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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Review: Metal Gear Solid

Current mood: Dismissive, itchy

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Warning: If you're looking for a serious critique of the game and its pros and cons then you're almost certainly in the wrong place. If, however, you're looking for a sweary, pedantic and (let's forget humility here for a second) hilarious look at the game then my God, you're in luck!

The good thing about doing this for fun as opposed to as a job is that I get to choose what game/film/event/sexual encounter I get to write about (you better believe that will happen at some point,) the downside of course is that I have to rely on my backbreaking job of asking my parents for money and playing online poker for my income, I'm gonna go listen to Linkin Park!
So I'm going to talk about one of my favourite, and probably most peoples favourite, PS1 games of all time: Metal Gear Solid. Now, this may not be as much of a review as it will be a Let's Play for the lazy and camera shy, I will of course offer up pedantic criticism throughout but I might as well say now that, despite its many faults, I chuffing love this game. 

The premise alone sounds exciting enough, one completely unarmed and sleepy man is sent to an island exclusively populated with genetically engineered super soldiers and a hand-picked team of elite uber-freaks to deal with a terrorist threat. Now, hardly the most realistic plot, I have to say, if I'd have been the hilariously named "Solid Snake," I'd have told the Colonel to stop being silly and gone back to bed but stay with them, this is going somewhere. Snake is fired out of a submarine like a giant militarised turd and his mission begins.

Snake miraculously sneaks his way past a handful of seemingly cataracts-inflicted guards, as even in extremely well lit rooms then can only manage to see 3 fucking feet in front of them. At least in other stealth games it's dark most of the time, MGS seems to have the attitude of "Meh, fuck it!" but again, stay with them, and finds himself inside the complex. We are introduced to the baddie of the game, a skinny effiminate long haired British man called Liquid (okay, seriously? Did no-one at Konami snigger even once at these names!?) Snake who appears to be about as menacing as a Creme Egg, and Snake's support team. Mei Ling, the token ethnic character of the game who doesn't think her hilarious accent does enough to convince us of Konami's policy of racial equality so proceeds to bombard us with Chinese proverbs at every save in case we forget she's not from fucking Essex, Naomi and Colonel, characters not really interesting enough to dwell on at this or any point, and "Master Miller," a skinny effiminate long haired man trying desperately to hide his British accent, take a wild stab which one turns out to be the bad guy!

We meet Snake's mission objectives, a frail old man and a little black guy, both of whom he has been sent in to save. Now, in any other game I would question how he planned to get two unarmed men out of a heavily guarded fortress but Snake's shown us that it's very much possible so I'll let it go. Anyway, both of them die after massive expository cutscenes, something which you'll have to learn to deal with more and more as the game goes on if you don't want the experience to be over in 20 minutes. We meet one of the big baddies, suitably named Revolver Ocelot, who looks a bit like a grandad decided he wanted to impress his grandchildren with a game of cowboys and just went a bit too far with the whole thing, and the obligatory piece of arse for this game, Meryl.

I guess a few levels and one and a half boss fights in is as good a place as any to talk about the gameplay. We control Snake from a 3rd person 
perspective with the camera above and behind him, which works fairly well as we get a good view of any given area, and we're also given a radar, which I pretty much can't play these games without (which is probably why Snake Eater is my least favourite of the series.) Melee combat is decent enough, you kick, punch, choke and swing the enemies around in a very functional if not massively exciting way, but the gunplay is a bit of a nuisance. Using pretty much any of your weapons will cause an instant alert, which apart from being greatly realistic increases the emphasis on stealth. Hell, even when you do get a silenced handgun, aiming it from a 3rd person perspective is about as reliable as asking your nan to look up the £/$ exchange rate on an iPhone, a problem which was, for better or worse, fixed in later games but for now, the shooting takes a back seat to hiding your arse and hoping no-one sniffs you out, which you'd better do as even on the lower difficulties you'll last about as long in a firefight as a carton of Ben and Jerry's would in the Loose Women audience. And of course, you get to use a cardboard box to hide in, an entertaining and unique but massively-realism-undermining tool that has saved my arse on more than one occasion, try it out!

Anyway, Snake is forced to crawl through a wall of lasers the way anyone reading this would do it, slowly, clumsily, on his stomach (I'm looking at you, RE4!) and with a cigarette in his mouth, as cigarettes reveal lasers, conveniently, and is placed into a one-on-one deathmatch with an army tank in a minefield. My God they just won't give him a seconds rest, will they? You'd think sending a tank to kill one man is a bit unfair but luckily the terrorists realised this as well so they sent the Chuckle Brothers to operate it and as such Snake manages to blow it up in about a minute flat (for me, anyway) and enter the next bit of building.

After arsing around with missiles for a bit we walk into a corridor full of guards being sliced into pieces. The boring pedant in me would ask why one corridor seems to have 15 heavily armed men guarding precisely nothing and the heliport has 3 guys, one of whom is asleep right next to one of the major entrances to the entire fucking complex, but the child in me says HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THE BLOOD! Snake fights a ninja (you read that right) in an office, which needs to happen more often, I know I couldn't survive office work without the odd punch up, and we get the piss poor (see what I did there?) attempt at comic relief from inevitable-future-best-friend-man Otacon, who talks about robots for a bit before Meryl calls and Snake leaves breathing a sigh of relief. Next is possibly the only segment of a game ever which *requires* checking out another characters arse as opposed to it just being an optional boredom killer for immature horny teenagers, and a chance to see some extremely pixelated bra and knickers action if you're 
quick and depraved enough.

