|Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
|A.P.I Review:||METAL GEAR SOLID|
No.1 No.2 No.3
|Game Type:||Action/Adventure||Memory Card|
|Review Date:||February 1999||Dual Shock|
Setting the Scene
It was six months ago when the Japanese first enjoyed the new experience of stealth gaming on Playstation and almost four months since the NTSC release. Finally Metal Gear Solid hit's Europe and all other PAL territories. Set in the 21st century, the player takes the part of Solid Snake whose mission is to infiltrate a terrorist base and eliminate the threat of a nuclear strike. The base has been taken over by a crack force of troops known as Foxhounds and as an ex-member of the group you are selected as the governments only chance of avoiding a nuclear holocaust.
Metal Gear Solid redefines the action/adventure genre on the PlayStation. MGS is a spy action thriller that involves covert activities and tons of weapons and communication gear. The movie-like plot puts you right in the middle of friendship, betrayal and even romance as you attempt to accomplish your military mission. Rather than using the usual shoot-em-up format of charging into the base with guns-a-blazing, Metal Solid Gear involves an element of stealth. Sneaking past the enemy guards, setting a string of explosives and 'get the hell out of there before the shit hits the fan' is the more strategic approach that is required.
As I sat patiently, waiting for the lightening to strike, the opening movie unfolded before my very eyes... Bolt of lightening??? More like the fizz from a damp firework!!! It appears that Konami have opted to use the in-game engine to create the intro for MGS, and boy does this suck! It's misty, it's grainy, it's very bluey-grey-ish... thank goodness it's fairly brief. The background design of the option screen looked as though the game had crashed so I quickly moved onto the VR Training mode. Although the characters remain true to their appearance in the actual game, these ten levels are purely for practicing your stealth and have been stripped of all detail. Each level has been designed using black boxes to create a mini-maze that sits on top of a multi-storey building. In fact if you have ever played Intelligence Cube (or Kurishi on PAL format) the memories will come flooding back. The background is also very dark but by opting for this style of graphics allows essential locations to be easily spotted, therefore you can concentrate solely on the matters in hand. After another brief video sequence your character rises from the water and then you are into the game proper. Solid Snake slips off his wet suit and you are almost ready to take control... but not before the first of many encounters with the radio screen. Here Snake receives all of his communications from the outside world. A small black and white photograph of the callers appears on each side of the screen with their mouths moving 'twelve to the dozen' as essential utterings are spoken. It's all a bit cardboard cut-out-ish, but serves a purpose. The game is viewed from several angles, but predominately the third person perspective. In fact the camera angle changes to suit your game motions. Should you wander around open areas (not recommended), then your character is viewed in a similar way to Resident Evil. Crawl into confined spaces or underneath vehicles and the view switches into the first person mode (ala Doom). Move up tight against a wall and the camera zooms up close - face on. By practicing with the joypad viewing buttons you can switch between first person and third person at will, while with careful manipulation of the shoulder buttons Snake can be motioned into peeking around corners. First impressions are good. As Snake rises from the canal the water surface ripples as the calm is disturbed. Glancing around condensation gathers on the overhead stanchions forming droplets that fall into the water creating ever-increasing circles. As he investigates the surrounding area puddles of water also ripple when walked through, while shadows are reflected across the pools in real time. The set is fairly dark and always retains that bluey-grey appearance that was so evident in those so, so screenshots. It all looks very atmospheric and very reminiscent of Resident Evil 2 and the recent adventure game, Overblood. Snake himself almost seems alive, as his breath is clearly visible in the cold air of the Antarctic. His motions are very realistic but non-more so than when he drops to the floor and crawls along the ground. His movement is incredible! He sports a bandana, combat suit and smokes a cigarette if you action him to do so. The only details that are sub standard are the characters faces and features. They are all very smudged and lack any real clarity. Once Snake moves outside into the more open areas the true brilliance of the graphics come to life. Of course it all takes place in the dark... but then which spy would try to infiltrate the enemies base during broad daylight? (James Bond - because he spent all of his nights shagging!) Realistic snowflakes fall from the heavens to eventually cover the tracks left by his footprints in the snow. Searchlights scan over wide-open areas, setting alarm bells ringing if accidentally passed through. Tanks and trucks may be boarded and plundered of goods... the list is endless. During the action scenes the explosions are a little blocky, but acceptable, while each bullet fired from the gun provides a small burst of flame from the barrel and an indentation in the wall when an enemy is missed. In summary of the visuals - imagine Resident Evil 2 and you'll get the picture.
