This article is as spoiler free as possible, for everyone to read, even if they have never touched the franchise.
26 years ago, Hideo Kojima was struggling to cement himself as a successful game developer, at which point he was given one last attempt at making a game. His efforts paid off with the finished result being Metal Gear (released on the MSX in 1987). Kojima created the foundation for what would become one of the greatest gaming franchises and build his own reputation as one of the most iconic game developers. Following the upcoming release of Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection and eagerly anticipated Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain; I want to delve deep into one of the most successful franchises of all time and how it has continued to push the boundaries of gaming time and time again.
The Metal Gear Solid franchise is my favorite series of all time which is a result of a perfect package that consists of gameplay, story, and graphics. With an average rating of 92+ on Metacritic for all the main games in the series, it is not hard to see why many consider it to be one of the finest products of the gaming franchise.
Metal Gear Solid made its debut on the PlayStation One in 1998 and instantly captured the imagination of gamers. With a truly gripping story which was complemented with a new breed of stealth mechanic, it created a new era for the style of gaming. From characters, graphics, gameplay, and a list which could go on and on, Metal Gear showed that it was able to push the boundaries of gaming and challenge everything that gamers wanted. Hideo Kojima has also speculated that the game could be re-made for the next generation console using his newly developed Fox Engine which features in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. This news will excite any fans of the franchise as many are eager to see the update which could be made with a classic game. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (developed by Silicon Knight) for me was average in a potential re-make but didn’t give the game the true justice it deserved.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was an interesting addition brought to the franchise by Kojima. In my opinion it is my least favorite game in the series, however MGS 2 is still quite excellent. In the interest of remaining spoiler free, I will not delve deep into the story of the game. The gameplay improved on MGS and included some nice additions such as the rolling-attack. Other than the gameplay, the biggest development came in the graphics and story. The story was not on-par with its predecessor but it was still quite an interesting take (this remains as a heavily criticized topic by some people). The true development of the franchise came later on with the introduction of the third installment.
The franchise has continued to evolve in all aspects where it breaks new boundaries in different areas of gaming. MGS served its purpose for the stealth gameplay that it brought about as a simple stealth service on the PlayStation One, but by the time of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater the approach in stealth was completely changed. Set in a completely new time period and location, the game series showed its capability off on the PlayStation 2 and also the new ideas that the development team brought about. The introduction of the camouflage system brought about an even newer approach to stealth, making players decide what would best suit them in the environment that they are in. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence developed the early stages of online experience which took a giant leap in the experience that Metal Gear Online brought on the PS3.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, for me, is undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements in gaming to date. The game re-defined the franchise and games in general, hence being hailed by many as one of the greatest games ever made. The OctoCamo introduced in this game took even further steps in development of the camouflage system that was brought about in its predecessor. It made a transaction from stealth to a ‘blend’ element, requiring players to be more strategic in their movements. This style of gameplay of course retained some of the stealth that featured in previous installments. The setting of the game again shows that the franchise has no limits on where it can be set. In the Middle Eastern Zone, players are subjected to war taking place. This means that they can play a full-on stealth route like previous MGS games or engage in battle more openly. The choices have repercussions on Snake’s ability, which is determined through his psyche and stress meters. These can lead to his ability being hindered in combat.
The story that the franchise creates keeps people gripped to their seats and enthralls them in all the twists and turns that take place. Cut-scenes make up an incredible part of the MGS story which shows that Hideo Kojima’s is heavily influenced by Hollywood films. Each character has their own purpose, story, and reason for why they are connected with the protagonist(s) Solid Snake, Naked Snake or Raiden, and this develops further in the games; delivering a truly rich experience for gamers. Metal Gear Solid 4 brought together one of the best stories I have ever played, creating a truly wonderful experience with the characters that feature.
The evolution of Solid Snake’s character is what attaches people to the story even more. He remains a ruthless killer despite his aging. Even the code name change in MGS 4 from Solid Snake to Old Snake shows the impact of the journey the player has traveled with the character. Snake even echoes this in the MGS 4 trailer in 2008: “This is my final mission.” Fans of the franchise will understand what will happen to the character that they have bonded with since the original game on the MSX.
Metal Gear Solid V will no doubt push the franchise even further, opening up the road for an open world experience. Kojima always envisioned a Metal Gear game to have this potential. With Kojima’s reputation as it is, no doubt he will give the player the experience of their life.
From the details that were uncovered in the E3 trailer, it is clear that a host of new features will be included, such as real world time, weather, and stealth mechanics. The new stealth mechanics will no doubt develop on the previous installments, which include Big Boss’s ability to dive behind cover and to tilt on a horse sideways so that enemies cannot see him.
The Metal Gear Solid franchise continues to push the boundaries of gaming, and Kojima stops at nothing in the games he makes. He gives players one of the richest experiences they could receive in gaming, and in this way continues to reiterate the fact he is one of the best game developers in the world.
For anyone who has never played a Metal Gear game, it has now become even easier for them to pick up the series with the release of the Metal Gear Solid: Legacy Collection. The game will contain:
- Metal Gear (1987)
- Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990)
- Metal Gear Solid (1998)
- Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions (1999)
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (HD Edition). (Original release: 2001, HD release 2011)
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (HD Edition). (Original release: 2004, HD release 2011)
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (Trophy Edition). (Original release: 2008, trophy edition: 2013)
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (HD Edition). (Original release: 2010, HD release: 2011)
It will be released soon on PlayStation 3 and is the best way to get enthralled in the experience of MGS. For the price that you pay, in my opinion, it is one of the greatest gaming series made to date.