Review by NeoRanger

"Metal Gear and SOLID!"

The year was 1998 and the 3rd Metal Gear game was released for the then famous and powerful Playstation (following “Metal Gear” and “Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake” for MSX). It was the first 3D Metal Gear game that took advantage of all the system’s capabilities and let the world speechless. It was entitled Metal Gear Solid and it is the only game that is known by all gamers around the world, fans or not.

But 1998 is a long way back and gaming has evolved since then. Following the remake of the classic survival-horror Resident Evil by Capcom exclusive for the Nintendo Gamecube, Konami in association with the Silicon Knights and Hideo Kojima’s team released not just a remake of the MGS, but an enhanced version of the game. This version features the story of the original MGS and the upgraded graphics engine of the MGS2. Metal Gear Solid: the Twin Snakes is definitely an interesting piece of great interactive experience, but does it live up to the legend of the original?

Story and script (10/10): (“FOXHOUND hijacking a nuclear weapon?”)

For those of you who were living in a foxhole all these years- like myself until a year ago- here’s how the story goes: You’re Solid Snake, a legendary veteran mercenary in retirement, who’s forced to return to active duty and stop a possible nuclear holocaust. A US government nuclear weapons disposal facility in Alaska has been hijacked by members of Snake’s former unit, FOXHOUND. Snake is sent to gather intelligence and report back to the US Secretary of Defense. Sounds like an ordinary and boring espionage scenario? Trust me, there’s much more than meets the eye in it.

The script in the game is as well written as in the original and the story isn’t just a backup scenario to support the gameplay like in most games. They story itself, in combination with the smart gameplay, is what makes the game a truly unique interactive experience. Snake doesn’t just carry out a mission. He fights, feels, learns, changes through it. From the very beginning of the “Briefing” (found in the main menu and NOT in-game – highly recommended to watch especially if you’re not familiar with MG) to the credits in the end of the game, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes offers a perfect combination of high-quality action-drama film and incredibly interesting tactical espionage action game. In the end of the game, the gamers think they were the ones who learned, felt and changed.

As for the quality of the script, it is just as good as all high-quality movie scripts, not only in the world of Hollywood, but beyond. It is guaranteed that you won’t stop thinking about what’s happening next until you finish it. It will keep you interested throughout the entire game. It’s one of the few games that do not have boring parts and that’s mainly due to the script and the story. As a matter of fact, if the game didn’t offer more than 15 hours of playing, gamers wouldn’t get their hands off the GameCube controller until it was over. I guess you can blame sleep and food for that.

Unfortunately, there are flaws. Despite all the good points mentioned above, not the story, but the script has its flaws. And those flaws mainly come up in comparison with the original version of MGS back in 1998. Hideo Kojima has promised not to change anything from the original story and it’s true he didn’t. Some lines were slightly changed though. The outcome isn’t bad at all and gamers who play MGS for the first time won’t even notice it. But veterans who have already experienced the original, will notice that the very few lines that have been changed (no more than ten, that is), should have stayed the same. They do no longer offer the intensive feelings the original did. Some of them are not even equally smart to the original. Thankfully the change isn’t big at all and it doesn’t affect the rest of the storyline and the script.

Graphics (9/10): (“Doesn’t Metal Gear uses currently existing technology?”)

Like already mentioned the graphics engine used is a slightly improved version of the Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance engine. It’s undoubtedly an AMAZING improvement over the original. It’s made to look like MGS1 with more polygons, but it’s far from that. Don’t expect an optical marvel; you won’t find one here. The graphics are not Splinter Cell quality. As a matter of fact they might not even be Max Payne 2 quality. However they serve the purpose of the game perfectly. The graphics are well designed, the textures and the special effects are beautiful, the flaws seen in MGS2 have been fixed and overall the visual result is more than satisfying. MGS:TTS doesn’t need better graphics to be the game it was designed to be.
Also the animations on the models are nice, they run smoothly and the game runs in a quite high frame rate. The result won’t disappoint anybody, I guarantee that.

The maps are also well-designed although a couple of them are slightly different than the original. Yet they all serve the tactical espionage part incredibly well, as well as the boss fights.

