I seem to be asking a lot of questions these days (DID I EVER TELL YOU THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY?), but I’ve got one that I’m genuinely interested in: When did you effectively ‘grow up’ as a gamer?

Unless you’re still some juvenile hardman keyboard warrior who still makes those bullshit Talking Tom Cat videos right before your mum calls you down for dinner, you’ve probably already experienced this joyous moment, whether it was when you watched in horror as a disgusting one-eyed brain-dinosaur kill an innocent baby for sucking the life out of it moments before, or even when you did something as simple yet monumental as spending your own hard-earned money on a video game for the first time. For me, it was in the Autumn of 2001, when a long-forgotten friend of mine lent me a copy of Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid for the original PlayStation.Now, being an avid platforming nut, I loved cartoonish games like Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot and Rayman, so having received this 15-rated game at the age of 11, I didn’t know what to expect. Starting up the game and skipping all cutscenes, I got a feel for the controls and tried to find the jump command.

There is no jump command in Metal Gear.

“It was the game that not only made me grow up as a gamer, but also changed me as a gamer.”

I didn’t really understand the concept of stealth at the time either, so this game was brand new territory for me, and as expected, as I was caught and killed on sight. In the very first area. Within two minutes. I returned the game to my mate the very next day, and after a good bollocking, I took it back that very evening and gave it another go – briefing tapes, VR missions, cutscenes and all. And the rest is history: What began after that point was my delving into the ‘mature’ side of gaming which had evaded me for so long; the themes of love, war and espionage that would have me reflect on the situation at hand rather than letting the moment pass straight over me like the jokes of a hired comedian for Sony at E3. It was the game that not only made me grow up as a gamer, but also changed me as a gamer.

 

"HURT ME MORE!" (SOURCE: http://i.ytimg.com/)

“HURT ME MORE!” (SOURCE: http://i.ytimg.com/)

At the time, Metal Gear Solid was a huge departure from what I was normally used to in gaming. I wasn’t going around collecting dragon eggs from anthropomorphic rhinos, or engaging in a mass rap battle with animals to gain dibs on the only available public toilet. No – Metal Gear Solid takes place on the fictional island of Shadow Moses, located just off of the coast of Alaska, where Solid Snake – a retired agent turned dog musher – is called back into action to take on his former unit of FOXHOUND, who have now turned renegade. The story has all the essentials of an ’80s action movie, with a protagonist modelled after Jean Claude van Damme and (seriously) Christopher Walken, a thrilling and suspenseful plot, and all the violence and special effects of a good Kaiju movie. Headed up by a man who claims that “70% of his body is made of movies”, it’s no surprise that Hideo Kojima was going to pour his love for film into the franchise’s first 3D outing.
Back in ’98, Metal Gear Solid was a beautiful-looking game, even though we can look back on it now and say that it looks like Minecraft with people using their heads to communicate in morse code. However, sound-wise, the game is near-perfect. The voice acting is well done and believable, the sound effects sound totally legit, and the score is nothing short of brilliant. I’ve always been an advocate of the statement that music makes a game just as much as gameplay and story does, and Metal Gear Solid does a fantastic job of portraying the great moments of the game; from the horror of war, to the heartbreak of love; from the power of determination, to the tragedy of death – both storytelling and musical score join together to create what I have always maintained as the ‘Hollywood trademark’ of the series, which the entire franchise has always striven to preserve.
Must… not… cry… *breaks down in tears* (SOURCE: http://videogam.in/)

Must… not… cry… *breaks down in tears* (SOURCE: http://videogam.in/)

But then there was the big question: How do you make a blockbuster Hollywood-style action game where you spend 90% of it hiding from enemies? Well, Hideo Kojima managed to pull it off pretty damn well; the man has made it no secret that he adores thinking outside of the box with his games, and in Metal Gear Solid, he very much thinks inside it too. In terms of standard gameplay, you can defend yourself with judo or whatever Solid Snake uses, but the game focuses on on-site procurement of weapons, like a real mission. But you’re not able to stay in the shadows forever, and there will be traps everywhere. So what do you do? Well, you choke and snap the necks of guards. You pull out a pack of cigarettes and detect the beams of trip lasers. You pull out a motherfucking cardboard box and HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT.

However, this doesn’t mean that the gameplay is flawless; it is an old game with less control than what we have now, and some commands do feel laborious to execute. Grabbing a guard in a chokehold might end up alerting them if you’re a little out of position, and using the square and cross button together when running and gunning will be a race to see how it will take until your thumb gets tired. But it can be forgiven, for while some will blame the game’s age for these shortfalls, I feel that the game is more strict with its approach to stealth than its sequels.
You pull out a motherfucking cardboard box and HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT.
But aside from these tropes, the hallmark of Kojima’s genius was present throughout the game in the form of glorious mindfuckery. Well known for utterly and completely demolishing the fourth wall, Kojima pulls no punches when messing with the player, from using the controller’s vibration function to massage the player’s arm after two bouts of intense button-mashing torture, to the Colonel telling you to check the back of the game’s case to find out who you need to call to progress the story.

However, the most famous of all mindfucks from the game is none other than the battle against Psycho Mantis. Mantis is a powerful user of psychokinesis, and he, as expected, can read your mind. He will evaluate your playstyle depending on how stealthy you’ve been, checks your memory card for other Konami games, and vibrates your controller using his ‘powers’. When the battle starts, you experience a blackout, as if your scart got disconnected from your SDTV; when you return, Mantis is invisible. You can’t see him or shoot him because he can read your mind. So how do you kill the bastard? Well, Campbell calls you up and tells you to swap your controller to port two – that way, he can’t read your mind.

WAT.

It really is things like this that have given Kojima the reputation he has, and it has given the Metal Gear series the trademark it so proudly bears. And it’s not just a convoy of flashy magic tricks; Metal Gear Solid is a very intelligent game that addresses a lot of serious issues, from nuclear proliferation to gene therapy, and even PTSD to human experimentation. That’s not to say that the game doesn’t know how to have fun – the series is known for its numerous easter eggs and silly moments where you can’t help but crack a smile; hell, Meryl Silverburgh beats the shit out of a guard and leaves him naked on the ground in the presenting position (censorship is obviously present, for the love of Chin Chin). And let’s not forget the brilliant Codec conversations that you can have with all your comrades; just try saving your game and then cancelling ten times.

…yeah, good luck with that, buddy. (SOURCE: i.ytimg.com)

I can’t tell you exactly how many times I’ve played Metal Gear Solid, but what I can say is that I’m a completely different gamer because of it, and all the better for it. It taught me to give games a second chance rather than tossing them aside and going back to using giant plums as a boat in a bayou. It also taught me to be a more cautious gamer, and to evaluate my surroundings before rushing in head-first, ready to incinerate every bastard in my path like I was Samuel L. Jackson or something. But Metal Gear Solid will always be first game that made me grow up as a gamer. Now, 14 years later, I can say that I’ve grown up with it.

And guess what? The Best Is Yet to Come.
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