Throw Back Thursday: Nerd Edition Week 3
by Matthew Cocozza
Hello friends and welcome to Week 3 of Throwback Thursday: Nerd Edition where we feature games that are at least ten years old, have changed the way we looked at games, and were a ton of fun to play.
This week we will be looking at the mother of all stealth games; a game that taught us how to sneak around genetically-enhanced soldiers, snap necks like twigs, and single-handedly save the world from nuclear fallout with only a pistol and a wet suit simply because you are the baddest guy around. Of course I am talking about Metal Gear Solid.
MGS was released in 1998 by the mastermind Hideo Kojima on the Sony PlayStation. The game takes place in the year 2005 on an Alaskan island that is code named “Shadow Moses”. The island has been taken over by a terrorist group known as FOXHOUND that hijacked a nuclear delivery system called Metal Gear. Metal Gear is a giant mechanized machine that can fire nukes anywhere in the world without detection. FOXHOUND takes this island in order to plunge the world into a third great war and forge their legacy on the battlefield so that they can surpass the legend of Big Boss, the greatest fighter the world has ever seen. In order to stop them, the US government calls on Solid Snake – a former member of FOXHOUND before it went rogue – to stop these terrorists and redeem his former unit. It is later learned that Solid Snake along with Liquid Snake – the current leader of FOXHOUND – are both clones of Big Boss, with one possessing all of his dominant genes and the other his recessive genes. As you can see, this is not an average game in respect to plot. It was the first game to not only have a plot that interests you, but one that possessed a story of cinematic quality and depth. It drove you to see the story to the end, just as much, if not more, than the game-play did. This emphasis on creating a real-world story with complex characters faced with dire consequences had not been seen up to this point.
MGS not only gave Solid Snake a back-story and character development that causes you to really care about him, it also does this for your support team and even your enemies. This game takes time to let you get to know the characters so that you understand each of their motivations. It fleshes out their histories and presents you with the driving forces that caused them to be involved in such a strenuous situation. It also speaks to why they have chosen the side they have. Many of them possess real-world traumas and psychological problems that drove them down the path they were on when you met them. These characteristics causes you to have hope that those on your team will be able to find peace while you simultaneously have sympathy for your enemies, even as you try to kill them. You don’t hate them as you do in most other games. MGS has a weird way of making defeating a boss rewarding but somber at the same time. In one instance, a character named Sniper Wolf engages you in a grueling sniper duel that ends with one of your allies, Otacon, crying over her because he grew to love her from afar in his captivity. It is a far cry from dropping Bowser into the lava and riding off into the sunset with the girl. (Not that that isn’t awesome in its own right.) It presents an interesting concept – in war, nobody wins – one that has since been explored in other entertainment mediums, but to have it presented in a game that came out almost fifteen years ago was revolutionary.
Admittedly, while these bosses had interesting back-stories that made you invest in them, they were also a ton of fun to kill. They each presented their own riddle that you had to solve in order to gain the upper hand in a duel that was clearly in their favor to begin with. You go up against a giant man named Vulcan Crow in a tank, a revolver-toting cowboy named Ocelot, the aforementioned Sniper Wolf who pins you down in an ambush, and by far the worst of them all: the mind-reader Psycho Mantis. This guy gave me fits every time I made a move because he could see them coming and avoided them due to his psychic powers. There is no way to conventionally defeat this guy. The only way you can beat him is if you move your controller from port 1 to port 2 so that he can no longer “read your mind.” How outside-the-box psycho is that? After defeating all of these crazies, you go up against your clone-brother Liquid Snake who just won’t go down. I mean, you blow this guy up with rockets, kick his ass in a shirtless brawl, throw him off the 30-foot tall Metal Gear, and he still survives. It isn’t until he flips a jeep on top of himself that he is truly slowed down, yet still takes a super virus enacted at the right time to finally kill him. It is ridiculous in the best way possible.
This game, while having a groundbreaking story and fun-to-play bosses, also set the precedent on espionage games. Any game where your character uses stealth as their main weapon (Splinter Cell, Hitman, etc.) were created in the shadow of MGS and certainly used it as an inspiration for aspects of their gaming and story plot. The concept of a lone soldier going into a highly fortified base and taking it down not by force, but by stealth, was something not seen at that time. This game highly encourages you to not be seen, make noise, or leave any trace of your presence. The sentries in this game are genetically-enhanced to be able to see farther, jump higher, and all that jazz so as to investigate any disturbance (depending on your difficulty setting). If they catch sight of you, a giant exclamation point will flash on their head, a sound will blast through your speakers that will make you jump out of your seat, and at that point you are totally screwed.
No backup will need to be called by this soldier. Simply him seeing you and that alert sound going off in his head will let the whole base know you are there. Numerous reinforcements toting machine guns will come running to back up their brother-in-arms and gun you down as you try to hold them off, in the open, with a pistol. (As many times as I tried, I think I got away with it once.) It is perhaps possible to kick-punch the guy who saw you and then run and hide until the alert is over so you can continue to be covert; however, this goes back to my original point that this is something you didn’t find in other shooter games. In other shooters of that time, you had unlimited ammo and god-like health bars that would allow you to go up against ten guys with machine guns and take them out with a sling shot. (Again, awesome in its own right.)
Metal Gear Solid not only raised the bar for story-driven games and the espionage genre, it forged the bar out of unobtainium and then set the bar on the highest rung. MGS was, and still is, an amazing game that I would encourage you to play if you haven’t. (Some things are outdated, like no first-person shooting, but the story more than makes up for it.) The MGS story is one that is still being continued