How the hell has it taken us this long to choose Snake’s PlayStation debut for our Classic Game treatment?! Truly, the OPM Goat Of Shame is burning holes into all of our faces – and has threatened to do so continuously for a good few months yet. All we can say is that the iconic stature of Metal Gear Solid almost made it too obvious a choice for these articles before now.
Almost. Hideo Kojima’s espionage adventure isn’t just one of the best games to ever grace PlayStation, it’s one of the most influential titles in the history of the medium. It made stealth games newly relevant for the first time in a generation, and just as the world and the power of PS1 made Snake ‘Solid’, the bandana-sporting merc in turn transformed the landscape of 3D sneakers forever. Without Koj’s Alaska-set stealth classic, there would be no Splinter Cell, no Second Sight, nor would you have sampled The Getaway: Black Monday’s utterly borked, covert cockney sneaking bits. (Cheers for that one, Snake, mate.)
What made it great? Amazing hide-and-seek hijinks with the best AI soldiers in the biz. The coolest, most effortlessly creative boss battles you could imagine. A stone-cold classic soundtrack. Top-tier, movie-rivalling voiceover work that made you feel like you were watching an (albeit super-blocky) action flick. A winding, deliciously layered, military-fetishising, nuclear-war-ruminating plot. Oh, and only the most kickass character ever to creep his way onto PlayStation.
This is hands-down the most entertaining Snake in the illustrious stealth series’ history. Unlike the near mute incarnations that pop up in MGS 3 and MGS 4, the bona fide, accept-no-substitutes Solid ‘David’ Snake from the first Metal Gear Solid is a superbly sketched character crackling with quips, barbs and all manner of cynical putdowns. The Phantom Pain’s tight-lipped Venom ‘Did-Konami-not-pay-Kiefer-Sutherland-enough-to-record-more-than-six-lines?’ he is not.
Whether bantering with Vulcan Raven about the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, where he suggests the hulking shaman must be a “real threat in the ‘Muktuk Eating’ contest,” or celebrating his victory against Liquid’s Hind-D by claiming “that takes cares of the cremation” as the downed whirlybird burns in the distance, MGS 1’s Snake is a personable, hugely loveable action hero. He’s basically John McClane, stripped of the manky vest and shoved into a skintight sneaking suit.
And what about those now mythic ‘classic Koj’ moments? The famed director repeatedly smashes the fourth wall with the least expected of sledgehammer strikes, confounding and delighting his audience in equal measure. Whether you’re following Campbell’s advice and checking the ‘CD case’ – the back of MGS 1’s physical box – for Meryl’s Codec frequency, or plugging your pad into a different port to outfox Psycho Mantis and his telepathic parlour games, few games can rival MGS 1’s subversive playfulness, even 18 years on.
The quality of the VO work and eye for a killer camera angle in those masterful cutscenes floors everything else on PS1. Never before had gamers experienced this level of storytelling craft or Hollywood-aping production. Granted, it may now look like KCEJ drew Snake’s eyes with the pencil tool in MS Paint, but when PS1’s ultimate sneaker first launched, this was as close as games had ever come to mimicking silver-screen spectacle. Nearly two decades and many supreme sequels later, Metal Gear Solid has created one of PlayStation’s greatest legacies. Not bad for a bloke who skulks around in a battered cardboard box, eh?
This article originally appeared in Official PlayStation Magazine. For more great PlayStation coverage, you can subscribe here.