*GameCube start-up noise*
Early last year, I wrote one of my famous biased reviews for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. It is and always will be a very special game to me for all of the reasons I listed in that review. What’s truly odd about it is that, even though I love that game, I have never played the first Metal Gear Solid. I finally decided it was time to change that.
First, I had to find a way to actually play the damn game. For reasons that are unbeknownst to me, the (heavy sarcasm alert) much-loved publisher of the series, Konami, has never re-released Metal Gear Solid on any modern, readily accessible hardware. I know some of you are yelling that I should have simply pirated it on PC but, just so you’re aware, The Pretend Gamer ain’t no pirate. I had to play the game an official way which is why I was delighted to find out that Metal Gear Solid was available on the PS3. Thus, I brought my PS3 out of retirement, bought the game, downloaded it, and sat down to play it.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that I couldn’t record my gameplay due to the PS3 having an HDCP program on it. For those of you who don’t know, HDCP is a piece of copyright infringement software that was designed to stop people from recoding gameplay (or movies) or, at the very least, make it more difficult. I looked up a few ways to circumvent the HDCP program on the PS3 but it required a bunch of cables and looked like more trouble than it was worth. I only wanted to play and record gameplay for one game after all. Thus, I reluctantly shelved the idea of playing Metal Gear Solid.
A few days went by, then a week, which was quickly followed by a few months. I still couldn’t get Metal Gear Solid out of my head. I knew that I had to find a way to play the game and record it so I could spew my unwanted opinion out into the world. Then one day I was in a used game store looking at what we’ll call the classic game consoles section and I was struck by a bolt of inspiration. Right then and there I decided that the only logical way I was going to get around the HDCP problem on the PS3 was to buy a GameCube and play Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. And thus, I walked out of that store with a GameCube under my arm. I told all of this to you, dear readers, to show how unreasonable of a human being I am. Now, without further ado, let’s get into this review.
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is an odd game in many ways. It is, let’s just say, a “soft” remake of the original Metal Gear Solid. From what I can understand, it has the same story as the original game but has the combat and movement mechanics of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty while also introducing new cutscenes with over-the-top action sequences in them. I believe this is true but don’t quote me on that. If you’re curious, you can all look this information up on your own time. I’m just here to give the game a review. Oh, before we move on, I should also mention that Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is only available on the GameCube so, if you want to play it, you have to get one of these bad boys just like me.
There was one phrase that kept running through my head while I was playing Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes: “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.” This saying could not be more true than in this instance. The Twin Snakes is a single-player, stealth game with a wonky control scheme with a singular sense of style and humor. I truly believe that if this game was pitched to publishers today it would be laughed out of the room which is a damn shame since it is a great game in my humble opinion.
Let’s start with the gameplay. As I said, it essentially features the same mechanics as Metal Gear Solid 2 which is just fine in my book but some of you modern gamers will probably hate it. The Twin Snakes is, at its heart, a stealth game. The game uses what I assume would be called a third-person overheard perspective. As such, it is difficult to see what is directly in front of you. This forces you to be extra cautious and careful when moving through the levels or turning corners. The game does have a first-person mode but it can only be used when you’re standing still. This mechanic essentially forces the player to adopt a cautious playstyle. Of course, it was sometimes fun to go in guns blazing since watching chaos unfold in a Metal Gear Solid game is always a good time.
Although the perspective does make it difficult to see if someone is standing directly in front of you, The Twin Snakes does give you radar which shows both where the enemies are and what direction they are facing in. This is nice and all but there are certain sections of the game where the radar is not available. I know that these sections were probably supposed to “spice things up” in the gameplay department but they really weren’t that fun if I’m being honest. I don’t mind the top-down perspective as long the radar is there to even things out but when you take away the radar, that’s just cruel.
There are, of course, a variety of ways to get around the map without being seen. The best and most famous way is by using the many different kinds of boxes that can be found lying around. It’s always a good time when Snake (I failed to mention that he’s the main character, haven’t I?) has to run around with a box on top of him. If spotted, enemies will call in reinforcements which forced me on more than one occasion (I’m not too proud to admit it) to run and hide somewhere while the guards searched the area. Although this is fairly advanced stuff for the time period in which the game released, it is actually quite easy to get around the alarm system and the guards if they’re chasing you.
Say, for instance, that the guards see you, call for backup, and proceed to start shooting at you. In order to escape this sticky situation, you can simply leave through what I call a “loading” door and then come back and everything will be back to normal. Additionally, the AI isn’t the smartest in the video game world (which may be because it is an older game). One time I was chased into a dead-end room with no exits. A guard was standing just outside the open doorway, saw me hide under a box, the door closed, and, once the guard entered the room, he didn’t know where I had gone. I would usually be upset by this sort of thing but that’s half the fun when playing a Metal Gear Solid game. You never know what’s going to happen.
Although primarily a stealth game, The Twin Snakes does shake things up in certain sections. There’s one memorable instance where Snake must fight his way up a communications tower which was as hectic as it was fun. The boss battles, however, are the best examples of where the game steps outside of the norm. I’m going to be honest upfront and say that I didn’t enjoy most of the boss battles (especially the tank battle early on in the game). Arguably, the gameplay perspective is your biggest enemy in these battles since it’s hard to get a clean shot off at the boss.
