Review by Nickoten
"Not enough game to it."
Often when playing through the original Metal Gear Solid after completing its successor, I’d ask myself what it would be like if the game incorporated some of the latter‘s additions to the series. This is kind of funny, because that’s exactly what Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is. Nothing less, and just a little bit more. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (Hereby referred to as “Twin Snakes”) combines Metal Gear Solid 2’s engine and graphics with the story of its predecessor, with decent results.
The most noticeable effect of this is in the graphics. Character models look pretty much on par with most of the other games you’ll see on the Gamecube, some even better. The cutscenes have been redone, this time directed by Ryuhei Kitamura of Versus fame. While I didn‘t particularly like all but a few of these new scenes (More on that later), they are pretty impressive visually. One of my main gripes with Metal Gear Solid 2 was that while it had impressive character models, the environments were drab and dull. Well, the locales of Twin Snakes haven’t really changed much from the original, but they’re one of the more impressive aspects of the game’s visuals. There isn’t that much in the way of variety in the way of locations in this game, but considering that it all takes place in a military compound in Alaska, there’s a decent amount of variety in how the areas are set up, if not in how they look. The environments are all rendered nicely thanks to better hardware, and everything runs pretty smoothly, though there are noticeable drops in the framerate at times. Unfortunately, other than that little has changed. One might ask why that’s a problem. After all, this is a remake. Well, that leads to one of my more significant complaints.
As I said before, MGS2’s engine is used here, but unfortunately it almost seems like no adaptation was made in the level design to accommodate these changes. Snake gains quite a few new abilities in this incarnation of Metal Gear Solid, including rolling, jumping out from behind corners, holding up guards, hanging, a first person view. Out of those listed only first person view has any real affect on the game normally (Unless you decide to use a now well known trick that allows you to skip a certain portion of the game using hanging). You can probably already guess what I mean by this: guards die from a shot to the head and can be held up for dog tags, bosses take more damage in the head, etc. However, as enemy placement and patrol routes seem to be unchanged, you could technically go through the entire game without really using this, though it of course makes things easier. This makes the main addition seem almost pointless. The new moves besides first person aiming end up being just novelties that you’ll use maybe once or twice during the course of the game. I’m glad that new abilities are here, but other than more intelligent enemy AI (Like those in MGS2) there isn’t much to apply them to.
However, I’m going to give this game the benefit of the doubt and look at the gameplay itself now, rather than what’s been added. After all, a remake of a good game without much in the way of anything useful added is still a solid game at its core, if not a very good purchase if you own the original. Metal Gear Solid, in case you didn’t know, is all about stealth. In this game’s case that means hiding behind corners and in cardboard boxes, waiting for the enemy to pass by, then jumping out and putting a bullet in their head with your silenced SOCOM, with variations based on the setting and available weaponry. This is not at all a bad gimmick, as it allows for a good amount of variation if some thought is put in.
Twin Snakes provides at least some variation. You’ll still be hiding around corners and just disposing of enemies most of the game, but your goals at least present some illusion of a different scenario. For example, you may be given the task of disabling a electrified floor or changing the temperature of a card key. Such diversions help to make up for some missing variety in the actual stealth portion of the game, and thankfully they’re fairly abundant, at least compared to other games in Twin Snakes’s genre.
Boss fights are also pretty fun, like in one particular scenario where you’re forced to utilize weapons you’d normally save for special occasions (C4, mines, remote controlled missiles) or another battle against a psychopath, who reads your mind/memory card before the fight, and requires you to change controller ports during it. There’s even a few sequences that focus primarily on action, like a mad dash up a tower of alerted guards, or rappelling down the side of said tower. In a sense the game makes up for the lack of variety in situations where stealth is required (And most do require it) with a decent amount of variety in gameplay overall. However, this still isn’t the main problem with the gameplay.
