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SummaryMegalomaniac arcade game with verbal diarrhea
The GoodMetal Gear Solid is a belated installment in an old series originating with an interesting game that attempted to focus on stealth a bit more rigorously than the sub-genre's granddad Castle Wolfenstein (with mixed results). Often hailed for what it decidedly never was (a serious game with a rich story), Metal Gear Solid drew the ire of some hardcore players, who dismissed it as a typical representation of console gaming with its cheap effects and shallow content.
The above evaluation is, in fact, quite accurate: the game is, in essence, a glossy 3D recreation of a decade-old title, translating its once-intriguing gameplay ideas into the new technology with the addition of unbearable, monstrously overbloated soap opera interpolations.
That is not to say there is no fun to be had here. The gameplay is unabashedly gimmicky, yet some of the setpieces are entertaining. The boss battles, for example, are all completely different, and the action can get quite tense sometimes. 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, there is enough variety to ensure a smooth ride.
The BadYou don't need 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 Hideo Kojima's general approach to narrative, which he often simply abuses for throwing in bit after bit of boring and clueless moralizing or "educational" material. Ridiculously long-winded expositions and tacky, bombastic scenes loaded with fake sentimentality abound. This is truly Japanese storytelling at its worst.
Much of the dialogue is embarrassingly bad. Often characters would stop talking with each other and instead start addressing the player. Typically for Japanese games, the characters have the stupid and annoying habit of repeating the last word or phrase they have 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.
But who cares for the story - it's the gameplay that matters, right? Indeed, if the weak story just took a backseat, restricting itself to a few remarks here and there and perhaps a couple of skippable cutscenes, there would be no problem. Instead, the story, suffering from delusions of grandeur, interferes constantly with the already clunky, segmented gameplay portions. After every few rooms, the narrative jerks you out of the gameplay and forces you to sit through inane cutscenes or radio conversations. This would have been a serious flaw even if those were actually good. Coupled with the actual quality of those scenes, the constant jarring interruptions are positively infuriating.
What remains are short, linear, and rather disjointed portions of old arcade-style gameplay that fails to exhibit a coherent 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. Furthermore, the all too faithful transition to 3D revealed many more weaknesses and inconsistencies we readily overlooked in the old 8-bit days but cannot quite ignore in a supposedly much more advanced title. The top-down view, totally unsuitable for the much closer perspective, turns much of the game into blind radar-reliant crawling, occasionally exploiting the dubious AI and the many limitations of the engine. Comparing this game to Thief can only confirm the gap between serious entertainment and a collection of reflex-based minigames interspersed with trashy narrative.