Review by asherdeus

"Broken and Rebuilt"

I sat down in the bathroom the other day (where all fans of periodicals go to read) and was reading MIT's Technology Review magazine for July and August. Inside, there was an article on nanotechnology, and how it's going to change the future for all sorts of communication gadgets. There was also another article discussing a man in Utah's new exoskeleton that would allow soldiers on the battlefield to carry massive weight without being fatigued through the use of hydraulics. It's very ironic, because the magazine came out right when I started playing through Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, a remake of the 1998 PS1 game that discussed all of the same things, just six years before. While Metal Gear talks of futuristic nanomachines and exoskeletons and little phones inside your ears, the people in Technology Review are actually making all of it. These are exciting times we live in.

Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (MGS: TS) is the story of Solid Snake and the events that unfold at a nuclear warhead dismantling facility on the Alaskan Fox Archipelago. A renegade sect of FOXHOUND, an elite military group, has overrun the Shadow Mosses Island facility and is planning on using the dismantled warheads to launch a new type of nuclear missile at any target in the world if their demands aren't met. Roy Campbell, formerly a leader of the group, is asked to convince the world's best infiltrator (that would be Solid Snake) to rescue hostages trapped inside and hopefully prevent nuclear annihilation. Campbell and the brass know that Snake is the only man for the job, and after some coxing (dragging him at gunpoint from his home), Snake's sent flying out of a sub in a swimmer delivery vehicle to the insertion point.

Snake soon finds out that some weird things are happening. There's a renegade ninja in optical camouflage running around the facility chopping off limbs. A young female is on a mission to prove her worth as a soldier. An engineer is having a mental break down as he suffers with the guilt of developing Metal Gear. FOXHOUND's leader looks strikingly similar to Solid Snake. Hostages are dying left and right of mysterious heart attacks. Campbell seems to be hiding something.

Snake's caught in the center of all this turmoil, and is left virtually on his own to figure out everything.

This first thing you'll notice is that Snake has absolutely no weapons at the start of the game. This is not a game focused around gun fighting. Sneaking is an absolute must for survival on the game's harder difficulties, but more of an after-thought on the easier settings. Snake arrives out of the water into a warehouse, and of course, there are guards monitoring the entrance. This is a great starter area, as you can quickly become familiar with all of the game's mechanics without too much worry of the consequences of being spotted. I discovered that the controls to the game were much different and not nearly as smooth as they'd been on previous versions of the title. For those who've played the original Metal Gear Solid, MGS: TS is vastly different than the previous versions. Instead of the original gameplay being preserved, Konami and Silicon Knights decided to inject the game with the gameplay from Metal Gear Solid 2, while keeping the superior storyline from the first title.

When people first heard about it, they were incredibly excited, and I was too. My main reason for purchasing a GameCube was this game. In the end, I wasn't disappointed with my investment; the game met most of my expectations while the changes only hurt it in a few categories. The gameplay in MGS: TS is like a wet dream for all of those who loved the original. The addition of rolling adds to the fluidity of the stealth action in the game. There's nothing more exciting than going through the armory on the second floor of the basement, rolling through the tight corridors past guards intent on killing you, then slipping into an empty room to elude them. Being able to open up lockers and hide in them offers another escape method not found in the original. Of course, the most anticipated addition was the addition of first-person shooting, which unfortunately makes one of the last battles incredibly easy but works well for the rest of the game. In the first title, you were able to look around the environment in first-person mode, but you couldn't shoot. Now you can.

Even though the gameplay has changed drastically, the original storyline is intact. While several of the cutscenes were extended (more on that to come), and some of the dialogue was reworked and changed (even more on that to come), almost the entire original story is conveyed in its original form. This is great because the storyline in Metal Gear Solid was superbly crafted, in stark contrast to the obfuscated plot of its sequel. One of the reasons for this is because of the incredibly detailed character development, which is practically unrivaled. Most of your confrontations with bizarrely named enemies like Vulcan Raven and Sniper Wolf are brief, but you learn a great deal about them through your interaction.

Those characters really add a lot to the gameplay. In what could have been just a generic, run-run-of-the-mill sneaker/shooter, Konami was able to create an enthralling, constantly evolving game. Revolver Ocelot is basically Annie Oakley of the Russian underworld. Defeating Ocelot requires you to basically run away from him until he has to reload his six-shooter, and then fire when you get the opportunity. Making it more difficult, you also have to avoid stepping out of the narrow running area or else you'll blow up a hostage. Vulcan Raven is first met inside a tank, shooting at you in the middle of a mine field, and the only way to defeat him is by planting mines or lobbing grenades at the treads of the tank to stop it. Then, you have to toss the grenades at the gunner on the top of the disabled tank to destroy the insides.

It's not always boss characters you're fighting; sometimes you have to lay down some regular guards. They aren't just regular guards though, these are enhanced Genome Soldiers, complete with enhanced DNA and special VR training. These troops work well together, using clearing tactics and battle strategy should you be seen. Expect to be flanked during open battles, and when in interior areas such as rooms, expect teams of guards to go into a clearing mode where they search every nook and cranny of a room. Fortunately, they aren't too difficult to avoid, and sneaking up on them isn't hard either. Sneaking up on them and drawing your gun allows you to aim at them uncontested. Pointing at their head or genitals usually gets them shaking, and items occasionally fall out. Their shaking also procures dog tags, which can later be viewed to learn detailed information about guards, such as their blood type and date of birth.

The graphics in the game were also enhanced. No more grainy, blocky textures and square, bland character models, they were all enhanced and in some cases completely redesigned. I must say though, I was completely put off by some of the redesigned character models, especially Vulcan Raven. The giant Shaman looks like half the man he was, literally. In the original versions, he was huge, but it worked well for his character design and without the hulking body, he seems like a wussy. Animations are silky-smooth, with all of Snake's rolls, dives and hand-to-hand moves perfectly choreographed to look realistic. One of the biggest improvements is found in the interiors. While they're still mostly grey, they're less repetitive, and other things like the walkways and stair cases all look a lot less jaggy and a lot more realistic.

Konami hired a famous Japanese director (the outstanding Ryuhei Kitamura) to help redesign some of the games more important cutscenes, and the results are mixed. While a lot of the additions are actually worth-while, some seem like they were put in there just to show off and add nothing to the gameplay, such as an overly elaborate removal of Snake's wetsuit accompanied by techno music. The rest of the games music is a fantastic orchestrated score that's powerful and moving, and the techno added into that one scene is almost embarrassing. One of the most disappointing aspects of the game, at least for me, is the all-new voice-overs for a majority of the characters. Almost every voice actor was replaced, with mixed results. Raven sounds weak, his voice doesn't inspire fear at all like it used to. The Ninja sounds totally bland. This totally tarnished a ‘solid' game for me.

Even still, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes remains a valid purchase for fans of the series and GameCube owners in general. I don't necessarily feel ripped-off purchasing the system specifically with the game in mind either, but the drastic changes to the sound and characters really disappointed me, a huge fan of the series. Either way though, I still greatly enjoyed Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes and most of the changes made to the game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/09/04

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