Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, but the first to really get mainstream attention, at least in the West.
Along Tenchu: Stealth Assassins and Thief: The Dark Project, this was a big part of the '98 stealth game revolution that helped establish the genre and inspire countless other games. Therefore it is DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE for all those shitty forced stealth levels that started to pop up halfway through otherwise decent action games, in the same way that Shenmue can be blamed for the curse of QTE. You opened up Pandora's box Snake!
This is from one of the (entirely optional) briefing tapes available to watch from the menu. There's only the bare minimum of animation, so it's more like a radio play than a video, but seeing as there's 11 clips here going into detail about every aspect of the mission, I can forgive them.
But the intro gave me all the info I need to know, so I'll skip straight to the story. Actually fuck the story, I'm skipping right to the VR missions.
This VR mode is new to the franchise though, it's a set of virtual reality tutorial missions apparently taking place in the same world as Tron. Stripped of the series' famously weird storylines, endless Codec conversations, cinematic cutscenes, and realistic setting, the basic gameplay stands up pretty well on its own. In fact I think the abstract design suits it.
But yeah I should probably start playing that other part of the game, with all the talking and the boss fights.
Okay I've been sent to Alaska's Fox Archipelago (which is a real place!) to a secret nuclear weapons disposal facility on Shadow Moses island (which isn't) to rescue a number of hostages and prevent a nuclear strike on the US. No one mentioned blowing up any Metal Gears, but I don't think we can rule it out just yet.
I infiltrated the facility by sneaking in underwater (just like in Metal Gear 1 on the MSX) and now I need to make my way across this dock to the elevator without being seen.
Okay, my options now are to either knock the guard down, choke him to death, or run away and get shot in the back. In fact I think it's likely that whatever I do here I'm going to get shot, because these guards do not fuck around.
If the alarm is triggered the enemies all run at me, guns blazing, and I need to get my ass hidden in a hurry. Which is made more difficult because the radar disappears. If I keep my head down long enough alert mode turns to evasion mode (still no radar), and then eventually back to normal.
|Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (Game Cube)|
But I think it's lost a lot of the style in the process. I'm standing in the same place in both screenshots and you can see they kept the same layout, this just isn't what MGS would look like in higher definition. They've reimagined it, and I'm sorry but I can't support any adaptation of the game which does not have shiny boxes.
Also I think these soldiers have been training in the meantime, as they're now disturbingly competent and can apparently see more than a few meters in front of them. Playing both games back to back, I had way more trouble getting out of this room in this one. Plus sadly neither game will let me use the exit lift in alert mode.
Metal Gear 2 started), where I was rudely interrupted by another cutscene and a long Codec conversation.
Oh by the way, Snake's finally dropped that old brick of a radio he was dragging around in the first two games, and has upgraded to a stylish modern Codec device that directly stimulates the small bones of his ear.
Anyway Snake is introduced to the rest of his support team hanging out back at base, as they try to figure out a way he can get inside the facility. They also run through the basics of his new Soliton Radar device, which is apparently "made from currently existing technology." Which is good, because I'd hate to be out in the field relying on a device based on tech that doesn't exist.
Sadly I can't move, attack, or do a damn thing in first person view. Snake's only comfortable sneaking around when he's staring at his feet.
Inside I found a HK MK23 SOCOM pistol, which in any other game I'd be pretty happy about, but honestly I doubt I'll get much use out of it in this. Shooting enemies just alerts other enemies, killing enemies just summons extra enemies, and they've all got better guns than me.
Anyway, at least I've learned that they actually label the doors in this place. In the other games I had to switch through my stack of keycards at every locked door, trying to find the one that opened it, because there was no way of knowing.
Fortunately I (eventually) learned how to open elevator doors back in Metal Gear 2, so I didn't end up embarrassing myself this time. Hey, this is the first time I've made it across a room without being seen so far; maybe I'm getting better.
Anyway, I'm reasonably sure this isn't DARPA Chief Donald Anderson or President of ArmsTech Kenneth Baker, so unfortunately she's not on my 'hostages to rescue' list. I know one of them is down here though, I overhead a guard saying the DARPA Chief had been moved to one of these cells in the 1st floor basement. They even mentioned I could get in through this air vent, which was nice of them.
Wait... Metal Gear?!?! There's another bloody Metal Gear mech on this base? Poor Snake, he just can't escape the things. Every single mission he's ever sent on eventually ends up with him facing off against a Metal Gear.
