Metal Gear Solid for PC (2000)
How a console port should be brought to the PC.
Highs: Intense action; superior plot; the sort of gameplay that makes us buy games in the first place
Lows: Hardcore PC gamers will have to admit the PlayStation delivered one the best games ever made. (This was an issue in 2000)
Final Verdict: A truly fantastic port of a truly fantastic game. Everything works in the conversion, often working better than the original. You'll never spend 35 bucks as wisely as making this purchase. Now stop wasting your time reading this review and go buy it!!! (Well, you probably can't. Not this version. Not twenty years later.
Every once in a while, a game comes along that completely revolutionizes gaming itself. More often than not, that game is a native PC game. Console titles are fine, don't get me wrong, but very few of them are anything near revolutionary. I play games on virtually every platform, but it is the PC titles that seem to keep my interest more.
The consoles, in my opinion, are for sports and platform games. However, when Metal Gear Solid was released on the PlayStation, I ignored my PC for weeks. It was the closest thing to an interactive movie that I had ever seen, and it had pure gameplay unlike anything I had ever experienced. Now, two years later, Metal Gear Solid has made its way to the PC, and I am sure the question on everyone's mind is: Can it still be as great two years later? Absolutely.
Unless you have spent the last two years stuck in the Himalayas, you've heard about Metal Gear Solid. Almost five years in production, it is the third game in the Metal Gear series, and arguably the best game ever made for the highly successful PlayStation platform. That's all well and good, but I think we all know that the majority of PlayStation ports have been mediocre at best, so it was with great trepidation that I installed Metal Gear Solid on my PC. My two main concerns were 1) The two year old PlayStation graphics couldn't possibly compete with today's PC games, and 2) I didn't think there was any way the controls could work on a PC, even with a gamepad. I should learn to not worry so much.
If you are unfamiliar with Metal Gear Solid, I'll give you a little background. You are an ex-military operative, basically kidnapped by your former commander to neutralize a hairy terrorist situation. A group of your former co-workers have taken over a nuclear missile disposal facility, and unless their demands are met, they will launch a nuclear weapon. Your mission is to infiltrate the site, find a hostage, and find out whether or not the terrorists have the capability to do what they are threatening.
At the center of this situation is Metal Gear, a prototypical weapon capable of launching a nuclear weapon from anywhere in the world. As Solid Snake, your character, you have had experience with this weapon (the first two games in the series) and thus, you are the perfect op to handle this mission. This is where you start from, and though you do follow a pretty linear plot, you do have the freedom to handle the game the way you want, and your actions affect the ending. From a storyline standpoint, Metal Gear Solid is as solid (pun intended) as any other game I have ever played.
Metal Gear Solid bases its gameplay mainly around stealth. You enter the facility unarmed, and genetically enhanced soldiers heavily outnumber you. If you want to rush in and go head to head with the enemy, you'll spend a lot of time reloading saved games. Learn to sneak in and out of areas avoiding as many confrontations as possible and you get the full Metal Gear Solid experience. It is the stealth approach that really makes this game stand apart from anything else ever made.
For the sake of this review, I think it is more important to focus on how well the game ports over to the PC than to rate the game itself. Metal Gear Solid received rave reviews on the PlayStation. I I don't think there is any question on whether or not it was a great console game in 1998. The question is whether or not it is a great PC game in 2000.
Graphically, Metal Gear Solid was superior to anything on the PlayStation when it was released. Now, in a time when we are seeing great games like Deus Ex, Quake III and such, Metal Gear Solid is at a disadvantage. The PlayStation had a staggering 2MB dedicated to 3D graphics. The new GeForce and Voodoo cards have 64. As PC gamers, we are used to jaw dropping visuals. Microsoft was fully aware of this when they took on the project of porting the game to the PC, and they did an excellent job in the conversion. First off, the game supports hardware acceleration, and allows for screen resolutions up to 1024x768. At this resolution, Metal Gear Solid looks fresh, and though it isn't light years ahead of the PSX version, it certainly looks great. The lighting effects have also been enhanced, so in no way are the dated graphics a hindrance to this game. In fact, I think they are a plus, and I can't believe I am saying that.
