This isn't a training exercise. Our lives are riding on this.
Metal Gear Solid may not be a new game, but The Twin Snakes will introduce the series to a whole new audience who have never played the original, including this reviewer. As such, this review is written from the point of a Metal Gear Solid neophyte and obviously will not be taking into account any changes made between the original and this update.
Solid Snake, the legendary warrior, has been pulled out of retirement for another mission. On the Alaskan island of Shadow Moses, a group of terrorists led by the Special Forces group FOXHOUND has taken over a nuclear disposal facility. They’ve got a nuke aimed at the White House and a nice list of demands. It’s Snake’s mission to infiltrate the base, rescue the hostages, and prevent the terrorists from launching the nuke. That’s the basic plot given at the beginning of the game. However, as the story unfolds, Snake will find out that there is a whole lot more going on than he originally thought.
Much of The Twin Snakes is spent sneaking around rooms and trying to avoid detection, a drastic change of pace from many other videogames. Although weapons are involved, it is often a better move to take out the bad guys silently or just plain avoid them. Snake is equipped with a Soliton Radar system which gives him a map of his immediate surroundings and also monitors enemy movement. This radar is the key to not being spotted. As well as staying out of sight, Snake also has to make sure he doesn’t alert the guards by making too much noise. Firing a weapon that’s not silenced or running on certain noisy surfaces is sure to alert the guards to his presence. If a guard senses something is wrong he’ll go over and check the area out. Even worse, if Snake is spotted, the guards will call for backup.
The enemy AI in The Twin Snakes is ruthless. Guards patrol areas very well, and Snake will have to be very sly to outwit them. Certain guards radio in with status reports every so often, and taking one of these guards out will raise suspicion when the scheduled report does not come in. Being spotted puts the game into alert mode. Reinforcements will be called in and Snake’s radar will be jammed. The guards will clear the room searching for any trace of an intruder. Snake will have to stay out of sight, often hiding in a locker or a cardboard box until the guards are satisfied that nobody is there. The tension created by the game while in alert mode is fantastic. The clearing teams will slowly move through a room inspecting every nook and cranny, creating a real “edge of your seat” feeling while Snake is crammed in a box hoping they don’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
With all this sneaking around one might think that The Twin Snakes lacks action, but that statement is far from the truth. It’s actually possible to go through the game like a commando, taking out almost every enemy along the way. However, it will still have to be done stealthily because if Snake is spotted it will be quite difficult for him to take out a whole squad of soldiers at once.
Even if Snake does stick to the shadows, he’ll have to contend with several amazingly strong boss characters. Throughout his adventure, Snake will take on a master sniper, a psychic powered madman, and an M1 tank. And those are just some of the crazy bosses this game contains. Almost all of them are fantastic battles that will really push Snake to his limits. The fights are quite inventive and require brains as well as skill to complete them. The sense of accomplishment gained after taking down some of the bosses is invigorating.
While Metal Gear Solid’s gameplay is fantastic, the story is what propels it to the level of “next-generation classic.” It’s well written and rife with plot-twists. The adventure has a good mix of gameplay and story segments and flows incredibly well, with only a few story sequences that drag on just a little too long. The cinematics, which have been directed by famed Japanese action director Ryuhei Kitamura, are absolutely jaw-dropping. Many of them feature bullet-time style effects similar to those seen in The Matrix. The voice acting is very good as well. Sometimes the dialogue is a little stilted and the delivery a bit campy, but it often fits the game’s somewhat over-the-top nature. The characters are all filled with wonderful personality and really keep the player involved. In other games, story is sometimes just a vehicle to deliver gameplay, but here the two are woven together so masterfully that it really becomes an experience that must be played to be properly appreciated.
Keeping all this varied gameplay tight is a difficult job, but the control system designed for The Twin Snakes does an excellent job. Much of the controls are context sensitive, giving Snake a lot more abilities. For example, moving Snake towards a wall will cause him to turn around and put his back flat against it so he can hide from foes and sidle across narrow ledges. The controls are wonderfully thought out, and after getting used to them, everything will become second-nature. The only snag comes in pausing and bringing up the communications codec. The two are accomplished by pressing both Start and either A or B. It would be more natural to simply press Start to pause the game and then select the codec or map from a pause menu.
Metal Gear Solid can be approached from two major angles, and this really helps to add to the replay value of the game. The choice to play through the game as a kill everything commando or a hidden and dangerous stealth agent is absolutely fantastic and gives multiple ways to complete certain objectives. There are also multiple endings as well as various extras to be unlocked throughout the course of the game. On top of that, this game is packed to the brim with all sorts of zany Easter eggs to be discovered. And of course there is the brilliant story that can be relived time and time again.
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes accomplishes what few games can do by bringing a perfect mix of story and gameplay to the table. The two components complement each other so wonderfully that neither would be nearly as good without the other. This is a game that simply must be played to be fully experienced, standing at the forefront of truly wonderful storytelling in videogames.