|My next stop was The Twin Snakes, a remake of the original MGS game for the Gamecube. Did it live up to the standard MGS3 set for itself in my mind though?|
So you might remember my distain for the Metal Gear universe did a rather humungous 180 last month
when I sat down and actually played
Metal Gear Solid 3 from start to finish (who'd have thought?). While I still had issues with the stealth mechanics and the aiming controls, the storyline and characters simply blew my frickin' socks off, with the cut-scenes in particular just some of the most flat-out insane shit I'd ever seen in a game. That entire motorbike chase sequence still rings throughout my ears as I type this.
With this new found appreciation for the series, I decided to catch up on the rest of the preceding games in preparation for Metal Gear Solid 4 next year. Unfortunately for me, the first Metal Gear Solid game appeared all the way back on the antiquated PSone in 1998, and in these here times of HD televisions and dual-SLI rigged PCs, I've somehow turned into a wee bit of a graphics whore I'm sad to say, one who certainly can't be dealing with no jaggy PSone craziness in this day and age.
Thus I opted to pick up the Gamecube remake of MGS from 2004, re-titled "The Twin Snakes". While essentially the same game underneath it all, I'd heard this version beefed up the visuals though, while also added a bunch of other additional niceties to spruce up the overall experience somewhat (namely first person aiming and much improved cut-scenes). Although overseen by Metal Gear grand daddy himself - Hideo Kojima - the remake job was also handled by Silicon Knights, them of Eternal Darkness fame. I'll admit, Eternal Darkness is yet another golden oldie I need to get around to playing beyond the first five minutes at some point too, but Silicon Knights upcoming Too Human looks simply awesome I must say, hence I was immediately excited to see their name plastered all over this project. So far, so good.
Now complete from beginning to end though, I'm sad to say Metal Gear Solid 1 disappointed me I'm afraid. Perhaps its modern day face-lift betrayed its aging '90s origins, but I just expected so much more from this game. By the end of the first 30 minutes alone though, it became depressingly clear that the exquisite sense of artistry and visual flare Kojima displayed so prominently in part three, hadn't truly blossomed yet. You see it ever so briefly in the odd shot here and there - the snow-tinged "funeral" scene amidst howling wolves springs to mind primarily - but for the most part, this game pales hugely in comparison on that side of things.
Characterisation is also a significant step back too; Snake plays out most of this game like an arse hole sex pest, while all the chicks act like horny nymphos or crazy psychopaths (often both). Worst of all, the bosses are just terrible cartoon characters that kind of embarrass to watch. Liquid in particular is absolutely groansome, with his third act reveal one of the most poorly hidden plot twists I've ever seen. Ever
. Next to the likes of The Boss - who brought an incredible amount of heart and depth to MGS3 - this muppet is pure Binks.
The exception to this disappointing roster of toons is the Ninja. A super cool, crazy arse kicker from Snake's past, this guy kinda captivated me from beginning to end (and I have to wonder, is that the same suit Raiden dons in the mind-blowing MGS4 trailer?). Colour me interested either way. As Snake's sidekick, Meryl also had her moments, but personally the entire love angle falls completely flat for me, and their final riding off into the sunset together wreaks of camembert. Not buying any of it.
Not that I should, mind you - this is a video game, not a movie - but the problem is, with MGS3 I totally did
. On an emotional level, that game had me hook, line and sinker. I guess I was just hoping for more of the same here, but it's starting to become worryingly clear that such well realised video game characters are pretty much exclusive to that single title. Not cool.
Ergh, Can I Take Off This Suit?
|Looks like fun, no?|
I wish it controlled so
Gameplay-wise, MGS kinda falls apart for me too. Now used to Subsistence's fully controllable third person camera, reverting to the "classic" camera of the old Metal Gear games is just flat out painful. I soon grew to detest the fact that when I run down a corridor, I can't see what's at the end of it thanks to that ruddy viewpoint. It's just beyond poorly conceived for a game that expects me to sneak and evade, resulting in me staring more at the 2D radar in the corner of the screen than the actual game world, as that's the only real way to visualise where nearby enemies are. That's just a waste, more than anything.
Thankfully this remake includes the first person view that MGS2 apparently introduced, but that's hardly ideal for regular use, due to gluing your feet in place whenever toggled on. That said, I can't imagine the pain of the poor sods who managed to complete the original game back in the day without it. I'm really starting to wonder, but are MGS fans just - gulp - humungous gluttons for punishment...?
With that camera thrown in with the terribly fiddly combat system and the poorly implemented stealth mechanics (which I whined about more than enough last time), this game just feels like all of MGS3's worst parts, minus that artistic integrity which drove the game forward. That's the primary trait which kept me glued to my screen throughout the good and the bad, and here, it's all sorta non-existent.
