Review by DGreenwood
"A good game that just needs to shut up once in a while."
Since Metal Gear Solid was one of the most hyped Playstation games in history (ignoring anything made by Squaresoft) I rented it figuring it was sure to let me down. But I was pleasantly surprised. Now, a year and a half later, I managed to pick up a copy of the PC version for a very nice price, and I am overall pretty happy. Despite it's tendency to fall into the pitfalls that plague most modern console games, Metal Gear Solid is quite a fun ride. When you're playing, that is. How does the PC version stack up to the playstation version? Let's find out!
As far as I'm concerned, the Playstation never really surpassed the graphics in Metal Gear Solid. While I've always preferred more colorful games, and not the serious monotone color scheme that's big with modern gamers, MGS has so much atmosphere that it almost always feels like you're in an action movie. The camera shifts views quickly, fluently, and intuitively, almost always offering the best view possible. Since the point of this game is to feel like a movie, it is plastered with cutscenes, most of which are rendered in-engine, and some of which are simply gorgeous (The second appearance of the ninja was my favorite). For the move to PC, 3D acceleration was added, and makes the game look better than ever. My only problem was that whenever someone wore stealth camoflauge in a close up shot, the framerate would just collapse. But this problem was rare.
The sound is at least as responsible for the atmosphere in MGS as the graphics. Every sound contributes to the ambiance, from your footsteps (which the guards hopefully don't hear) to the wind that blows outside. Also, the music is very, very nice. It reminded me of the soundtrack to movies like ''Enemy of the State''.
Gameplay: 6 Story: 4
These two aspects of the game are intertwined, so I'll review them together. The focus in MGS is on stealth, which usually means I'll hate it. The difference here is that if you get spotted, you aren't instantly guaranteed to lose (as is the case in games such as Thief). It's usually possible to fight your way out of a tight spot, or to run to the next room where the guards will conveniently forget about you. Oh, did I mention how unbelievably stupid the guards are? It's possible to sneak behind them, throw them over your shoulder, then run around the corner. Then, they will get up, go ''huh?'', and proceed to go about their daily business. I suppose this is a good thing (and fun too), since if the guards were smart, you wouldn't stand a chance. As the game goes on, you have more and more opportunities to just let loose with your weapons in boss fights as stealth becomes less important. There are lots of weapons, which all are best in different situations.
The biggest asset, and at the same time the biggest weakness in MGS is it's tendency (like most modern console games) to blur the line between video game and movie. On the one hand, it's very immersive to have a game that is so cinematic in it's play style. The camera movements simulate a movie often, but not in a way that hinders gameplay. What does hinder gameplay is that the designers seemed more interested in the story than the game. There is about as much plot in MGS as you would find in the average 30 hour RPG. Unfortunately MGS is not 30 hours long... it's 5. I'm guessing that a full 50 percent of the game is spent in cutscenes, which while well done are far too numerous for my tastes. Towards the end, it just gets ridiculous. The plot becomes needlessly complicated with a new double cross every 5 minutes. Add to this the fact that half of these plot sequences are carried out over radio transmitions, so you just get to listen to voice actors chatter while watching the familiar green Codec screen. You know there's something wrong when the villain's death scenes take at least 3 times longer than it took to fight them. I would also like to ask the question of why, if there are terrorists threatening to launch nukes, these people are talking so much? Aren't we on a time constraint? Do we really need to discuss the futility of war AGAIN? The gameplay begins to falter toward the end as well, since the game just starts making you run back and forth across levels you've been through at least three times, just to artificially prolong the game. Some sequences of the game are also weakened by their attempts to be cinematic, most notably the ENDLESS fight up a staircase (where Snake idiotically keeps firing straight up) and the car chase sequence, which is damn near uncontrollable.
I was extremely happy that the PC version includes the criminally underrated VR missions addon, featuring over 300 excellent levels of VR training, without any of that pesky plot to get in the way.
Replay value: 7
Surprisingly, I really enjoyed playing through this game more than once. It's a good thing that you can skip the cutscenes if you want to (although this shrinks the game time by quite a lot), and playing through the game repeatedly gets you fun bonus items (an inviso-suit, a bandanna that gives you infinite ammo, and a tuxedo). There are also many ways through most of the action sequences (in the beginning anyway) making it fun to see what you missed.
It seems that for a console game to be a success today, it has to be more movie than game. Unfortunately, this is true of Metal Gear Solid as well. But despite that, this is a very entertaining game. Since it comes with the VR missions, and you can get it pretty cheap now, Metal Gear Solid is a worthy investment for the fun loving PC gamer.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 04/06/01, Updated 04/06/01
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