Metal Gear Solid
The best game in the world just got better. It’s true. It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that the planet recently went insane with the build-up and subsequent release of a game by the name of Metal Gear Solid. Across America and Western Europe crimes were committed by gamers to finance expensive import copies of the game, while at the point of origin in Japan their polite queues stretched all the way from Akihabara to Ginza.
Half a million copies shifted almost immediately, including many to the waiting clutches of UK gamers and one to this office. We loved it, you loved it, the Americans loved it – and that was before any of us could make out a damned word! The release of an English language US version has changed all that, and brought with it another heap of reasons to cherish this wonderful game.
Everything that grabbed your attention before is here. The revolutionary stealthfor- health gameplay, the killing from the shadows, unbelievable graphics and a selection of weapons and gadgets that put Q’s unlikely contraptions into perspective. But the English speech and text has uncovered a captivating story, previously buried under lines of Japanese characters, more involving than anything you have ever seen before.
Enormous conversations via Snake’s implanted radio and extremely long live action scenes using the game engine, build a deep plot of conspiracy that reaches from the original Manhattan Project to the black budget defence contracts of today. There is real character development here, with intricate life stories which weave into the past to include encounters with characters from as long ago as Metal Gear on the MSX computer. Even the voiceover acting is tolerable, which must be the first time for any game, ever. It’s more Days Of Our Lives than DeNiro, but anything that sounds remotely human is an improvement over the trash we’ve put up with so far.
There were also some surprises. Take for instance the scene where Meryl is under mental control from the psychic freak Psycho Mantis, she sways toward Snake, gun raised, saying, “Touch me Snake. Make love to me. What’s the matter, don’t you like girls?” Rather than rifling through the inventory for a military issue rubber, you have to beat her unconscious. Moments later, Mantis says he’s going to read your mind, which he does by scanning the memory card you’ve got plugged in! “You have not saved often, you are careless!” he says, which can throw you off a bit in the coming battle. Lose however, and the Colonel radios in to offer some advice: plug the controller into the other port and Mr Mantis won’t be able to tell where you are going to move next. We were blind to this before.
In the interests of longevity, there are four difficulty levels to choose from in the US version. Easy throws you a few extra life-saving rations, Normal is equivalent to the only level found of the Japanese version, and Hard removes the utterly vital radar from the top right corner of the screen. As for Extreme, well it’s so special we, ahem, couldn’t enable it. The educated guess is that the most plentiful enemies, the Genome Soldiers, are constantly on full alert with Extreme mode – a horror you normally only have to endure for ten seconds at a time, when you are discovered by a guard.
It’s almost impossible to recommend Metal Gear Solid enough. Ultimately, this is the best version of the year’s best game. The story suddenly turns your favourite game into your favourite movie too, in which you play the leading role as a highly-skilled, well-practised reluctant hero. While you have the benefits of the English language version, the code has yet to be butchered for European TV sets, so it’s still full speed, full screen like the original. Without a doubt, the best thing you can do with the money without risking venereal infection.