MGS play to it's true strength and weakness- a clever and gripping plot with short bursts of mediocre stealth action
The credit to this should be mainly given to it's creator, Hideo Kojima.He has done a considerable job by doing the reimagining of the entire Metal Gear series from the 1980's to the PSone era by injecting adequate amounts of technology and post-modernism and into it. He should also be applauded for his daring and ambitious attempt to make MGS into a complete entertainment package.
For most of the game Kojima succeeds in doing this but at the sacrifice of couple of things...
Metal Gear Solid is a plot-centric game and it does not shy away from this fact. You play as Solid Snake, an ex member of special units group FOXHOUND who has been called from his temporary retirement at the call of his old friend Roy Campbell. FOXHOUND, whose remaining members have apparently gone rebel against the government itself are the premier antagonists of the game. They have held a nuclear site in Alaska under hostage and have asked a weird ransom from the U.S government- 50 Million dollars and a legendary soldier by the name of Big Boss' genes.
To describe MGS's plot in a nutshell would be doing it's terrific plot a great deal of injustice. The plot is powerful both emotionally and logically with heavy political undertones regarding genetic engineering,military manipulation and nuclear weapons race. Much of the plot is narrated through the fifty-odd cutscenes, while some of the in-game conversations take place through the portable radio known as Codec.
The brute force of narrative as well as the powerful message Kojima drives through the game is both amazing and enthralling.
For the uninitiated, Metal Gear Solid is a top-down perspective 3D stealth action game that focuses more on avoiding the enemy rather than going all guns ablaze.
Most of the three odd hours you spend in actually playing the game requires you to dodge the "line of sight" of enemy soldiers which is indicated on the radar on your screen.The actual "stealth" involves basic mechanics you have come to expect from stealth games like hiding in shadows,crouching behind a container or as the game funnily provides- a cardboard box to hide in.
However if you do get spotted by an enemy soldier or a security camera an alarm will get sounded and the game will go into alert mode. In this mode the radar on the corner of your screen is replaced by an alert timer.This timer has a ten second count for which you have to remain out of enemies "line of view". After the alert mode is the evasion mode where you have to remain unseen for further ten seconds.
In the alert mode the game's enemies are usually the most fiercest and this is where you get to see the intelligent AI of MGS. Soldiers regularly team up and try to bog down the area in which the alert has been sounded so you have to be extra careful to remain out of sight.
The highpoint of the game are easily it's dozen odd boss battles. Kojima has put immense attention and thought in developing the situations leading up to these battles and the action that takes place in it. Each boss battle features a similar pattern mostly which requires you to utilize a particular tactic or a game mechanic to be performed so as to successfully counter or approach the boss without taking any damage. Others need you to first dodge the boss attacks and wait for the right oppurtunity when the boss is open for damage. However odd and repetitive this pattern might sound, it's actual execution in the game is fantastic.
One of my favorite boss battles in the game with Psycho Mantis involved changing the controller port from Port 1 to 2 as in Port 1 he could read and evade my every move.
This brings me to my actual complaint of MGS. The game is so obsessed with it's storyline and boss battles that the general stealth gameplay often becomes a "transport" from one cutscene to another. It feels as if you're playing a game not for actually playing it but for reaching the next cutscene or the next boss battle. It isn't the fault of the story nor the boss battles that they are so good. It is the fault in gameplay's part to actually hold onto gamers attention for longer periods.
By the end of the game you feel as if you can just skip the gameplay and watch the cutscenes and play the boss battles.
This isolates Metal Gear Solid from becoming an ideal post-modern videogame in my opinion.
Metal Gear Solid is one of the very few if not the only game to feature full-fledged voice acting on PSone. The actors have lended their voices genuinely and despite a little rough technical translation MGS' voice acting shows it's technical superiority.
The background score comprising of tense beats during normal gameplay to orchestral settings in some cutscenes add both flavor and persona to the game's image style.
Talking about graphics, MGS boasts some of the neatest art designing of it's time with the character sprites neatly shaded around their edges. While it may lack the flamboyant charm of the FMVs of SquareSoft's JRPG's, MGS unique visual style by including real time clips in between cutscenes is both impressive and likeable.
Metal Gear Solid is a very short game..and that's being kind to it. The game takes hardly six hours to beat in the first try owing to it's easier difficulty. Moreover the six hours include almost three plus hours of cutscenes and Codec conversations. There are alternate endings so one might want to replay it once.
However the game offers a theatre mode which shows all the cutscenes and Codec Conversations of the entire game without any "interruption" gameplay. Reminiscent of my earlier complaint this seems to be an obvious attempt on the developers part to deliver what people like (the plot) and remove what people don't like (like the gameplay,for example).
There is a VR mode which offers basic training along with tips on how to overcome sticky situations. It's a sweet little addition that is fun to play with it's fourteen odd missions.
Nobody could go wrong with the ambitious plot with political undertones and boss battles which are instantly memorable. However it's weakly-developed gameplay gets old fast and most of the gameplay sections feel like a "transport" from one cutscene to another,one boss battle to another..
It isn't that Metal Gear Solid is a bad game. On the contrary,it's a fantastic game. But knowing it could have been pne of the greatest games of all time,one couldn't help but feel a tad bit disappointed.