Metal Gear Solid Review

Once you know exactly what to do and skip as much plot as possible, you can run through the game in three hours or less.

Metal Gear Solid is the game that has been sending chills down the back of this industry for over two years. Konami leaked bits of information about it here and there, but there was no hiding the notion that Metal Gear Solid would be an adventure of epic proportions. Now, all the waiting has ceased, and the game is finally upon us. But does Metal Gear Solid live up to the years of hype? That really depends on your perspective.

At its core, Metal Gear Solid is truly a lesson in stealth. Forget about running into rooms with your gun blazing, leaving nothing alive but an occasional rat. Here, living by the gun readily equates into dying by the gun. Why bother fighting the guards when you can just sneak around behind their backs, crawl along walls just out of the sight range of surveillance cameras, and hide behind boxes?

Unlike most other games, Metal Gear Solid really knows how to tell a story. You, as retired supersneaky agent Solid Snake, must infiltrate a base that has been overrun by terrorists. These terrorists, however, are members of your old unit, a top secret organization known as Fox Hound. The hounders are sitting on a supersecret new weapon and enough nuclear warheads to send the planet back to the Ice Age. Your mission (no choice here - you're forced to accept) is to infiltrate the base carrying nothing but a pair of binoculars and a pack of smokes, check up on a couple hostages, find out if Fox Hound even has the ability to carry out its apocalyptic threats, and if it does, stop it. The storyline unfolds in a seemingly never-ending collection of cutscenes, all extremely well rendered using the game engine. The game doesn't need FMV to clog up the process (given the amount of time spent watching cutscenes, FMV probably would have made MGS a three- or four-disc game), although it does use video in a few isolated cases and uses it reasonably well. When you first start playing the game, you truly do feel like you're constantly in danger. There are so many ways that guards can be alerted to your presence. The most dangerous, of course, is sight. If you enter the line of sight of a guard or a camera, you've got a fight on your hands. Luckily, their lines of sight are represented by big cones on your radar. Simply stay away from the cones, and you'll never get spotted. If you stomp through a puddle of water or across a metal catwalk, fire off a weapon, or knock on a wall (great for luring the dummies to their doom), nearby guards will hear the noise and check it out. They'll even follow footprints in the snow. If you're spotted, a bunch of guards come out of nowhere and start playing target practice with you. This also starts a two-part timer. The first part of the timer is the danger timer. During this time, guards are extremely alert, and they scurry around, hoping to find you. If you can manage to stay out of sight, the second timer starts. During this time the guards don't look for you quite as actively. If you can stay hidden during that time, the guards stupidly assume that you must have run away, and simply return to their posts. No increased patrols, no manhunts. They just forget they ever saw you and continue to wander aimlessly. While it's understandable that this had to be done for gameplay purposes (getting spotted once and playing the rest of the game with tons of guards on your tail wouldn't exactly be fair), it comes across as more than a little silly. Plus, all of these guards are badly in need of some corrective eyewear, because they can only see about 20 or so feet in front of them. Heck, you can even shoot a guard in the back of the head (it takes multiple shots to kill), and he'll just look around, not see anyone, and go back to standing there like an idiot. When you're not running behind the backs of the foolish guards, you're encountering various puzzles and bosses. Most of the puzzle aspect is totally ruined by your radio, which allows you to check in with different people throughout the game. They'll also frequently call you, sometimes to advance the story, and they'll always tell you exactly what to do next. Your colonel frequently drops you a line to lay heavy concepts like "Snake, push the action button to climb down the ladder" on you. Also, after most major encounters, your buddy, the colonel, checks in and basically recaps what you were just told. Usually it takes the form of "Didn't (party x) just tell you that (item y) is kept in (location z)? Hurry, Snake! We're almost out of time!" It needlessly interrupts the game and makes you feel as if you're an eight-year-old with attention deficit disorder instead of a trained killer. All this really sucks any difficulty the game could have had right out. While none of the puzzles are really hard in any way, having them spelled out to you before you've even started on them is just plain stupid. Even though the game has multiple difficulty settings, they all suffer from this problem.

