Revisiting Metal Gear Solid

I decided to replay the Metal Gear Solid series in preparation for MGSV. Here are some thoughts on MGS1.

I’ve played through MGS many times, but the last time was easily high school or before. I’m much more aware of games now and can look at them with a more critical eye, as well as understand their stories better.

For example, the story of MGS always felt heavy and impactful to me, but I never really could appreciate the complex topics until now. I didn’t know anything about nuclear disarmament or morality in genetics. I didn’t understand the subplot with Naomi. I didn’t understand Meryl’s internal struggle to understand her father by becoming a soldier.

I couldn’t appreciate the incredible English voice performances and audio quality for a PlayStation game. I couldn’t appreciate the amazing, unique graphical style, color palette and lighting, and the detailed, efficient textures.

I couldn’t realize important themes and messages the game conveys. One in particular that I noticed this time is the most important one of all: The importance of life. Naomi hammers on the point at the end about just going out and LIVING, and it seemed a little heavy-handed/ odd/ out of place, until I realized that this was what the game was building up to all along. Every member of FOXHOUND Snake fought was basically just waiting for someone to come along and kill them. Snake himself is waiting for the sweet release of death for most of the game. He has no attachments, he doesn’t care about anything or anyone but himself, and he merely kills because he has to. It’s a job. This is his life. Most of the characters in the game, their very being is war and killing, their only future to ultimately die by someone else’s hand. Most of the bosses Snake fights BEG him to kill them. So, the ultimate message, “LIVE” is actually really poignant and apropos. When the entire game is centered around death and killing, it’s appropriate for the ending to be about life and making a positive difference in the lives of others. This theme carries throughout the series, the contrast between the suicidal perspective of a damned soldier and the perspective of seeing life beyond all the killing. Perhaps it’s also appropriate that health in the MGS games is called “LIFE”.

Final thoughts on the gameplay: The MGS series has never had good controls (the first 3 or so, anyway), and though the first game isn’t the worst offender, it can get frustrating. It all comes to a head in the incredibly unwieldy penultimate boss fight with Rex, where you have to switch between Chaffs and Stingers, the latter of which is a weapon you can’t move with, yet you can’t really ever stop moving unless you want to be crushed, blown up, or turned into Swiss cheese. There’s an interesting sort of rhythm to it, stopping to switch to Stingers, locking on and firing, then switching to chaff and throwing while on the run again, rinse and repeat… but it’s unintuitive and just… weird all the same. That said, the game makes up for it with the well-designed fight with Liquid soon after. Liquid has great telegraphing (letting you know when he’s going to attack and what kind of attack he’ll make), that gets progressively more difficult to read the more health he’s lost. It has a perfect acceleration of difficulty as the fight goes on, and there’s something really satisfying about hand-to-hand fighting with Liquid.

Metal Gear Solid was and still is a fantastic, unique, cinematic experience. It handles complex topics with great tact and delicacy. People consider the MGS series to be playful and silly as much as it is serious, and that’s true. It can afford to be, because it shows that it knows what it’s talking about when it gets serious. This is why these games are so well regarded and respected.

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~ by The Retro Gamer on September 11, 2015.

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