Is anything from the late Nineties legitimately ‘retro?’ What in holy hell does the word even mean? The dictionary –which, after all, presumably knows its shit in these matters– defines it as something ‘of or designating the style of an earlier time.’ 1998 certainly qualifies as earlier, and the style of the time was blur-tacular 3d that looked as rough as a badger’s ballbag. Still, spectacular games were born in this era. Metal Gear Solid, for instance.
1998 is a nerdily famous year in video games, having brought us such wonderment as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Pokémon Red and Blue. It was also the year that Solid Snake stealthed and stubbly beard-ed his way onto the original PlayStation. It wasn’t the first installment in the series –Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake appeared on shit-tacular old home computers over a decade prior– but its influence and critical acclaim certainly made the franchise the phenomenon that it is now. Let’s take a look at this dramatic tale of cigarettes, laser beams, sexy snipers and appalling faux-British accents.
As we’d expect from producer/director/general loon Hideo Kojima, there’s a whole lot of batshit crazy plot right here. In Alaska, a renegade band of genetically-enhanced badass supersoldiers have assumed control of a nuclear disposal facility. Their demand to the government: access to the remains of legendary warmonger and asspain-throughout-the-series Big Boss. The whole mad, mad bastards in possession of all manner of nuclear weapons thing is enough to put anyone off their morning Pop Tart –as is provoking them– so a little discretion is in order. In the shape of the far too snug, really didn’t want to see your bulging manparts wetsuit of Solid Snake.
His mission, which he has chosen to accept, is to infiltrate the facility and bring an end to the terrorists’ shenanigans. With only dumbasses prattling in his ear for far too damn long through his codec radio for company. Metal Gear Solid popularized the stealth ‘em up (because that’s a thing), in which a single ‘cruising through a corridor’ moment could require you to jam surveillance cameras with a chaff grenade, hide in a locker like a big girl and leave a porn magazine in a shadowy corner to distract the guards.
Beyond the revolutionary gameplay, this title is renowned for its grand scope and cinematic atmosphere. Hideo Kojima has always been one for balls-out theatrics; the taste of Hollywood was really strong with this one. Ludicrous movie-esque setpieces and cutscenes and a double-agent, triple-agent plot led NGamer to conclude ‘it’s like playing a big budget action blockbuster, only better.’
Once you’ve thrown hand grenades into a tank’s asscrack, shot an immense dino-mech right in the face with surface-to-air missiles and dropped landmines on a warehouse floor to dispatch a huge bald shaman (while he is man-tastically brandishing a plane’s gatling gun like it was made of marshmallow), you’ll certainly agree. The setpieces, the characters and especially the boss battles are so memorable, and unlike most anything the humble PlayStation had attempted at this point.
In summation, the strapline Tactical Espionage Action is a perfect fit for Metal Gear Solid; it combined stealth and good ol’ fashioned gun shootin’ WITH GUNS to great effect. Fifteen years later, it’s as gripping an experience as ever.