What Can I Say? Metal Gear’s Gameplay Is Timeless

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What Can I Say? Metal Gear’s Gameplay Is Timeless

We want to go into some of the reasons why the Metal Gear Franchise still works almost 40 years after its inception.


No one needs to clarify how amazing the Metal Gear Franchise is. Almost 10 years after the last release, their memory and influence can still be felt to this day. But at the same time, they are some of the most unique titles ever made. To say that this entire franchise kept breaking new grounds with every entry would still undersell them.

And in the wake of the fallout between creator Hideo Kojima and publisher Konami, the conversation has spilled into every direction. And one thing is always lost when these titles come up, they all play incredibly well and rarely ‘age’ the same way as their contemporaries. Despite their narratives being period pieces, their themes and characters still feel timeless even if the occasional Kojima-ism threatens to derail the entire thing.

But after making my way through the Metal Gear Solid Master Collection there is another thing that becomes apparent. They still play fantastically decades after their initial release.

“The Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Features 5 Timeless Classics, 4 of Which You Would Still Clean House in a Modern Release Schedule.”

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Image: Konami

In context, the first game doesn’t stack up to the series as much as we would like it to. Sure it singlehandedly invented the entire genre of sneaking games, a mechanic that comes up in almost every video game since that but aside from that, it feels more like a more linear, military-themed version of the first Zelda game. It’s a big puzzle box that you have to map out to make progress mentally and it laid a formula that the rest of the games would follow even two decades later.

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It is the second game where things kick into the next gear. From the get-go, there is a slick, energized presentation that would set the tone for the rest of the entire franchise. The gameplay and story suddenly have layers to them that you didn’t see in other games that were released around 1990. And I would argue that this entire medium would be vastly different had its original release left Japan then and there.

Seriously, if you haven’t checked Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake by now, you should. Not only does it play fantastically snappy for a game made over 30 years ago, but it will blow your mind on a regular basis if you’re familiar with the titles that preceded it.

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Image: Konami

Next to it, Metal Gear Solid feels more like a remake or retake of the MSX2 classic. Think of the comparison from Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls but add a third dimension and a production value that blew everything else out of the water.

While MGS is mostly remembered for its mind-breaking plot twists and stellar presentation, its top-down stealth action still plays as snappy as it did when it was released in 1998. Even if CODEC interruptions become cumbersome towards the end, it still serves as a masterclass when it comes to arcadey stealth action.

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Image: Konami

The second title tried to elaborate further on this kind of play, instead of sneaking around and avoiding enemy encounters altogether. You’re now encouraged to temporarily disable guards and become more familiar with the layout of the Big Shell if you want to succeed. There is also an added layer of interactivity, suddenly it's not just sneaking past guards but using the environment to your advantage.

The second game will always be a subversive masterpiece of post-modern spy fiction but don’t forget that it also lets you toy around with an evergrowing arsenal of spy tools that will find use even in the most unconventional places.

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This finally brings us to Snake Eater which ditches the large puzzle box approach of level design for a more linear experience. Here you get several stealth challenges that ask you to consider your limited resources and use your environment to succeed. And sure its deliberations on Cold War politics and the value of a soldier’s life amidst the unrelenting gears that is the corrupt interplay between superpowers is one thing. But have you ever beaten a boss by feeding him rotten food?

Metal Gear Solid 3 asks the player to make the best with what they have and if you play smart and conservatively, you’re rewarded with one of the most satisfying gameplay experiences ever created.
These are just some musings on the earlier titles in the franchise.

I do believe that later titles exchanged their particular focus on one thing or the other for a maximalist approach instead. While Metal Gear Solid V might be the greatest third-person action/stealth game ever made, the freedom it offers makes it feel less deliberate. Peace Walker suffers from similar problems on top of being originally confined to a handheld platform and Metal Gear Solid 4 feels more like a compilation of the series’ greatest hits, forced into the format of a linear 2008 action game.

I would still love to see the release of Volume 2 of the Metal Gear Solid Master Collection, just know that all the really good ones are now widely available on almost every platform.

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What Can I Say? Metal Gear’s Gameplay Is Timeless
Timo Reinecke
Has once claimed that FSH is the only job in FFXIV worth playing and stands by that firmly. Top Guy, Smart Guy, Educated Speaker. (sometimes) Writer of all things FFXIV, FGC, News, Reviews and More