The main problem of the gameplay is the lack of it. What’s there is above average, but there simply isn’t enough of it. To paint a clearer picture of this situation, the speed run for this game is around an hour and ten minutes, I believe. That could be a little off, but it at least gives an idea of how quickly one can run through it. Normally this point would be moot. After all, you’d know exactly what to do in a speed run, and how to solve every scenario.
The thing is, there’s not much in the way of puzzles, really. I can think of maybe 2 or 3 at most. Most rooms can be cleared using basic hide-and-seek style stealth, and many really don’t require that much thinking on the default difficulty. So if the speed run is around an hour, and the game doesn’t have a lot to stop and wonder about gameplay-wise, that’s not far off from your average time spent playing. The first time I completed the game, my time was 8 hours or so, and I watched most of the cutscenes and codec conversations. I would be very generous to say that it took me around 4 hours to beat the game, in this case, and that’s not very much time at all.
This almost categorizes the game with most modern day RPGs, as gameplay will often come down to completing a goal and watching a ten minute cutscene that points you to the next. The difference is that even in today’s cinematic RPGs there’s still a better gameplay-to-story ratio than what you see here, and this is an action game. It’s sad, because Twin Snakes could have been a much better game had only the game part of it lasted longer. I don’t mind Hideo Kojima’s choice of a cinematic style to the story, but a good amount of these movies aren’t really that necessary, and others could be much shorter.
So, now that I’ve finished ranting about the overabundance of these cinematics, I should probably say something about their quality. The story itself is pretty simple at first. You take the role of Solid Snake, a special agent sent to stop FOXHOUND, a government agency gone renegade since he left. It‘s taken over a military base in Alaska and apparently has a weapon with impressive nuclear strike potential. The plot is smartened up with a decent script and a fair amount of character interaction, as well as a lot of twists dealing with the game’s backstory. It may not be the best you’ll see in a game, but at least it’s interesting enough to keep you playing (Although you’ll most likely skip quite a few useless cutscenes).
The voice acting isn’t so bad, either. The accents are noticeably less exaggerated than before, though some lines come off as a bit cheesy. Music is decent, and never really hurts the atmosphere. I don’t really have much to comment on other than some of the original’s better tracks have been changed in favor of newer but somewhat inferior ones (Though this is really is based on opinion).
The main problem with this story, really, is the amount of time spent watching it unfold rather than shaping it yourself, but you’ve heard enough about that already. Another complaint, though less significant, is the new direction taken with the cutscenes. Slow motion and anime-like fight scenes and acrobatics are ridiculously overused. Many people say that this shouldn’t matter. It’s a videogame, after all. To this, I have two things to say: For one, the game usually takes itself seriously. Save for a boss fight and one or two codec conversations Twin Snakes tries to present an at least semi-realistic plot. So why should I not be surprised/annoyed when Snake jumps in the air and does a backflip off of a missile in slow motion, jumps 2 stories to flip off of a giant mech, or any other insane stunt that even an exceptional soldier really shouldn’t be able to pull off.
Second, the scenes themselves tend to be cheesy and needlessly over the top, even if they’re in a videogame. Why do a series of jumps and flips to dodge a missile when a leap in a safe direction can suffice? To be fair, however, I did find a few scenes pretty impressive, and not quite as corny as others (Though they do at times approach that level). The action-filled cutscenes, however, really don’t lend as much to the game as they should.
In the end I can’t honestly suggest buying the game, as there is little to come back to. There are two endings that offer a couple of special items and an extra boss survival mode, but other than that extras come down to little more than some different costumes for certain characters. And with out a good amount of thought put into level design, the lack of strategy required will probably make the gameplay seem stale after two short run-throughs.
As a rental, however, I’d recommend trying it yourself if you’ve never played a Metal Gear game just to see whether you like it. The weekend you have it for will probably be all the time you need to finish the game and see whether you like this style. It’s not a bad game at its core, but it lacks the replayability and depth that usually make or break games of this kind. In my eyes it’s above average at best.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 04/07/04, Updated 04/08/04
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