While Xbox fans don’t like to admit it, gaming history didn’t start with Halo in 2001. Nor did it begin in 1998 with the release of Metal Gear Solid – granted, although, it was Hideo Kojima’s Hollywood-style Playstation debut that showed the world video games could be suitable for more than adolescent teenagers and computer geeks.
Solid Snake infiltrates a top secret research facility on Shadow Moses island to prevent an elite special forces unit who plan to launch a nuclear strike, should their demands not be met. So far, so cliched, but what soon sets Metal Gear Solid apart is the unexpected plot twists that are fed through the narrative with alarming regularity.
This is not least due to the enthusiastic vigor with which the games actors spew their lines. Bad acting is something commonly associated with even the most fondly remembered classics of the gaming industry (hello, Resident Evil), but Metal Gear Solid did, for its time, provide better voice acting than anything else on the market.
It also provided the most quirky game play innovations found in its generation. The best example of Kojima’s creative prompts to his players can be found during the fourth boss battle with Psycho Mantis, a character with the ability to read every action you make, meaning he’s impossible to catch or hit. How do you beat him? Move your controller into port 2, confusing him in the process and giving you time to fight back. Few games since have displayed such originality, and the Mantis fight remains one of the most memorable boss battles ever put together.
Admittedly, not all aspects have aged well, visually or aurally, and in comparison with modern day games it’s hard not to find the relatively basic attempts at interaction between Snake and his companions a little humorous. On first play-through, I couldn’t understand why the characters didn’t seem to have eyes, and the equal lack of a mouth meant the developers had to link words with head movements to visualise conversation. Little did my nine year old self know that it was due to the space taken up on the disc with other things, like an expansive plot and incredibly detailed environment.
Look at it by today’s standards and it arguably doesn’t stand the test of time when put next to current generation releases of the action/adventure genre. Yet, those very same games arguably wouldn’t exist, if not for the impact that Kojima’s title had on future releases. It didn’t just resemble Hollywood; in most aspects it outdid Hollywood. It did cinema better than most films did cinema. This is why it remains an essential part of every video game collection, despite dots for eyes and jittering heads while the characters traversed at breakneck speed.
Metal Gear Solid 2, 3 and Peace Walker are due for HD re-release on February 3rd for PS3 and Xbox 360.