Gameplay (9.5/10) (“As always, this is a one man espionage mission”)

The game is listed as a “tactical espionage action”. That is a slightly altered form of stealth. Metal Gear back in 1987 was considered the first stealth game. And it was until Thief came into the scene. Thief presented a new type of stealth, now considered as classic stealth. In classic stealth the hero must hide into the shadows and sneak up on his enemies. Tactical espionage is, in my opinion, an advanced form of this. The tactical espionage found in MGS games has nothing to do with hiding in shadows. It’s about studying the terrain and find the best possible place to hide. And then study the terrain again and use it to sneak up on your enemies. Also it’s about using a variety of gadgets in a way that they will draw the enemy’s attention and won’t make them suspect your presence.

The gameplay of MGS:TTS is pretty much the same with MGS2. Basic moves are run, stalk, crawl, shoot, fighting combo and of course break the enemy’s neck. In addition to those, now Snake can dive forward like in MGS2. Of course the famous first person shooting mode from MGS2 has also been added. A variety of gadgets from the sequel have been added to Snake’s inventory, like magazines and books to draw the enemy’s attention, or the M9 tranquilizer in case you want to avoid killing (I don’t know why would anybody do that, but I admit that I used my M9 way more than my SOCOM). Furthermore, you can now hide into lockers or hide your unconscious enemies there, pick up your enemies dead bodies (which do no longer disappear) and get rid of them. Not to mention the dog tag collecting using the “freeze” technique. The Soliton Radar is of course once again Snake’s greatest guide through the stages, although it can be turned off for those who want a real challenge. The gameplay is something more than satisfying and although a little outdated, it serves the game in all difficulty modes.

But the gameplay can also prove quite easy and boring, depending on the game difficulty of course. The first person mode in very easy and easy game modes can make the game a shoot-on-sight baby game. Fortunately the hard and extreme modes make espionage a necessity, so it’s recommended to play the game in those modes. Also the additional gadgets can prove completely useless. Playing in very easy mode I found myself stocking up books and magazines (at the point that I could actually run a book store) and never using even one of them. That of course isn’t a problem when the game difficulty increases. The one not useless but needless extra gadget is the M9 tranquilizer. In the MGS2, where it first appeared, its necessity was explained and covered by the story. In this game it doesn’t. Although it’s useful, it’s not really necessary since using the SOCOM doesn’t make any difference. Actually, the SOCOM might prove even more useful since wasting your enemies is the best way to get rid of them for good.

Overall the gameplay is very satisfying. For obvious reasons it’s not original and unless this is the first time you’ve ever played an espionage or stealth game, you’re not going to be very impressed. But it will leave you very satisfied. Especially if you play the game in difficult mode you can enjoy all the espionage the gameplay offers. It’s fun.

SFX, Music, Voice Acting (8/10): (“That floor is designed so that your footsteps echo”)

“Snake, what was she fighting for? What am I fighting for? What are YOU fighting for?”
“If we make it through this, I’ll tell you.”

Epic lines coming from epic voice actors. The original MGS was one of the very few games that featured incredible acting from some of the best voice actors. All the voices in the original added a great deal to the game’s emotion with lead actor, classic now in the role of Solid Snake, David Hayter. Every voice in the game gave to the characters a personality of their own and in combination with the script, it made MGS a masterpiece. That unfortunately isn’t the case in MGS:TTS.

The voice work in the new version of MGS isn’t prefect, but it isn’t that bad either. Classics to the MGS series such as David Hayter and Cam Clarke reprise their roles. The only problem is that they sound like Hideo is aiming at them with a gun and makes them to take part in this voice work by force. In other words, they’re acting a bit over than they should. You can listen to both the 1998 version and this one and you will agree with me. Thankfully that happens mainly in the beginning of the game. After a while things will get better and much before the middle of the game all actors will finally start acting like they should (and Hideo will probably put the gun away). Many of the actors have also been replaced. Jennifer Hale in the role of Dr. Naomi Hunter sounds too fake - nothing like the original. She does sound better toward the end of the game though. Also Kim Mai Guest lacks the originality of Kim Nguyen’s accent (Mei Link) but she has a much sweeter voice that suits a 19 years old girl much better than the original. The voices, with very few exceptions, aren’t worse than the original. They’re just as good I’d say. Acting is a bit worse in the beginning but it gets perfect after the middle. There are in fact some points where in this version the voice work and acting sound better than the original. What reduces the significance of this version’s voice work, is that we’ve been expecting extremely good acting and the result sounded kind of disappointing, in the beginning anyway ( I keep repeating that but it is important).

The SFX (Sound effects) and sound quality are adequate. The bullets sound like bullets, the effects of Snake walking on different terrains are good and everything sound like they should. Unfortunately don’t expect miracles here either. If you turn up the volume, instead of finding yourself in the middle of a sound paradise you’ll find yourself in the middle of a noise war. Of course considering the limited Gamecube power in this section, the result is pretty good. As a matter of fact the game now supports Dolby Surround, which by the way almost blew my TV sky high (the entire room was trembling during bass).

