Written by  :  Anatole (61)
Written on  :  May 30, 2001
Platform  :  PlayStation
Rating  :  4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars4.2 Stars

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The definitive PSX experience.

The Good

Usually, when the term "movielike" is applied to a game, it's not a compliment. FMV watchfests like Wing Commander III or Dragon's Lair, while good games in their own rights, just don't seem to pull you in to their plots, and there's not enough game in the experience to make you happy.

But with Metal Gear Solid, calling it movielike is a tribute to the amazing job pulled off by Hideo Kojima and Konami in making a masterpiece that furthers the argument for videogames as an art form.

The well-developed plot puts you in the role of Solid Snake, a retired ex-member of the underground government group Fox-Hound. He is called back into service when the members of Fox-Hound suddenly seize a military base in Alaska, and threaten to launch a nuclear weapon unless the government turns over the remains of legendary soldier Big Boss within 24 hours. The plot easily matches those of most RPGs for complexity and depth, and manages (most of the time) to avoid being too cheesy. And expect a few curveballs along the way.

When you get right down to the gameplay, it'll be familiar to anyone who has played the NES incarnations of Metal Gear. You operate mostly from an overhead view, though there are a few scenes where Resident Evil-style camerawork is used for dramatic effect. Your job is to go from section to section of the base, rescuing the two hostages and eventually trying to stop a nuclear launch. Stealth is emphasized heavily; you have to sneak past the guards when their backs are turned, and you can employ a variety of techniques, including tapping on the walls to lure them away, throwing chaff grenades to confuse surveillance cameras, and even hiding inside a cardboard box. Of course, you can't always stay hidden, and like all good action heroes, Snake winds up using pretty much an entire arsenal over the course of the game. With so many different playstyles possible, the gameplay doesn't get boring easily. The boss battles are each unique, and you'll have to play through them a couple of times before you figure out the "trick" to beating each boss. Top-notch gameplay.

The graphics are also choice. At its heart, the gameplay is 2D, but *everything* in MGS is rendered using the game's versatile 3D engine, right down to the maggots in a prison cell. The graphic design also pays insane attention to detail; you can see breath vapor in the cold outdoors, and Snake will leave footprints in the snow that become covered up over time. Some nifty effects are also used during flashbacks and whenever a mysterious Ninja appears onscreen.

The sound has to be heard to be believed. Unlike RPGs, which sometimes read like a novel, every word in MGS is spoken by top-notch voice acting that tops even the Legacy of Kain series. Konami really went nuts on the CD format here. The soundtrack is great too, with dramatic orchestral arrangements during battles, and soulful tunes during dramatic turns in the story.

All in all, never have the fun of video games and artfulness of cinema blended so well. Five stars!

The Bad

Fine, make me nitpick.

- The graphic design, as I mentioned is great, but the engine itself ain't all that hot. Low-res textures give everything a very pixelated look, and since the cut-scenes all play out using the in-game engine, the character's faces are static. Snake himself doesn't really have much of face.

- While the in-game cut scenes are almost all terrific, the Codec screen (Snake talking to his backup, usually used as a hint and summary system) is not. 2D still faces here, people, like listening to a radio play. And the Codec sequences can run a little long, and there's to real way to skip them.

- The game itself will only give you about 20 hours of play. While you are encouraged to play through it twice to get both endings, that's it. 40 hours is all ya got. Still, at $20, you get your money's worth. Definitely a better deal than spending one quarter as much to see a two-hour movie.

The Bottom Line

MGS may not have the best graphics, or the most consistent gameplay, and the delicate balance between game and movie is still a little skewed towards the movie. But folks, that movie ain't half-bad, and this is by far the most engrossing, detailed, immersive, and above all ENTERTAINING experience on the little grey box.