Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes Updated Impressions, Part 1

We take a very close look at a near-final build of the GameCube-exclusive remake of the stealth action classic Metal Gear Solid.

We recently got our hands on a near-final build of the soon-to-be-released Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, the GameCube-exclusive remake of the 1998 classic. While the game won't ship for another month, we'll keep you informed about what to expect between now and then, and we'll be showing you plenty of new screens and movies of the game, if you care to have a look. If you're familiar with the original game, you'll see from that footage that The Twin Snakes is a pretty faithful adaptation of the original game's content. However, it features some of the gameplay mechanics of Metal Gear Solid 2, such as the ability to drag enemy bodies and shoot from a first-person perspective. The description that The Twin Snakes is "Metal Gear Solid with MGS2's gameplay" is a pretty accurate one. What, exactly, can you expect, though? Read on.

The Twin Snakes can concisely be described as Metal Gear Solid with Metal Gear Solid 2's gameplay.

Let's set the stage here, for a second. Two types of people are going to play The Twin Snakes: those who've played the original Metal Gear Solid, and those who haven't. Naturally, both types of people are in for different experiences. On the one hand, those who've played Metal Gear Solid before already know it has a deep and at times even heavy-handed storyline that combines James Bond-like superspy action and gadgetry with plenty of anime-style coolness and a big dose of cautionary wisdom. Fans of Metal Gear Solid have undoubtedly played its sequel and therefore won't be surprised by any of the core additions to the gameplay of Twin Snakes.

They'll notice things like how Snake's life meter doesn't increase after he beats the game's various bosses and how he starts bleeding when his health is low and can crouch down for a while to recover. They'll notice that you can shake down defeated enemies for a power-up or two and how you can sneak up on and hold up enemy guards and get them to relinquish their dog tags. They'll also notice that some of the game's animations and effects are lifted straight from Metal Gear Solid 2. Explosions, blood effects, and enemy death animations will look familiar.

The cutscenes are different and in some cases significantly longer now, but purists won't necessarily be thrilled by the changes.

Fans of Metal Gear Solid will also notice that all the game's cutscenes have been redone. In many cases, they're even longer than before, which is a questionable move since critics of the Metal Gear Solid games rightfully point out that the games often force you to sit back and watch more than actually play--this, for better or worse, is true of The Twin Snakes. The newly redone cutscenes are impressively choreographed in many cases. For instance, the first time Solid Snake meets up with the enigmatic cyborg ninja, the two have a little showdown that's completely new. Watching these revised cutscenes will probably be the most exciting aspect of the game for veterans of the series, though Metal Gear Solid purists may frown upon some of the changes. For example, prior to the fight with Revolver Ocelot, the first boss in the game, Ocelot now drones on even longer. The two have a standoff, then for some reason lower their weapons, and then draw once again for the fight--this arguably throws the pacing of the sequence off a bit.

Someone who has never played Metal Gear Solid before might wonder why these people don't just hurry up and shoot each other. Indeed, The Twin Snakes' pacing from a gameplay perspective is probably going to surprise even veterans of the series, who might find themselves feeling less forgiving of the extensive dialogue coupled with the relatively short gameplay sequences. Another surprise comes from seeing the codec sequences. Snake often communicates with off-site operatives via a top-secret communications device, and the dialogue here is portrayed exactly as it was on the PlayStation in 1998--using the same hand-drawn, slightly animated character portraits. It's somewhat of a jarring transition from the fully 3D graphics, though it's an interesting stylistic decision, if nothing else.

The original Metal Gear Solid and then Metal Gear Solid 2 each wowed gamers with their incredibly good graphics. It's safe to say that The Twin Snakes isn't going to have the same sort of impact. The character models look about on par with those of the 2-year-old Metal Gear Solid 2, but unlike the original PS2 version of that game, The Twin Snakes unfortunately exhibits some unsightly slowdown in its frame rate. Some of these issues have been addressed since earlier builds we've seen, but some of the frame drops are still quite apparent. Furthermore, some aliasing issues and artifacting on some of the cutscenes bring the visual quality down a bit overall. We were also a bit disappointed to find that the characters' lips don't sync up very well with the dialogue. Many games these days feature very convincing lip-synching technology, and a game with as much dialogue as The Twin Snakes could have benefited from it.

The stealth action gameplay holds up pretty well to today's standards and adapts well enough to the GameCube controller, but it's often interrupted by lengthy storyline sequences.

The gameplay itself seems to hold up pretty well and translates nicely enough to the stock GameCube controller. A few actions are initially awkward, such as having to press Start and button A simultaneously to access the codec and having to lightly tap down on the shoulder buttons to equip or unequip a weapon or item. Still, in good time these actions came naturally to us, and it was good to be able to run around in Metal Gear Solid's environments with the MGS2 moves. For instance, Snake can execute his forward roll maneuver, which can get him out of a tight spot and also knock down enemy guards.

The enemy AI also exhibits much the same behavior here as in MGS2. Guards are all still pretty nearsighted and deaf. You can stand there staring at them from about 50 feet away, and they won't see you. You can run right up behind them, and they won't hear you unless you step in a puddle or on some loud, metal grating. If you're spotted by guards or security cameras, you need only find a hiding place for a little while for any guards in the vicinity to give up the search (though they search for a longer time than in the original Metal Gear Solid--more like in MGS2). If you knock out or kill all the guards in an area, reinforcements might come in to investigate. Some of the reinforcements may be carrying riot shields, so a well-placed shot to the head will be your best bet to take them out. Aiming via the first-person view is done while holding down the Z button, and it's pretty easy to get used to.

Those who've played Metal Gear Solid 2 will be quick to notice the direct influences that game has on The Twin Snakes.

The dialogue in The Twin Snakes has been rerecorded and sounds about as good as before. Veterans of Metal Gear Solid might have trouble noticing the differences at first, but some of the dialogue is definitely new, and some of the voices are a bit different. For instance, as we've pointed out in previous coverage, Mei Ling, the operative who saves your progress for you, no longer speaks with a Chinese accent. The Twin Snakes also features some GameCube-exclusive references and Easter eggs, which fans of the first game might get a kick out of. Structurally, though, the game seems more or less identical to the first one (from what we've played so far), so don't expect a Metroid: Zero Mission-style rewriting of the original script and storyline.

We'll be back with more updates on The Twin Snakes in the days to come. Be sure to look out for our new screens and movies in the meantime, which should prepare you for what to expect from The Twin Snakes.

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