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How Metal Gear Solid’s Timeless Yarn Raised The Standard For Video Game Storytelling

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Again in 2001, I used to be no stranger to video video games. In reality, after adolescence spent obsessing over Pokémon, pummelling my cousins in Tekken and bullying sheep as Spyro, I believed I’d seen all the pieces video games needed to provide. Then Metal Gear Stable got here alongside. Hitting UK cabinets the similar yr as The Matrix (1999), being 9 years previous, Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece initially eluded me. Wandering round my major college at break time, The Matrix was the discuss of the tarmac, eliciting excitable playground-shaking screams from the children fortunate sufficient to have seen it. Till someday, whispers of a wierd Japanese PlayStation game reached my ears.

Instantly, break time was dominated by children impersonating cyborg ninjas, shouting nonsensical sentences about one thing known as ‘Foxdie’, and diving dramatically to the floor in imaginary gunfights. I had no concept what the hell was occurring, however one factor was clear – I needed to play this game. Swiftly convincing my mother and father to disregard that pesky 16+ age score, I quickly got here house clutching a preowned copy of Metal Gear Stable.

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The second I popped that scuffed disc into my chunky gray PlayStation, my notion of video video games modified without end. In Metal Gear Solid’s opening ten minutes, I used to be sneaking previous heavily-armed guards and avoiding army helicopters, enthralled by the gravelly tones of Stable “I eat cigarettes for breakfast” Snake. As voice actor David Hayter grumbled intensely about one thing known as nanomachines and talked solemnly about ‘the battlefield’, I strained nearer and nearer to the grainy CRT display screen, fully and totally entranced. For ten-year-old Tom, this wasn’t simply one other video game – this was the coolest factor I’d ever seen.

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Metal Gear Solid. Credit: KonamiMetal Gear Stable. Credit score: Konami

I clearly wasn’t the just one left spellbound by Metal Gear Stable; Kojima’s PS1 debut launched to rave critiques throughout the board. It’s not exhausting to see why. Launched simply two years after the solely unvoiced Last Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid’s fully-voiced dialogue felt prefer it had come from one other planet. The place most ‘90s video games featured a smattering of sound results and intermittent character noises, Metal Gear Solid’s seamless segues between 3D cutscenes and voiced codec conversations felt like pure magic. Positive, a few of the performances really feel a bit am-dram now (we’re taking a look at you, Liquid Snake) however even in 2021, full voice performing isn’t a feat that each AAA game managed.

It wasn’t simply the gravelly tones of Snake and his comrades that had me enthralled, although – the game’s soundtrack is an all-timer. All through its ten-plus hour run time, Metal Gear Solid’s orchestral rating is a masterclass in rigidity and spectacle, someway feeling concurrently grand, delicate, and constantly menacing. With Snake on a one-man mission to take down a terrorist cell earlier than they will launch a nuclear warhead, it’s the eerie music that basically hammers house how perilous Snake’s mission is.

Metal Gear Solid. Credit: KonamiMetal Gear Stable. Credit score: Konami

As commanding officer Colonel Campbell finishes relaying intel to Snake through a hidden Codec communication gadget, the footsteps of patrolling guards reverberate round the water-logged base – and it’s not possible to not be sucked into Snake’s world. Whereas I’d sunk many hours into JRPGs, this was one thing else solely. From the grainy real-world army movies to the codec conversations ruminating on philosophy, its collage-like presentation felt like sensory overload. Regardless of the controller in my hand, taking part in Metal Gear Stable appeared much less like a video game, and extra like starring in my very personal interactive film.

That’s no accident, both. With Stable Snake primarily based on Escape From New York’s Snake Pliskin, Kojima’s love for cinema oozes by each pixel of Metal Gear Stable. Working example: the opening. The place most video games go away the credit to the finish, the names of animators and programmers dramatically flash up on the display screen proper at the begin, including a dramatic aptitude to an already iconic prologue part. It’s an announcement of intent, making Kojima’s lofty Hollywood ambitions clear from the phrase go.

Metal Gear SolidMetal Gear Stable. Credit score: Konami

It’s straightforward to assume that – because of its gun-glamourising story, cyborg ninjas, and big robots – Metal Gear Stable wouldn’t be fairly so revered by grownup me. But as I play Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus 20 years later, I nonetheless discover myself misplaced in its great insanity. Because of its futuristic-feeling however totally made-up tech and larger-than-life characters, Metal Gear Stable feels oddly timeless. Positive, the controls are fiddly for fashionable gamers, however this 22-year-old game remains to be a masterclass in environment, and a tour de drive of interactive storytelling. It nonetheless performs brilliantly, too (dodgy controls apart). Because of its compelling mix of stealth and all-out energy fantasy, gameplay is completely balanced between sneakily outsmarting your foes and letting you go exhausting with a machine gun.

It has some fairly out-there concepts in it, too. From its notorious controller switching gimmick throughout the Psycho Mantis boss struggle to a significant codec frequency hidden in a screenshot on the again of the bodily game field, Metal Gear Stable pushed the limits of what a video game may very well be. Its collision of good gameplay, narrative ambition, creativity, and sheer swagger made it such a ridiculous however entrancing experience. A experience that’s stood the take a look at of time.

Whereas quite a lot of its story is ridiculous – big robots, invisible ninjas, evil twins – there’s simply sufficient real-world fact to tie all of it collectively in a believable bundle. With Snake despatched to Alaska to single-handedly cease a terrorist cell from launching a nuke, this story of a grizzled veteran endeavor “only one extra mission” initially feels pretty easy. But as the story unfolds, an online of army conspiracies, company corruption, and meddling politicians provides an sudden layer of complexity to proceedings. From nuclear supplies being bought on the black market to shady Pentagon offers, these have been subjects that video video games merely weren’t exploring again then. It could lack the chilling presence of its 2002 sequel Sons Of Liberty, however this PlayStation basic additionally tells a tighter, much less convoluted story.

The place it’s possible you’ll balk at its blocky aesthetic now, Metal Gear Stable was a jaw-dropping technical showcase for Sony’s first foray into the console market: this was a game the place working by snow left behind a path of footsteps, alerting guards to your presence. In some ways, it’s one in every of the first makes an attempt at a convincing 3D sandbox, with its meshing of layered techniques nonetheless spectacular to at the present time. It’s one thing that Kojima would later excellent in his MGS swansong, MGS V: The Phantom Ache. But the foundations are expertly laid right here, a long time earlier.

At its coronary heart, Metal Gear Stable works as a result of it tells a narrative that also feels solely distinctive. From its largely believable story of army conspiracy to its futuristic tech and larger-than-life ensemble of iconic villains, this perfectly-paced journey remains to be simply as compelling now because it was in 1999.

In a single fell swoop, Kojima proved that video video games might inform tales simply as grand and outlandish as Hollywood’s finest, encouraging an entire era of builders to push the boundaries of what gamers count on from video video games. Whereas many video games fail to stay as much as the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, Metal Gear Stable remains to be totally important. With Kojima’s Hollywood love affair coming full circle with a film adaptation starring Oscar Isaacs – and a long-rumoured MGS game remake – Metal Gear Solid’s untouchable legacy continues to endure. You probably have a PC and also you’re but to expertise Stable Snake’s breakthrough basic, you owe it to your self to choose it up on GOG, or to search out different, sneakier technique of infiltration.

Tom Regan is a contract journalist and occasional contributor to NME. You’ll be able to learn the remainder of the Remastered column right here.

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