Review by bluberry

"Let's fight and talk."

Solid remakes are great. They can take an experience whose value is largely nostalgic, one that's been topped by its sequels or that simply hasn't aged well, and turn it into a game that's actually worth playing today, providing both veterans and neophytes alike with a product worthy of their cash. Metroid Zero Mission, for instance, was a remake done right. It gave the boot to many of the original's archaic play mechanics, updated old levels with new segments while retaining the classic Metroid's feel, and even added some entirely new stuff to the mix that jived well with what came before; it wasn't perfect, not by a long shot, but it was an impressive retooling nonetheless.

Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, to put it bluntly, is not such a remake. In fact, I don't even know why I'm calling it a remake at all. With the exception of a crate here and a computer there, not a single aspect of the original's outdated design has been altered; you can execute far more complex maneuvers now than you could during MGS1 Snake's hide-and-seek antics, but does it matter? Is there any point to being able to hang from rails when there are five rails in the entire game? Is there any point to being able to stuff bodies into a locker or shoot steam pipes as a distraction when almost every area in the game is comprised of empty space and rectangular architecture?

No, not really, but that might be a good thing, as the few enhancements that you can employ make the game ridiculously easy. Picture the tank hangar, a rather expansive area "packed" with three guards (the most you'll ever get). How might you approach it? Would you sprint about the upper level's metallic walkways, hide in a corner when one of the soldiers decides to investigate the sound, and then snap the poor sap's neck? Would you toss a few dirty books amidst the lower level's parked vehicles, wait for your foes to discover the stimulating literature, and then sneak past while they were entranced? Would you hide in the series' trademark cardboard box and only move around when nobody was looking, eliciting nothing more than a humorous "It's just a box!" whenever they were?

You might, yes. But it'd be a lot easier for you to just use the spiffy new first person view and shoot them all in the head. In fact, it's almost encouraged; while enemies are almost superhuman in their ability to perceive you at short range, they devolve into something only vaguely self-aware the moment you're a fair distance away. Sure makes the silenced pistol you get dozens upon dozens of bullets for (there are only about fifty sentries in the game) seem mighty appealing...

Sadly, the game's bosses also don't put up much of a fight. Consider Revolver Ocelot, a gunslinger extraordinaire sporting a tacky-yet-cool pair of cowboy boots. Your duel against him in the original was exhilarating, classic. The middle of the already claustrophobic battlefield was rigged with C4, forcing both of you to dash about the room's edges and trade shots as best you could without tripping the explosives. The odds were certainly stacked against you; you had but a pathetic peashooter with which to combat a dual-magnum wielding marksman so proficient that he could aim the ricochets of his silver bullets. Every villain has an Achilles' heel, however, and this guy was no exception: he took damn near forever to reload his guns. Despite this glaring weakness, though, you could only claim victory if you had both the reflexes to dodge Ocelot's shots and the mental prowess to keep an eye on his ammo gauge and strike whenever its emptiness left him vulnerable.

This time around, all you have to do is go into first person view and shoot him in the head four times. That whole "moving" thing just isn't in style any more. This isn't an isolated incident, either. Whether you're being ambushed by a Russian helicopter whose pathetic armaments can barely scratch your clothes or a chaingun-wielding shaman who's powerless against the "tactic" of leaning around corners and taking potshots, the bosses in this game are consistently and disappointingly pathetic.

Yet despite its underwhelming design, Twin Snakes is a frustratingly difficult game to actually play thanks to its uncomfortable, counterintuitive controls; you'll need to contort your hand in the most unnatural of ways just to hold a machinegun at the ready without firing it, God forbid you should ever have to aim the bloody thing in first-person view. Equally jarring is the problematic longwindedness in the story that remake developer Silicon Knights has done nothing to fix, something that induces "barely a game" remarks from many people, myself included. Don't get me wrong, I kind of like the story. I'm just annoyed that not a single scene involving whiny nerd Otacon blabbering on about "love blooming on the battlefield" is gone, that not a single one of the many frustratingly aimless radio conversations has been cut.

I will admit, however, that the new cutscenes are ridiculously awesome. It may be over the top, but what's not to like about Snake throwing a grenade at a piece of speeding rubble in order to dodge it instead of, you know, stepping aside? And what's wrong with an ethereal cyborg ninja running about the walls of a massive cargo elevator, attempting to hack an enormous mech to bits with just his sword? Well, everything, but that's exactly why I love it. There's a cool song playing in the background, too, that goes like this:

Let's fight and talk, let's fight and talk
Start to shout, begin to bring it out
We scream and pout, react to feeling doubt
Protest in vain
What's it all about?
Who takes the blame?
Why do we shout it out?

It might not make any sense out of context, but in the game it's a really cool part of the story. Plus, it's a catchy song, called Frenetic; it's conspicously absent from Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes' OST, but you can find it on Orbital's compilation album "Work", which isn't really worth it outside of the awesome Frenetic and the sweet memories it brings back of these cutscenes.

I think everything about the ninja is a really cool part of the story, actually. The first time you see him he's absolutely slaughtering this whole corridor of guards and it's totally tubular. You're just all looking through the window and he's impaling all these fools who dare oppose him, and it's probably the best moment in any game ever. One guy tries to punch him, but he breaks the clown's arm and then impales him. Then some tool goes at him with a knife, but he runs the guy through; then, as Snake gets near the corner, he sees THE GUY'S BODY GO FLYING LEFT TO RIGHT ACROSS HIS FIELD OF VISION BEFORE SLAMMING INTO A WALL. It's totally awesome, like a horror movie but not lame. I absolutely love The Twin Snakes' cinematics, and if you can, watch a friend with poor taste in games play through it somtime. You will not be disappointed.

In fact, the cutscenes are so sweet that they will make you want to pick up some of their director Ryuhei Kitamura's movies, which are just as awesome as Twin Snakes' intermissions. He made this awesome movie called Versus where a bunch of Yakuza fight a legion of zombies in a Japanese jungle, and you can see shades of such excellence surfacing in Twin Snakes as well: there's this one scene in Twin Snakes where Snake does a backflip, and the people in Versus did lots of backflips too. It's interesting to see how TTS almost stands as an entry in Mr. Kitamura's incredibly sweet filmography, as a natural elevation of the style he has so perfectly pioneered.

There's another cool scene with the ninja where you actually have to fight him one on one with nothing but your fists. It's like watching a sweet action movie like Commando: the room is intricately detailed, and everything from computer monitors to stacks of paper can be totally destroyed and knocked around and generally upset. He's got some cool moves to fight you with, too, from teleportation to invisibility. The only disappointing thing is that they don't give you anything beyond a punch-punch kick combo to use in the actual battle despite the fact that you're doing TIGER UPPERCUTS that'd make Sagat proud in battle cutscenes. It's of no consequence, though; I'd die before trading insanely groovy movies like these for consistency.

Enjoyably cheesy cinematics aren't enough to elevate this game above (or even to) the bar of competence, though. All that the developers really did in making this game was gracelessly slap MGS2's play mechanics onto MGS1's levels, and boy does it ever show. The resulting concoction controls horribly, bores me with its pathetic ease, and disgusts me with the sheer amount of potential it wastes. Even if you're going to play it for the story, the original is superior--the handful of things that have been cut were cool, such as the aforementioned shaman comparing your fighting style to that of a demon. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is an atrocious remake that wouldn't have been worth trying five years ago, let alone today.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 05/05/05


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