While Metal Gear Solid is technically a sequel, it is most likely the average person’s introduction to Metal Gear. Not surprising when a lot more people bought the Playstation compared to the MSX2. It is no surprise that Metal Gear Solid has a very polished feel for a game of its era. The producers already have two games under their belt and all the interesting things they liked in Metal Gear 2 are remade here, only better, and the death monologues are even longer, Grey Fox gets two in this one!
Metal Gear Solid has kept this exciting feel when played because it knew to keep exactly to its time. Created in the Playstation era, where dead bodies disappeared and guards could see about two meters in front of themselves, Metal Gear Solid still holds a powerful tension for me as the tools Snake has in this game are so much more limited than later instalments and you face far more varied threats compared to the earlier games on the MSX2.
If every Metal Gear game embodied a movie Metal Gear Solid would certainly be Die Hard. Snake is alone in a large complex, hijacked by terrorists with a cool English sounding leader. Just like the first Die Hard, Metal Gear left me feeling vulnerable and surrounded more than the later games. All later games would give me access to weaponry and techniques that would leave me feeling far too in control. Metal Gear Solid, however, demands that we out outmanoeuvre the enemy before resorting to killing them, and even then we have far fewer safe options then in later games. In retrospective, this makes Metal Gear Solid a surreally intense experience.
The stealth feels stronger this time round as well, because Metal Gear Solid was also the scariest game in the series. The nuclear warhead storage building starts with a difficult sneaking area where you cannot use your weapons, moves to a floor which is half Crystal Maze puzzle room half ninja splatter movie, before finally reaching a regular office floor… where you have to fight Psycho Mantis. It is a good thing it takes a few hours to get through all that; the feel of each area curves around more than the very guts of the player it is probably twisting.
Sadly Snake himself is only given the barest of touch ups from the previous games. Most of the time he acts like a gruff jerk who is a real jerk to most of the ladies he meets for no reason other than that they happen to be women. But occasionally the weird dorky idiot can start to grow on you, especially if you use the codec a lot. I remember replaying this game recently and realising for the first time that Snake’s irritating habit of repeating most of the dialogue was actually for my benefit. Snake’s idiocy meant that when I first played this game in 1998 at ten years of age, I could understand the plot a lot better if the character I was controlling was really only a little bit smarter than me because he knew a few of the events in World Eskimo Indian Olympics.
It is only due to immense nostalgia, but looking at it again I can only see the things I love about this game. Its disturbing thuggery and the fact it kind of lost its momentum after you defeated Sniper Wolf the second time are hazy by comparison. Thank you Metal Gear Solid for showing me what it is like to be old in my twenties. Thank you with all the sarcasm I can drag up from having to backtrack three separate times, I mean seriously.