Metal Gear! Where do I begin? Well, for starters this is a series I have been indulging in and enjoying, as many other gamers have, for the past 10 years. The first Metal Gear to make its worldwide release on the original PlayStation, back in 1999, was a one of the key reasons that I got a PS1 and subsequently decided to stick with Sony's much anticipated, PlayStation 2, rather than buy an Xbox or GameCube. Metal Gear Solid was something wildly exciting and almost indescribable in terms of what the word 'game' meant to me in 1998.
When Metal Gear Solid was released I didn't own a PlayStation. Instead most of my gaming was done at my cousin's house (on his Megadrive, playing Sonic 2 or Street Fighter II) and at the house of my old best friend. It was my friend who introduced me to Metal Gear. Having played the game for 2-3 days, he couldn't stop telling me how great the story and gameplay were. How you could disable cameras with "particle grenades" or sneak into an enemy base undetected with the innovative radar system. It didn't take much coaxing for him to convince me to go round his house to see what all the fuss was about. And this is where my first experience of MGS differs for most others: I didn't play the game.
Over the course of a couple visits I watched and assisted my friend play through this epic adventure. Sneaking around Shadow Moses, detonating C4 to expose a hole in the wall, resisting Liquid's torture, smiling at moments with the mysterious and deadly Cyborg Ninja, being shocked by Psycho Mantis's mind (and memory card) reading abilities and all the while (mostly) following this massive tale of red herrings, betrayals and intrigue. And to be honest I didn't need to play. I was so mesmerised by the cinematics (regardless of some of their length), gameplay and story that it really was like experiencing a 15 hour film. OK, I did play a bit, but I was so grateful to my friend for inviting me to experience this that I only played portions now and again. I was afraid that if I screwed up something important, like missed a Codec call or saved at an inopportune moment, I might mess his whole game/mission up. I mean, you were a lone operative infiltrating a base filled with Genome soldiers and renegade FOXHOUND members, poised to unleash a nuclear strike! Damn right I didn't wanna mess it up. ;)
I can recall that after seeing the first Metal Gear Solid I begged and pleaded with my parents, put pocket money towards it and kept up my school work until I eventually got a PlayStation. It truly was a life changing experience in a sense, and while it's not my most precious gaming moment it sure comes close. My friend and I continued to discuss and enjoy Metal Gear well into the year 2000 and I was very pleased when he got a PlayStation 2 and Zone of the Enders, which came with the preview demo of Metal Gear Solid 2. When I finally got my PS2, MGS2 was an essential purchase.
While the rookie espionage styling's of Raiden (MGS2's hated-on hero) didn't really bother me that much, the ending, or should I say lack of, did. But that said MGS2 is brimming with standout moments, from your first encounter with Olga on the Tanker right up to Snake and Raiden's heroic struggle through Arsenal Gear. The complete package was (no pun intended) 'solid'. So that doesn't mean that the ending was unsatisfying or poorly executed. It was just unfinished. So when I heard rumours of MGS3 being set in the 60s with Big Boss and not Solid Snake I'll admit that I was a little apprehensive that first.
Having played MGS3 in 2005 this apprehension soon turned into affection for what has without doubt been my favourite Metal Gear Solid (so far). Facing each of the Cobra unit have been some of the best boss experiences ever to fire up my PS2! The outdoor setting of lust, green forestry and brown swamps was a tremendous shift, but one that benefited the story and gameplay to no end. Once you've trudged through the thick jungles of Russia as Naked Snake, listening to Paramedic encourage you to see the latest Bond film or The Great Escape while chomping down a tasty Calorie Mate there's no going back.
Well a lot sure has changed since Metal Gear Solid. I'm older, wiser (at least I'd like to think so) and I've experienced a whole lot more of the world we live in. And I've watched the MGS series and its many characters grow over the years too. In EDGE magazine's recent preview of MGS4, Hideo Kojima stated that he'd like fans to relate to MGS4 as more than just a nostalgia trip, but to look back on their own experiences over the past decade and think about how they've changed. That's the main reason I'm writing this blog. Metal Gear Solid 4's arrive is now just days away and it's the end of an era for many MGS fans.
Metal Gear Solid 4 has been a long, long time coming, but I'm sure it will all be more than worth the wait when I get it in my hands at last. With globe anticipation now reaching boiling point, MGS4 will be breaking cover in the form of multiple retail versions and supported by an assortment of merchandise. But what really matters is the game. Expect to see some shocking revelations, poignant boss battles, old friends and of course Kojima's brand of uncomfortable gaming humour in this final mission for Solid Snake. In a world where we are constantly manipulated and mislead by leaders, politicians and corporate business no game could be more relevant. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots sneaks out on June 12th 2008. Thank you if you've managed to read all of my lengthy retrospective. Now turn off you Codec and get back on the mission, the world's at stake you know!