Systems: PlayStation (released September 1998), PC (released September 2000)
This is, of course, the big one. Perhaps one of the most anticipated and most hyped games in history, Metal Gear Solid took what was really a niche franchise and turned it into a gaming household name. After its debut at the 1997 E3 show in Atlanta, MGS was the talk of the game industry. It became known for its stylish, movie-like presentation and the stealth-oriented gameplay that had made its prequels so interesting.
MGS upped the ante over its predecessors in almost every aspect of its production. Unlike some developers who compromised gameplay in favor of glitz when they received the benefits of CD-ROM storage, Kojima remained true to his original vision for Metal Gear, using the power of the PlayStation to finally realize the game he'd obviously wanted to make on less capable systems. From the first title, A Hideo Kojima Game, to the movie-like introduction and opening credits that roll while you're playing, all the way to the end of the game, Metal Gear Solid defined the term "interactive movie." Forget the old FMV-based schlockfests that first claimed that title; this is the right way to conduct narrative through video games.
Metal Gear Solid for the PC shipped two years after Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation, and besides upping the graphics ante to better suit the PC's capabilities over the PlayStation, MGS for the PC was actually a conversion of Metal Gear Solid Integral, an enhanced version of Metal Gear Solid that included extra VR missions and training levels, and was released on the PlayStation in 1999.
An attempt to detail Metal Gear Solid's story would only do the game an injustice, and at the same time those who haven't experienced it should do so without foreknowledge, so we'll stick to a summary of the more outstanding parts. If you really feel compelled to know what happens, keep reading.
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The peace foretold by Metal Gear 2 never came to pass, and by 2010, nuclear deployment was again in full swing. A United States military installation on Alaska's Shadow Moses Island, while playing host to a series of tests involving a new secret weapon, was hijacked by a group of terrorists. Interestingly, the group was led by renegade agents of Fox Hound, Solid Snake's old unit. Important government and corporate officials were on hand to observe the tests, and they were taken hostage. The terrorists' demands were simple, if a bit puzzling: They wanted the remains of Big Boss within 24 hours, or a nuclear warhead would be launched. Former Fox Hound commander Roy Campbell calls on Solid Snake to infiltrate the base, rescue the hostages, and disable the terrorists' nuclear capability.
Snake was shocked to find out that the leader of the insurgence is Liquid Snake, an agent with the same codename as him and almost identical physical features. Joining Liquid was a group of Fox Hound's top agents, such as gunslinging torture specialist Revolver Ocelot and perceptive powerhouse Psycho Mantis. Vulcan Raven, Sniper Wolf, and Decoy Octopus rounded out the crew. Liquid Snake also commanded a legion of genome soldiers, troops whose genes had been conditioned to increase their physical attributes. In light of this capability to manipulate genes, the terrorists' demand for the remains of Big Boss, the "legendary soldier," became understandable.
Snake successfully breached the base's security and found the hostages, and from them he learned that the tests being conducted on the island were for a new model of Metal Gear, called Rex. Snake's mission then became one of search and destroy. En route to Metal Gear, he encountered a number of interesting figures, including Meryl Silverburgh, niece of Roy Campbell and inexperienced soldier, and Hal Emmerich, aka Otacon, the lead scientist on the Metal Gear Rex project. Snake and the terrorists were also stalked by a mysterious cyborg ninja who was later revealed to be the previously deceased Grey Fox.
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After defeating all of the Fox Hound agents (except Revolver Ocelot, who escaped), Snake destroyed Rex. Liquid Snake then confronted him and revealed a terrible secret about their lineage. Both of them were genetic experiments, born of the "Les Enfants Terribles" (the terrible children) project in a laboratory and crafted by scientists from the genetic material of Big Boss, known as the perfect soldier. Despite his emotions to the contrary, Solid Snake exists solely to fight. After a narrow escape and the apparent death of Liquid, Snake and Meryl rode off once again into the sunset.
After the credits roll, we hear a brief transmission from the sole Fox Hound escapee Revolver Ocelot to, of all people, the president of the United States. It appears that Ocelot was a double agent the whole time, and even more shockingly, that Solidus, the president, was a third product of Les Enfants Terribles. What this portends for Solid Snake's future remains to be seen, but you can bet that it's not good.
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There you have it, but there's really a lot more to the story than this. Just go play it already.
Metal Gear Solid didn't introduce a ton of new features to the classic Metal Gear model - it's pretty obvious that Hideo Kojima had the general gameplay rules ironed out from the very beginning. MGS did a lot to refine that gameplay, though. For instance, Snake always hides behind, under, or around everything in sight to evade the enemy, but MGS's 3D graphics made that hiding a lot more involved. When Snake presses up against a wall, the camera angle swings down to face him, revealing whatever's happening around the corner. Crawling under a tight space brings the game to first-person mode, which lets you see the feet of passing guards. And perhaps the coolest addition to the game is Snake's ability to sneak up behind guards, grab them in a choke hold, and silently break their necks. It's not pretty, but it's a good way to deal with certain, um, obstacles.
MGS gave Snake plenty of weapons to play with. Starting humbly with only his fists, he would later find a SOCOM pistol, an assault rifle, a sniper rifle, various kinds of explosives, and a small-scale surface-to-air missile launcher. Plenty of items rounded out his arsenal, from cigarettes and rations to the famous cardboard box.
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