It is weird to own a game for four years, and not actually get around to beating it. But that is one of the unspoken goals of this blog, even if it is a series that has been talked about for the past decade and a half. And after finally sitting down and experiencing it, at least its oft dismissed remake, I can certainly see why people were so attached.
Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes Review
Release Date: 09/3/2004
Developer: Silicon Knights and Konami
Alright, a bit of personal background. Back in 2008, when I self diagnosed myself with a whooping cough for reasons I can’t recall. Don’t ask. I decided that I should check out that Metal Gear “sensation” I never got to play, being the one guy to never own a Playstation in any form. So I plowed through the four main games in the form of playthroughs I found on Youtube, and fell in love with the franchise without ever playing the games. And after owning the HD collection for over a year, still unopened, I decided that I should start my quest to go through most Metal Gear games. Meaning everything but the PSP exclusives, and the original Metal Gear Solid.
If you don’t know the gist of the Metal Gear Solid storyline, you are probably younger than the first game, or just not into the medium much. But for a basic rundown, at least as far as this game is concerned, you play as retired two time savior of the free world, Solid Snake. Who, after spending a few years raising dogs. Ss sent back into action to stop terrorists that stole a secret weapon capable of launching undetectable nukes by using his brand of tactical espionage action. From there, he learns of a greater conspiracy filled with betrayal, gene manipulation, psychics, diseases, and unknown pasts. All wrapped up in what many will consider to be among the first games that managed to bring games up to the level of a movie in terms of story, a notion that makes me laugh when I actually look at it.
I can understand the originally very praise filled reaction about the game being this serious narrative leap, but I can’t help but chuckle at that. In short, the writing, presentation, and everything involved in the plot is coated with a juice of silliness. Yet, I can not think of any way I would prefer to have it. Granted, this is a remake where the main character now jumps on a missile as it is firing at him. But the original had a boss that you were told to beat by switching the controller port after he read your memory card.
While the actual lore about the world is very interesting, as are the characters involved, it is still a story about a guy who looks like an action figure stopping a giant bipedal tank. And, at least to me, that is how I determine a truly great narrative, one that is solid, no pun intended, straight faced, but can also be viewed as plain old dumb. I mean, there’s a goddamn cyborg ninja, the story would be far less compelling if a white haired russian gunslinger didn’t tell you to mash A to win. Even the action film inspired cutscenes where Solid Snake enters the matrix manage to fit in their own weird way. With the biggest complaint I have with them being how ravens can apparently eat skellingtons.
And while I could very easily just list scenes that I thought were keen either due to how they were thoughts out, or they were the best kind of cheese. I do have one fairly big problem with the narrative, that I think only exists in the remake. They spoil a plot point at least twice. With the title being a dead giveaway, and a cutscene being added to wreck a big overarching subplot for reasons that forever baffle me. And I’d be lying if I said they were not pretty big for the sucker punches the game pulls near the end.
However, I could’ve probably told you that after I rewatched a cutscene or two, but what about the gameplay? Well, it is certainly not what I expected. For the most part, the game can be viewed more as an overhead 2D stealth title, with 3D visuals, and a sometimes changing camera, with the ability to access a first person view. Where it avoids my major issue with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, by having there be next to no major reward for taking out everybody, other than how you can run freely in small controlled environments. And trying to take down foes can often be a notable task, due to how they have very good reaction time, and just need to press a button to raise the alarms, and force you to hide.
It is one of those games where you need to get in tune with the enemies, areas, and die a lot before you get a good grip on the situation. Or maybe I just suck, seeing as how I killed myself half the time an alarm was raised. Which was my fault about twice as much as it was the camera not being centered in an area. And I was having too much fun pitter pattering in a cardboard box. Murmuring the Anarchy Reigns soundtrack to make the atmosphere my bizarre version of “better”. Regardless, the majority of the game does what I think stealth games should do, make you feel like a helpless little doggie in a big world. Where you can take on one guy, maybe even two. But you need to hide when you fail to properly take a shmuck out and they sent in the chaps with riot shields.
Although, I still can’t help but feel as if the grizzled veteran Solid Snake should have slightly better aim, because going into first person to aim only feels smooth when snipping. And aiming for the overhead perspective is janky as it could be without me calling it busted. I did get used to it, but I can’t help but feel as it an over the shoulder view is just superior for aiming. But maybe that’s just showing how much of a spoiled badger I am?
Still, the game uses these mechanics in a way that seldom gets frustrating, so it is hard to hate them. With the closest points being the very memorable series of boss battles. Yes, it took me awhile to learn how grenades work to blow up a tank. And I have no clue as to how anyone is suppose to beat the first boss without exploiting a certain trick with the first person mode. But were they all fun? Yes, yes they were. Even the two encounters about sitting and waiting are things I’d gladly go through a second time.
Besides, if I wanted to complain about design, it would be how Twin Snakes is more or less a mod made it look like Metal Gear Solid, and contains mechanics that weren’t from the original game. Things like first person aiming, ledge holding, wall knocking, and even tranquilizers weren’t in the original game. But instead of working around them, the mechanics are just kinda thrown in there. With things like ledge grabbing and wall knocking being very forgettable, since I only used both twice. While the first person aiming makes taking out distant guards far easier than I’m sure the designers originally intended. Once more, they aren’t game breaking, they just make everything feel like it was placed together with paste, rather than being designed around one core.
Which sounds a bit odd, when I glance upon the presentation, namely how I think it looks pretty darn pretty. Something one might find a bit baffling, because everything looks to be made of plastic. However, there is also very little wrong with the visual presentation, with the most notable parts of the background and character models being smooth and very detailed given the technological limits of the time.
That said, this version suffers from a flaw as fatal as it would be easy to fix. There’s no way to pause the cutscenes, and they make up at least 30% of the game. Yes, the dialog is wonderful from my point of view, being wonderfully quotable at best, and necessary exposition and tutorials at its worst. While the only bad thing I can say about the performances is that Debi Mae West didn’t sound totally into her role. Which is pretty darn good for a game recorded in an apartment.
It is possible to spend hours talking about the series, and discussing the merits of each installment I know I have, and this is the first one I actually beat. But after all these years, is the first game still good, or at least an updated version of it? Which is something I could never convince myself of otherwise. The story is a very pleasing mix between serious and goofy, with a sturdy amount of polish around certain mechanics that I do find to be fairly iffy, but functional. It has a lot of unnecessary crap, and certainly shows its age. But the fact that I had to convince myself to stagger out its sequel for two weeks, is nothing but a good sign.
An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore. Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.