A series of games that consistently pushed the limits of what a game could be, with complicated themes and interesting characters. They also make great use of cardboard boxes. What’s not to like about Metal Gear Solid?
Well….the series has always been a game/film hybrid and that cinematic quality has been both a blessing and a curse, with radio conversations and cut scenes routinely lasting over ten minutes. Often I just put the controller down and watch. Getting the shout of “Chris, dinner!” lead to some tricky choices.
For now at least however the main series seems to have reached its conclusion. So how do they all compare? Time to rank Metal Gear!
I’ve kept relatively up to date with the series but I’ll add entries as I play more. Shall we start with the worst?
#6 – Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – PS2, 2001
Possibly the most hyped game ever, MGS2 had amazing trailers and an awesome demo.
Unfortunately the final product only lived up to them in patches.
The opening tanker section is one of my favourite pieces of any game. The smashed glass, rain effects and design of the ship were a show-reel for what the PS2 could do. We were back in Snake’s shoes as we investigated a new Metal Gear! He had a mullet but that didn’t matter. I played that demo so many times I could probably still do a half decent speed run on it.
But the main game was very different. There was nothing wrong with Big Shell as an environment. The problem was who you were as you explored it. Rather than another adventure with Snake we had Raiden; a young and generally annoying new character. We were meant to question who we were playing as, question our superiors and see Snake from an outsider’s point of view. Instead we got a technically brilliant but overly convoluted game.
Don’t even get me started on E.E.
#5 – Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain – PS4, 2015
With the best overall gameplay of the series you might be surprised to find The Phantom Pain this low down on the list. Blaring ‘Take On Me’ out over the loudspeakers as I landed my chopper into a hot zone and went loud was just as enjoyable as being dropped off with D-Dog hundreds of meters away and making my way in silently.
The furore over Kiefer Sutherland replacing David Hayter turned out to be a non-issue. In fact I think it was the right choice to replace him as Big Boss and Solid Snake needed to be differentiated the closer in the timeline they got to one another. By the end of the game it made a lot more sense.
What lets MGSV down is the story. I’m used to crazy, this is the fifth one after all. But the final ten missions of this game completely undermine what came before. I’ve heard arguments to the contrary and I see merit in them. But my abiding feeling upon completion was that the ball had been dropped hard.
Kojima was gone soon after and there was trouble at Konami. So things clearly weren’t good, which I can only assume is the reason why the story feels truncated, abrupt and disappointing.
#4 – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – PS3, 2008
The series’ one full 6th generation entry again wowed us with its looks, and tied up everything we had seen so far. OctoCamo was a well judged follow on from the camo used in Snake Eater. Possibly the biggest improvement was that we could finally pause cutscenes!
Good thing too as there are a lot of them.
The game almost seemed like a road trip as Snake visited various locales and tied up loose ends. It all felt final. That’s not to say it didn’t still have some surprises. Rex v Ray! The entire Shadow Moses section was so well judged when it could have easily been a mess.
I’ve never been sold on Drebin or his points system. I fully understand its place it’s in the story—war being a business—but it jarred with what I expected from the games up to that point. No longer was I picking up what I could find; I could just buy better stuff.
Part conclusion, part nostalgia trip, this game was a fitting end for Solid Snake that I think will make even more sense now that we know so much about Big Boss.
#3 – Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker – PSP, 2010 & PS3, 2011
Originally released on the PSP system, I picked it this one up when it was released on the Xbox 360. Not only did it play well but it took the Boss on a journey that pleasingly explained his change from famous soldier to leader of an ‘army without a nation’. We’re left with him in possession of his own nuclear equipped Metal Gear, and a stern determination to do things his own way now. I’m really glad I played it before getting into The Phantom Pain.
Due to the limitations of the original hardware the game is split into smaller mission areas. I never found myself getting bored with visiting similar places and the leaner story was one of the stronger in the series.
The artwork in particular, used instead of video, was beautiful. Hayter’s Snake voice was getting a bit crazy at this point though. Much like Bale’s Batman it seems no one put a check on just how throaty and gravelly it should get.
Don’t overlook this one because it was a handheld game. It’s important in the mythos and a great game in general.
#2 – Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – PS2, 2004
We all expected a direct sequel to Sons of Liberty. Instead, in a massively brave move, Kojima took us back to the sixties and introduced to someone we’d only heard about previously. Solid Snake’s Dad, Big Boss.
Kyle Cooper, director of the opening sequences for 2 and 3 (as well as many Hollywood movies), went all out on a Bondesque introduction. It even had a title song!
After two games sneaking through various complexes the jungle environment not only pushed the PS2 to the limit but was a joy to sneak through.
It had one of the more interesting boss fights too. You could avoid battling The End by taking a cheeky shot earlier in the game. If you weren’t that quick-witted though you had a lengthy battle of stealth against the old sniper. It was a tense affair and one of the best battles in a series full of them.
Meeting a young Big Boss was a big departure but it worked, not only giving us a great game but a large part of the history that lead up to Solid Snake.
#1 – Metal Gear Solid – PS1, 1998
This is it.
I hadn’t even played the demo. But I saw it on the TV in my local GAME store and ended up getting it as a fourteenth birthday present. Little did I know that I’d still be playing it nearly twenty years later.
MGS was unlike any game I’d played before. The entire concept of not killing the enemy was alien. But then there was the cinematic quality. It was like controlling the main character in a movie. I say controlling…there was a big shock as I got used to listening to conversations.
Cyborg Ninja. Revolver Ocelot. Vulcan Raven. Liquid Snake. The characters were outrageous but also extremely well acted (I interviewed the voice of Meryl here). It would have been a lot harder to get into if they hadn’t been so effective.
Crazy boss battles (A Hind-D?!). A cool main character. Double and triple crosses. Breaking the fourth wall. 556ers and pineapples. Have you ever been asked to figure out which soldier to talk to purely by their butt wiggle in any other game?
It had it all and is not only my #1 Metal Gear game but also my favourite game of all time.
There you go! I’ve lifted the lid off my cardboard box and pushed my opinion out there.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know!