Review by Argyle

"We're gonna launch that nuke and ride it all the way into history"

Metal Gear Solid, 1998 - an amazing, faithful sequel to its NES and GB forebears. Prequel to Sons of Liberty, questionable plot and lead character choice aside, a perfect continuation of the series. Each game provides more as we progress - more story, more abilities, more attitude. For the better, Snake (and *sigh* Raiden) has grown to excel in his newer surroundings, able to champion against enemy AI and level design that have developed as steadily as our hero. The years have been good to the world of tactical espionage action, and one can only expect the same development in a remake of the PlayStation's Metal Gear Solid.

Both the original Metal Gear and Twin Snakes tell the same tale of a retired agent, Solid Snake, commissioned to infiltrate a base overrun by terrorists. Backing the takeover are former members of FOXHOUND, bent on nuclear superiority and world domination. Sort of. The plot is far more complex - at times ridiculous, but always intriguing. Breaking up the story sequences are bouts of gameplay that have been updated in Twin Snakes to provide a more engaging experience than the original. It's only fair that Snake should be able to respond to the increased AI in Twin Snakes with the skill set found in Sons of Liberty, most predominately the ability to shoot in first person and hang from ledges - a more robust Snake to balance the heightened awareness of his opponents.

For the most part, everything in the original has been left intact. Snake progresses, mostly stealthily, through the use of radar. Careful monitoring of enemy movement and lines of sight to avoid conflict is still at the core of Twin Snake's gameplay. Getting caught is just as tense and exciting as before, canceling your radar and effectively blinding you while you struggle to find cover or confront your enemies head on. The improved AI will keep players on their toes with more realistic responsiveness, while boss battles have, unfortunately, lost some of their challenge courtesy of the ability to shoot in first person. All said, Snake is still as fun to control as ever.

Graphically, the overhaul to Metal Gear Solid is a bit lacking. On the PlayStation, Metal Gear was among the best, yet Twin Snakes comes in slightly above average when compared to other GameCube titles. Questionable textures and occasional drops in frame rate mar an otherwise very good presentation. Aurally, Twin Snakes succeeds with new music but misses some steps in re-recording voices. The acting sounds a little forced, characters even coming across bored at times, as if they've spoken these lines before (as they have). In playing the original again for the sake of comparison, I was surprised at how good the PlayStation version still looks and sounds. The updates impress, but not as much as expected.

Finally, the cut scenes - what many have touted as the best and biggest change in Twin Snakes. Kitamura's direction has certainly brought a very new and distinct feel to Metal Gear, although not necessarily to the benefit of the game. The FMV of five years ago was very much in tune with the style and content of the original, perhaps overlong but completely immersing and as enjoyable as the gameplay. Twin Snakes, on the other hand, suffers from overproduction. The scenes are significantly longer, occasionally (ridiculously) over the top, and serve to separate the narrative somewhat from the gameplay, ultimately sacrificing pacing in favor of showiness.

In remaking Metal Gear Solid, Twin Snakes has succeeded in capturing some of what made the original so exceptional, but the uniqueness that was, and still is, so inherent in the PlayStation release just doesn't come to the surface here. Twin Snakes does modify the play mechanics and enemy AI just enough to provide a slightly different challenge to veterans, and in that regard is worth the time to sit with again. The length remains short and the extras are far less than what made Substance such an incredible bargain, but for those who missed the original, there is no question that this is worth your time. While Twin Snakes may not meet certain standards to qualify as the perfect remake, it is still fun to play and stands on its own as an excellent game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/11/04, Updated 03/14/04

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