I like my gears how I like my women- metal and solid

Good Saturday, peoples of the web. Today’s blog post is a little article about how much I love Metal Gear Solid. So sue me, you feckless wedge chasers. See y’all next time!

It’s a franchise that has a whole umbrella of successful products from the core gaming masterpieces to mobile games, novels, a radio play and all manner of collectibles. I’m not interested in the sequels and spin offs or even the predecessors- there is one Metal Gear Solid which bolted the words tactical, espionage and action together and created a new genre.

Metal, Gear, Solid. Another three words which baffled gamers at the time. I remember picking up a PlayStation 1 magazine, for that brave little plastic device was still in vogue at the time, and reading the words Metal Gear Solid. So… it’s about… a metal gear, right? Which is solid. So… I guess it’s about robots?

Well, as it turned out, there were robots. There were also helicopters, stealth ninjas, reams of spoken dialogue, a thick plot with an alternate ending, gadgets, comic book villains, tons of background info, tanks, guns, fist fighting and comedic sneeze-based subplots. MGS dropped jaws.

This was in 1998. Other games simply were not doing this much in one package. MGS was one of the first dear-God-this-game-is-better-than-a-movie-and-a-book-put-together moments that I and many other gamers at the time had ever experienced. So where is it now? The fact is that while the sequels detonate their payload all over our screens, the first Metal Gear Solid (not counting the pixeltastic MSX originals) has fallen into the bargain bins of time. A crying shame indeed, but also a godsend for retro enthusiasts such as myself. Ebay is your friend on this one.

The great thing is that you won’t need any super-retro hardware. Okay, a PC may struggle, for so many older games fail to work on Vista and 7. However the PlayStation 1 version will of course work on a PlayStation 2, or even better you can grab the GameCube version and play it on a Wii!

Some may recall that the original game was given a lick of fresh graphics, dialogue and updated gameplay modes and ported to the GameCube under the new sub title “Twin Snakes”. I can recommend this to anyone who dislikes chunky graphics and may have been put off the original for that reason. Even people who played the original might enjoy this version as the slight tweaks make it more worthwhile to re-play.

So what’s the big deal? Enter Solid Snake, a somewhat suggestively named agent of a global counter-terrorism unit. Snake is a cigarette smoking, ass kicking, grizzled lady killer who must infiltrate an Alaskan nuclear weapons base using only stealth and awesomeness to rescue some hostages from some wacky terrorists. Once those nobodies have been dealt with, it’s time to befriend a scientist, save a girl, defeat a huge walking tank, stop a nuclear war, defeat a cyborg ninja with mysterious links to the past and face off against Snake’s evil mastermind counterpart while discovering the terrible truth of his existence and coming into his birth right as a genetically perfect legendary soldier! This is all between grumpy quips, hiding in boxes, hours of in-depth characterisation, love plots, postulations over the nature of mankind and warfare and strangling guards when they take a leak.

The fact is that MGS was as full of both sound serious gameplay and novel, quirky Easter eggs. Swapping controllers around or having phone conversations with hot women while crawling under tanks becomes normal while playing this game. The game employed so many interesting devices from personal radar to a tiered alarm system that it’s very hard to find a game in the same genre now that doesn’t have a little MGS in it. Of course, I’m being biased- the game was not without problems. Despite being graphically advanced for the time, the original is still somewhat clunky, most noticeably in the fact that the characters haven’t got eyes. The stealth system was right for the game, but falls a bit flat when you consider that the guards could only see about 50 feet forward. There were also problems with the controls that often left Snake revolving around on his belly while you tried to select a weapon and crouch.

This review is for those who missed Metal Gear Solid first time around and need the extra impetus to find out what sparked this astonishingly powerful franchise. The simple truth is that the gameplay is solid, the story gripping and the whole package has a kind of timeless beauty. The bargain bin just doesn’t know how lucky it is.

Planning to Fail Part 3

Goood afternoon. RIP Tony Curtis; he was a funny funny man.

