Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Game Diary: Metal Gear!? (Minor Spoilers)

The recent release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection has finally given me the impetus to play Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.  I bought the game upon it's original release in 2005, where it has languished in my backlog to this very day.  Part of the reason for this is the bitter taste that Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty left after finishing it.  There are so many things I didn't like with that game - Raiden and his insipid Codec conversations with annoying girlfriend Rose, the bland setting of the Big Shell, the ludicrous possessed arm plot twist, and the whole "Solid Snake Simulation" reveal in the games final act.

Replaying the game recently however, I have come to appreciate it a whole lot more, and see how ahead of its time it was in terms of the minor details.  There are tons of incidental Easter eggs that Kojima has playfully left for you to find or completely ignore, and technically the weather effects, shadows and other details easily hold up to any modern game you could name.  What hasn't aged well on the other hand is the control scheme - it was already feeling clumsy by the time MGS2 got a PAL release, and having been indoctrinated in the "left trigger to aim, right trigger to fire" control scheme of practically every first and third person shooter you could care to mention, it feels positively archaic nowadays. I still hate all the bullshit about AI and the Patriots as well. Kojima was trying to be clever, but he just ends up producing absolute nonsense.  Which leaves MGS2 with the dubious honour of being a flawed masterpiece.

Some seven hours into MGS3 however, I am happy to say that the plot is much more sensible - at least so far.  You still have the usually range of over the top bosses, granted - but I can accept that little quirk of the series.  We are playing a video game, after all.  Of course the highlight of these is the sniper battle against The End - a long, tense dual to the death across three separate areas of the map, where your stamina gauge plays an all important role.  At least it would be, if I hadn't save the game a short way into the battle, adjusted the 360's internal clock two weeks into the future, and killed him from old age.  This is just one of many genius game play ideas that have spawned from the mind of Kojima, that really make these games worth checking out.

Boss vs Boss

I don't think any of the sequels have quite matched up to the first Metal Gear Solid - maybe it's because it all felt so new back then, but the conversations didn't seem to go on and on and on like to do in the later game.  The pacing felt spot on.  I have yet to experience MGS4, Peace Walker or any of the other spin offs, however - though I intend to get to them in time.  Whether you love or hate the Metal Gear series, there's no denying that they have raised the bar in terms of clever ways to immerse the player within the game.  If only Kojima could reign in his penchant for ridiculous stories and over long stretches without any player interactivity, he may one day recapture what made the PlayStation game so amazing in the first place.

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