Retrospectives – Metal Gear Solid series part 5

Continued from part the last.

Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
What happens when you decide to remake the original Metal Gear Solid using the MGS 2 engine? What if you promise new cinematics and content?

Chill out.

What if you told people it was being developed by Silicon Knights, with the help of Miyamoto and Kojima.

They say if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, and the case holds here. I do not know the official story, but I’ll venture to guess that the two Gaming Gods had mere advisory roles. Silicon Knights still manages to deliver on the promise. That promise, however, just isn’t much.

If you have played MGS1 before, all the new goodies and even the upgraded visuals are not potent enough to make it feel fresh, nor is the new content worth seeing. REmake this is not, and so we have a game that was great for the Gamecube owners that had yet to touch MGS, but that was about it.

The new cutscenes are great at turning the action hero absurdity of the game to new levels, but this is countered by the new voice acting, which is as calm as it could be, and that isn’t a good thing. Remember the early scene where Snake and Meryll are fighting off guards, and Snake yells at her to open fire like their lives depended on it? In Twin Snakes the same lines sound like a whisper. The dramatic effect is stripped away, right along with all the classic music. Twin Snakes simply has no spark to it. If you asked me to remember most of the differences between this and classic MGS1 I honestly couldn’t tell you, because it was that unnecessary of a game.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
I had a massive post written about Snake Eater, but it is all gone now. In the end I realized there was no point to it. No point in explaining every aspect new and old in great detail. Snake Eater is very much the same game as Sons of Liberty, with the added benefit of a new close quarters combat system and new game elements geared towards survival in the new jungle setting. You will like some, and perhaps loathe others. I cannot really say which they will be, as every person’s MGS3 experience seems to be a bit different.

The only point I feel I need to bring up at this point is just how different Snake Eater feels compared to its predecessor, all thanks to a simple change in perspective and attitude. Really, both games are a blend of highly detailed levels waiting to be played with, and really trippy/crazy characters and scenarios. This is a game where there is a conversation about a dream in which giant robots made of shit destroy a town. I could write an entire page with more examples of how nuts MGS3 is. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t fall in love with MGS2, and yet it is one of my favorite things about Snake Eater. The game is just an absolute blast to play. If it were not for Fumito Ueda, this would be my top pick on the PS2. It is fun, funny, creative, retarded, and exciting all at the same time. Here it is fun to experiment, fun to play through as Rambo, fun to dick around for two hours rather than progress the story.

Why is all of this fun in one game, but not in another? I think it is all in the perspective. MGS1 was the 80’s action flick, while MGS2 was the postmodern, David Lynch-esque art film. MGS3 is the James Bond film of the three, a goofy romp that wears its Cold War era style proudly on its sleeve. There is no guesswork to be done here about whether Kojima is trying to hint at something. Snake Eater is completely blunt in letting you know that it wants to be at times hilarious, at other times action packed. Not everyone understands this after MGS2, but I feel it is the key to enjoying the game for what it is.

Finally, Snake Eater can also be very dramatic and emotional. Despite the rest of its surroundings, it works rather well, because there is nothing pretentious about it. The game spells out every point it wants to make, and somehow these straightforward explanations, coupled with serviceable dialogue, allows for some of the best scenes in Metal Gear history.

That’s it for me folks. I know I could do more to explain Snake Eater, but it is a very special game to me, so much so that I want you to have as much of a fresh experience as possible. MGS3 is an absolute classic, a reason alone for the existence of this entire series. I have at least some hopes for its sequel, but even if they become dashed, I at least have this to fall back on.

The end. Or is it? Not? The end? Maybe?

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16 years ago

That was a good set of articles; it’s been neat to see someone else’s impression of the series from start to finish. After reading through your breakdown for MGS2 and now 3 and thinking back on my own impressions, I’m afraid I have to admit to myself that I might be one of those shallow punks who favor the second outing over the third:). More disastrously, my expectations from the second game really did diminish my experiences in the third as you described. I found the unapologetic goofiness irritating rather than endearing, and missed the crazy triple crosses and ridiculous character melodrama that filled so much time in Sons of Liberty.

Perhaps worst of all, extended bouts of no casualty tag collecting in MGS 2 primed me for a completely underwhelming encounter with The Sorrow in Snake Eater. Only a handful of guys I’d never seen wandering around in pilot uniforms (I later deduced that they must have been crewmen in the 2 helicopters I’d shot down) and one lone soldier ludicrously running along the surface of the water while a bird chased him (I’m not really sure what that was about). It all felt sort of frustratingly dumb, really, particularly since I’d also made sure to only knock out each boss, and yet I still found them there. Having to replay it 4 times because I didn’t know what to do (and thinking how stupid I must be after finally looking up the solution online) couldn’t have helped either, though.

Playing through MGS 3 (and partway through the PSP sequel) also made me realize how truly terrible I am at stealth games, to the point where I don’t really find them much fun to play. I’d always thought after my time with MGS1 and 2 that I had at least passable talent in the genre, but take away my radar and give me some freedom of movement and even the astoundingly stupid guards in a metal gear game can make mincemeat out of me. It’s as if, stripped away from all the flash and bizarro world dialog, the actual gameplay of a metal gear game (outside of boss fights and exploration at any rate) feels surprisingly unattractive and clunky. I guess that goes back to your point about how all the weird crap in SoL made the back on the ground feel of SE sort of a disappointment for those weaned on weirdness for weirdness’ sake.

Regardless, I’d say that overall I still loved my time with MGS 3, particularly the awesome boss battles (except fighting Shagohod and Col. Sparky 80 times…) and the comfortingly human, generally non-neurotic support staff. I can’t help but think how much more I could have gotten out of it, though, judging from your write-up.

16 years ago

thanks for the insight man. The biggest lesson that MGS can pass to us is that expectations have so much impact on our experience. I expected nothing from MGS3; I got it for 20 bucks just because the price was so good. When I saw what was, and I saw the intro scene when you tell it you liked MGS1 the best, I was hooked. I kept playing and never looked back.

MGS2 was a powerful enough game that I will play it again some day. Until then, I think its perfectly fine to love the shit out of it; many game writers I love consider it the best. Perspective means much in these games, and how we approach them can be everything in shaping our opinions.