Hall Of Fame: Metal Gear Solid
Welcome to the first edition of a new feature here at GodisaGeek, the Hall of Fame. Once a month we will be taking a look at a game that the team feels is one of the greatest games of all time, and sharing our adoration for the title.
This month, members of the GodisaGeek team will be waxing lyrical about Metal Gear Solid, telling you why they love it so deeply, and why it has the very special honour of being the inaugural entry to the GodisaGeek Hall of Fame.
Martin Baker: When I first got a PlayStation in 1998, a few years after it came out, one of the games that I’d continuously heard about was Metal Gear Solid. I knew I had to have it. In my mind there was no question about it. I had no idea at all what I was letting myself into but all I knew was that I needed to play it. At that point nobody could have seen what the franchise was about to launch into, as far as everybody was concerned it was a new game on the market that was interesting. Nothing more.
When I finally got the game, returned home and booted up the PlayStation, I was ready to be blown away. That wasn’t the case. I was bored within the first 10 minutes. This wasn’t the game that I’d been looking forward to, and I started questioning the magazines I’d read. They’d promised me a game that I wouldn’t be able to put down, something that was cinematic in scope and execution. So why then was I staring at a codex communication for a good 15 minutes, where was the cinematic experience? Forget that, where was the game?
I was disheartened to say the least. I’d spent what little money I’d saved up to buy this game and I was already bored.
I worked past it though, and to this day I’m glad I did. While Metal Gear Solid doesn’t have the best start it could have possibly gotten, the rest of the game is amazing. We’re talking about 1998 here. A time when games didn’t really do much in the form of storytelling, and here was a new game telling a story as well as any film could have hoped to have done. More than that though, I was involved, I was the one making the decisions, I decided whether Solid Snake would stick close to a wall and knock on it to lure an enemy out or just hide in a box and wait for him to pass. I was the one that figured out that by smoking a cigarette I would be able to see the laser beams that I’d have to avoid in order to get out of the bunker. I was making the decisions. I was Solid Snake.
To this day I keep my PlayStation around just so that I can play Metal Gear Solid, and from time to time I’ll dust it off, plug that scart lead (!) into the back of my TV and be transported back in time. Metal Gear Solid isn’t the best game in the world, at least in my opinion, but it was pivotal in changing the face of games as we knew them. From that moment on we would more often see game with a story reminiscent of films, heartfelt story lines, emotional characters and an engaging plot. There are many games which deserve a place in the God is a Geek Hall of Fame, Metal Gear Solid is certainly one of them.
SNAKE? SNAKE! SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!!
Mark Bridle: Whenever I think about Metal Gear Solid, I think about this quote referring to Will Ferrel: “It doesn’t matter how bad the script, he totally commits to it and he makes it funny”.
Metal Gear is the same in my book. If you half arse the presentation of that story people will just disregard it as nonsense. You have to commit and make the world real. That is the true genius of Metal Gear.
Metal Gear Solid works because of its commitment. If I were to spin you a yarn about how arguably the best and most influential game of its generation was about an enhanced clone soldier called (yikes) Solid Snake, battling his evil brother, who himself was disguised as Snake’s old friend, fighting to defeat another group of super soldiers, one of whom is psychic, another a foxy sniper, another a spiritualist native american who seems to be able to speak to birds…all of whom have commandeered a giant walking battle tank with a nuclear missile launcher for a right arm (deep breath) then you would tell me that a) computer games are stupid and b) that I’m stupid.
I’m not stupid. Well, at the very least I’m not wrong about this. For all the humorous touches in Hideo Kojima’s best game (yeah, I said it) he tells the story of Snake and Shadow Moses Island with complete conviction and a totally straight face. By really committing to the telling of his story, and getting a very talented voice cast to do the same, he offers the player a world that they can get invested in too. From the unsettling duel against Psycho Mantis, Otacon’s unrequited affection for the sniper called Wolf and the fist-clenching scene with Metal Gear Rex crushing Grey Fox, Snake unable to pull the trigger on an old friend, the player is dragged through the game by the lapels of their sneaking suit.
