The Vault is APG's tribute to what we believe to be the best games of all time. Read on to find out why my love for MGS was able to bloom on a battlefield.
Warning: The following will contain spoilers for Metal Gear Solid, released on the original PlayStation in October 1998 (in North America). It's one of the greatest games of all time and I would hate to ruin the experience for someone who hasn't played it. I highly recommend you play through the game on your own so you will be able to truly experience one of the highest points in video game history. Without further delay, here is my breakdown on why Metal Gear Solid is one of the greatest games of all time.
Metal Gear Solid is a game that I hold very close to my heart. It was my first ever video game and is a game that I've played through more times than I could count (having completed a playthrough of the game at least once a day for 7 years). If that wasn't enough, I still play through Metal Gear Solid several times a year and find even more reasons to love the game each time. You could say that Metal Gear Solid and I have quite the history together, so it isn't difficult to see why it is one of my favorites based on that fact alone. However, I'm here to break it all down specifically, to explain why I think Metal Gear Solid is a cut above the competition, and I'd like to start with the gameplay.
Metal Gear Solid is a complicated game, especially for the time. With tons of context sensitive actions and quite a few more functions than there are buttons on the Dualshock, it can be tough to grasp just how many options the player has in just one playthrough of Metal Gear Solid. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, especially with the way buttons are mapped to the controller (for example, crouch/crawl is on "X" and punch is on "O") but once players get past the initial confusion they're in for one of the most rewarding experiences of all time.
Common events like knocking on walls to lure guards away from their positions or sneaking up behind them and putting C4 on their back (to hilarious results) can lead to some of the most intense moments in the game. The fear of a guard turning around just in time to see you as you attempt to sneak around the room leaves palms sweaty and stakes high, leading to a fantastic gameplay loop in which the player has extremely stressful highs and rewarding, calm lows. It's an incredible example of game design done right and sticks out in my mind as some of my most memorable moments in gaming.
To top it all off, I haven't even mentioned the absolutely incredible ensemble of bosses in Metal Gear Solid. Revolver Ocelot, Vulcan Raven, Psycho Mantis, Sniper Wolf, every single one of these names bring back memories of my favorite bosses in video games. Each one is incredibly unique and forces the player to strategize in different ways, using whatever items/weapons they can in epic duels to the death.
Whether it be the "cat and mouse" battle with Ocelot, the battle in the freezer with Raven, the fourth wall breaking puzzle that is Mantis, or the snowfield sniper duel with Wolf, every single battle is a prime example of variety and memorable characters that no other video game has matched, not even Metal Gear Solid 3. On top of that, each boss' defeat leads to some of the most memorable death scenes in gaming that stand out as some of the best moments in any Metal Gear game, investing me in the story in a way that few games ever have. Speaking of Metal Gear Solid's story.
I won't dive to deeply into the actual storyline itself (spoilers: a Metal Gear is involved) but I do have this to say. Metal Gear Solid's story is a relatively complex one, touching upon things like war torn countries and its effects on children who live in them, the idea that "legends" are never as perfect as their legacy entails, and the concept of "purer" genetics making individuals better than those who have "inferior" genes. While it all may not be handled with perfect elegance, Metal Gear Solid attempts to handle concepts that aren't often brought up in video games even now and especially not back then.
These overall themes tie in to some of my favorite moments from Metal Gear Solid, such as listening to Sniper Wolf's life story and motivations as she takes her final breaths or Snake explaining that killing is something he's good at because he's done it so much. It's moments like these that serve as major character building moments and are delivered to the player in ways that don't feel incredibly preachy but enable the player to feel empathy for the characters in a way that few entertainment mediums can.
Many of these moments are presented through incredibly directed cutscenes, which pull off tricks that don't even seem possible on the PlayStation 1. Camera angles that somehow breathe life and emotion into scenes that are literally two low polygon PS1 models bobbing their expressionless heads at each other. It's an astounding feat that I feel is one of the things that made Metal Gear Solid so revolutionary at the time and still today. In a time where voice acting was often "Resident Evil quality", Metal Gear Solid's voice acting was a breath of fresh air for gamers who wanted more "cinematic" experiences and the team behind Metal Gear Solid delivered. All of these elements are a huge factor in why I think Metal Gear Solid is not only the best PS1 game, but also one of the greatest of all time.
I touched on sound a little bit when I mentioned voice actors in the Story section, but I'd like to talk about it a bit more.
Metal Gear Solid has quite the voice cast, with every character being well realized by each and every actor in the cast. Whether it be Liquid Snake's almost whiny tone or Ocelot's Spaghetti Western style voice, the line delivery stands up to this day as some of the best in video gaming. David Hayter's iconic Snake voice really adds some coolness to the character, and Hayter really helps bring Solid Snake to life with every line.
Another huge aspect of Metal Gear Solid for me is it's absolutely phenomenal soundtrack. Every single moment of the game is amplified by the music, there's never an area in which the music seems inappropriate or detracts from a scene. Even the ambient music for the game excels, truly capturing the feeling that you are sneaking through this Nuclear Disposal Facility in an attempt to stop a nuclear catastrophe.
It's an absolutely incredible example of how important music is to amplifying an experience. Whether the player is fighting a boss, experiencing an emotional moment, or simply sneaking through a room, the music is always on point and remains one of my favorite soundtracks of all time.
I feel like even after all this writing that I still haven't touched on every single reason why I love Metal Gear Solid so much, but if I did that this would probably last several thousand more words. Metal Gear Solid is one of the few things ever made that I would genuinely call a masterpiece and I feel it is worth being placed alongside the greatest games of all time, if not above them.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go play more Metal Gear Solid.