The difficulty settings weren't in the Japanese version of the game, and they really have a "thrown in at the last minute" feel to them. The game's easy setting is equivalent to the Japanese version. Normal difficulty changes the game a little bit, but not enough to really make a difference. Hard steps up the amount of damage you'll take and also disables your radar. Extreme difficulty is locked until you beat the game once, and it also is sans radar. Now, the trouble with this is that the gameplay was really designed around using the radar system effectively. Without it, the only way to see guards is to use the first-person view or to peer around corners. Unfortunately, you can't move while in the first-person view. The time you take to stop and look for guards may be the time that one of them turns around and sees you. Meanwhile, you're in a viewpoint where you can't even hide, let alone fire a weapon. This wouldn't be so bad if the view was pulled back a bit, but most of the guards you shoot or avoid won't ever be on the screen. If they make it onto the screen, chances are they're already shooting at you. While the game surely has its share of problems, it must be said that the game presents itself extremely well and really is fun to play, even if it is almost completely devoid of challenge. The control is extremely well conceived, and inventory selection is especially elegant. But don't even think of playing Metal Gear Solid without the Dual Shock controller. This game is probably the first to really make perfect use of the vibration functions and really goes a long way to maintaining the suspension of belief in both its timing and its subtlety. Once immersed in the world of MGS, you honestly do feel like the star of a spy-styled thriller. Whether you're silently breaking the necks of guards or merely pounding the circle button while strapped into a torture device, you really do feel like the fate of the world hangs in the balance. It's a great ride and a reasonably captivating story, which, considering you spend more time watching the story unfold than actually playing the game (it's been said that the game has ten times as much dialogue as the average movie), really helps the game. There are so many cutscenes and other stops in gameplay, that the game itself almost seems like a collection of minigames, inserted to keep you from tuning out the plot. The storytelling is not perfect, though. About halfway through the game, the storyline takes a dramatic turn, and the rest of the dialogue is basically one big antinuke, antiwar message, peppered with lots of "How could I have involved myself in such an evil scheme?" speeches. If I wanted to be preached to in such a way, I'd go to a rally. Still, there are enough twists and turns in the plot to keep it interesting in spite of its obvious and annoying antinuclear agenda. From an audio/visual standpoint, Metal Gear Solid is truly incredible. While the game's textures may be on the grainy side, the detail with which everything is rendered is truly amazing. There's no 2D trickery here - everything is rendered in 3D, right down to the littlest details, like items residing on desks and maggots festering on rotting corpses. Everything looks real and acts in an extremely realistic way. The animations are very well done and run at a nice, smooth rate. A touch of slowdown pops up when multiple enemies are on screen, but it really isn't too noticeable. The soundtrack and effects are totally unmatched. The music has an ominous feel that perfectly sets the mood of the game. The sound effects are extremely well done, from gunfire to the little click you hear when picking up an item. The effects also vary depending on your surroundings. If you're out in the middle of a snowstorm, shots will sound muffled. If you're in a tight room or ventilation shaft, effects take on an appropriately echoed sound. Also, unlike most translations, the English voice work in Metal Gear Solid is surprisingly good. What they're actually saying may be a bit hokey and cliched at times, but at least they deliver the dialogue with the right amount of conviction.