In many ways, the fact that this game managed to provide innovative gameplay, stunning graphics, multiple routes and solutions to problems, a varied arsenal of weapons, exciting boss fights, a rousing and memorable score, enthralling cutscenes and wildly unique set-pieces is secondary to Kojima’s crowning achievement: he created a videogame comic book world. An insanely elaborate setting, unlikely characters and convoluted narrative that, like the best comic books, are saved by the desire to tell an entertaining tale and make the characters, however wacky, deep and motivated and part of the universe they inhabit. He is also committed to entertaining the player and making sure that every step is fun, new and interesting.
With all the games that were inspired by stealth gameplay it is funny that so few ever managed to capture the simple message Metal Gear Solid did; it doesn’t matter what story you tell, just make sure you commit your heart and soul to it. Kojima did.
Robin Parker: Being the third game in a little-known trilogy, industry expectations were low during the development of Metal Gear Solid. It is a testament to the quality of the game that despite this, the game went on to sell over six million copies, becoming one of the most successful PlayStation games ever released, single-handedly made the stealth action genre popular, and remains one of the highest rated titles on Metacritic, thirteen years after its release. It has spawned a series of sequels, prequels and spin-off titles, and its characters, features and music are iconic within the games industry.
The influence that the game has had on other titles and game designers is massive. Metal Gear Solid showed that a game could be truly cinematic, whilst steering well clear of becoming an interactive movie. It also gave players choices regarding how they play the game. It could be played as a stealth adventure, or a guns blazing action title. The game was rewarding in both cases, but played as it was intended – as a sneaking mission – the game introduced a whole host of ideas which have since become ingrained in gaming folklore. In any other game, when they see a large cardboard box, some gamers can’t help but think of Solid Snake hiding inside, or picturing a large white exclamation mark over the head of a soldier when they look startled. It is some of these comic moments that gave the game real heart, but it is the strong storyline and character development that keeps fans coming back to the series again and again.
Terry Lucy: For me, the release of Metal Gear Solid in 1998 when I was a mere 11 years old signalled the turning point in my gaming life. No more cute and cuddly games. No more cheating on Track and Field with a tea spoon, for I was now Solid Snake, the most skilled saboteur known to man, and it was up to me to put an end to the terrorist threat. As an eleven year old, that is kind of where the plot ended. It wasn’t about the fantastic direction from Hideo Kojima, neither was it the breathtaking cut scenes that I enjoyed so much more in my early teens. It was the sheer joy of playing a game that was challenging to its very core and as polished as anything I’d ever seen on a games console at the time.
Metal Gear Solid isn’t the easiest game to play at 22 years of age, let alone 11. But that didn’t matter. I probably spent way over 40 hours completing the original Metal Gear Solid, and no matter how frustrating it got, I carried on. Why? Because I knew I was witnessing something special. Every single cut scene and every single move I made left me barely blinking because I didn’t want to miss a thing. That feeling didn’t really come back in its entirety for me for at least another 9 years of playing video games.
Tony Windebank: When Metal Gear Solid was first released, I remember looking at the front cover thinking “This looks a bit rubbish! It’s probably going to play as bad”. How wrong I was, because little did I know that this would be the start of an obsession. When any other Metal Gear game came out from then on I had to have it, even if I had to buy a new console! (Metal Gear Solid 4 being the most expensive culprit!).
In my opinion, Metal Gear Solid is one of the most outstanding, enjoyable, and brilliant games I have ever played. The storyline was fantastic with loads of cut-scenes, ensuring that you were never left wondering what the hell was going on, but keeping you guessing at the same time, and containing a catchy soundtrack that encapsulated the game in its perfectly.
The gameplay was amazing for me as I had never really played anything like it before, and if you didn’t feel like a stealthy secret agent bad ass whilst playing it then there must be something wrong with you! There was almost always more than one way to infiltrate an area and I remember many playthrough’s trying to find them all, as well as finding all of the secret items and little snippets with the camera that made the whole experience enthralling. Never once did it let you think that you had found everything, because there was always some little detail or secret that just put a massive smile on my face when I found them.
Whenever I get the urge to go old school, this is usually the first game I think of to go back to, and with it being available now on the PlayStation Network I may get it again. Metal Gear Solid is a worthy entrant to the Hall of Fame and I am very happy that it was the first choice on almost everyone’s list. Let’s hope there will be more stories involving Solid Snake (not Raiden) in the future. In the meantime, as someone has already (I’m sure) coined the famous catchphrase I will simply shout out…
The GodisaGeek Hall of Fame will return next month!