Review by kristina kim

Reviewed: 10/01/04

Far from the best, and certainly not deserving of a second look.

Metal Gear Solid was, along with many other games released for the Playstation, hailed as one of the greatest games of all time, sold in record numbers, and amassed a huge, devoted, and somewhat misguided fan following. Yet MGS, along with other PSone releases, is a grossly overrated and over appreciated game, with flaws that are so glaring masked by a cover of aesthetic beauty that it makes you wonder why no one has realized just how average the first game was, let alone why a remake would be justified.

It’s obvious that in light of the horrendous backlash against the plot and characters of Metal Gear Solid 2 that Konami wanted to placate gamers with a genuine next-generation Metal Gear Solid experience by combining the successful – yet equally flawed – narrative of the original with the expanded gameplay features of the sequel. But you have to wonder when a highly touted remake consists of little more than applying new gameplay features that are largely incongruent and sometimes self-defeating, while at the same time enhancing the flaws which limited the greatness of the original.

Graphically, TS is a disappointment. The original MGS also featured graphics which for it’s day were a triumph, and still have lasting power even to this day. MGS2 featured some of the best graphics featured on the Playstation 2, a feat which to this day has still been unmatched. For a system that is supposedly superior in design and graphical prowess, there’s no reason why TS shouldn’t go above and beyond anything we’ve seen in a previous MGS. Not that the graphics are bad, mind you, but there are moments that make you question the talent of the developers and if it’s nothing more than a poorly constructed reversed-engineered engine of MGS2. The environments from the first game remain faithfully intact, but were designed with very little intricacy due to the limitations of the PSone. Polygons are much sharper this time around, but they’re not particularly detailed nor do they lend themselves to being any more attractive than before. The monochromatic and austere look has largely been preserved. Environmental effects are still here, though not as impressive as before and add little to the atmosphere of the game. The character models feel small and poorly detailed, without the high texture detail that the sequel offered. To be frank, it’s not much more than a higher-resolution version of the original’s graphics engine, with inexcusable moments of slowdown.

The audio aspect of the game is also somewhat of a letdown. All the same voice work returns, save for some new dialogue, and it’s just as great as it was before. If there is one reason to praise the game it would be for it’s high-quality voice work. However, most of the music in the game was altered or removed, puzzling since it was one of the most fantastic scores to be found in any modern video game. Some droplets of the award-winning theme from MGS2 are peppered here and there, but for the most part the game doesn’t have the same level of quality orchestration that wowed audiences before.

For those unfamiliar with the Metal Gear series – no matter how small of a number you may be, it’s an interesting and esoteric take on the action game scene. Guards and cameras only have a limited viewing space in front of them, and you’re equipped with a radar that allows you to see the limitations of their vision. It’s an absurd concept, but it keeps the game playable and challenging, mixing the right blend of realism and fantasy. Instead of charging into battle guns blazing, it’s your goal to sneak by enemies and surveillance undetected. There are many methods by which you can accomplish this, but mostly it boils down to you staying out of sight and hiding behind conveniently stacked boxes. You can also distract guards by tapping on walls, leaving a porno mag lying on the floor, and even throwing your used magazine cartridges. Guards can be dispatched in a number of different ways, by using a silenced pistol, a tranquilizer gun, or even strangling them from behind. However, guards must give regular reports – if you happen to dispatch of one, his superiors will wonder what happened to him and send and investigation.

For the most part though, you’ll want to avoid confrontation, because the game is very unforgiving when it comes to being discovered. That’s when the big guns are called in with heavy weaponry and body armor. Unless strictly called for, it’s useless to fight the enemies as in most cases they’ll outnumber you, and the confined environments give little room to run. That’s not to say that you’re not completely defenseless, but for the most part you’ll want to stay out of sight.

One of the main selling points of the Twin Snakes is for having the awesome gameplay possibilities of the sequel, grafted onto the first game. You can shoot from the first-person perspective, hang off ledges, hide in lockers, shoot fire extinguishers, and more. All the moves from MGS2 are here, but you’ll never really need them, because they weren’t designed for this game. In fact, they almost make the game too easy. The first-person shooting allows you to dispatch enemies that were once threatening with extreme ease, as well as allowing you to dispose of a particular boss with little effort. The stealth gameplay that was challenging in the first game and expanded in the second can be almost completely circumvented in this game. In the original, you could never kill or tranquilize enemies that were on the other side of a room, outside of the overhead screen view. While guards possess the AI of the sequel, it doesn’t change the way you’ll play the game. Security cameras too, pose little to no threat now that they can be disabled from afar. The more open-ended possibilities of MGS2 are also present, but they’re not really necessary as said before, and most of the really imaginative feats that you could perform were only useful in very specific contexts.