These cutscenes are actually surprisingly decent for a PlayStation game, considering how dated the 3D is. They can't even move their tiny pixel mouths, yet the voice acting and direction brings it alive and makes it work. The game is dumping a lot of info on the player here, and seems eager to make sure they stay awake through it.
Still, this isn't the first time I've had to break out of a cell in a Metal Gear game. Time to start punching the walls I guess.
Great, now I'm wondering how this would have played out if I hadn't picked up the SOCOM. Would he have just pulled one from his ass? Oh fuck it, I'm going to reset the game and find out.
First though I need to figure out how to aim this thing. Or fire it for that matter. I haven't had to use a gun yet!
Well, fuck. By the time I figured out what I was doing I was all out of health rations. Fortunately the game is merciful and restarted me in the cell, back before the soldiers arrived. Much better than reappearing back in the elevator like in the older games.
But how do you do a gunfight boss battle in a stealth game with a top down camera?
Honestly, I think this fight's a bit crap, but at least it isn't a huge challenge. There's nothing worse that having to replay a level you didn't want to play in the first place.
I'm just glad there wasn't a surprise cyber-ninja boss battle, like the one I got into while trying to rescue a hostage in Metal Gear 2.
Well now I'm all out of people to rescue. I guess I'll go take this card key of his and see if there's anything new I can open. Hang on, I'm getting another call.
Hang on, does that text on that back call this "METALGEAR SOLID"?
I'm pretty sure I'm doing this right, throwing grenades at the hatch, but I can't help but notice that it's not working. I can't be too hard on poor Snake though, it's hard to aim straight when you're being perforated by a mounted machine gun.
Unfortunately being seen is 50% of what I do in Metal Gear, so I've been having to repeat this room over and over, with no way to just shoot the bastards and run for the exit. It's making me nostalgic for those carefree days where all I had to worry about was an old man chasing me around a room with a revolver.
I've spent most of the game up to this point running around without being able to see where I'm going, that's what the radar's for. But the radar's absolutely no help here because it stays with Snake! Curse you Nikita rocket launcher, curse you!
SEVERAL FUCK UPS LATER.
When I first glanced at this door I thought it that it had an warning scrawled on it in blood, an ominous sign of the horrors that await me on the other side. But nope, it's just a message spray painted on by one of the scientists saying "HAL's Lab. keep out!"
Though don't think I'm not grateful. Imagine if I had to sneak past six enemies in this corridor. Somehow I don't expect it would have worked out.
He's obviously not one of the terrorists, the scientist doesn't recognise him, and he's not on my team, so how did this guy even get here? Did he swim all the way to the island? Does he have his own Cyborg Ninja jet plane?
Anyway, the Cyborg Ninja has been marching through the base slaughtering people because... he wants to fight me. So yep it's another boss fight! By my rough calculations, that's about 1 boss for every 5 enemies I've had to sneak past.
The fight against the Cyborg Ninja went a lot better than you might expect, considering he's got a sword, over twice as much health as me, can go invisible, and has just murdered six armed guards effortlessly. He can deflect bullets, but he's not so bothered about deflecting punches, so I've been trying to pick the right moment to get close and fight back.
Eventually we each had a fraction of a health bar left and he had started to use his invisibility to mock me. It could go either way, and my next move would decide the battle. Then I managed to blow myself up on my own claymore mine. GAME OVER.
I think playing the earlier games has given me a new appreciation for how good Metal Gear Solid really is, or at least how much less annoying it can be. The new 3D engine seems to have added more to the presentation than it has the gameplay, as it's still got that classic 2D sneaking at its core, but the presentation is part of what makes the game so special. It feels like a cross between an action movie, a video game and an audio drama, wrapped up in a fantastic atmospheric soundtrack. It's a flashy rollercoaster ride of plot twists and gameplay events, telling an impressively ridiculous story with a combination of self-awareness and conviction that makes it easy to get pulled along. At the same time it's more than happy to slow things down and fill in the details if you're interested, going as far as explaining little things like how the bloody card keys work. I seem to have spent as much time watching cutscenes or listening to people talk as I've spent sneaking around, and that's without even going out of my way to find extra Codec dialogue or getting the Colonel and Master Miller on the line whenever I pick up a cardboard box.
To be honest I'm not generally a fan of stealth and boss fights are my sworn arch-enemy, so I'm predisposed to despise this from the start. But somehow I just don't. Okay given the choice I'd probably rather watch someone else play it than finish it off myself, but I still love the game.
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