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Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (GameCube)

Critic Score
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  Cor 13 (172952)
Written on  :  Mar 08, 2005
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Ridiculous arcadish soap operas can also be fun to play

The Good

Twin Snakes is a remake of the famous cinematic stealth game Metal Gear Solid.

Often hailed for what it decidedly never was (a serious game with a rich story), Metal Gear Solid drew the ire of the more hardcore PC-centric pundits, who dismissed it as a typical representation of console gaming with its cheap effects and shallow content.

As a matter of fact, that evaluation is completely true. And yet, those who despise Metal Gear Solid for its absurd delusions of grandeur overlook the fact that purely in terms of gameplay, it is a very well-made, varied, and fun game. Yes, it's mostly a glossy 3D recreation of a decade-old title, but that title was quite a cool game on its own, and translating all its interesting gameplay ideas into the new technology results in an exciting - albeit gimmicky - action-packed ride.

The gameplay never becomes monotonous, there is diversion at every corner, and almost every location offers a different kind of challenge. The boss battles, for example, are all completely different - in one of them, you and your opponent just shoot at each other, in another you engage in melee combat, a third one is like a sniping mini-game, and so on. At one point you'll have to deactivate lasers (there are three different solutions to this problem); in another place you'll guide a remote-controlled missile through narrow corridors to blast security system; yet another part requires you to blow up walls to find a secret opening. Even though most of the locations look pretty similar to each other, you always have a feeling of something different awaiting you.

The flexibility of playing style and the elegance of the mini-game-like tasks ensure a constant flow of new ideas and situations, which are nevertheless tied together by the simple, yet satisfying core gameplay. On higher difficulty levels, the game is certainly no cakewalk, but don't go below "Normal" if you want any sort of challenge.

The attention to detail is noticeable, there are some absolutely delightful non-obligatory possibilities and plenty of stuff to try and to experiment with, some of which you are not "supposed" to do. For example, at one point you acquire the handkerchief of a girl who likes wolves very much; when you meet wolves, you can use this handkerchief, and they won't attack you. But of course, you can simply kill the wolves. Or you can put them to sleep and see how deceptively cute and cuddly they look.

The presentation in this remake is top-notch, and the whole thing reeks of polish typical of high-budget titles. Besides the obvious graphical overhaul, the remake adds some gameplay elements that were not available in the original, having been first introduced in the second game. The most important of those is the first-person aiming, which certainly makes the game much less frustrating. The tranquilizer gun also returns: now you can snipe guards from first person perspective, and watch them fall asleep in front of your eyes. You can also do some other moves, like hiding in lockers, dragging guards' bodies away, or hanging from ledges, but overall those additions were not as important as first-person aiming.

The graphics have been significantly improved. Character faces don't look funny anymore. The problem with early 3D graphics is that they often unintentionally give the characters a comic look. In Twin Snakes, the characters look appropriately realistic. The graphics might not be as detailed as in the second game, but are technically on par.

One of the most notable changes are the completely re-worked cutscenes. They are remarkably directed, utilizing a variety of special effects (such as slow motion) in a way very similar to over-the-top kung-fu movies. The director often overuses the technique, throwing in one effect after the other, where maybe a simpler scene would suffice. But if you don't mind that, you are in for a real visual feast. You'll see Snake and his opponents perform the most impossible saltos in the air, avoiding intimidatingly huge bullets, narrowly escaping death, etc.

I can't say much about the story here except that, on a certain level, it actually becomes impressive how much Hideo Kojima managed to cram into it. You'll have dry, emotionless espionage action; boring, yet essential "scientific information"; ridiculously cool and overblown action scenes; sentimental dialogues; occasional educational material; speculations about mankind and the world. I actually very nearly had fun with this kaleidoscopic diversity, which was strangely fitting the "mini-game" nature of the gameplay.

The Bad

You don't have to be a sharp-witted intellectual in order to realize how bad the story is. As always in those cases, it's not really the story itself, but the way it is told and presented. With infantile pretentiousness, the game tries to turn its corny B-movie-like plot into some sort of a grand philosophical-political commentary, failing miserably. Cheesy, inappropriate, overwritten dialogue and lame attempts at humor utterly ruin supposedly dramatic moments. At the same time, the story takes itself way too seriously, trying to inject genuine emotions into interactions between anime freaks with zero credibility.

The lack of any stylistic coherence has something to do with Kojima's general approach to narrative, which he often simply abuses for declaring his beliefs or for throwing in another bit of boring moralizing or "educational" material. Characters just stop talking with each other and instead start addressing the player. This is where the story suffers most: the cliched anime-ish plot could have still worked if it weren't treated with a comic seriousness that does nothing but unintentionally highlight its obvious shortcomings.

Much of the dialogue is almost embarrassingly bad. Typically for Japanese games, the characters have the stupid and annoying habit of repeating the last word or phrase they just heard. You've undoubtedly heard and seen it in many other games, but Metal Gear Solid almost breaks a record here. Also quite typically, the dialogue is crammed with overused "scientific" mumbo-jumbo:

Ocelot: We needed the key card.
Snake: The key card?
Ocelot: To deactivate the Metal Gear Rex.
Snake: Metal Gear Rex?
Ocelot: The most deadly and effective weapon of the new generation. It uses the complex DNA-based PAL structure of the genetic nuclear VGA devices stored in the BIOS of MobyGames database information.
Snake: MobyGames database information?
Ocelot: Yes, Snake!! You are just writing a review for the game "Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes"! You won't escape, I'm controlling your mind through the left Ctrl key!

The gameplay is also not without its problems. While generally varied and entertaining, it has a certain artificial flavor. Gameplay segments are interrupted too often, not only by cutscenes, but by switching from one type to another. It is fun, but don't expect any kind of a serious gameplay concept, yet alone realism. The whole "tactical espionage action" label leads you to believe that we are dealing with dedicated stealth gameplay, while in reality it's just a modification of an utterly unrealistic style of its simplistic top-down arcade-like progenitor. People looking for a console equivalent of Thief will be sorely disappointed.

The Bottom Line

Lots has been said about Metal Gear Solid, and much of the consensus reached by "serious" gamers is quite precise: it is an overblown arcade game with mini-game-ish mechanics and embarrassing writing. But it also happens to be very entertaining. Just take the game for what it is: a fun gameplay experience with "dramatic" content bordering the "so bad it's good" category. Oh, and get the remake for all its cheesy cinematic extravaganza.