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Metal Gear Solid, released 1998 on Playstation console.
2 discs - though one is mostly 'VR' training missions
Rated 15 (European version)
A recent retro game review named this the most important game released on the playstation console.
While I don't quite share that sentiment, there is simply no question that this spawned every 'Stealth-em-up' released since.
We take control of the main character, one Solid Snake - retired mercenary, spy, 'black op's' specialist and general super-cool guy. He's snatched out of a happy retirement by his ex handler and boss, Colonel Roy Campbell.
Snake is in contact with Campbell via a radio link for most of the game and as the story progresses he drops a few little bombshells about Snakes previously unknown past.
The story is fairly basic 'been there done that' stuff. Ex special ops pulled out of retirement to use his special set of skills to defeat a baddie from his distant past.
In this case, we're trying to infiltrate a military base to remove or destroy a Nuclear arsenal and take revenge on Liquid Snake, another super-soldier who it transpires was interfered with genetically in a similar way to our hero.
The game uses some very interesting concepts for the action genre; instead of running in all guns blazing to annihilate our foes with hot lead, guns and ammo are relatively scarce so we're encouraged to take either none violent paths and avoid the enemy altogether, or use sneak attacks to take the enemy one by one (with none lethal force if desired) without alerting the whole base. Should the alarms sound, we are attacked by all enemies in the local vicinity which usually ends with either our demise or at the very least serious health depletion.
The game is quite linear and has a set path to follow, although we are given free reign to explore small areas and double back and visit areas previously explored. Because of that it feels very much like an open environment free-roaming game. Also, while there aren't defined levels as such we are treated to some great boss fights along the way as we take on the various members of FOXHOUND, a group of special forces soldiers each with skills in different areas.
Revolver Ocelot is a crack-shot with a powerful 6 shot Colt handgun.
Sniper Wolf is, as you may guess, a gifted sniper.
Vulcan Raven is a man-mountain armed with an enormous gatling gun.
Psycho Mantis is a psychic profiler and expert in psychokinesis.
Decoy Octopus is a master of disguise.
Some of these enemies are encountered more than once with obvious differences in difficulty!
Special mention must go to the absolutely inspired Psycho Mantis boss fight. As a psychic, he reads your attacks as soon as you've keyed them into the control pad. Therefore it's all but impossible to beat him.
Until, that is, you plug your pad into the 'player 2' port on the console! Then he's blind to your attacks and easy to defeat! I forget how I even got on to that little gem, but doubtful that I worked it out for myself! Just one example of how smart this game was.
The graphics are very good considering the platform. Even now when I load it up I wonder just how they managed to make it look this good almost 15 years ago! While there is some lag in 3rd person mode (with the camera behind/above the character), the 1st person view is technically superb.
The game boasts a fairly short 8 hours of gameplay, though the VR training missions can add an hour or two and this can be stretched considerably by purchasing the extra missions disc which is comprised of another 200 VR missions with short set objectives.
Despite the mediocre length of the game, it warrants a couple of run-through's as there are are hidden game modes, extra costumes and goodies to be unlocked (play in a Bond style tuxedo rather than army fatigues!)
The only real gripe I have about this game is the trial and error gameplay towards the end. Even the final boss fight can be cocked up with an errant button press. The control system was improved in later games, and it needed it as it was a real problem to be honest. Tough to get to grips with and easy to make mistakes even after a couple of hours use!
Generally speaking though, this really is another one of those games that the 'next generation' generation should be casting their eye across to see where the games of today sprung from. The MGS sequels on later consoles are still going strong, but the old consoles are always forgotten in the 'onwards and upwards' march. Worth picking up to while away an afternoon or two for sure.
Expect to pay under a fiver for a used copy.