part of Metal Gear Month
Does this bring back any memories?
It does for me – watching my brother play this game, way back in the late nineties, that confused the daylights out of my little brain. It was all so mysterious, and complicated… the sounds, the images, the talking, the technique. Once when he was away, I put in the game to try to play by myself. When I actually got into it, I couldn’t bring myself to actually move my character, I was so scared to do something wrong. And that’s how my interest in Metal Gear Solid started.
Now, over decade later, I got a chance to revisit this game, and in some ways, see it for the first time. And despite this age of video-game glitz and glamor, modern technology, and pretty, high-definition special effects, I was still blown away by this 1998 game. A masterpiece will always tend to brush the idea of age right off its shoulders and continue acting as though time does not even exist. That’s what Metal Gear Solid does. Even today, this game had complete power over me.
Good direction is good direction. Movies like Citizen Kane prove it was possible for people to think outside the box, even that long ago – with a medium that was so set-in-place. Metal Gear Solid proves the same point with video games. Kojima’s direction single-handedly propels this game out of its own time, which seems to ignore the traditions of the medium. And with a story so layered and emotional, and with cutscenes shot with the care and caress of a film director, you’ll forget the dated graphics are even there – even though they are staring you in the face. The choppy and explicitly geometric character models don’t take anything away. The game is as cinematic as one could hope for.
There’s more to what causes the graphics to recede in importance: The textures, pasted on all walls and floors help bring the game to life. And all the sound effects with things as important as grenades, silenced weapons, and assault rifles are flawless. But possibly the biggest contributing factor to this game’s sustainability is its voice-acting. The Metal Gear franchise, for my money, has some of the best voice acting in video games. Sure it’s campy and melodramatic here and there, but those just help bring its lore to fruition. Every voice in this game is perfect for playing the part. It seems many aspects of this game were approached with the same finesse and particularity as would be a film – probably stemming from Kojima’s urge to be involved in making films.
So the production is adept, especially for the time. But there are other things that make this game not only great, but timeless. Three things, in fact:
The first is the game-play. I have not played every game in existence. But I think it’s rather safe to say, no game had as complex and deep gameplay during the late nineties as Metal Gear Solid. I was really surprised just how much you can do, and how freely you can do it. Environments are relatively open to exploring, inventory is there to be used in whatever combinations of ways you can think of, and the maze-like maps hammer in a sense of smallness and uncertainty – and ultimately accomplishment when you get where you are going. It’s impressive how this game-play’s enjoyability has lasted for so long.
The next thing is story. Stories are the key to an exciting game. An exciting anything, really. And this story is one of the most awesome I’ve experienced. It’s up there with Silent Hill 2 and Snake Eater. I nearly cried at a couple parts and was elated at others. The plot isn’t just compelling, but it’s timeless and epic… I find it so important that players of this game not only enjoy the action, but enjoy the story. With Kojima, it’s at least half the motive, so put your time in. That means listening to all those little conversations. They may not add an important detail, but they add to the themes and feelings of what Metal Gear is.
The final thing is ambiance. The thought of a PS1 game having an ambiance so full and rich that you can nearly smell it just seems so silly. It seems like the capabilities of the console’s graphic output could never produce such a thing, as they visuals would constantly remind us of the non-reality of it all. But for me, Metal Gear Solid miraculously evades this with such simple, thoughtful means. It’s in the blueness of the Shadow Moses exterior. It’s in the quietness of the snowfall. It’s in the echo and reverb of areas. It’s in the sound of the wind. It’s in the cold steel interior of the facility. It’s in the hum of mechanical operations in the distance. And, of course, it’s in the music, with ambient tones and sorrowful, elegant melodies, that the air in this game becomes so palpable. I’ve never experienced any game this old that felt so full of heart.
That would be the heart of Hideo Kojima, the game’s creator. It’s easy to tell, with this game, just how passion was utilized.
More than anything, what makes this game great, is an almost indescribable sense telling me that it is simply THE Metal Gear game. No others in the franchise are AS perfect, and AS ahead of their time. The music, script, and characters are balanced better than in any other Metal Gear, and the game-play is just so damn solid. It’s a must-play for every enthusiast of single-player games.
My rating of 1998’s Metal Gear Solid for Playstation is…