We're still halfway through Metal Gear Solid 5 (30 hours or so) and our review should be coming later this week after the online component is available. In the meantime, here’s something about Hideo Kojima’s classic original to brighten up your bank holiday. All screenshots are from the Gamecube remake, which is a worse game but infinitely prettier.
When I was 7 I was given a Playstation and a copy of Road Rash. My mother was pretty understanding of the concept of video games and didn’t vilify them like many of my friends parents, but we had a deal: I could have one video game for Christmas and one for my birthday in June. No more.
She was a smart woman: one game every six months meant I didn’t turn into a complete shut-in. After a month or so of pouring every spare moment into a game, I’d get bored and maybe go outside, ride a bike.
Before Metal Gear Solid came out it was preceded by - hands down - one of the best demos I’ve ever played, delivering a chunk of the games opening and ending after DARPA chief Donald Anderson has a heart attack in his jail cell. 9 year old me absolutely lost my mind. I begged and pleaded for the game but it was releasing in February 1999: if I wanted the game the rules said I’d have to wait until February.
This didn’t stop me. I continued to beg and plead and wheedle, did chores around the house. Eventually, my poor mother caved and said I could have Metal Gear Solid - on launch day - but I’d have to wait until December for my next game. Young me didn’t care that it’d be 8 months until my next game. I was 9, I didn’t care about the consequences and it was time to get my spy on.
Metal Gear Solid was everything I wanted. My first playthrough took me 12 hours and I was blown away: the action sequences were great, the plot was extra-mature cheddar nonsense, and the cutscene at the end of the game confused me. I knew I’d found something special though, as soon as the credits rolled I started playing again. I remember squealing excitedly when I found out the bandana Meryl had tied around my head in the games ending was still there, and it gave me the gift of infinite ammo.
With childlike enthusiasm, I ended up learning every aspect of the game. I remember being delighted when the AI seemed to react to me in a real way: the guards patrolling the helipad of the games opening seemed like thinking humans: perhaps not smart, but believable. I was more delighted several hours later when I realised that they had a very specific mechanical structure to their actions that you could abuse. Similarly, I learnt the fastest way to beat bosses, efficient routes to ghost through areas.