A flawed gem is still a gem
This game has all the potential in the world. As agent Solid Snake (who incidently looks just like Michael Biehn in the cover art) you parachute into the jungle on a mission to stop some evil doings and whatnot. The story isn't that important, because its just a bunch of clichés (as with all Metal Gear games I might add).
What's important is the feeling of constantly being on edge. You have to tread carefully or else you'll die a quick death. And although I hate those instant death traps you just cannot discover until its too late, they are not so frequent here that it actually ruins anything.
I like the fact that the guards will call for help the minute they see you. I also like that you have to avoid security cameras. This might not sound like a big deal, but back in '87 it was.
The great number of gadgets and weapons that you can, and must, use in different locations also provides a feeling that you are taking part in a complex mission in a complex world.
And last but not least, it has a plot twist at the end. It's not a huge surprise and it doesn't exactly rock your world. But still, this was a plot twist at a time when games didn't even have plots to begin with, and definitely not plot twists. It's been done infinitely much better since, Knights of the old republic is undoubtedly the best example of that, but at the time, this was cool stuff.
This game is frustrating, to say the least. It's very unforgiving and it gives few, if any, clues on what you should be doing. Just to get past the annoying dogs in the beginning can be difficult until you learn to just rush past them and not bother with them.
The constant hunt for new door cards isn't as fun as the developers might have thought. And even worse is that you constantly have to switch between these cards at every single door, in order to try out which card opens which door. This gets very tiresome very fast.
The dialogues, or rather monologues, and pretty much all the text in the entire game, is just laughable. This is not a problem specific for the first Metal Gear game. Hideo Kojima still haven't learned. His games are always full of clichés and extremely bad dialogues and corny monologues. If we heard people talk like that in a movie, we would walk out of the theatre or turn off the DVD. In fact, we would rather burn the theatre and smash the DVD. And why does Snake insist on stating "I have located the ammunition" every time he collects some ammo?
This game has many annoying parts. The absolute worst part, though, must be the arbitrary jungle-maze. At one time you have to go through a maze that resembles the one Link must go through in the first Zelda-game (you know when you have to go up, up, up in order to get to the fifth dungeon). Here you have to go in exactly the right way. Every screen looks about the same and there are no clues on which way to go. Either get it right, or be stuck forever in the jungle of frustration.
The Bottom Line
This is udoubtedly a gem, or at least it was. But it was flawed even back in the days. What could be forgiven then cannot be so easily forgiven now, and I find it extremely difficult to get though the more tedious parts of the game. It still ha a nice atmosphere, though, and it could be worth a play for those who wants to see where this overly pretentious but achingly empty series took off. I actually preferred the smaller scale of these first games to the grand nothings of the Metal Gear Solid games.