There is a new Metal Gear stomping over the horizon, and while I will be first in line to pick up a copy, I’m worried that the insanity of the MGS universe will become even more prevalent. This is not a “these games are over rated” blog, far, far from it. I am a massive fan, its been a fantastic few years watching the series grow and develop.
However, my biggest fear is that Kojima will get carried away… again. His love for the media is not in any doubt, but his ability to construct a normal, well staggered story is not. Let’s have a look at the MGS games up to this point (bar portable ops because.. .shut up I don’t have a PSP) and see if Kojima will be building on a pedigree or adding another mongrel to the pack.
I’ve listed the games in the order of the story line, If anyone out there fancies a reply through them I would STRONGLY recommend you do it in story order. Like the Saw franchise keeping up with the meta story is very hard when large gaps between games are taken, this way its kept relatively easy to follow.
So lets load up a stinger missile, and jump on in.
(MASSIVE KING KONG SPOILERS!!!)
Set in the cold war, MGS3 is one of the better paced games, Strong voice acting and some definite character development make it a strong opener (though fifth in the series) Having a historical setting takes a large amount of the pressure off of the writing, and with the Kojima flare for the bizarre there is the normal amount of magic and make believe to keep things interesting. Mostly kept in check, it does have those endless cut scenes that add little to the story, and characters that are hard to invest in. Plus, there is a painfully tacked on love interest complete with “ogle” cam which really was not required. Despite its poor qualities it does successfully tap into the Sean Connery era bond vibe to great success, and the fact that Kojima was able to write around the previous four games is nothing short of outstanding. At no point does the curse of the prequel occur, as actions in MGS3 are referenced in older games. MGS3 still remains one of the best metal gear solid titles, if not one of the best video games of all time.
In this game Snake pisses himself.
Until recently this PSP only title would have passed many of us by, and you know what? It would have been our loss. A pretty good cold war-esque story which could teach Black Ops a few things about pacing is the order of the day for this game. Again taking on the role of Big boss as he works for himself for his brotherhood and the greater good. A more open world affair with each mission only taking about twenty minutes to complete before returning you to your main hub when you can build your private army at Outer Heaven. The optional army builder lends hours of fun as you improve your squad and research new equipment. Whilst it might not be anywhere near as heart felt as MGS3, it is still a gem with amazing boss battles and unique concepts left, right and centre. Perhaps as it portable game the craziness is kept to a minimum and all the better for it. Although to be fair the open world mission approach breaks the tension as there never is a risk of running out of ammo or being overwhelmed. I would recommend that any MGS fan picks up a copy of Peace Walker and plays it solo, resulting in boss battles that will test your nerve and your skills to the limit.
In this game a soldier pisses himself.
Metal Gear Solid
Skipping passed the NES games, (still hold up if you’re a retro head) we reach the classic. And by god it really does deserve to be a classic. Despite the PS1 marionette graphics the writing, level design and characterisation are second to none. Relationships are made and elaborated, the story is built slowly without coming across as convoluted, and the crossing character arcs are truly remarkable. The history and evolution of both Otacon and Ocelot stand out.
Unlike other titles, the characters are built gradually rather than throwing endless information at the player. many players ran into MGS and were promptly shot full of holes, and as the game gradually evolves into its perfection, its is a granular change rather than a sudden burst. Once you have sneaking mastered, then its survival, then its sniping, then its trap setting it all builds and develops without forcing any of it. Staggering pacing.
The set pieces and the small touches are truly amazing, but what impressed me the most where the sheer number of amazing touches. The battle with Psycho mantis is well known and for good reason, but I had completely forgotten about the battle with the helicopter on the top of a building, or the wolf puppy, or the bomb hidden in your gear or the camo suit guards battle or or or…. A true classic, every gamer should take the time to get hold of a copy of this game, yes its aged, yes the controls are antique and yes there are some difficulty spikes. But my god, its still amazing after all these years.
In this game Otacon pisses himself.
MGS2 –Sons of Liberty
Ah we had to get to the black sheep some time. MGS2 divides opinions, by which I mean its hated or it is defended as quite good. My opinion is- its both. The old bate and switch with Raiden taking lead role and Snake relegated to supporting cast was an interesting choice, one that I think is worth merit. As Snake is the gruff old veteran by this point, having Raiden as his young foil works well. But it has to be said the endless Codec discussions and cut scenes drag on to a painful extent. Many cigarettes smoked while I yelled “get on with it” at my television. All the while the Colonel would chime in with useless tips (avoid the land mines being a personal favourite) and Rose would want to discuss our (clearly flawed) relationship whist I was being shot at.