A fine day here; stark wintery sun over a cold, fresh sky. Love it. The search continues for illustrators for Sleepwalkers but at the moment my main concern is the second draft which is taking a long time to finish. Life gets in the way. Oh also a quick hello to the returns of Sons of Anarcy, Stargate Universe and Fringe. SG:U is a show I that I like despite my complaints- if it wasn’t part of the Stargate franchise it would stand alone very well. It’s just a little too much divorced from the originals. Don’t get me wrong I like gritty adult sci fi, but they’ve ended up landlocked somewhere between the good points of Stargate and the good points of Battlestar. We will see if season 2 brings a new vibe. SoA is still going strong, enjoying it, amusing and dramatic and all the rest. Fringe is the same, still interesting. The overarcing plot episodes far outstrip the regular investigatory ones though.

Oh yes, my apocalypse plan. I left off last time with a plan for the first 24 hours. After that point I should have a shelter and basic equipment and have gathered some loved ones if I’m very lucky. Next comes the aftermath.

Post Apocalypse

The world will be utterly different very quickly. Despite all our nice ethics and civilised ideals, when survival becomes paramount, most people will degenerate fast. I think people would be surprised by how fast everyone adapts. In any case, now it’s time to consider allies and enemies very carefully. First things first- can I survive on my own? I think so indeed but it would be better to secure a group for safety and mutual benefit.

  • Friends and contacts. I need to make a secret list of the people who I will consider recruiting/joining. Every person and every journey is a risk so this must be considered carefully. Do my friends have key skills that will come in handy in the new world? I can think of one or two who can start cars and hunt and whatnot, so they have priority. I also have friends and family with countryside houses- that’s certainly worth a thought. Arm the companions I can trust.
  • Meeting strangers. Okay, in the new world, everyone must be treated with suspicion. Co-operation is great but never let strangers see weakness or take the advantage. Give aid to injured people only if it can be spared and the area is totally secure- otherwise, forget about it. Personally I would avoid using traps and tricks or trying to take supplies from other survivors by using force; as a rule, it’s not worth the hassle. Sadly, desperate times may call for desperate measures.

That leads onto the subject of gangs. Avoiding the cities and main roads would be wise where possible. There will likely be a police or military presence, never mind organised crime. All the organisations existing today that have infrastructure, tools and training will survive a mid-sized apocalypse in some shape or form. However, it would be a mistake to assume that police or military will be friendly to all survivors, be they acting on the orders of a remnant government or not.

  • Contact other groups carefully. Ambassadors can be captured and then may give away information. Always have a second group or agent monitoring meetings, ready to act if the other wise tries something clever, even if its just to live to tell the tale.
  • A safehouse, preferably in the countryside, that can be well defended. Barracade if necessary and build up a motor pool of stolen vehicles.
  • Food and water are still paramount. A source of both is always preferable to foraging; livestock for example. Always consider contamination risk though.
  • The future. Establish order. If surviving alone that’s easy- if with a group, got to be useful and stay on top as much as possible. If in a position to order others, consider types of command. Democracy certainly nice but not always viable. Extremes never good in the long term; middle ground has longevity, please as many as possible. Watch for dissenters and popular people and appease them where possible to do so with subtlety.
  • Building. Raid libraries; books on how to make electricity, clean water and so on are invaluable.
  • The next generation… well, that will sort itself out.

So, the gist of the plan is now nailed down. I hope it brought some vague entertainment. If everything does go to hell and I somehow survive, feel free to come over and ask me which point of the plan I’m at. I will probably vomit and wave a knife at you, crazy-eyed.

I think I should probably be planning for a more likely future. Careers and whatnot. Far more boring!

Peace, Bret.

Planning to Fail Part 2


Grey and miserable day in Stoke! Nowt new there but the encroaching winter is certainly making itself felt.

After getting over the [sarcasm] excitement [/sarcasm] of seeing the Eldar videos for DoW2: Retribution (enough with the core races already! Evles in space- we get it), I have settled down barely long enough to continue my planning for the apocalypse. If you haven’t seen the first installment, it’s my previous blog post.

So. We have narrowed down the types of apocalypse to plan for; I will be assuming some kind of non-total virus or world war situation, possibly with natural disasters. Next, the crucial first 24 hours!