The Psycho Mantis boss fight is probably my most loved and hated segment in gaming. Loved because of its innovation, Mantis reading your Memory Card and moving your controller, despite being slightly gimmicky now, was an impressive feat back in the day, and the controller switching, despite making me get up while playing a game, the equivalent of having the McDonalds queue on a treadmill, was pretty immersive and unique. However, I'm not keen on it because the difference between a 2 minute beatdown and a 4 hour trail-and-error-rageathon is visiting one seemingly insignificant room early on. If you didn't pick up the Thermal Goggles in the Tank Hangar (!) then strap yourself in for the long haul, boys, as Mantis becomes invisible half way through, which wasn't a problem when the Ninja did it as he had that flashing-Hindu lady-spot on his head, but here he's just invisible. Oh well, on we go!

After being attacked by wolves and watching Meryl remain oblivious to the fact that landmines don't explode and leave you in a persistent vegitative state if you crawl over them, we meet the next boss, Sniper Wolf. Possibly the most infuriating segment of the game takes place here, as we're told that our puny weaponry won't reach Wolf, so we need to go all the way back to the fucking Armory to get a sniper rifle. Now if you look up "Massively Obvious Game-Lengthening Tool" in the dictionary, firstly you're autistic, and secondly, you'll see me drearily returning to pretty much the start of the game crawling through lasers that even that woman from the Resident Evil films couldn't squeeze herself through to collect a sniper rifle. We return to Wolf and a mediocre boss fight ensues, after which the guards finally decide to stop being Snake's whipping bitch and stand up for themselves by capturing him. An optional quicktime torture sequence ensues which determines your ending and bonus item on the next playthrough, which I usually skip as I like the skippy ending and the current state of my thumbs. Anyway, Snake escapes through a variety of potential means, some more believeable than others but I won't spoil it, and goes along his merry way.

We're forced yet again to travel all the way back to the large sniper corridor and this time we're allowed to move past it to either the most thrilling or infuriating section of the game, depending on your current health and ammunition supply, the Communications Tower, in which you're forced to climb 4000 flights of stairs while fending off legions of generic baddies. After somehow avoiding Liquid's gunship fire while absailing (yes, really!) and picking up the incredibly conveniently placed missile launcher, Snake enters the second tower and tries to leave when he is thwarted by one broken stair! In the words of Seto Kaiba: "Curses, foiled again!" Now, for a man who single handedly made his way into a heavily guarded fortress unarmed and took out a tank with his bare fucking hands, you'd think a broken stair would be a minor inconvenience at worst but no, this is just a bit more than our hero can handle so he proceeds to climb the tower and take out a military aircraft with a manually aimed weapon in a pissing snowstorm, because apparently that's easier than just jumping a bit.

Continuing the trend of "shit that just would not happen in real life," Snake is surrounded by 4 invisible men in an elevator, but of course instead of the 4 on 1 gangrape that would almost certainly take place IRL, Snake kills them all and heads off for yet another Sniper Wolf battle, this one made much easier by the fact that she's on the same level as you and your remote controlled missiles make this fight about as fair as telling Katie Price that you'll kill her children if she doesn't stop being a carrot faced attention grabbing slag! After attempting to make me feel sympathy yet again for someone I only met about an hour ago and who has been characterised as evil until this point, (something which the two sequels luckily avoid but GOTP falls victim disastrously) we take a quick detour through a blast furnance and some samey elevators, where one can amuse their petty little mind by killing crows if one so wishes, and we meet Vulcan Raven, a brick shithouse of a man who for some bizarre reason can take as many surface-to-air missiles as Liquid's Hind but this is not the most realistic of games as you've probably gathered so moving on!

After a fairly decent boss fight we finally get to see the immense and just cool Metal Gear REX, the all-walkin', all-shootin', all-missile-launchin' deathmobile itself, and it does look impressive, it did back then and it still does now. One quick rat shooting detour (something which is crying out for some kind of mini-game) later and we're given our next game-lengthening task, run back and forth to different locations to warm and cool a card key. Now luckily Twin Snakes removed much of the annoyance at this point, as it did with the whole sniper rifle fiasco, but for now it's time to lie back, think of England and accept the games' massive cock of pointlessness and get that card key morphed.

After the banality of warping the card key back and forth, the cutscenes begin and, besides one really obvious twist, we're treated to some excellent story telling and plot twists which culminates in the Big Boss (teehee!) fight. I'm a little incredulous here, we've spent the whole game trying to stop this thing from going active and earlier cutscenes between Liquid and Ocelot characterise this thing as some kind of world-conquering death machine, but there's no job too big for Solid Snake who thinks "Eh, why not!" and proceeds to rape it to death.

About 7 hours of cutscenes begin here with Snake and Liquid discussing war, their father, their creation and their favourite member of Westlife, which of course ends in a big shirtless homoerotic punch-up with Liqiud seemingly falling to his death and Snake escaping with one of your support characters in a conveniently placed jeep with a conveniently placed automatic weapon on the top. As if you couldn't guess this might happen, Liquid is alive (shockhorrorargh!) and gives chase, taking an incredible amount of bullets to the face for a man who's been shot out of the sky and dropped 100 feet on his arse but, despite what its constant uninteractive cutsceneage would have us believe, it is a game and not a film so we'll let little details like that slide for now. Anyway, after the menace of a 5 foot walk finally does what masses of advanced weaponry failed to do in killing off Liquid, Snake rides off into the distance with whichever support character survives with you and the whole thing comes to a luvvy-duvvy ending, offering a nice sense of calm closure to the spunk-worthy explosive goodness that came before it.

Overall: Classic.

Okay then... It does require some suspension of disbelief throughout but the action is stellar, the story is well paced, entertaining and deals with genuine issues in a way that doesn't want to make me puke my eyes out like the sequel does and it's all round a wonderful experience. Fuck the dolphins, *this* is the experience you need to have at least once before you die!
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