To say that the length of the game is disappointing is generous at best. Even if you were to watch every single cutscene and fumble around a bit at the beginning while learning the controls, you would still finish the game in around 15 hours. Once you know exactly what to do and skip as much plot as possible, you can run through the game in three hours or less. Konami attempted to add value in the form of the various difficulty settings, as well as incentives to play through the game again, but no amount of special items and visual tweaks (Gee... the cyberninja is red this time. Yea. Ooh, now I'm wearing a tuxedo. How... exciting) make Metal Gear Solid worth playing through more than twice, and even playing it through a second time just to see both endings is stretching it a little bit. Its brevity is simply appalling. While the game is definitely worth purchasing, you could easily rent it for a couple days and see everything that is worth seeing. Five years from now, when we look back upon Metal Gear Solid, what will we see? The game definitely is revolutionary in many ways. It breaks new ground in gameplay and truly brings the video game one step closer to the realm of movies. It is, without a doubt, a landmark game. But the extreme ease with which it can be mastered and the game's insultingly short length keep it from perfection. Plus, do we really want games that are more like movies? If Hideo Kojima, the game's producer, was so set on this type of cinematic experience, he should really be making movies instead of games. While Metal Gear Solid currently stands alone, it stands as more of a work of art than as an actual game. It's definitely worth purchasing, but don't be surprised if you suddenly get extremely angry when you finish the game the day after you brought it home.

The Good
N/A
The Bad
8.5
Great
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About the Author

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

Discussion

33 comments
wardemon321
wardemon321

funny that kojima didnt intended that the game would be extremely succesful what did you expect kojima the best voice acting and its the 90s 

mr_azim
mr_azim

" If Hideo Kojima, the game's producer, was so set on this type of cinematic experience, he should really be making movies instead of games."

GS should really revisit this review and comment on it lol

CaveManCobb
CaveManCobb

"To skip the plot as much as possible you can beat the game in 3 hours" Translates to "This game is too smart for most people, skip the movie bits to get to the shooty bits."

toolpwn
toolpwn

This is the best line "Five years from now, when we look back upon Metal Gear Solid, what will we see?". We'll see one of the greatest games of all time. It's incredible how this game still tells a better story than 90% of modern games and it's currently approaching 14 years of age. 

Kakashi_ZX
Kakashi_ZX

The only problem with this review is it doesn't take the context of the game as it is and instead makes it something else. When you fail to take into account the fact that MGS was about the story as well as bringing in new ways of gameplay you find a review would be done praising the game much much more than Jeff has seemed to do. Although he is not wrong within the context he chose, he has forgotten the context of the game itself. Valid points were made, but the wrong context was used. 

RossRichard
RossRichard

Jeff gives MGS an 8.5, then turns around and gives Tony Hawk 3 a 10??? Talk about got your priorities screwed up.

BIOJECT
BIOJECT

"To skip the plot as much as possible you can beat the game in 3 hours" lol

l3igl3oss
l3igl3oss

To underestimate the top down view angle is to not understand classic Metal Gear. Peeking around corners makes it a powerfull stealth game and it only took a humble approach of picking up classic top down view action/adventure games like Zelda, and subverting them into story ridden stealth games. That´s the genius behind Metal Gear Solid and to see its evolution from Metal Gear, on the MSX, to Metal Gear Solid 2 is to witness how far a concept can lead us in the industry.

 

<3 Classic MGS! 

ClintCommander
ClintCommander

I do prefer to play the twin snakes now but I can't deny how much I love this game.  It is the starting point to my favorite games of all time.(Im not a big fan of the NES games).

The negative things about the game in this review are frustrating to read. 

gamergath
gamergath

Round of applause to Metal Gear Solid, this was my first game on the PSONE console. I was so fixed on SOLID SNAKE, I actually convinced myself when I would grow up, I would just be like him, being AWESOME!

 

It lasted me months to complete the game esp. the part you were supposed to switch ports. What! Who would actually thought of that to begin with. Such made me fall in love with now what is a franchise. You certainly go to my HALL OF FAME. <3

Tixylixx
Tixylixx

Funny though because this game lasted me weeks trying to complete it as I hadn't ever played anything like it before. Like some mechanics took me ages to get my head round like the switching ports on my controller or looking at the cd case for a code. MGS just did things no other game did at the time and EVERYONE was talking about it.

