Metal Gear Solid for the PC is an effective if straightforward conversion of one of the greatest action games for the Sony PlayStation console. It's an innovative game that, while originally designed exclusively for the PlayStation, is still highly playable on the PC, thanks largely to the quality of the Microsoft translation. While the PC version of Metal Gear Solid doesn't improve much on the 1998 PlayStation game, it does have a few features that take advantage of the PC's more powerful hardware.
Metal Gear Solid is a fast-paced cinematic action game in which you control a government super spy - code-named Solid Snake - who's highly trained in stealth, infiltration, and armed and unarmed combat. He's sent alone to a secret base in Alaska to stop a group of genetically enhanced terrorists who are planning to blackmail the US government. They've hijacked a prototype weapon called Metal Gear, which is reportedly equipped to deliver a nuclear strike anywhere in the world. The game's plot and characters are exaggerated, but they're very well written and highly memorable. In fact, nearly half of Metal Gear Solid consists of noninteractive story sequences in which Snake uncovers the full extent of what's at stake in his covert mission.
The story unravels partly through dialogue between Snake and his team back at base. Snake has a tiny transceiver built into his ear, which he can use to receive informative calls from a staff of specialists and send transmissions himself. These conversations switch the game to a static screen that uses voice-over and hand-drawn, animated portraits that break from the game's otherwise fully 3D graphics. The switch can seem abrupt, but the conversations are generally interesting and actually an effective means of expanding the story, as well as providing a persistent hint system; you can always call home to get advice on your situation, even in the middle of a battle. The story of Metal Gear Solid is also revealed through cutscenes using the game's 3D engine. Many of these sequences feature great cinematography, and although the game's 3D characters aren't very detailed - most notably, their facial features are blurred and aren't animated - the motion-captured cinematics are nonetheless superlative even by the latest standards.
These sequences are often long, and many of them intersperse the many different types of action scenes in Metal Gear Solid. In most cases, you'll be infiltrating areas that are being patrolled by guards and monitored with surveillance cameras. You control Snake from a top-down perspective, although you can switch to a first-person view at will, and if you back against a wall, the camera will automatically tilt to give you a peek down the perpendicular corridor. The Alaskan base is heavily defended, but fortunately, you have a radar that shows any enemies in the immediate area. Using this device, you can more easily observe your enemies' patrol routes and evade them, as well as sneak past cameras as they pan back and forth. Of course, you're not limited to just sneaking past your foes. Over the course of the game, you'll find a number of real-world weapons, including various guns and explosives. In addition, Snake can knock his foes flat with a karate combination or a hip toss, and he can even sneak up and strangle an unassuming guard. If Snake's ever detected, an alarm will sound, armed guards will swarm toward his position, and his radar will go offline because of all the commotion. At this point, you'll need to run and hide until the alarm shuts down and the guards return to their patrols.
It's not realistic that the guards effectively forget that you're in the area after about a minute, but Metal Gear Solid doesn't purport to be a highly realistic combat simulation. In fact, it draws on a number of classic video game conventions that are intended to make its gameplay more enjoyable. For instance, enemy guards you kill flicker and disappear, and you'll find spinning power-ups throughout the base - weapons, ammunition, and rations that instantly replenish your health. Snake can suffer a superhuman amount of damage before he dies, and likewise, the many exciting one-on-one battles between Snake and the game's main villains are drawn out, as Snake's terrorist foes can sustain even more damage than he can. As such, Metal Gear Solid might take some getting used to. It looks and sounds realistic, yet the gameplay demands that you suspend disbelief. You might also be put off by some of the game's sometimes long-winded antinuclear sentiment; on the occasions when characters in Metal Gear Solid start moralizing, the game can seem heavy-handed and preachy.