Having said that, I did enjoy two boss battles in particular. I enjoyed the fights against both Sniper Wolf and Psycho Mantis. I really liked the battle(s) against Wolf since it seemed to actually be a battle of skills. The sniping controls aren’t the best but you get used to them rather quickly. As for the fight against Psycho Mantis, I really like it because of how different and original it was. At least, once I figured out how to beat him. Here’s my advice for all of you first-time players out there: when in doubt, call people on the Codec. The Codec, in case you don’t know, is a device installed in Snake’s ear which allows him to quietly talk to people. The Codec was very useful in the Psycho Mantis fight. It changed the fight from a frustrating brawl to a duel which I’ll remember for a long, long time. In fact, if I had thought to use the Codec to get advice in previous boss fights, I may have enjoyed them more.
As much fun as Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes’ gameplay is, the real reason I wanted to play the game was because of its story. As I’ve stated before (and will say time and time again), Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of my favorite games of all time. I didn’t understand many of the references in its story though since I had never played the first game in the series. Many of my questions have now been answered after finishing The Twin Snakes but many more have taken their place.
The game begins when former members of the top-secret group FOXHOUND take control of a military testing facility (also top-secret) in Alaska and threaten to launch a few nukes if the US government doesn’t comply with its demands. The US government only has one option left. They must send in the world-famous Solid Snake to take care of business. Snake must make his way through the facility in order to stop the terrorist threat. Of course, as per usual, he hasn’t been told the whole story. I won’t, like Snake’s bosses, tell it all here. You’ll have to actually play the game to find out the story (or, you know, at least read the Wikipedia page).
Remember when I said that the phrase “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” kept running through my head while playing? Well, that’s mainly because of the story. Hideo Kojima wrote this tale so it has its own unique charm about it which no other creator in the industry has ever been able to match. The story and character moments cover a broad range of emotions, themes, and delivery styles. It goes from serious to sad to thought-provoking to funny and quirky and right back to serious within the span of a few minutes. It really is a roller coaster which makes it even better. There is a lot of talking, however, in The Twin Snakes (especially towards the end of the game where it essentially dissolves into a serious of lectures) but it’s all worth it because of the great character performances.
In all seriousness, the story and the way it’s presented would be dismissed as too campy and absurd if the actors portraying the characters gave just a little less effort in their performances. The actors give it their all in everything from the cutscenes to the conversations Snake has on the Codec. It was all very well done in my opinion. Having said that, however, there were a few performances I did not enjoy. I won’t say exactly which ones I didn’t enjoy because I don’t want to call out particular voice actors. I will say, however, that one voice actor was particularly puzzling since he is in the second game and I enjoyed him in that one but I didn’t like his performance in The Twin Snakes. Maybe he just got better with time? I don’t know what it was but it was weird to say the least.
I do want to mention the cutscenes here as well. From what I understand, the developers changed the cutscenes from the original Metal Gear Solid game for The Twin Snakes by adding more action sequences to them. I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the action because of how absurd it all was. Don’t get me wrong, they were absurd in a good and ridiculous kind of way and not in the “I can’t believe how stupid this is” way. Their over-the-top presentation actually fit in really nicely with the overall game.
The number one thing that I always appreciate the most about any Hideo Kojima game is the interactivity and the overall campiness of the experience. On the interactivity side, it seems the developers consciously thought about what would (or should) happen if the player does something. There are two examples which I think perfectly convey this design philosophy. The first one is when Snake is in a jail cell. The guard watching Snake will actively comment on whatever Snake does while in his cell. The second example is my favorite. If you shoot Meryl (a character who helps Snake on his mission) with the tranquilizer pistol, she will knock Snake’s lights out when she wakes up (or have a wolf do it). These are but two examples of what I’m talking about but trust me when I say that this design philosophy runs throughout the entire game.
As I’ve said, I highly enjoyed the campiness of The Twin Snakes a lot. The biggest contributor of this is all the fourth-wall breaking moments in the cutscenes. The Twin Snakes is absolutely chock-full of these kinds of moments from Snake nodding directly to the camera, Mei Lin constantly referencing the fact that this is indeed a game, or Ocelot warning against using the Auto-Fire feature to get past a particular section. These little tidbits add tons of flavor to the game and they make it that more special and unique. It’s a particular brand that I’ve only ever seen in Hideo Kojima’s games and I love them all for it.
One thing I should mention before wrapping up is the fact that a few of the environments are kind of dark. I tried to fix it using my TV’s menu options but I could never get it to look any clearer. This really isn’t the game’s fault since it was designed with older TVs in mind. This is just a warning for all of you who actually go out and purchase a GameCube with the intent to play Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. I applaud you all should you choose to do so. You show great initiative.
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, like all games in the Metal Gear Solid series, is an interesting beast. Its stealth gameplay, story, characters, and fourth-wall breaking moments offer something not found in most games both past and present. Its only drawbacks are the fact that there’s too much talking in certain portions of the game (especially the end), some of the boss battles aren’t that great, and the AI isn’t the smartest at times. It is a game in a series with its own unique way of doing things and I love it for that very reason. It’s a real shame then that most people won’t get to play it since it’s stuck in the past on the GameCube. And yes, I am going to end a review with a plea to Konami to port it to a system that is a little more accessible and easier to buy. Make it happen, Konami!
Final Score: 8/10
- Good story
- Laughable (in a good way) action cutscenes
- Actor performances
- Campy, fourth-wall breaking humor
- AI and security systems are easy to subvert
- Boss battles
- Too much talking towards the end of the game
Thank you for reading! Did any of you play Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes when it first came out? Do any of you still have your copy of the game? Let me know!