Splinter Gear

Since I haven’t blogged recently, I figured I’d share my experience of the last month. If I had to call March of 2011 anything, I’d call it “Metal Gear Month.”

What happened was, after a whole decade of not caring, I found the first two Metal Gear Solid games in Goodwill. Out of nowhere I was interested in the franchise, and Goodwill’s copies were in pretty good condition, so I decided to go with it. I later ordered Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence off eBay. At this moment, I own the Solid trilogy, the two MSX computer games (via Subsistence’s bonus disc), and I expect to own the American version of Metal Gear: Ghost Babel very soon.

Metal Gear Solid was like a revelation. I found myself wondering how I had gone so long without playing this game, and what the hell my problem was. To put it simply, I found myself with a symptom rarely experienced past childhood: I literally could not stop playing! If I was hungry, a quick meal and then back to MGS. If I had to sleep, I would get right back to MGS when I woke up (mind you, one night I even missed sleep just to play it!) I’ve got to be honest about another unusual thing though: I was partially attracted to the plot as much as the actual game. Usually, I can’t stand games that are cutscene-heavy, but this time, I forgave it. In fact I kind of wished I could record them somehow and just watch this as a movie later (I know the technology is out there, I just have to save up for it).

After playing this I decided to backtrack and play the original Metal Gear for the MSX computer (via the bonus disc included with MGS3: Subsistence). To be honest, I didn’t find it to be all that good, mostly in the “its obviously a first effort” sense–the stealth was a good idea but it wasn’t fleshed-out enough, and the game fell back on action far too often, though at least it doesn’t have the horrible bugs the Nintendo one does (using the binoculars does not cause enemies to respawn). I didn’t feel up to tackling Solid Snake so I instead came back to the modern installments.

Metal Gear Solid 2 (I have the Substance version, for the curious) started out as sort of a mixed bag for me, but ultimately I actually liked it more than the original. At this point, my love for Metal Gear was at full swing. By “full swing,” I mean that I, a guy who for the last decade had no interest in modern game consoles, was suddenly willing to buy both a PS3 and a PSP 3000, just for Metal Gear (okay, to be fair there are also some King’s Field games for the PSP too). Maybe MGS2 came during that high, and I did have some issues (namely I noticed that you kinda have to double-tap the button to fire guns, for some reason), but ultimately I liked Metal Gear Solid 2 because of the improved stealth elements, new options and moves, and most importantly because of how it takes the storyline in some very effed up directions (mind you, the first MGS was already getting a little crazy!)

Just remember: Whenever somebody asks “Who are the Patriots?” You say “La Li Lu Le Lo!”

I had tried to make it a habit of “spacing out” the games. Between Metal Gear Solid 1 and 2 I played and beat Shadow of the Colossus and started on Ico (it looks unlikely that I will finish since I’ve so far found Ico to be an overrated mound of shit). To that end, I picked up Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell at a local gamestore that just opened up. To be honest, I wish I had picked something else–the minute I started the training level I realized Splinter Cell was going to be shit. The framerate was choppy, it has a freely-controllable camera that sounds good but in a game of this type actually just gives you one more shitty thing to worry about in tense situations (MGS3: Subsistence also has this, but you can turn it off), the first actual mission of the game was some bollocks about crossing a street to meet a contact (no, seriously) and I couldn’t help but notice a moment when the game’s hero Sam Fisher catches a dude smoking, says “I don’t like that” and forcefully puts the stogie out (obviously this politically correct, forcing-his-views-on-others “hero” is not going to be seeing through any infrared beams on his mission!) It was so bad, I immediately jumped into Metal Gear Solid 3 just to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

And there is where the dalliance ended.

I’m going to be completely honest: Metal Gear Solid 3 killed my interest in the franchise. Okay, not completely, just… I hope none of the future games played anything like it. I didn’t like any of the new or tweaked elements. I hated the backpack, I hated the whole “outdoor survival” theme and how now whenever you take pretty much any damage at all you have to use a shitload of medical items and then wait for your health to regenerate naturally. The storyline is not interesting at all and worse, the game can be really cheap sometimes. Case in point: at one point you fight a sniper dude who gets free health and stamina refills and who can, at certain points, come up behind you and insta-kill you. I looked up a number of FAQs and it turns out the way to beat him is–get this–save your game and then don’t play for a week and he’ll simply die of old age! Yes I’m serious! To be fair the thing that attracted me to Metal Gear was its batshit insanity but there’s a fine line between “forcing the player to think outside the box” and “just plain cheating.” (Yes, you can just have a straight shoot-out with this guy, but the amount that goes into doing that is just ridiculous).

Then again though, its worth remembering that I have been playing this one series and practically nothing else for a whole month straight. That’s not how series games are supposed to be played. I am minded that if I had played them when they were new, I would’ve had at least a year between each installment. It is thus, then, that I’m hesitant to take my own criticisms very seriously. Perhaps once I’ve taken my one week off I’ll try again and find that the game has magically improved. One can only hope!

This leaves two games in the series which I own but have not played, or at least not to any opinion-forming length: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for the MSX/PS2 and Metal Gear: Ghost Babel for the GBC (this is actually called Metal Gear Solid in the United States but I’m using the Japanese name because I’m not as stupid as Konami USA). These will have to wait until I’m done with Metal Gear Solid 3 because I refuse to have two games running at once.

That’s it for now. Ja ne!

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