Looking back on Metal Gear Solid

We take a look at every Metal Gear Solid game and how the series evolved.

Since he took over the Metal Gear series, Hideo Kojima has brought us tactical espionage action and a story that makes us laugh, think, and weep. Not many games bring the tears that Metal Gear Solid 3 did. Metal Gear Solid combines campy, cheesy dialogue with intense philosophical concepts and sacrifices that bring grown men to tears. In this article, we take a look at where things all began and how the games evolved into what they are today.


Metal Gear Solid - 1998


It was clear from the original Metal Gear games that Kojima wanted to tell a cinematic story, and with Metal Gear Solid being released during the dawn of 3D gaming, he got to do just that in an avant-garde manner that no one had yet attempted. Although a significant amount of plot was packed into Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2, Metal Gear Solid serves as a fine starting point for the series.

We are given background that the player character Solid Snake is a legendary soldier who is back for one final mission to recover the remains of Big Boss, who was killed in Metal Gear 2. After sneaking through Shadow Moses with betrayals and conspiracies and plot twists, we had played a game that not only provided a fun, immersive experience, but also touched on controversial topics such as eugenics, nukes, biological weapons. Although the cutscenes had us staring at boxy faces whose mouths did not move, Metal Gear Solid was one of the first games to attempt having the cinematic cutscenes that many games have today.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - 2001

This image sums up this game more or less

Konami and Kojima had hyped this game up for months with the idea of playing as the legendary soldier Solid Snake in a new, graphically improved setting with tons of new features. After playing through the first level, however, players learned that was not the case at all.

We were completely caught of guard by the fact that we now had to play through the entire game as Raiden, who serves as the antithesis of everything that Solid Snake was. He was effeminate, immature, whiny, and full of teenage angst. Players eventually learned that their experience on the Big Shell was entirely planned by Solid Snake, and nothing that Raiden or the player was experiencing was real. This left a bit of an issue in continuity by the time Metal Gear Solid 4 came out (but who cares? We'll just retcon that!).

All of the issues aside, however, Metal Gear Solid 2 is still the most philosophical entry in the series. It touches on concepts such as memes (no, not the funny pictures you found on the Internet) in such a way that even movies had not attempted at that point. Few moments can contend with the amount of confusion, fear, and intrigue players felt when Colonel Campbell started to glitch as he began talking about censorship, consciousness, and reality as we perceive it.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - 2004

Metal Gear Solid 3 is considered by many fans to be the best entry in the series, and its praise is well-deserved. The world is so fleshed out that to this day, players still discover new features they didn't know existed - such as disabling a guard's ability to radio for help by shooting the speaker on his chest.

This game is a favorite not just to Metal Gear fans, but stealth fans everywhere. The camouflage system was far ahead of its time, and the ways that you could go about remaining undetected - such as distracting guards with porn magazines or cardboard boxes - were both hilarious and amazing.

As far as story goes, Snake Eater is the king of camp. I still laugh every time Revolver Ocelot meows at you before spinning his revolver a million times. Then after you've fought him, he spins them a million times more and actually spins them so fast that he kills BEES that swarm him and Naked Snake when The Pain interrupts their showdown. The most important thing that Snake Eater did with regards to Metal Gear Solid  was that it gave depth to such an essential character, Big Boss.

The name "Big Boss" itself sounds like a one-dimensional boogeyman, and up until this game, that's really all he was. He was just a legend that players knew Solid Snake was cloned from. Players had no reason to feel sympathy for the man that they killed twice if they played the first two Metal Gear games. With this game, however, we see just how much pain he endured. Suffering what seemed like a betrayal from his mentor, and then having to kill her, knowing that she did what she did and made herself into a villain...for him.

I'd give my life. Not for honor, but for you

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots - 2008

This game served as the definitive chronological end for the Metal Gear Solid series. With so many characters and plots to wrap up, many people consider the story for this game to be a convoluted mess, and a long one at that. Metal Gear Solid 4 had a whopping eight hours of cutscenes, leading many players to make jokes that it's more of a movie than a game. People had issues with plot holes and deus ex machinas - such as Big Boss coming out of nowhere and resolving everything, while putting to rest his enemy and former comrade, Zero, in front of Solid Snake.

There was also the problem of retcons. Almost none of the events in Metal Gear Solid 2 seemed to have an effect on the world. Raiden magically became a cyborg ninja out of nowhere. And it turned out Ocelot was never possessed by Liquid Snake. He was just pretending the whole time.

Despite all the problems with its story, Metal Gear Solid 4 was a beautiful game that allowed for dozens of new ways to approach missions - such as buying weapons, customizations, and a stealth suit. And it also featured a fun but short-lived online mode that was so popular that it was brought back for Metal Gear Solid V. Whether you like it or hate it, this game is how Metal Gear Solid ends.

