August 2, 2006
Game Review By: DannyV_El_Acme
Author: Hideo Kojima and Kojima Productions
Price: Around $25 or less right now
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High
Introduction: There are few video game creators today as revered as Hideo Kojima. A producer/director of superb storytelling talent and limitless creativity, he is respected and admired by both gamers and fellow video game developers. Even mighty Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Super Mario and the father of modern video gaming, is a declared fan of Kojima’s work. However, Kojima was a relative unknown as little back as 8 years ago, until Konami gave him the go to create this, Kojima’s first modern gaming masterpiece, Metal Gear Solid. While at first glance a military game, Metal Gear Solid is actually a deep cyberpunk analysis of warfare and morality, topics that Kojima had been exploring for years, but for which, before the creation of the Playstation, he had no hardware powerful enough to tell the story with. Thankfully, he finally did, he finally made the game, and he reinvented a lowly NES game into one of video gaming’s most respected and acclaimed franchises.
The Story : A nuclear weapon disposal facility on Shadow Moses, an island off the coast of Alaska, is invaded by an army of Genome Soldiers(genetically enhanced super-soldiers) led by Foxhound, a U.S. covert special ops team. The Genome Soldiers are dying, victims of genetic disorders caused by the gene therapy. Foxhound’s leader, Liquid Snake, makes a list of demands: one billion dollars and the body of Big Boss, Foxhound’s former CO and the one whose genes the Genome Soldiers are based on. Should the United States fail to comply, Foxhound will launch a nuclear warhead at the nation’s capital.
A direct attack on Shadow Moses may cause nuclear retaliation, and the presence of nuclear warheads in the facility is a secret from the world at large, so a media leak would be catastrophic. To make matters worse, Foxhound is the nation’s most elite special forces unit, each soldier capable of slaughtering entire platoons with ease. The Pentagon decides to “persuade”(i.e. force) retired Foxhound agent Solid Snake to infiltrate Shadow Moses and stop the terrorists through covert action. Armed with only his wits, radio communication with various mission analysts, and whatever he can find at the base, Snake must rely on stealth and cunning to complete his mission. However, there is MUCH more to Shadow Moses than meets the eye, secrets that could put the entire world in jeopardy, secrets dealing with Solid Snake’s shadowy past.
The Game: If I said in my Deus Ex review that I didn’t want to spoil the story because it’s so good, this is INFINITELY truer with Metal Gear Solid. Although Deus Ex is a more “authentic” cyberpunk game, Metal Gear Solid can only be described as a playable blockbuster film. It is truly an amazing experience in storytelling, and my personal favorite videogame franchise.
The gameplay itself relies heavily on stealth. While Solid Snake is a formidable combatant, he is hideously outnumbered by much better armed forces actually looking to shoot him down. Snake must remain hidden and either bypass his enemies or eliminate them as silently as possible. Luckily, Snake is a superb covert operative, and he can use the environment in truly ingenious ways to hide, distract and dispatch the enemy. Snake also has various tools to help him. Throughout the game, he will find weapons and gadgets of all kinds, from infrared goggles to assault rifles, and even the now famous cardboard box to hide in. He also has a radar that permits him to not only determine enemy position, but also their line of sight, enabling him to sneak where the enemy can’t see him. However, this radar gets jammed if Snake is seen, and Snake must RUN AWAY as fast as he can until things cool down!
Snake also has a CODEC built into his ear, which enables him to access a multitude of helpers to give him information, tips and moral support throughout the game. The CODEC conversations are truly one of the game’s greatest strengths. They showcase the characters as more than mere cardboard cutouts. During the game, the nature of conversations will range from simple mission objectives to discussions on morality, technological development, politics, human rights, and even what it means to be human. Topics such as genetic engineering, the arms race, nuclear energy, cloning, nanotechnology, biological warfare and many more are expertly discussed. This makes for quite an endearing cast, they are truly intelligent people with their own opinions and beliefs. This is where the game’s cyberpunkness shines through. The way the game explores technology, it’s impact on society and the military in particular, and the morality of technological development are ESSENTIAL elements to the game’s story that continue to resonate through all chapters of the saga. Metal Gear Solid establishes the base for future games of the series to develop these concepts even more thoroughly.
And on that note, we see the game’s greatest strength: the characters. Kojima has created a truly spectacular cast, no character is wasted or underdeveloped. From the cynical and gruff Solid Snake to the spunky and optimistic Meryl and scientist/über-nerd Otacon, the characters are diverse and uniformly interesting. The bad guys are truly an awesome force, too. From the enigmatic Liquid Snake to the sadistic gunman Revolver Ocelot and the oh-so-sexy Sniper Wolf, Foxhound’s members are quite the match for our heroes.
Visually, the game couldn’t be more cyberpunk. Greens, blues and grays dominate the color scheme, with cold metal surfaces everywhere. Cybernetic ninjas with Predator-like cloaking devices, gigantic mecha, you name it. This game wears not only its cyberpunk roots, but its anime roots as well, on its sleeve with pride. Cinemas are expertly directed, giving the game an A-list action movie fell. AND THE VOICE ACTING!!! This is the absolute GREATEST voice acting EVER. David Hayter has actually made a career out of his work as the voice of Solid Snake, and the whole cast is composed of voice acting veterans from a multitude of games and anime. Metal Gear Solid established the standard for voice acting in the video game industry.
Availability: Honestly, if you can’t find this game, something’s SERIOUSLY wrong with you. There have been myriad releases of the game, including a Playstation Greatest Hits release, a PC version, and even a remake for the Gamecube(dubbed The Twin Snakes) which updates the game with next-gen graphics and gameplay elements from its sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty.
The Verdict : If you want the closest thing to a playable cyberpunk/military movie or anime, Metal Gear Solid is truly it. This is videogaming at its finest, and it has rightfully been called a masterpiece the world over. Get this game and play it, just so you know what comes before Metal Gear Solid 2. My highest recommendation, this is my all-time favorite video game series. And maybe once you play it, you’ll know why too. I(and half the press, already) give Metal Gear Solid a perfect ten stars.