That said, Raiden is developed and expanded from a VR soldier into a slick killing machine over the course of the story. And while the boss battles are not as classic, the sword fight finale was a wonderful (if aggravating) change of pace. Characterisation sometimes works and sometimes fails, Otacon’s back story works well, while I would have preferred the complete removal of Raiden’s missus Rose as she adds little other than a blushing and clique ridden female love interest. Story wise, Solidus seems a little tacked on, but by and large a successful piece of storytelling and the elaboration on the Patriots and explaining the epilogue of MGS go long ways to score positive points. The setting is clever, but the radar system flawed. For every phenomenal set piece like the sniping at sun set section or the trip wire disposal bit, there are too many occasions when you will be gunned down for tiny errors. MGS2 is not perfect, but it gets so much right as well as wrong it’s unfair to write it off. Story wise it is the episode that really elaborates the meta story that has been hinted at throughout the previous titles, worth a punt but bring your patience to the party.
Another note that is often over looked is this is the game that breaks the 4[sup]th[/sup] wall regularly and with great success. Re-visited in MGS4, this clever story telling technique really was a first, as rather than being a fun quirk, it adds to the over-arching story of media manipulation and gamers as playing at war. Impressive, and often overlooked concepts.
In this game Emma Emmerich pisses herself and Raiden is pissed on.
MGS4 Guns of the Patriots
What is most impressive about the most up to date offering in the series isn’t the graphics (which are still gorgeous) or the control scheme or even the imaginative new ideas that Kojima et al have brought to this game. The most impressive part is that it ties all the other games up into a neat package superbly. Even minor plot holes are dealt with well. that’s not to say its without its problems, again it drags in places and like the TV show 24, the errors are glaring if you line all episodes against other.
Character development continues to build well, with Snake accepting his fate with grace but still constantly trying to rage against the light. Otacon builds well into the father role, something that I think we will be revisiting in the Phantom Pain (but I have no proof of this) although he is still a bit of a wet blanket considering both his family history and his adventures with Snake. An important character development that passed by me on my first play through is the passive change in Raiden. He is now a COMPLETE BADASS. What I liked was as well as being a limbless ninja it all makes sense, having scraped his way through MGS2, and having his heart ripped out by Rose, he is figuratively dead on the inside.
Combat and control are well done, with the introduction of the arms dealer Drebin being a particularly nice touch. Set pieces again play a major part, the stealth follow of the resistance soldier is a particular favourite, and the Beauty and the Beast boss fights are well crafted and developed. Harking back to several awesome moments from all the MGS series. Returning to Shadow Moses for another sniper fight in the snow, a roof top battle against a flying foe and a fist fight with Liquid all bring fond memories but with a modern twist. The reminders are a little over done, but they do not detract from the quality of the game and the experience.
Like MGS2, the story does drag on, and the cut scenes really do take the piss. Mostly kept to an acceptable length the 80 minute epilogue and credits really is too much. Whilst for hard core MGS’ers it rounds out the stories of the characters and concludes it satisfactorily. Though don’t finish this game with work in the morning, I was screaming for it to end so I could go to bed. Also compared to the other offerings this one is a little too easy, and the emotions are painted on a little thick.
Overall, a superb conclusion to the story so far. A great, but flawed game in places- Kojima still over righting and over wringing constantly. But its all forgiven for classic set pieces and perfect character development as well as of course tactical espionage action.
In this game Achiba shits himself…. So that’s a bit different.
Five Games, Four snakes.
Honestly for all you PS3 owners out there, go and buy the Legacy edition box set. I enjoyed this series play through far more than I thought I would. Games I loved and chart as some of the best games of all time (MGS & MGS3) were even better than I remember, and ones that I traditionally was not that impressed with, surprised me with their quality. Granted there are ups and downs, and Kojima is no Martin Scorsese by any stretch, but he has a gift for character development, set piece and overarching meta-story. Three cheers for the MGS series, a truly classic series of games.
Man I’m gonna miss David Hayter.
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