by a rogue U.S. special forces unit, and commanding these operatives are the remnants of unit Fox Hound! They're demanding the government turn over the remains of their former Commander-in-Chief, Big Boss, and threaten that after 24 hours of non-compliance, they'll launch a nuclear weapon. With the best special forces group now acting as the new threat, only one man stands a chance against them; Solid Snake.

   The mechanics are fantastic. Like the previous Metal Gears, MGS takes place in a top-down view for the most part, but this changes in certain situations. The focus is still on stealth, so enemies retain their ability to hear Snake, and see at 45-degree angles. The new radar system shows enemy positions like Metal Gear 2's radar did, but now you can see their "cone of vision". Step into it, and the enemy will spot you and set off an alert which causes more enemies to show up and attack you. Needless to say, you won't last very long in this situation. There are new moves that Snake can use to defend himself of course. No longer must you put up with the standard punch, as Snake can now throw a punch-punch-kick combo at the enemy, throw them, and even grab them in a chock-hold which allows the player to knock them out, use them as human shields, and even break their necks. The enemies have new skills as well, as they can throw grenades at you, hit you at close-range which knocks you to your feet, wear stealth camouflage like Night Sight did in Metal Gear 2, follow wet footprints or tracks in the snow, and more. The bosses, Fox Hound, are also fantastic, each with their own specialties and unique battles and backgrounds which you learn after you defeat them. The six members of Fox Hound are simply the greatest villains in videogame history! There's Revolver Ocelot, a gun-slingin' cowboy-type enemy who also has an interest in torture. Psycho Mantis is a powerful psychic who can dive into people's minds and take control of them, reading your thoughts which allows him to evade your attacks, and throw pure psychic energy at you. Sniper Wolf is Fox Hound's sharpshooter, and probably the most sexy videogame female of all time. Decoy Octopus is an expert at disguising himself, as he copies his targets right down to the blood... he could be anyone. Vulcan Raven is a massive bulldozer of a man. Giant and shaman, he possesses incredible physical and spiritual strength, and prefers to use weapons not fit for man... such as tanks and Vulcan cannons that are normally mounted on fighter jets to shoot down other aircraft! And finally, we have Fox Hound's squad leader, Liquid Snake. Little is know about him, but he holds Solid Snake's rank and seems to be his equal in terms of skill...
   There are more new features as well. Snake can now put his back up against walls which allows him to do a number of things, such as causing the camera to lower and let the player see what may be around the corner, knock on walls to distract enemies, place plastic explosives right on the walls, hide from enemies in certain locations, and even walk on very narrow ledges. The new Stun Grenades allow you to knock out every enemy in the area in the event of an attack, giving you at least a chance to get away. Players of the previous Metal Gears will also notice situations in MGS that were present in the last two games, but were never truly realized as they are here. The battle with the Tank returns, the Hind-D makes it's third appearance... in 3D! There's even a part in which the player must ascend a spiral staircase while being chased by enemy soldiers. The atmosphere in this installment is even more immersive than it was in Metal Gear 2. You won't think about keeping the lone Snake, surrounded by enemy soldiers, alive in this game; you ARE Snake, fighting to survive. The atmosphere really is that great.
   Sound has always been just average in Metal Gear. Nothing bad, but nothing great. This is not the story anymore. All of the sound effects in Metal Gear Solid are fantastic. Snake makes a different footstep sound depending on the terrain, all of the weapons sound realistic, and everything sounds generally perfect. The game is quite dark and gritty, so the sounds have a very intense and dramatic echo to them. It really gets your heart pumping when you're up against a box watching a soldier approach your position as his footsteps echo throughout the room, getting louder as he gets closer. It's truly amazing. The music is even better! There are six main tracks that you'll hear throughout the game, and they are all very deep, immersive, and really give you that tense feeling that fans of the last two Metal Gears know and love... but these tracks go above and beyond the earlier music. It's truly breath-taking. But that still isn't the best part when it comes to the sound... Metal Gear Solid features a full cast of voice-actors to truly bring the game game to life, and it has the best voice-acting since Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, from 1996. All of the characters are portrayed with awe-inspiring character. From Snake himself to the random grunt walking around, all of the voices are fantastic!
   The graphics are also amazing. Graphically, Metal Gear Solid doesn't even look like it's possible on the PlayStation. All of the textures and lighting effects are incredible, grain-filters that appear in certain locations and cutscenes add to the darkness of the game and just pull you in. The character models also look very nice and detailed for a 1998 PS title, and knock the realism factor even higher.
   Now normally, I'd write about things that I didn't really care for in this final section... but I really can't think of anything negative to say about this game. It's flawless.

Metal Gear Solid is Insomnia's 1998 Game of the Year.