Author’s Note: Spoilers for Metal Gear Solids 1-4 to follow.
The words “Metal Gear Solid” can mean a number of different things to different gamers. Perhaps you are intimately familiar with the series and those words recall long lines of dialogue, hours of reconnaissance, and the telltale sounds of a guard who’s seen a box get up and run away. On the other hand, you might remember painfully dreadful cutscenes or remarkably dramatic bosses who roller-skate around with martini glasses.
Whatever connotations the series may hold for you, there is one thing no one can argue: that Metal Gear Solid provides players with remarkably memorable moments.
Looking back on my own experiences, I’m flooded with waves of images, scenarios, and an uncanny sense that each character was a real person with sincere emotions. From the first moment on the original Playstation when Snake was entering Shadow Moses underwater to the pinnacle battle in Metal Gear Solid 4, these are some of my favorite memories for the series.
In the opening moments of Metal Gear Solid, the player is tasked with getting on an elevator. For the first time in my video game career I was presented with an objective and asked to accomplish it. I distracted guards by tapping on walls and sneaking underneath parts of the facility. I’ll never forget the first time I showed this to a group of friends at my birthday party. Never before had we been able to instruct how the AI responded to such a wide variety of conditions.
I remember dying multiple times in the demo I received on one of the many demo discs to come out. It took me a long time to understand the basic mechanics of this new gaming experience, but as I learned my way through this demo and ascended into the elevator to the complex on Shadow Moses, I became informed on how to approach the game as a whole. Something similar happened recently with my venture into Ground Zeroes.
Psycho Mantis, the villain is often lauded as one of the best in the series. Psycho Mantis read my memory cards, broke the fourth wall to speak to me as a player, and made me think beyond the typical video game terms. During his displays of power, he told me to place my controller on the floor and then used telekinesis to make it vibrate. In doing this, Metal Gear Solid showed sincere self-awareness and allowed me to experience something I’d not experienced in a game before. There was a sense of immersion that my young mind only responded with by yelping loudly in excitement over what was happening.
Even my mother, who has little interest in console gaming was impressed by this moment. Mantis also read my mind by way of examining the data on my memory cards, and he questioned my tactics by considering the number of times I saved and how I handled guards. It was a unique and enticing experience that suited a villainous psychic that he portrayed so well. I’ll never forget having to switch controller ports in order to regain control of my character after a powerful “psychic attack” had rendered controller port one useless. Psycho Mantis was and is one of the best villains in the franchise.
Perhaps it is fitting that so many memories of Metal Gear Solid are defined by its enemies. Sniper Wolf was simultaneously one of the most simple and complex enemies we were faced with in the series. On the one hand, she did not have telekinetic powers, tribal tattoos, Doctor Octopus arms, or a magic memory infused hand. On the other hand, she was emotionally vulnerable, driven by a sense of honor, and there were sincere feelings of love that instructed her actions.
The battles and the words were certainly important, but it’s the wolves howling after her death that I remember most. Traversing the snow in the valley between towers on Shadow Moses, hearing the wolves howl in sadness as I looked at her body with Hal weeping over it. It was a consequence of my necessary actions that gave me feelings of regret and sadness. While battling Psycho Mantis and outsmarting guards was cool, this was a feeling of guilt. Those howls are etched into my memory. Painfully etched I might add.
Metal Gear Solid 2 brought us the polarizing protagonist Raiden. Playing as Raiden the first time, I thought he was awesome. It’s not a popular opinion, but as a young teenager with blonde hair, I had a hero that I could identify with (his later character changes notwithstanding). Seeing Raiden do all the things that Solid Snake had done in the original MGS was a great experience for me. Until one titular moment. Raiden was stripped (literally) of all supplies and materials. There he was running and flipping while naked. It. Was. Weird. I’ll never forget it though.
Peace Walker is another Metal Gear Solid title that holds significant memories for me. However, despite the games listed prior, I did not like Peace Walker. I remember trying desperately to love the game, but on the small screen with controls that were absolutely horrid, I could not delve myself into the Kojima writing. Peace Walker is largely considered an amazing game by MGS enthusiasts, but all I remember is frustration. Blasphemy? Maybe. Nonetheless I found the experience too large to be confined to a small screen so I abandoned it.
I skipped Metal Gear Solid 3. When I went back during the HD collection, I again found the controls infuriating and decided it wasn’t worth it. Send hate mail accordingly.
My love for the series was rekindled though with Metal Gear Solid 4. The first time I laid eyes on Old Snake, I knew this story was going to be epic. Chapters defined by long loading screens and Snake staring into oblivion, lost in thought as his cigarette wafted smoke into the nothingness is one of my more fascinating memories of the series. Nothing was happening and yet there our hero was, reminiscing as I might be about his complex and violent history.
For all of Metal Gear Solid 4’s intense battles and dramatic flair, the calmer moments tend to prevail in my memory. The return to Shadow Moses stands out above the rest. Old Snake’s mission begins with a dream sequence that returns the player to the graphics and play style of the original Playstation game, despite the PS3’s completely maxed out power in the rest of the game. Waves of nostalgia slammed into me like rapids over rocks in a wild river. Memories of all types were brought to the forefront of my mind and as suddenly as Snake awakens, they were taken away. It was a powerful moment.
Seeing the original environments of Shadow Moses brought to life by two generations of upgraded hardware was something special. For all the masterful combat in this section of the game, simply gazing over the horizon and into the snow stands out most for me.
Metal Gear Solid 4’s camo suit was also a thing of beauty. Watching my suit adapt to the environments and blend in like the most talented of chameleons was something special. It became a game unto itself as I tried to foil the intellect of the enemy guards by simply standing still for a time and then moving ever so slightly. While the game is ripe with complex storytelling, it is also a pure masterpiece of technical accomplishment.
Cows. The Gekkos in Metal Gear Solid 4 sound like cows.
The final prevailing memory that traverses all my Metal Gear Solid thoughts is the sound of an enemy spotting me. The seemingly trademarked exclamation point above their head arrives in Ground Zeroes with it’s roots traced all the way back to hardware and a game four generations old. Fans and naysayers alike will recognize that sound and it’s one that will likely stick with me for the remainder of my days.