Good Morning Wasteland

It’s happening all around; chaos is breaking out as the population panics. Most people will die in these few hours. Assuming that I’m not directly hit by Ragnarok, the first hours are very important.

  • Immediate needs. Shelter from the destruction is the first priority. Find the nearest stable structure with good access and preferably communications, supplies and some manner of authority figure. Library would be a good one, police station maybe, or even a church. Those old buildings are tough and there should be some tea bags in there. Get out of the street and into somewhere that isnt falling down and can be barricaded. First aid time- I may have been struck by debris, people or illness. Stop the bleeding! If I wake up in my own home on the day of the apocalypse, seeing the news on the tv or radio perhaps, then I can skip some steps here. This does not mean go back to bed for a bit!
  • Secondary needs. I’m out of harm’s way but a long way from safety. In the case of injuries, if first aid hasnt had much effect, seek medical attention. Call or find a doctor- know the nearest surgeries. Bound to be panic in the streets so be armed. Food and water must be secured- check shelter for supplies- failing that, I can go a few hours without it so foraging can be forestalled until things calm down, but must be done before the effects of malnourishment start and before someone else gets the same idea. Contact loved ones, ascertain locations and prioritise either pick up or trust them to make safe passage to me.

The next step depends on those factors. May need to travel to (in order of priority): Medical center, loved ones, foraging target. Staying put is preferable but likely unavoidable- in either case, the next priority after securing safety is preventing further harm.

  • Weapons. Whatever the apocalypse, there will be chaos. If it’s zombies (it won’t be zombies) then this goes without saying. Since there is still at this point a vague structure of society remaining, open hostility is unwise unless neccesary, so concealable weapons come before big weapons unless things are truly screwed up. Knives are easy, concealable and effective and of course they have 101 other uses in survival situations. Get 1 knife minimum- could be foraged from shops or home. A blunt weapon is useful for dealing with people non-lethally (bear in mind a gentle tap with a heavy blunt object can still kill, but its preferable to a knife) and also for dealing with obstructions and suchlike. Bats, hammers, etc are fine. Guns are probably not going to be needed and will be hard to find- file that one under the next stage of survival. Armour is probably not needed but if I’m going foraging I will get some anyway- sports padding and bike leathers are good examples of practical things that can take the edge off a fall or wound. If it’s a quake situation, this is important. Otherwise warm, rugged clothing is needed- could be sleeping rough and you can always take clothes off, but not always find more.
  • Transport. Foraging and transporting loved ones or the wounded will be ten times easier with transport. If its chaos out there, should be unsecured cars to grab. Check fuel guage. Get someone who can drive better to do the driving, if they can be trusted. Begin prioritising fellow survivors by loyalty and value! Doctors, responders, fighters, etc.

Foraging could be hard depending on the state of society. No use engaging in looting if the police are still organised, which they likely will be. They should be organising help for people but frankly if they panic then you just have a big, well armed gang to contend with. Don’t cross them unless absoltely neccesary- better to assemble loved ones and get home, where my survival kit will be awaiting.

Survival kit?! Yes, indeed! Short of a few items that must be obtained from shops, its not to hard to have a kit at home, which of course doubles as a shelter. So, I will gather the following tools:

  • Clothing. Again, tough and durable, winter clothing. Practical stuff is priority- waterproof, pockets galore, hoods, tough boots. Will be walking a lot.
  • Cooking kit, provided there is room. Pan, gas stove. water purifying tablets. Knife, deadly. Bottled water, lots of it. Beans!
  • Tent, good one. Sleeping bag/mat.
  • Trinkets. Goes against the utilitarian style of survival, but got to grab those essential things that keep me being me. Rings and whatnot.
  • Phone- incredibly useful if the infrastructure for it still remains. Paper Map would be ideal too.
  • Torch for light, matches for warmth.

That’s the bare bones. Once people have been rounded up and I have shelter, the rest can be planned- this is all about surviving the first hours. My most likely course would be to prioritise secondary people to visit/recruit into my band of survivors; further scattered family and friends. All travel will be perilous so this must be considered carefully. On the other hand, my home will not stand up as a shelter forever. The next stage will be all about how to go on from this point.

One more thing. Have fun!