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Metal Gear Solid
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Taking a beloved, old school 2D franchise and having it enter the world of 3D rarely improves upon the original source, but Metal Gear Solid is one of those rare exceptions that does just that.
Few games, even those of today's super high tech generation, can be described as "fierce".  Metal Gear Solid comes at the player with the force of a hurricane.  The characters are wonderfully fleshed out and given levels that surely belong in a good Clancy novel.  The heroes have their dark side.  The villains have their noble side.  Double crosses and double double crosses are all par for the course for this hefty game.  But Metal Gear Solid isn't just a game about great characters.  It's one of the very few games that tackles idealogical and political issues.  Its very theme lays bare a frightening theme that especially holds true today, that of nuclear weapons.  I should point out that Metal Gear Solid is a very alarmist game.  All the worst case scenario conspiracy theories you've ever thought of are true in this game.
That aside, the true heart of Metal Gear Solid is the sneaking and stealth.  Even though Solid Snake is strong and can pick up many weapons along the way, the wisest course of action is usally to avoid being spotted and to use the terrain and obstacles to sneak past guards and security cameras.  If Snake is spotted, the end result is usually not pretty as one guard radios for help from a dozen other guards.  If you do get into a fight, though, Snake has many different weapons he can pick up as he explores the enemy base and many different ways you can go about a situation.  Sometimes you can take out an enemy without lethal means(ala stun grenades) and sometimes you can take out an enemy without him even knowing your were there (ala sniper rifles or radio guided rockets).  And boss fights, of course, are required.  Most boss fights have one or two specific weapons and strategies that you must use to take down the boss.  Unlike the original Metal Gear, though, deciding on which weapon to use actually makes sense.  The bosses, sadly, start out kinda unimpressive but thankfully get more and more intense and absorbing as the game goes on.
The level of immersion and attention to detail in this game is impressive.  You truly did feel like you were in some kind of spy movie as you assessed situations, kept an eye out for traps, decided on weapons, and called for help on your radio.  Metal Gear Solid isn't as gadget intensive or as polished as a game like, say, Splinter Cell, but Metal Gear Solid remembers what counts.  What this game IS, however, is very weapon intensive.  This might be a bad thing in some ways.  Because weapons are so important to the main character, if you're low on ammunition or out of a certain item, some situations might be more difficult or impossible.
Despite how marvelous this game is and how revolutionary it may have been for its time, Metal Gear Solid doesn't age as well as it should have.  Many people not really keen on Metal Gear Solid have complained that the series is more like watching a movie than playing a game.  I really have no problems with extended movie sequences so long as the characters are interesting, the dialogue is delivered well, and the movies don't over-stay their welcome.  Movies simply enhance the story of the game.  However upon playing the game, I was surprised that I had completely forgotten that the movie sequences use the same graphics as the in game polygons instead of using pre-rendered graphics like Final Fantasy VII or Panzer Dragoon Saga.  Much more graphically beautiful games have come out on the original Playstation since Metal Gear Solid.  Graphical issues aside, several other game elements seem much too "old school".  Because the action is mostly viewed top down, you'll sometimes come across situations where you can't see the enemy in places where your radar is being jammed.  The biggest issue I had with this game is that there were a couple instances of seemingly tacked on and rather forced backtracking, which is something that today's generation of gamers find unforgivable.
The nitpicks are few and far between, though.  Unlike many "classics" that die fast, Metal Gear Solid still has heft and is still relevant today.  It has great characters, great action, great story, great sense of immersion, and finishes with one heck of a bang.
Grade: Excellent

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