HomeArticlesRetro Reviews – Metal Gear Solid (1998, PS1) – Yes It Still Holds Up!
Retro Reviews – Metal Gear Solid (1998, PS1) – Yes It Still Holds Up!
January 30, 2020
Hideo Kojima, a video game designer, writer, director, and producer with an affinity for flat out weird mechanics and game design choices. With the release his latest title, Death Stranding I thought it was time I go back and play his earlier masterpiece, Metal Gear Solid (1998). Here I will share my experiences with MGS, during my first playthrough, in 2019.
Metal Gear Solid stands firmly against the erosion of time because it oozes personality and weirdness in ways that are still left unmatched today. However, there are still some aspects of the game which feel ancient, for example the top-down camera angles and the dated graphics. But with the standout gameplay, extremely unique boss encounters, and charming writing you will quickly forget about its age. Playing MGS on the PS1 in 2019 is still an experience I can recommend to any gamer who hasn’t already given it a shot.
Metal Gear Solid is a “tactical espionage action” game according to the box. At times it plays like that, a stealth game where you are often trying to sneak past hostiles or silently kill them. A snap of the neck is my preferred tool. The other half of “espionage action” is, well action, and this game is full of it. The boss fights in particular are all extremely unique mechanistically, no two fights are the same and you need to discover the optimal strategy for taking out these members of FOX-HOUND (a terrorist group). Some of these boss fights have “gimmicks” that I will remember forever, while others were more classic but epic in proportion, nonetheless.
The story starts off somewhat innocent for a video game, a sole operative, Solid Snake is tasked with shutting down FOX-HOUND’s operation at a decommissioned nuclear waste disposal facility. However, the story, music, and environment are filled with undertones of something more sinister at play. You soon learn it is not as simple as your colonel has led you to believe. You slowly unpack and detangle the storyline as you progress and encounter more members of FOX-HOUND. I will not give away too much more of the story other than it is filled with twists and cinematic moments.
Adding to these moments was the perfectly crafted and timed cinematic audio score. The music is the one area of Metal Gear Solid that has not aged a bit. Alongside the distinct boss fights are an equally impressive audio track, almost perfectly complementing the personality of the fight itself. From epic “bad-ass” boss fights to subtle and uneasy exploration of the nuclear facility, the audio can dictate much of the vibe and experience.
The story is told through standout humorous and witty writing. At times this can be a little direct, and too “video game-like”. Solid Snake, the main character is constantly being hit on by every girl he speaks too. But there is a charming nature to these interactions. They are attempting to build Solid Snake up into being the legend coming out of retirement, the legend living up to his legacy. During cutscenes and conversations I often found myself chuckling and laughing away. Characters wetting themselves, cheesy one-liners, and awkward villain encounters. Fundamentally video game writing from the past was never trying to completely emulate movies, unlike modern video games do. This older style of writing has a beautiful warm tone and enhances the experience. That being said, do not count out the story at all, Kojima sure knows how to write a story.
Like previously mentioned I think it is important to address the standout issues of going back and playing almost any older video game, and that is the graphics and top-down camera view. Most retro games will stick out like a sore thumb if you predominantly play modern titles. But to my surprise this was a rather small hurdle to overcome. I quickly grew fond of the art style, the game designers and artists were able to achieve quite a lot with the hardware restrictions of the 90s. Characters are clearly defined and distinguished from each other, environments provide a true feeling of immersion in the world, and the weapons aiming HUD sufficed. Another underappreciated aspect of the distant camera height was giving more significance to the up-close camera angles of cutscenes, allowing for a much greater impact.
In summary Metal Gear Solid has some minor issues, but ones like any game from the PS1 era. Luckily these issues are easily overcome, and once you adjust, they are not even noticeable. The upside the game possesses is enormous, from writing that is hilarious and charming, to a plot which is unforgettable. Boss fights unlike any I have experienced ever, satisfying secrets, and an amazing audio score that fits perfectly. On top of all that are distinct game mechanics which take advantage of a wide weapons library with special use-cases. This game does things and expects things from you like no other gave I have played prior. The game continuously rewards you for exploration and questioning of the world. This game is an absolute must play for almost any gamer.
9.0/10.0 – An absolute must play for almost any gamer, holds up impressively well.