"This is good, isn't it?"

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker - 2010

I hope these guys know what they're doing, 'cause I can't see down this gun

Peace Walker is a unique game because it was originally released for the PSP, but after how well-received it was and players' requests, it was eventually released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.

Peace Walker begins with Big Boss, going by his preferred code name, Snake, is running his own private military company alongside Kazuhira Miller. Snake recruits children such as Paz Ortega and Ricardo "Chico" Valenciano Libre to help him uncover secrets of an unknown army that has occupied parts of Costa Rica

This game is the beginning step for Snake the hero becoming Big Boss the villain, as Snake essentially kidnaps enemy soldiers and convinces them to join his PMC that eventually becomes a nuclear deterrent. Peace Walker introduced the Fulton Recovery System, which allowed Snake to kidnap enemy soldiers via a giant balloon and send them to his and Kaz's Mother Base.

While this was a cool mechanic that allowed players to unlock new weapons and diversify gameplay, not everyone wanted to have to grind to progress further into the story. If players did not have the necessary weapons for certain missions, they could not beat the level and therefore not progress further into the story. The game ends with Paz, who is revealed to be an agent of Cipher (The Patriots), trying to blackmail Snake into surrendering to Zero or be made a terrorist group to the world. Snake defeats her in Metal Gear ZEKE, and she is thrown into the ocean, believed to be dead.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain - 2014 - 2015

Since this game is without a doubt Kojima's final entry in the series, it had to go out with a bang. This game had been teased since 2012 with a trippy hospital trailer than had all the signs of being a Metal Gear game but lacked the title or the studio. This game was eventually revealed to be Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain in 2013. With that E3 trailer alone, hype levels were off the charts.

Just to show how much work was being put into The Phantom Pain, Kojima gave them a taste of what it would be like with Ground Zeroes, which served as a prelude to The Phantom Pain. In Ground Zeroes, we saw just how different this was from any Metal Gear game. The game played like a more polished version of every third-person stealth game such as Splinter Cell, and cool new features such as the reflex mode, which allowed players to neutralize a guard in three seconds, and the iDroid.

In Ground Zeroes we learn that Paz survived her fight with Snake, and she had been taken to Guantanomo Bay, with Chico being captured as well. Chico and Paz were tortured, raped, and forced to rape, and they were compared to the trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two anarchists who were made an example of and executed for a crime they did not commit.

From this game, which has been criticized as being a "forty dollar demo," by players who felt that it did not offer enough plot-based gameplay, we learned that The Phantom Pain was indeed going to be a very dark game unlike any other Metal Gear game. Ground Zeroes ended with Big Boss and Miller learning that Chico and Paz were meant to distract Big Boss so that Skull Face, the mysterious man who held them captive, could destroy Mother Base. His men had planted a bomb inside Paz's stomach and (implied) her womb. After the medic on board Big Boss' helicopter removed the first bomb, Paz threw herself out of the helicopter in an attempt to save them, but the blast still damaged Big Boss and Kaz, leaving the series on a cliff hanger until The Phantom Pain was released in 2015.

The Phantom Pain began with Big Boss waking up from a coma that he had allegedly been in for nine years, and the doctor had told him that he would have to have facial reconstructive surgery so that his enemies would not know who he is.

Players created their own avatar and then watched as the doctor wa strangled by Quiet, an assassin working for XOF, but he is saved by a bandaged man named Ishmael, who appears to have been a hallucination by the end of the prologue, when Revolver Ocelot finally rescues him.

The Phantom Pain was sparse with story compared to other Metal Gear games, but what it lacked in story it made up for by having the best gameplay in the series, with an open world full of missions and side ops that could be tackled stealthily. There were also loud, online modes, and an open Mother Base that improved the Fulton system implemented in Peace Walker. The Phantom Pain received immense critical praise for giving players the most fun they could have in a Metal Gear game.

The only thing that was a minor letdown was that at the end of the game, players learned that they were in fact not playing as Big Boss, but the medic who was in the helicopter in Ground Zeroes. A bait and switch similar to Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2, some fans were disappointed that they did not get to play as a their beloved Big Boss in the final entry in the series. That being said, The Phantom Pain brings the story of Metal Gear full-circle if not for a few gaps, and it remains an amazing game.

Kojima has wanted to end Metal Gear for a long time, and he finally has. His story will remain in the hearts of players for the rest of their lives, and they will be remembered as one of the pioneers of stealth games and storytelling in video games.

Published Sep. 19th 2015
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