Sounds and Effects
The combination of music and effects are remarkable. Each footstep responds with an accurate representation of the surface being passed over. Explosions and other weapon effects are loud and crisp while the guards, when alerted to your presence, call out to the other troops with a sense of urgency in their voices. However, it's those little extra touches that made a good game brilliant, and MGS has those in abundance. The gasping of breath and the shuffling of feet as you slowly strangle the life out of a guard is one instance. Another is when you are hiding in the shadows, just waiting for the guard to pass by on his regular patrol route. He drags his feet, stretches out his arms and yawns aloud with boredom. It is at this point where the realism of the whole event hits you straight between the eye's. The music is superb and adds further to the overall experience. In true movie style it flows with the action. When things heat up, the tempo rises. When calm is restored, the music soothes your wounds. It's all very John Carpenter-ish, played in a electronic style that reminded me of several of his movies: Escape From New York, Assault on Precinct 13 and They Live! It fits perfectly!
Enough of the chat... it's time to play. I would heartily recommend that before diving straight into a new game you best take the time to experience the VR Training mode. Actually, I think it would have been a much better idea had the player been forced to work through these ten short missions. They are to Metal Gear Solid what the driving licenses were to Gran Turismo. You begin with ten simple tests of your stealth ability during Training Mode. Here you must learn to sneak past a few guards without being seen and make it to a designated finish point. Sometimes you may need to patiently lie still until the patrolling guard walks past before carefully sneaking behind him unnoticed. Other times you must time a run perfectly just as the guard turns his back to either scan another direction, or simply light up a cigarette. Should you make it to the finish undetected then you will advance onto the next stage. Raise the alarm and its back to the start. On completion of Training Mode you will open up Time Attack Mode. This time you must cover the same ten missions against the clock. This seems fairly simple at first and seems to be a waste of time. However you quickly realize that extra guards have been posted and alternative routes are being patrolled. Gun Shooting Mode is the next step in your training. Armed with a standard pistol you will again retrace the same ten missions, but now you must assassinate all of the guards in the level to open up the finish point. What makes matters a little trickier is that you only have a certain number of bullets to fire... so no wild shots! These missions are also against the clock. Finally you will unveil the Survival Missions. With a total of only seven minutes on the clock Snake must complete all ten missions consecutively. This time he must kill all of the guards using the pistol, but ammo is scarce and must be stolen from the bodies of the deceased guards. The VR Training Mode is an excellent idea and, similar to Gran Turismo's License Tests, feels like you have two games for the price of one. Before entering into the 'real' game I will run through a few points concerning the control pad. First of all the Analog pad works a treat while the Dual Shock takes vibrating to a new level. Just wait until you experience the opening of the second scene. A helicopter takes off from the launch pad and the joypad starts gently vibrating in your right hand. As the 'copter passes overhead the vibrating effect follows suit while increasing in force as it reaches center point. Amazing! The control system may be configured to suite your personal taste but goes something like this: One of the face buttons is used to shoot a weapon or throw a grenade. When Snake is not armed the same button allows him to grab an enemy from behind and hold him as a human shield. By tapping the same button rhythmically Snake will begin to strangle the life out of the guard. Powerful button, that one! There is a face button that switches the view to first person perspective. Another button sets Snake into combat mode where he can throw punches and kick out at enemies. The final face button drops him to ground level so that he can crawl around and squeeze under obstacles. The shoulder buttons act as his left and right hands in which he can select and use various weapons and handy gadgets. Weapons include stun and hand grenades, rocket launchers, C4 explosives and a chaff bomb that jams the radar frequencies for several seconds. Gadgets include gas masks, rations for replenishing health, mine detectors, key cards, infra red goggles and the best of the lot... a cardboard box! Yes, you read that correctly. When all other means are exasperated Snake pulls out a large cardboard box and climbs inside. He can shuffle around the level while remaining inside the box and then play dead when a guard approaches. Comical... but ingenious! It is also useful for a quick free ride. Climb into the back of a parked vehicle, jump into the cardboard box, and then a guard will climb on board and drive you all the way back to the