Because this is a tense game that requires your full attention and lighting fast reflexes, a substandard control setup will just not work. Even on the PSX, the controls for Metal Gear Solid took a bit of getting used to. The same applies for the PC version, but if you have a good gamepad (preferably something like a Sidewinder) the controls feel exactly like the console version. I experimented with a mouse/keyboard setup, trying for a full PC experience, but I'll tell you now, it just isn't worth it. The game responds like a console game when it comes to control, and you'll waste a lot of time trying to adapt the game to a PC-style setup. With a Sidewinder Gamepad Pro, it took me about fifteen minutes to get the hang of things, and then it was like second nature. I almost felt like I was playing a PlayStation. Everything is fully programmable as well, so you can configure the controls until you find what's comfortable for you. Kudos to Microsoft for not messing with the control interface. Though the control setup is something that might not be natural to PC gamers, it works.
The PC version of this game surpasses the console version in some key areas. One of these areas is sound. Though the PlayStation version did boast Dolby Surround, not many people have their console hooked up to such a system, so for the most part, you had to deal with whatever sort of sound your TV delivered. PC sound systems have advanced greatly over the last few years, and if you have a multi-speaker system hooked up to a good card (SB Live!, let's say) you'll be in for an aural treat. The sound is immersive, and rivals some of the better PC games out today. There are plenty of good PC titles whose sound is nothing compared to what Metal Gear Solid offers.
Much of what made Metal Gear Solid great were the gimmicks that you needed to discover to get through certain parts of the game. One of the cleverest was when you were fighting the psychic, Psycho Mantis, and had to plug your controller into the other port to prevent him from reading your mind and not figure out your moves. Most computers have only one joystick port, so doing this in the PC version is nearly impossible. That doesn't mean such things are omitted. I won't spoil this part for you, but I'll tell you this; the PC version handles this, and other similar situations just fine.
When a console game comes out that is a widespread success, there is no doubt the game will be ported to the PC. Us PC gamers generally shy away from such titles, mainly because we are used to PC-style controls and save features. There is no argument that a game like Final Fantasy VII was a superb game, but something was lost when it was ported to the PC. I personally don't want to have to deal with a game that has limited save zones and mediocre graphics. I didn't buy an expensive computer with a huge hard drive and fast video card for such games. That's what I bought a PlayStation for.
I think Microsoft was aware of this, because they addressed almost everything that would turn off PC players in this port. You can save at any point in the game, and as I said earlier, the graphics are certainly acceptable when compared to today's PC titles. If a PC player who had never heard of Metal Gear Solid before bought this game and fired it up on their PC, they would rave about it. Unless someone told them it was a PSX conversion, they would never notice it. On top of that, the PC version offers a first-person mode not available in the console version, a few more cut scenes, better graphics, and the VR missions which came out as a separate game for the PSX. If there were a PSX to PC Port Hall of Fame, this game would be an inductee.
I'm sure there are some people who won't enjoy this game. They are probably the people who bought the 100 or so copies of Paintbrawl or Dominion and enjoyed them. Though it took too long to bring this game to the PC, it is finally here, and Microsoft made this into a PC game for PC gamers. With the addition of some features, substantial improvements to the sound and graphics, and the inclusion of the VR Missions (no, they are not spectacular, but they cost PSX gamers an extra 30 bucks) this is as complete a game as you will ever play.
What you have here is a game that grips you from the beginning and never lets go. From start to finish, you experience movie-style plot transitions, excellent cut scenes, and gameplay as intense as anything to date. This is the sort of game that you think about even when you are not playing it.
It will excite you, frustrate you, and offer you more gaming bang for your buck than you have ever received. You'll deal with double-crossing, romance, near-impossible situations, and just about anything else a game can deliver. If you played the PlayStation version and are curious about whether or not you will enjoy the PC version, all I can tell you is to go out now and buy it. Even if you don't have a gamepad, the game is worth the price of buying one. If you have never played this game before, I envy you. You are in for possibly the best gaming experience to date.