We have waited so long for the return of Metal Gear Solid to Nintendo. Since the arrival of the N64 Konami have been showering the PS2 with this most prestigious of titles, but with the GameCube now over two years old (except here in Europe) MGS makes it return to a Nintendo system, and we couldn't be happier. The franchise is without doubt stealth at its best, and with hands shaking we placed the disk into the Cubed3 GameCube, we haven't been this excited in a very long time...
Only to MGS veterans will this title be a slight disappointment, there have not been too many changes made over recent PlayStation titles, but what is here is easily enough to please the gaming masses. It appeals on so many levels, it is mature, it is full of great gameplay, it looks great, sounds excellent and it is innovative. Anyone and everyone in gaming will have a different and individual reason for loving Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, and in this review we will try to go other as many as possible.
This is a game of subtlety and intelligence. It has been developed very carefully, making sure that every section of the title is perfectly crafted and laid out. First of all the graphics, whilst not the best on the GameCube, are very smart indeed. The characters move wonderfully smoothly and the whole title has a wonderfully atmospheric feel to it. What has really impressed us is the animation of the title. Every movement is very precise and carefully thought out, fluid if you like. There are no rugged or robot like animations, and killing people is hugely satisfying to watch. Shoot someone in the leg and they will try to stay standing, whilst amusingly rocking from side to side. Shoot a tranquilliser into a guards arm and it will feebly twitch before becoming totally paralysed. The game isn't afraid of gore either. You can literally blow people sky high or remove bits of them, spewing claret all other the place as you do.
Aside from the character animation there are a few nasty looking textures hidden away (you have to look mind), which is a bit of a letdown, but aside from that this is a superb title. The levels are great; you can interact with a whole plethora of items and use your environment as a cloak to hide in. Be it shutting yourself in a locker and finding the perfect hiding place or hanging of a ledge whilst your foes pass, it is up to you to play this game intelligently and with great care.
Your enemies aren't stupid however, and you have to be very careful not to get caught out. You can go through most levels by making sure you avoid all foes, navigating using your radar and sneaking out the end of the level without being noticed, but in doing this you probably only see about a third of the game and the enjoyment factor goes down a fair old bit. You can use the games superb stealth system as much or as little as you want to. It is hugely satisfying to sneak up behind a guard and take him down totally silently, then search him for items before slipping back into the shadows to hide again. But the fun doesn't end there, for a truly cruel way to get goodies, simply aim your gun in the general direction of a guards groin and he will put his hands up in sheer fear of losing what is so precious to him. When he does this you can swipe his dog tag, which in turn will unlock items in the game.
As we said, enemies are not dumb, and you have to constantly cover your tracks. Whilst a dead man will just evaporate into thin air, an unconscious one will lie in full view of anyone that happens to pass by, including his fellow guards. You have to drag them into a locker, or hide them into the shadows to make sure they don't get spotted. Nicely, just about everything you do in this game will have a consequence, which makes for a top draw gaming experience that ensures you constantly think about what you do.
What really makes this game special is the enemy AI. Not only do they spot unconscious bodies lying on the floor, but they also communicate with each other, and come and hunt you down if they feel they know where you are. But they don't just walk into a death trap, oh no. They will try to outthink you, use different tactics and the like to ensure that they catch you. Of course, this means you have to keep on thinking. If you hide under a cardboard box, and the disguise isn't quite good enough, they'll find out where you are and take you out. And if all of that isn't enough for you, they will also hear you if you walk about too loudly, they will follow tracks in the snow and even spot blood lying on the floor and check out what is going on. It is all about avoiding such situations, cover your tracks and you should be fine, forget or make one mistake and you could be in trouble. What this game all comes down to is thinking. You can not simply go through the game shooting at things, you'll die, you can't walk about like you rule the roost, someone will see you and they will shoot you, and if they don't kill you any other of the guards will come and hunt you down.
Attention to detail is where this game again shines. Going from A to B can be done in so many different ways. First time through this game will probably help you enjoy the basics of what it has to offer, but for the total experience and the best of the game you simply have to take it for a second spin. When you complete the game once you get a rather handy Stealth Suit, this puts a invisibility blur around you, whilst enemies will still be aware of your presence, they wont shoot until they work out what is going on. Taunting them is hugely good fun, going up behind them, walking about and generally getting them all confused. Cruel it may be but it is sadistically enjoyable. This game focuses quite a bit on torturing people mentally and physically, and you get the same treatment yourself.
At one point in the game Snake gets captured by Revolver Ocelot, to avoid him torturing you to death you will have to hammer at the A button. It is these sections that keep this game fresh and different. Another similar (but better) thing happens just before the end of the game. You have an encounter with the slightly insane Psycho Mantis, where he claims to be able to read your mind. He asks you to put your controller on the floor, then he activates the rumble function, spooky indeed. Then, in accordance to what you have saved on your memory card, he will start to make comments. He then starts making the pictures around the room go insane, thankfully you can start to fight the bugger after this. He will fire various bits of scenery at you, and cleverly, to prevent him reading what moves you are making on your controller, you can move it into port two. Marvellous!
One of the games major downfalls, and high points, is the plot. It is hugely deep and meaningful, dealing with issues such as genetics and life to make the game plot really mean something, rather than using it as a feeble excuse to give the game structure. You'll be hooked from start to finish, but we cannot help but think that it is a bit unnecessary at times. Whilst carrying out a hugely important mission your radio will suddenly go off and you will be plunged into a dramatic exchange with the person on the other end, all very well, but aren't we meant to be saving the world? Also, some of the cut-scenes can go on and on and on. Annoying at most, but there is no denying this game has truly superb cinematic potential.
Silicon Knights have done a marvellous, nay gargantuan job with this game. For MGS veterans this is well worth a look, there is buckets of new gameplay and loads more to see, for newcomers you have before you one of the most enjoyable titles to be released on the current generation, perhaps even in the last seven or more years.
Amazing stealth gameplay, perfect controls, wonderfully innovative in places and hugely intelligent. This is perhaps one of the best gameplay experiences on the GameCube.
Excellent animation, great subtly in movement and some levels effects. Not much to fault it on really aside from some questionable textures in places.
The voice acting is a joy to behold, the music is hugely atmospheric and the sound effects are perfect.
You can zip through it very quickly, or you can sit down and play it properly, enjoying everything this title has to offer. At the end of the day the game is short, but you will come back to it.
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is a wonderful title for so many reasons. The depth of it is glorious, the story enthralling and the gameplay just about perfect. The franchise is back on the GameCube and it is back with a bang. Buy it, you wont be disappointed.