The absolute worst part of the entire experience for me though came about halfway through. Picture this; Meryl lays on the floor, bleeding from a distant sniper shot. As Snake, I'm pinned down behind cover, unable to reach her. I radio in to Colonel Campbell, asking what the shit to do...and the answer? Oh, quite simple, Snake. You just have to turn around and retrace your steps back through the entire fucking game
, all the way to the armoury at the very beginning, pick up a sniper rifle, then head all the way back
to save her. Holy fucking christ, is this guy winding me up?
|Apparently the stealth mechanics were beefed up slightly for this remake. I dread to think how they were originally|
The sad part is, if you can be arsed to do all that, you're subsequently taken prisoner - albeit via a rather splendid cut-scene - and dragged back to a prison cell in the very same building you just legged it all the way back from
, only to then break out and fucking retrace your steps all the way back to where you just were for a third fucking time
. How the hell does something like that 1) get through conception? 2) get through gameplay testing? And 3) end up in supposedly one of the "greatest games ever made"? Please, MGS fans...explain it to me. How is this good game design? Oh my god, I wanted to eat my own face by the end of it. I literally had to take a month's break here before I could slog on and finish off the rest of the game.
I was so immune to the whole experience at this point, that when I eventually returned and reached the end factory sequence, and had to essentially (and somewhat amusingly) do the same thing again - retracing my steps 3 times in a row to deactivate Metal Gear and save the world - I just had to laugh out loud. It was either that, or empty my wrists into a warm bath. I just don't get it, you guys.
As a side-gripe, I also have to mention; this is the worst game of all time when it comes to tearing down the fourth wall. What do I mean by that? I'm referring to the archaic trend of gaming toons breaking out of character to tell you game-specific instructions. For instance, there's no quicker way to pull you straight out of a tense, atmospheric showdown than to have the Colonel radio in and tell you to "press the A button" or "use the right analogue stick". This game does it all the damn time
- it even tries to be cute by looking straight at the camera at one point. No no, old man Ocelot, don't do that.
I Bring You Love
Fair enough, it's not all doom and gloom. The early boss battle with Psychotmantis is just flat-out amazing. Completely inspired, it does cutting edge and truly innovative things with the hardware that I'd never, ever imagined in a game before. The bit where he "reads your mind" is absolutely hilarious. Scanning your memory stick and reeling off games and playing habits, it took me a good few seconds to realise just what the frack was going on. Yeah, it's failing in that whole suspension of disbelief thang I just touched upon, but in this instance I have to forgive, as it's just utterly friggin' brilliant. It's the ultimate way of beating him which blew my mind though (for those who don't remember, his ability to read minds and foresee your movements can only be overcome by physically unplugging the controller). Inventive and interesting stuff, more of this could have severely tickled my pickle.
|Twin Snakes does offer up exceptional cut-scene work and some kick arse action sequences|
For me though, Twin Snake's storyline is really its only saving grace beyond that. While the characters may be disappointingly one dimensional, and the gameplay mundane to excruciatingly annoying at times, at least Snake's ongoing battle against Metal Gear and its various differing incarnations proves a pretty damn compelling watch via the extensive cut-scenes. Enough at least, for me to see it through to the end. There are some absolutely choice fight sequences in particular that are undeniably enjoyable as hell.
Witnessing the Ninja tearing up shit in his final blaze of glory while sparks and blood fly everywhere is quite the site, as is Snake taking down that pompous nob gobbler Liquid onboard a pair of super fast moving jeeps. The problem is, I wanna play a game where I can do all that stuff myself
. Cut-scenes are fine, but why not make the actual game
that freakin' cool? I wanna play a fast-paced action take on the Metal Gear Solid series, one where Snake's riotous skills are actually under my
control, not some pre-scripted cinematic which I could be watching at the movie theatre. One where niggly aiming and retarded AI are replaced with kick arse hand to hand takedowns and killer split-second headshots. When the cut-scenes end, that just ain't what we're left with here, and that's a damn shame if you ask me.
Will MGS4 breath some of this more high-octane, arse kicking action directly into the gameplay finally? Will it let us actually play
Solid Snake as the crazy superhuman fountain of brutality that he is...instead of merely watch him? Or is it destined to be just a far prettier version of these same old dated antics of hiding in boxes from guards with a big "!" hovering above their heads? 'Cos I gotta say, at only two games in, it's already growing rather old for me.
Death to Diggz
|It's worrying how close that Metal Gear Awesome spoof nailed it|
All this negativity aside (I can hear the fanboys clawing at my window as we speak), I do appreciate that there is indeed a whopping great 8 year old game buried beneath this modernised exterior. I guess the sad fact is that it just doesn't really hold up too well these days from a gameplay perspective though, and it lacks that aforementioned artistic style and the exceptional character work which MGS3 (and one hopes MGS4) displayed so proudly. This is considerably more of a cheesy, one dimensional comic book outing next to MGS3's awe-inspiring film-like experience, and as someone late to the party...its place in the gaming hall of fame is a little confusing to me right now.
As a result, a chunk of that new found love I procured for this series from playing Subsistence took a wee bit of a hit after playing through The Twin Snakes. The question is, can MGS2 win it back? In Raiden, I must trust...