 

Then you compare that to COD of today and it's funny how ppl complained about short length of Single Player games and yet most only last 4-8 hours today.

Samslayer
Samslayer

MGS got an 8.5 and GTAIV got a 10...that's just laughable. MGS is one of the pivotal games of the last 4 or 5 gaming generations.

micky4889
micky4889

This has to be one of the worst lines I'v ever read in a review "Once you know exactly what to do and skip as much plot as possible, you can run through the game in three hours or less." About a game that is STORY BASED. Also, you're not going to know "exactly what to do" where to find certain items etc without a prior play through.

sune_Gem
sune_Gem

You could probably complete it in 3 hours if you skipped every cutscene, but let's be fair, the game is all about the story, so skipping the cutscenes would be like skipping the game in general.

ShadowofSonic
ShadowofSonic

@SolidTy I know right? What a weird heading: '''Once you know exactly what to do and skip as much plot as possible, you can run through the game in three hours or less.''' WTF.

juiceair
juiceair

A true masterpiece for anyone who likes stealth games.

Naylord
Naylord

@toolpwn It's an amazing feat that we are still looking at it 14 years later. Oh well I won't throw Gerstman to the fire for one bad review. I respect his balls for flopping popular games; it beats most of the yes man giving 9.0+ to every AAA title even if he embarrasses himself like this now and again.

emlmm8
emlmm8

@Kakashi_ZX Well yea but when you buy a game, you expect a bit more than three to four hours of content on your first go, especially for the 90s. I think his concerns were fair ones after all and this game, while setting the stage for the excellent Metal Gear Solid franchise, was itself, kind of lacking in a lot of ways. But then, that's all part of the experiment isn't it, and without mgs, gaming would no doubt look very different today.

NTM23
NTM23

 @Samslayer Jeff Gerstmann reviewed it. He's a great professional critic, but it just goes to show that the mass can disagree with a review. If anyone else had reviewed the game, you know it'd get a higher score, and a bit more praise. This review shouldn't ruin your day.

ClintCommander
ClintCommander

 @micky4889 I thought the same thing.  I thought that's how most games are.  Especially back then. 

NTM23
NTM23

 @ShadowofSonic  @SolidTy Yes, I remembered he had said this, and even just now I was thinking the same thing, but now, it makes sense. His point, and it is a good point that stands true for all the rest of MGS, it's the question of "Where's the game play?" Now, I personally do not agree with his opinion on the game 'cause with this, and the rest of the franchise, I absolutely love, but the statement is true.

faizanhd
faizanhd

@sudarsanvrs

Know that very well. But modern stealth games have nothing in common with Metal Gear. Thief defined stealth in 3D games.

DoomglooM
DoomglooM

@NTM23 @ShadowofSonic @SolidTy right....but I just love videogame movies and cutscenes..even though I'll fall to sleep to them...sometimes on purpose like a real movie or tv in general............

faizanhd
faizanhd

@sudarsanvrs

"under-powered lead character,  interacting with environment, using sound to interact with the enemies, encouraging player to use hands instead of weapons were in MGS first"

Thief did all of that. 

sudarsanvrs
sudarsanvrs

@faizanhd @sudarsanvrs  under-powered lead character,  interacting with environment, using sound to interact with the enemies, encouraging player to use hands instead of weapons were in MGS first and most games follow these as std,MGS 1 wasn't a pure stealth game, it collection of action, puzzle and stealth, thief however was pure stealth, also introduced stuff like hiding in the dark. both contributed but influence of MGS is seen in more games, MGS not only influenced gameplay, it also it changed the way people look at video games, it had an invloved plot, superb voice acting, masterful presentation, simply first MGS was a game changer in many ways 

Metal Gear Solid More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation
    You are Snake, a government agent on a mission to regain control of a secret nuclear weapons base from terrorist hands.
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    Developed by:
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    3D, Open-World, Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
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    Animated Blood and Gore, Animated Violence, Mature Sexual Themes