I have finally dived into Metal Gear Solid 4, the game that I wanted a PS3 for way back when it came out. Holly got it for me for Christmas, as part of a collection of all the Metal Gear Solid games. For one thing, I can’t believe how long it’s been since Christmas… for another thing, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to start with the series.
My first experience with the Metal Gear Solid series was Metal Gear Solid 2. Some friends and I got together when it came out and, with it set on Very Easy mode, we played through and beat it in ten and a half hours straight. It watches pretty well as a ten-and-a-half-hour movie. I went back from there and played on harder modes, and played Metal Gear Solid, but never got around to the prequel, Metal Gear Solid 3.
So play through the whole series in release order? Chronological order? Only ones I hadn’t played before? I couldn’t decide, but I knew I wanted to play 4, so I’m playing 4! I wanted to share a few thoughts from this game. Quick review: I probably made the right choice, going with an X-Box 360 for Mass Effect rather than the PS3 for Metal Gear Solid 4…
It had been so long, I had really forgotten just how convoluted the story in Metal Gear Solid is. It starts with just a little bit of science fiction: Solid Snake, the series hero and player character, is the perfect soldier – and is so because he is a clone of Big Boss, the archetype of the perfect soldier. Maybe he’s Deadpool. Anyway, he’s one of my super soldiers – ones with psychic powers, ones with awesome tech like camouflage, swords and guns and firefights!
However, things get increasingly complicated. There is an Illuminati-like group, the Patriots, who are controlling the world. So the super soldiers turn against them, but Snake stops them. This seems to be the recurring story, really. Things continue to escalate, with nuclear threats, giant mechs (Metal Gear), and finally, into Metal Gear Solid 4, nanomachines to turn any soldier into an elite soldier.
So while we maybe started from a world not too far from our own – shadowy conspiracy that could exist in our world, secret elite operatives fighting each other in remote locales… when you follow those ideas down their logical roads, you get to Metal Gear Solid 4. By this point, the science fiction has gotten ridiculous. In the first few minutes of the game, miniature Metal Gears moo at you. That is how you describe that sound. Moo, while killing people. And you, if you’re not unbelievably stealthy. Kind of trial by fire…
And Solid Snake, clone that he is, is reaching the end of his lifespan, is aging rapidly and looks and feels all old. Leaving you to wonder if he’s still the best. But that leads into the gameplay…
At their heart, the Metal Gear Solid games are stealth games. The sort where a mistake can really cost you, where patience and just sitting and watching patrol patterns and habits is rewarded, things like that. There are non-lethal takedown options, as well, for when you are dealing with targets.
They’ve made the stealth very different in this one, by adding a new element. Because war has just broken out all over, there are fights going on already where you go – fights that aren’t all about you. No longer are you the center of the universe, and, if seen, maybe you can make some friends by helping them out, or maybe you’ll just be ignored as another soldier on the field. Being actually spotted, then, ends up being really annoying, because there can be so many soldiers against you.
Because really, these sorts of fights are not the point of the game, and are by no means the best part nor the best representation of a shooter. No, the fights that the Metal Gear Solid series is known for are the boss fights. The boss design is regularly over the top. Remember those super soldiers I was mentioning earlier? Yeah, fighting the psychic Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid was one of the great experiences on the PS1: as he changed the controller layout on you, or the screen orientation, and otherwise messed with your senses.
They make the fights about more than just shooting, and they get the player involved in them in ways that are only part gimmick. I’ve only fought one of the incredibly frightening looking bosses in 4 so far, and they started with the one that seemed like one of the craziest: an octopus-themed one with camouflage, so think Doctor Octopus, only invisible, and laughing at you the whole time. She would run and hide after being hit, and hunting her down in the small, claustrophobic square building you were in was creepy. One time, they decided to wait to reveal her right up until I stared at the ceiling above me and she was there – and she grabbed me with an octopus tentacle by the neck.
Creepy. So, yeah, they hit what they were going for there.
I am definitely going to get through and beat this one. I just saw the introductory scene for Raiden, the player character from most of Metal Gear Solid 2, and he has become a Cyber Ninja. He was badass. They made a game just starring him and Cyber Ninja playstyle – I will have to check it out. Metal Gear Solid Revengeance.
One thing that I am realizing, though, by not sitting down and playing this straight through (and by playing on one of the harder difficulty levels, and not being satisfied by being spotted sometimes…), is that they reveal things really slowly and incrementally over time. You’re up against a huge conspiracy, so they give lots of time to wonder who is working for who, who is double-crossing you, who is actually with you and double-crossing them. I don’t know who’s with who right now, and probably won’t until the last moments, really.
And there’s still crazy flying bosses, puppet-master bosses, and more mooing Metal Gear. I must vanquish them all! And figure out just what the Hell is going on. Maybe.
Then I’ll have to play Metal Gear Solid 5.