Welcome to the Metal Gear Noob Diaries. This is the recounting of my experience through the MGS series from MGS2: Sons of Liberty all the way to MGSV: Ground Zeroes. I’ll be updating every so often with new thoughts on sections of the games and taking a look back at memorable and enjoyable moments. I’ve never played the series before, so for the fans out there it could be an amusing tale of one noob’s journey, while those as green as myself could well learn a little about the mad world of MGS. Enjoy!
This will be my last entry in the Metal Gear Solid Noob Diaries. At least for the foreseeable future.
First and foremost, I’ve got a confession.
I’m not sure if anyone will read these all of the way through, but very well done if you have. It’s not been my best writing, not by a long shot, as I’ve struggled to really hone the style that I was originally aiming for with. What it has done, however, is given me an excuse to enjoy some of the best console games I’ve ever played.
Which is a good way to phrase it, I think. The majority of my favourite games are on PC (Total War, Company of Heroes, Crusader Kings II), but previously the only game near the top of my list on console was Uncharted 2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater now easily sits within my top five games of all time, and 4 is definitely ranking highly too. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to like the series as much as I did, I figured that the quirky Japanese style would hinder my enjoyment and I was more than aware that stealth-based games have never really been my cup of tea.
Yet here I am, a few months on from first researching the original Metal Gear games, wondering why I never bothered to play them when I was younger. I would have freakin’ loved them! I mean, I do still love them, but falling in love with a media product when you’re a kid is so much more fun than when you're an adult. Don’t ask me to explain why. Regardless, playing MGS has been a great experience. From learning the ropes in Sons of Liberty, everything falling into perfect place with Snake Eater, losing my way a little bit with Portable Ops and Peace Walker, then wrapping it all up nicely with Guns of the Patriots. Not to mention my thoroughly enjoyable, if brief, time with Ground Zeroes.
I feel like I’ve recapped on a great segment of gaming history. In many ways, that’s why I wanted to play the series in the first place. As a gaming journo it’s obviously pretty important to have played a good selection of genres, series and styles. Japanese games are something I’ve tended to avoid, so I figured I’d ease myself in with a highly westernised Japanese game like MGS. Plus, I’ve always been a PlayStation gamer, despite my apathy towards the whole console wars malarky, so it seemed like a cardinal sin not to have played the console’s most famous series.
Thank goodness I gave it a go. Metal Gear Solid is a fantastic series of individual games, the brilliant storyline is by far one of the best I’ve ever seen in gaming, despite its pure lunacy. The gameplay has a great sense of evolution, and what made the core titles so good was the willingness to mix up that gameplay experience and constantly provide something new for the player to enjoy. The variety of boss battles, the sudden changes in pace and structure and the freedom of the core gameplay all make for a stellar overall package. The clever structuring of each game also helped; from the ‘Big Shell’ layout of 2, to the various jungle ‘stages’ of 3, each game perfectly developed its setting over time to fit in with the development of the story.
There’s honestly too much good stuff for me to mention, and really I’ve spoken about it all before over the past 35 entries. So allow me to go about it the easy way and list off a few of my favourite moments:
-Figuring out that I could hold enemies up, frisk them down and knock them out by approaching them from behind with a gun. A skill that would be useful for every following game.
-Fighting Metal Gear RAY towards the end of Sons of Liberty. One of the toughest, and most intense, boss battles in the game.
-The surprisingly heartfelt storyline between Raiden/Jack and Rose, especially their reunification at the end of the game.
-The cool, and unique, formulaic structure of MGS2. After all the free-roaming splurge of modern gaming it was good to play something that confidently pushed the player in a certain direction.
-The Boss and Eva. Two strong, powerful women that don’t really have a match in gaming. The Boss in particular is a fantastic character that’s voiced expertly. Eva, despite being possibly my favourite character in the whole thing, does have a tendency to be overly sexualised (remember the scene in the cave?), but she’s a badass woman nonetheless.
-The ladder, accompanied by the beautiful acapella version of the Snake Eater theme. Such a uniquely wonderful moment that would only be possible in an MGS game.
-Sneaking through the jungle, slowly learning to use my tranquilizer with great skill.
-The boss fight with the Fury, which for me was probably the hardest battle in any of the MGS games. Except maybe with Volgin - but that was just because I hadn’t bothered to learn about CQC.
-The incredible final few hours of the game: the motorcycle escape, the hugely emotional battle with The Boss and the cataclysmic final cutscene where everything goes mental.
MGS: Portable Ops & Peace Walker:
-Although I prefered the proper animated cutscenes, the comic strips were a cool compromise, especially the neat interactive scenes in Peace Walker.
-Hot Coldman is still probably the best name in the series.
-The constant links back to Snake Eater were always cool, and never felt lazy or overly nostalgic.
-The story in Peace Walker was incredibly strong, even more so in hindsight and after playing Ground Zeroes.
-The battle with Laughing Octopus, still easily the best fight in the game.
-Realising that Snake had just aged quickly, as opposed to the game being set far into the future.
-The return of old characters like Otacon and Campbell was cool to see.
-The transformation of Raiden was one of my favourite elements of Guns of the Patriots. His whole journey throughout the series has been one of the best bits.
-The octocamo suit - just great game design.
-Every damn cutscene. They were all so awesome, so emotional and so well crafted. The new level of cinematics really brought 4 a step above the rest.
-Big Boss making his return literally made me squeal like a little fangirl.
-The whole thing. It was so, so good.
A lot of memories there. I’m actually so enamoured by Raiden’s story that I’m tempted to play Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, even though hack-n-slash really isn’t my bag. I’m now also horribly excited for The Phantom Pain, which can’t come soon enough.
It’s cool to know that I’ll always be able to think back to the time I played the Metal Gear Solid series. It’s been a fun ride, and playing them has been a great part of my life as a whole over the past few months.
Man. I love videogames.