Indeed, the majority of the game works out almost exactly as it did before. You can use pretty much the same techniques and tricks from the first game to get by, without little effort if it’s still fresh in your memory. The individual rooms have the same guard patterns as before, and the same routes around them also work again this time. The developers didn’t put any new gameplay surprises into this game for those that finished the original.

But you have to consider the wisdom of this remake when the first game carried so many gameplay flaws in the first place. The game feels less like a cohesive experience than a string of really cool moments that you play in-between watching cutscenes. Most of the cool weapons and items, such as the missile launcher, are only good to use once or twice in the entire game, and aren’t necessary to conquer the game unless you’re feeling particularly masochistic towards the guards. Many of the most entertaining gameplay features are almost totally context-specific to flow with the story, such as rappelling down the side of the building and manning a Jeep’s machine gun. Along the way, you learn and develop skills that you’ll only ever need once, and never use again. It’s frustrating because it seems as soon as you’ve mastered one technique it’s rendered useless and you’re busy grappling with a new one to learn.

It was more about the technical limitations of the PSone which determined the majority of the environments and gameplay scenarios. There’s a bit of frustration when you find that, midway into the game you’ve hit a brick wall and there’s almost no more new progression, the game attempts to artificially extend itself by throwing in needless backtracking scenarios. It’s disappointing to see that this hasn’t been remedied, nor have any new areas been created.

What has been drastically altered, though not necessarily for the better, is the enormity of non-interactive cutscenes and Codec dialogues. Anyone familiar with the Metal Gear Solid series will know that the vast majority of the game was spent watching long dramatic interludes in-between actually playing. Yet despite how many cutscenes populated the first game, there are even more this time around. The Codec scenes involve watching two heads talking to each other. The majority of Codec dialogues remain almost totally faithful to the original, using the same voices as well as maintaining the animated facial expressions as opposed to polygonal ones. The cutscenes have been almost totally retooled, however. Much of the same dialogue returns, but new revelations abound, as well various scenarios working themselves out differently than before. But it’s really nothing that anyone who has played the game before has not seen or heard. There are various new plot points that are drawn out, as well as some ambiguities made startingly lucid, such as the fate of DARPA Chief Donald Anderson, but for the most part, it’s all the same, only with different camera angles and prettier graphics.

For those that defend the Metal Gear Solid games by touting them as interactive movies, most players should immediately recognize that most movies don’t require you to commit 10-12 hours of your time. There’s more dialogue and cinemas to be found here than in most RPGs, but the game is sorely lacking in length. If anything, there’s simply not enough actual game to it – skipping all the Codecs and cutscenes will reduce the game’s length to a paltry 2 or 3 hours. Most of the cinemas are simply too long to be watched again while playing, and most players will skip them even the second time through. Hailed as “the ultimate rental”, indeed this title is very befitting, as it’s too short to have any value and length to consider purchasing it.

If indeed this game was made for those who haven’t played the original, however small of a number they may be, it really boils down to the majority of the appeal belonging to them. Metal Gear Solid was not, however, a small title that was ignored on the shelves and quietly slipped under the radar. It was a huge blockbuster, one of the seminal titles of the PSone that was hailed for it’s sheer popularity and greatness. You won’t find another game – or series - like it. But for those that have already given it a go, there’s scarcely little to offer. Nothing you haven’t seen or didn’t figure out for yourself is here. You may even find yourself relentlessly skipping the many cutscenes and dialogues, because it’s nothing new, it’s nothing special to you. But when you factor in that all that’s left is a few hours of gameplay that’s really no different than it was before save that for now it affords you luxuries that you lacked once before that negate any value the game had in the first place, you really have to question the value of giving Twin Snakes any consideration. It would have been wise of Konami to instead remake or at least port the first two Metal Gear games, one of which was never seen in the United States, rather than re-release a prettier version of a game that’s still young enough to be fresh in everyone’s memory and was never lacking in the graphics department in the first place.

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

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