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.

by Bret

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