Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Top 52: Metal Gear Solid (#36)

The position of this game is likely to piss off some fanboys. Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation is some people's favorite game ever. I thoroughly enjoyed this game (though, not the series as much) and that's why it's on my list. Besides, #36 on a list for the best games ever is still pretty high, I think.

Title: Metal Gear Solid
Console: Playstation
Release Date: 10/21/98 (US)
Genre: Tactical Espionage Action
My Ranking: #36

Metal Gear Solid is a perfect example of how a movie script could be incorporated into a dynamic video game. Loaded with tons of cut screens, including live footage, the story within Metal Gear solid is almost guaranteed to blow your mind, even if you have no idea what the hell is going on.

I'm not even going to try to break down the story. Take my word for it though; it's awesome. Military conspiracies and threats of a nuclear attack is pretty standard for a movie script but Metal Gear Solid takes it real deep, referring back to DARPA and dabbling with genetic engineering. The story is crazy complex, and though I didn't get all of it when I was younger, it still rocked.

Most stealth sequences in games just blow. Somehow, Metal Gear Solid managed to make a game all around that style and make it incredibly enjoyable. The map in the top-right corner of the screen showed you the line of sight of the bad guys, which made it fairly easy to avoid everyone, but still fun to do since the placement of the cameras and enemies often required you to create distraction or use special items.

You learn early in the game that fighting is definitely not the answer to get past this game. This is obvious for Metal Gear Solid players now, but at the time it came out, being stealthy was not a common tactic. You knew getting into a gunfight wasn't good because the shooting controls sucked massively. Aiming was nearly impossible with the pseudo top-down view and enemies seem to never miss. Luckily, shooting never was integral to the game and the limited aiming controls were enough all of the game's bosses.

The bosses though, surprisingly, is where Metal Gear Solid was outstanding. Of course, any person who has played Metal Gear Solid knows that I need to highlight the Psycho Mantis battle. This boss is insane since he can "read your mind." Seriously, he looks inside your memory card and if you played Castlevania, he'll say, in game, that you like that game. Creepy. And, he always seems to dodge your bullets because he can read your mind. The way to beat him though, is to switch your controller from port 1 to port 2, so he can't "read your mind." Psycho Mantis broke the fourth wall is a truly creative way, and forced you to think outside the box.

The voice-acting was also superb, especially for a game made in 1998. Snake sounds like a old war veteran. Colonel Campbell sounds like a Colonel. Meryl sounds like dumb biatch. Octocon sounds like a geeky scientist. The translation was also done well, since there was a ton of subtext going on between the characters that seemed to work well in the English translation. While sometimes the conversations were too long, the deep dialogue was unprecedented in a video game. And it worked.

There are a couple of reasons why this isn't higher on my list. Though the gameplay was outstanding and the story crazy good, the game was too short. I remember beating this game in a about a week and about 50% of that time was spent only watching or reading. I get that Metal Gear Solid was designed to be plot-heavy and cut scene-heavy but it's just not my style. Luckily, the music was amazing, so when you were just watching, it was still aesthetically pleasing.

Also, as I said before, the controls needed some tweaking. Running up stairs and shooting waves of enemies shouldn't be as annoying as it was. All in all though, Metal Gear Solid felt so different from any other video game I had played up to in that time, and I knew once I finished it that I had played something that pushed gaming in a different direction, and succeeded.
My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby's Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
#48 --- Metroid Prime (GC)
#47 --- Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
#46 --- Bomberman 64 (N64)
#45 --- Guitar Hero II (PS2)
#44 --- Super Street Fighter II (GEN)
#43 --- Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)
#42 --- Soul Calibur II (GC)
#41 --- Gears of War (Xbox 360)*
#40 --- Elite Beat Agents (DS)
#39 --- Call of Duty 4 (PS3)
#38 --- Super Metroid (SNES)
#37 --- The Orange Box (PS3)*
#36 --- Metal Gear Solid (PS)



ultima301 said...

Two of my top 5 games already covered in your countdown.

The controls were near perfect for me, I guess the only gripe is not being able to aim in a first person view (except with the PSGI and Stinger) but I think that added to the gameplay. In later games it was way too easy to pick off guards at all angles once you find one good hiding place.

There's a lot of reasons I thought this game was pretty much perfection, and you nailed a lot of them. The story, the music, the graphics (at the time, of course), and the boss fights. Each one had its own theme, focused on a different weapon (but often had alternate strategies...never would have thought about taking down Ocelot with C4's or Sniper Wolf with a Stinger).

The game was definitely a bit on the short side, but I didn't entirely mind that. See my comment about Fable 2 having a short story: I'd much prefer a short, polished and awesome experience over a drawn out one that begins to become repetitive and stops introducing new concepts. MGS moved at a great pace in terms of story and introducing new weapons.

It delivered short but intense bursts of gameplay. It's the only game where I legitimately felt fear of being discovered in a stealth section - in every other game you could just go brute force on things or it was just too easy to worry. The harder difficulties make up for the short length; I beat it on normal and tried hard and wow, it felt like a completely different game. No radar, bosses having basically double health, extremely limited ammo and, did I mention no radar? It made the game terrifying and intense from start to finish. I still haven't beaten it on Extreme mode, it's one of my goals as a gamer.

But yeah, expected rant for sure. MGS 1 is pretty much gaming nirvana for me...it was really a disappointment to me that the rest of the series went so downhill. But then again it would be really tough to equal such a classic.

Anonymous said...

Sadly I never played any MGS beyond some of the VR missions. One day.

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