Review: Metal Gear Solid (**** stars) (Part 4)

Spoilers, Beware! Read Part 3 Before This!

In Metal Gear Solid, this occurs in the form of gene manipulation, coercion, and control by exterior forces, which are as much literal as metaphorical. They occur in both nature (if you believe Richard Dawkins’ “selfish gene” controls much of our actions) and in ideology (the way we think about the world often determines how we act). Powers and principalities seek to control you and your actions through any number of means and ways. If we believe God remains higher than us, then why do we constantly worship other gods that do not pardon infinitely and which bring us to our downfall? The Unknown God provides a far greater life than the powers of this world.

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55

We know from Christianity that Jesus Christ sets us free from the Law, from wrong thought, and from wrong action. We see behind the veil, so to speak, and this salvation, the understanding and reality of Christ’s resurrection, fills us with new life. We escape the Allegory of the Cave, for we’ve seen the light of the Son. God allows us to forge a destiny of our own with Him as an active participant in that life. Whatever the case, God has made sure that Christianity will always transcend whatever human beings imagine and codify about it; it persists in every culture and every place on earth. We cannot explain God’s strange altruism, but we must spread it!

We do not fear men; we fear God, and that makes all the difference:

26 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

Matthew 10

If there’s a fundamental message of Metal Gear Solid as a whole, it is to not bow to any government or power above you. You must make decisions for yourself, and not let others determine your path. Even if this seems fundamentally opposed to the Christian message, I disagree: Jesus Christ’s first fruits are precisely that which lets us think clearly, act rightly, and think for ourselves rather than living with the chains of the past or the fears of the future, or even your supposed genetic destiny (is it any surprise that Liquid Snake dies to FoxDie, a genetic disease, while Solid Snake lives?).

All said, the disquieting sense of place, campy dialogue, endless exposition, and philosophical musings do interfere with the game at points, though. Due to the reams of dialogue you absorb and try to arrange in the grand scheme, sometimes you complete miss what your next objective will be and how all these disparate plot puzzle pieces fit together (if there’s a solution at all). Heck, I spent about an hour looking for Meryl, simply because I played the day before and forgot where and how to identify her under the guise of a guard.

The game was certainly fresh in my memory, but so many details and story clues and characters and OH MY GOD HOW MUCH INFORMATION gets jammed in your brain that it’s pretty easy to miss if you stop playing at any point. Metal Gear Solid often makes things difficult in figuring out the important, game-focused information. It’s difficult to figure out a convoluted plot and then remember you’re playing a game after ten minutes of exposition dump!

Unless, of course, you either fail enough times or wander around enough. Codec calls will suddenly tell you the exact solution and steps necessary to find, do, or perform whatever it is that the game wants you to do. At least these situations don’t happen very often (since they require fail states or time limits of a sort), but these could potentially spoil things for players who want to figure the game out themselves. Yes, Metal Gear Solid wants to drive the plot along, but that often comes at the expense of the player’s freedom.

Metal-Gear-Rex

For Metal Gear Rex, they don’t even bother to hide the solution – they just tell you outright, for the final boss no less!

And, I suppose, that makes a whole lot of sense. The game’s main theme consists in control, something that would flower in Metal Gear Solid 2, but the basic themes remains in the first game as well. The context of the plot means that the puzzle game integrates rather well with the themes of the story while also directing you towards an unforeseen end (i.e., the “postmodern” element here). All of that just works, and it’s easy to see why Metal Gear Solid just blew people’s minds back in 1998.

Unfortunately, the plot-heavy focus means the actual stealth game suffers as a result, and turns literally nonexistent by the end. The puzzle remain (and, for the most part, they’re good puzzles, even the boss fights!), but I sorta miss having to sneak around very much towards the end. The stealth mechanics here would come into their own in the sequel, but the foundation feels solid (har har) enough for me! As well, the game becomes easier as you progress, rather than harder, and it certainly doesn’t take advantage of half the mechanics you see in the first few rooms (puddles, searchlights, snow, etc), which is incredibly unfortunate.

In a way, I think Metal Gear Solid stands up better as a story than as a game, and yet I can’t fault it for lack of ingenuity or fun. The normal criticisms of whether or not this is a video game, what with the constant interruptions of the player’s control, ring true, but we know at some level that the director intended this. Even so, I understand what made people fall in love with Metal Gear Solid in the first place. Playing it for the first time, I felt that same excitement. I somehow missed playing Metal Gear Solid for years and years, and finally came around to it. From this critical historical distance, you can see the wealth of design, plotting, and polish jammed into every corner of this 8-10 hour only-in-video-games extravaganza.

Call it a five star for fun, but the flaws (specifically the forced combat sections) do drag the game down to a four if I’m being honest.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.