The music is once again perfect. It suits the game greatly and won’t let anybody down. Some of tunes are so great the might stuck in your mind for an entire week. The only minus on the score is that they didn’t use some of the best tunes from the original. Although it might sound crazy, this is a disadvantage even for those who haven’t played the original. That is because some of the original tunes added to the game’s intensity and matched much better. For example the “Enclosure”, this amazing tune played in the background during dramatic cutscenes in the original is now missing. The tune they used to replace that is good but doesn’t match as well as the “Enclosure”.

Controls (7/10): (“What are you doing? Don’t think. Shoot!”)

That is the game’s weakest point. The MGS games have been originally developed for the Playstation. So the Playstation’s controller was the model in which they based the controls in the game. The problem is that the GameCube controllers are very different and unfortunately they don’t serve the game as well as the PSX and PS2 controllers. Some of the game functions, like activating the Codec, can be considered unexplainably complicated. It takes a little while to get used to the rest functions as well. I almost got discovered by a guard trying to figure out the right button to activate the elevator. All things considered the controls might be bad, but soon enough you’ll get the hang of them. To be exact, I have to admit that it’s much easier playing using the GameCube’s analog stick than the Playstation’s. Yet, the game’s controls could have been much better. Too bad.

Cut-Scenes: (Eat THIS!”)

That is No1 one reason that makes this game a must-play. That’s also the reason why I don’t include them in the graphics section. Those who have played the original, remember the 2 hours of great cinematics the game offered? Well, add at least one more hour and entirely new, re-directed, breath-taking cut-scenes, that now serve not only as a means to carry on with the story but also offer the joy of incredible action scenes equally good with ones seen in some of the best Hollywood films. Some of you might find them a little too much. It’s true that some of them are (even I didn’t like a couple of them), but the majority of them are breath-taking. Ryuhei Kitamura, the film director hired to direct the cut-scenes, did a magnificent job. Actually after watching all the cinematics in TTS I watched the cinematics in the original and I found them boring! As crazy as that sounds, we’re talking about an amazing work. To be honest, if you’ve played the original and you’re not a hardcore fan who wants to play the game badly, those cut-scenes can be the only reason that makes the game at least worth renting.

Replayability value (8/10): (“It won’t be the first time”)

Well, that depends on many factors. If you play the game in easy mode, you might want to play it again in a harder mode (recommended). Others (like myself) don’t like listening this great story again and again because it might become boring. There are still all the extras you get after completing the game (like stealth and bandana) and all the Easter eggs (panties Meryl) from the original, so you might want to play it again just for those. There’s also a boss survival mode to add to the replayability value, but it’s not very interesting, so it’s a failed attempt.

The absence of V.R. Missions in this version is totally unacceptable. The V.R. missions added a great deal in replaybility of all past MGS games as well as similar game modes. Instead of putting new VR missions and game modes similar to those in MGS2, they just tried to replace them with the poor survival mode. It’s a pity.

There are still a view more extras like the dog tag viewer and the photos viewer (you have to unlock the camera first) as well as a mode that allows you to view all cinematics and codec cut-scenes like a 4 hour-long movie. In addition to those there’s a small and nice summary of the first two Metal Gear games to help you understand the story of this one better.

Although those special features are cool, there’s nothing to add more in replayability value. The nice thing is that a game like that doesn’t necessarily need to be replayed. It’ll take you much time to forget it and get over it.

Overall (10/10): (Best Story of 20th Century combined with the Best System of the 21st Century)

So what is the Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes? In a word: a masterpiece, just like the original. It’s equally great to the original Metal Gear Solid. Where the original has its flaws, the new version will come to cover and vice versa. The only minus is that it’s just as great as the 1998 version and not better as promised. Hardcore fans don’t even think of not buying it. It’s a great new-classic experience. Same goes for all those who haven’t played the original. If you haven’t played Metal Gear Solid, you really haven’t experienced gaming yet. Those who enjoyed the original and want to have a look in this version, the decision is up to you. Renting it to see the improvements might be enough, but I can’t guarantee you’ll be satisfied without buying it. Especially for the Gamecube this is almost a must-have. The decision is up to you. For me, it’s now time to blow Metal Gear sky high once again. I’m coming Liquid!

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 04/17/04

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