base. The gameplay follows a routine you will be fairly familiar with. Numerous key cards are collected which allow access to locked areas. This means there is an element or running back and forth across previously visited areas but there are so many locations that the game never gets boring. There are also several Boss characters that must be overcome before advancing onto the next stage of the game. The big plus is that they are all completely different and require a great deal of thought to defeat. However, common sense prevails and quite often the obvious - such as throwing a grenade into the turret of the Tank Boss - is the line of thought required. To aid your progress a small map is constantly on view in the upper right of the screen. This constantly highlights the position and view of the guards and security cameras. It's then a matter of timing to make your move without being detected. Should your whereabouts be revealed then an alarm is raised. There are two types of alarm. First, the screen flashes red and all hell breaks loose as guards rush towards you from their posts. You must run away and take cover until the alert drops down to the second phase, yellow. Should you remain hidden for ten seconds the guards will be called back to their posts and you continue with the game. The AI of the guards is remarkable. When wandering around open ground they can spot Snakes footprints in the snow and begin tracking him. The only way to shake them off is to grab hold of them by the throat and squeeze the life from them. You can also shoot them... but this may raise the alarm. On one occasion I had alerted the guards of my presence and quickly climbed into the back of an open truck. Unfortunately I had been spotted clambering in and a group of three guards began lobbing hand grenades into the back of the truck... Game Over! Should you die at any time, you are allowed unlimited continues which restart the game from a sensible point. This review could go on forever because there is so many fresh ideas contained within the gameplay of Metal Gear Solid. There's the 'self' guided missiles, the art of strangulation, the decision of when best to attack and when to lie low, the cardboard box... Okay, I've gone on for long enough about the good points... what about the bad. There seems to be a slight problem with the control system. Both analog and directional pad work well but when your character is pressed tight against the wall (which is essential when squeezing past security cameras) everything seems to work in reverse. The split second you move away from the wall the controls change back to normal. Now this looks mighty impressive as Snake carefully sidesteps under the scanning camera, but is a nightmare to get to grips with. This is also evident when trying to run away from alerted guards - you are often left trapped in a corner because the controls keep reversing. This may seem a small gripe, but worth mentioning because many will find this a niggling annoyance.
Value for Money
So you've seen the standard of graphics before in Resident Evil 2. What you won't have experienced before is the style of gameplay. It's new! It's refreshing! It's stealth... and I love it! Book this title now, you won't be disappointed.
feel as though I have just been on an emotional roller coaster ride. The
high expectancy of MGS's arrival. The low disappointment of the intro. A
rise in belief after playing the VR Training mode. A sudden fall when
the control pad seemed to gain a life of it's own. Thankfully it all
settled down to become a thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking
Metal Gear Solid comes on two discs and should keep the avid gamer occupied for a couple of weeks, which is about the same as Resident Evil 2. While the first disc seemed to take an age to get through, the second was conquered in half of the time. However it is jam packed with bosses that get tougher and badder as you proceed through the game. Just when you think that you have finally beaten the 'big guy' someone larger and a whole lot meaner comes along to spoil the party.
Having now completed Metal Gear Solid in it's entirety I must say that this title sits proudly among the top five experiences that I have enjoyed since the Playstation was launched back in '95. The PSX is no longer the console that can only produce graphical treasures... it now has a good looking title in which gameplay comes out firmly on top.
must say, MGS is an almost overwhelming gameplay experience. The sights,
the sounds, the plot line are all wonderfully presented in this game.
The cut scenes did a good job moving the story along, but thank God you
have the ability to skip past them because some where rather long and I
certainly had no desire to view them the second time around.
The tense atmosphere and sense of urgency the game is able to generate is downright stunning. I often found myself gripping the controller so tight my knuckles would be turning white! The voice acting on the English version of the title is some of the best I have ever heard in a game and adds to the realism of the overall mission.
Overall, while not a perfect title it definitely lives up to all of the hype and should be considered a "must buy" game this holiday season. Go frag 'em Snake!