Friday, June 8, 2012

Top 50 Video Games: Number 6

Platform: Playstation 2
Absurdly Specific Genre: James Bond Meets Really Really Long Cutscenes
Difficulty: 6
Beaten: Yes

The Metal Gear Solid series is one that I've invested a lot of time in. I love so many things about the series, from the emphasis on sneaking, to the crazy bosses, to the little exclamation points that pop up above your enemies heads when you surprise them.

Day: Ruined
At the conclusion of the second game, though, everything had sort of flown off-kilter. The plot veered into ludicrous territory, and the first game's epic fight against the eponymous Metal Gear was weirdly perverted into a fight against dozens of (maybe?) virtual copies of it, and the whole thing just sort of felt like a mess. Where do you go from there? In a flash of brilliance, the minds behind the series moved the series back 40 years and into a bold, unexplored territory - the outdoors.

Certainly the series had gone outdoors before, there was a snowy machine yard in the first game, and I'm thinking you could see sky in the second game sometime.
Yeah. See? Water.
Truthfully, though, the series hadn't really ventured into actual living, breathing nature since the NES days. Metal Gear Solid 3 not only ventured there, it dove in headfirst. Wisely stealing the "how well can my enemy see me?" mechanic from the Splinter Cell games, they added a whole new (and very sensible) layer to the series. The addition of stamina I could take or leave (though it was kind of funny to see Snake messily devouring a rabbit the first couple of times), and the cutscenes still bordered on interminable, but so many things were done right that it didn't feel like it mattered.

You could eat parrots. Instant top 10 classic.
The cutscenes actually bring up the biggest thing the game did right - a clear story. Sure, there were the crazy triple-crosses and weird parts where the story went off in bizarre directions, but it all felt like it had a purpose. It was able to be boiled down to "bad guy tries to extort macguffin from shadowy agency via threat of nuclear weapons." Everything else fit within that context, and so there was no wonky "oh! nothing is real, and we're pretty sure they just said that some sort of sentient slime mold/computer program just broke the logic of the storyline" lapses.

No one really cares about any of that, though. Metal Gear Solid, as a series has always been about one thing - crazy boss fights. 3 delivers on that promise, as well, with several inventive ways to reinvent the wheel. The End is one of my favorite boss fights ever, The Sorrow is almost puzzle game-like in its mind bending solution. As for the final boss fight...well...

Metal Gear Solid 3 seems about as well done as a game in the series could possibly ever be (caveat: I've never played 4, so take that with a grain of salt, I suppose).

Other Notable Games in the Metal Gear Series:

The original Metal Gear is ridiculous. I remember playing it occasionally as a kid, and never got anywhere with it. One night, my brother and I pulled up a walkthrough, and he read it to me over the course of the evening to beat it. I still had to cheat (missed a hostage somewhere?). There were points that were kind of fun, but I wouldn't ever play it again, and it wouldn't crack my top 50 NES.

The first Metal Gear Solid, on the other hand, probably cracks the top 20 (though not the top 15, so according to the crazy and obfuscating rules I've set up for this list, it stays off). I still remember borrowing my friend's Playstation and, since I didn't have my own TV at the time, sneaking downstairs late at night to play it. It's a fantastic game, filled with memorable scenes and dialog, along with a truly white-knuckle ending.

The second Metal Gear Solid was one of the most anticipated games ever, and for quite a stretch of the game, it lives up to it. The ability to go into first person is awesome, and there are tons of little gameplay tweaks over the first game that make the first half seem like it's setting the stage for one of the best games ever.

It should be noted that I'm not completely a Raiden hater. Certainly, the dialog that he and Rose share makes me want to drill out my eardrums, but the real problem is that he has no heft as a character. There's no reason to care about anything that he's a part of, and he doesn't do anything to earn any love from the player. Any backstory ends up falling flat, and by the time the truly bizarre ending is finished masturbating itself into a coma, he's simply 'the guy who replaced Snake'. The game itself is fun, but probably features in the mid-40s.

She's either pregnant with your child, or she's the figment of someone else's imagination...
I haven't played the fourth game. I hear it's fun.


  1. I've never played a minute of this series. I should do something about that.

  2. You really should. I can't promise you'll love it, but I've had a lot of fun playing it over the years.