Sunday, December 12, 2004

Review: Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (GC)
Posted by Ryan :: 6:08 PM

What does one do when they are caught up in the hype that is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but only own a Gamecube? They do the next best thing, or in some people’s opinions the best thing, and pick up Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. Konami, along with Silicon Knights, have given one of the greatest games of its time, 1998’s Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation, a well deserved facelift. However, this remake is not along the lines as Capcom’s complete overhaul of the original Resident Evil, also for the Gamecube. There are a few additions to the original, a few changes and a much better looking game here, but level structures, item placement & over all strategies are nearly identical to that of the game released six years ago.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the storyline of Metal Gear Solid, so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. Our hero, Solid Snake, is brought out of retirement to investigate a nuclear warhead storage facility that has been taken over by a group of terrorists, who have also taken two very important men hostage. Your objective is to find out what the hell is going on and save the two hostages. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast, this is a Metal Gear game after all, so prepare yourself for plenty of plot twists. From beginning to end, you’ll be guessing who’s on Snake’s side and who’s not. With every cut scene or codec conversation comes another twist in the story. There are more subplots than I could keep track of and more plot holes than a block of swiss cheese. By the end of the game, a majority of the story lines come together, albeit, a bit sloppy. There are also a few loose ends, but most of those carry over to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. All that aside, the story moves at a reasonable pace and will keep you playing only to find out what hoops Snake has to jump through next. Who is the female soldier who appears to be on Snake’s side? Why is there a ninja in stealth camouflage running lose? What are Vulcan Raven and Liquid Snake thinking by going shirtless in Alaska?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, this game looks great. The cinematics have been completely redone, top to bottom. Under the direction of famed Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus), the action sequences have been re-choreographed to include Matrix-esque bullet time sequences and enough acrobatic foot work you’d think Snake was a member of the Cirque du Solei. In fact, it’s a bit too much. The coolness of said special effect has worn off, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the cut scenes. To say that the bullet time concept was beaten like a dead horse in regards to this game is an understatement. One thing I did find odd, for all the work that went into the cut scenes and the game itself, faces in codec conversations have not been updated. They remain identical to those in the original. In regards to in-game graphics, it looks just as good as its two sequels. Also of note, I don’t remember there being so much blood in the previous game’s cut scenes, but if you have small children, make sure they are pre-occupied with a stuffed animal or an electric socket before watching any cut scene involving the ninja.

For reasons unknown, the voice work has been redone, even though the dialogue remains almost identical to the original. And not everyone made it back, leaving us with accent-less versions of Mei Leing & Natasha Romanenko. The voice acting is a mixed bag. While some of the actors seem “into” their characters, others appear to have grown tired of doing the same voice over the course of four games (I’ll give you a guess as to whom I’m speaking of). The soundtrack score for the game is intact, with the exception of the Metal Gear Solid theme, which has been remixed for The Twin Snakes. Unlike the PS2 and the Xbox, the Gamecube is incapable of 5.1 surround sound, but what we get is the next best thing, Dolby Pro-Logic II. While the game still sounds a bit front loaded, it’s still a great audio experience, plenty of deep bass explosions to work your subwoofer and gun battles are treat when you’re surrounded, particularly the Vulcan Raven boss fight.

Not only have the audio and video aspects of the game been revamped, but some new additions have been added to the game play as well. Moves that were introduced in Metal Gear Solid 2, but didn’t exist in Metal Gear Solid 1, have been implemented here. Some come in handy, while others do not. The addition of first person mode makes the shooting of gun turrets, cameras and soldiers easier. Somersaults, ledge hanging & hiding victims in lockers have also been included here, but I rarely used them, if at all. A handful of new weapons make appearances in the game as well, but serve no special purpose considering the original ones work just fine. The AI of the genome soldiers seems to be bumped up some, yet they can’t seem you from across the room because you’re not in their field of vision, according to the radar. One particular scenario sticks out in my mind when you enter Nuke Building #1. No mater how many times you come and go from this building, the same soldier is reliving himself. You’d think after knocking him out, along with the other soldier who shows up in the bathroom, that they might send reinforcements, maybe bring in another squad, but no. You do back-track through this building a few times and every time you do, it’s the same soldier, taking the same leak again and again.

I’ve never been big on Metal Gear’s control scheme and when you add that to the layout of the Gamecube controller, you can only wonder as to how I feel about this game’s handling. My biggest complaint is the combining of the equip weapon/item buttons with the ability to peek around corners. I can’t remember how many times I would try to peek around a corner, only to have the menu to equip a weapon pop up, cycle through several times, land on a weapon I didn’t want, then Snake would spin out of control into a hallway full of guards. What is more irritating is the fact that the PS2 controller has more buttons and they still married these two actions to the same button. Zooming with either sniper rifle involves the B and X button, which happen to be the farthest from one another. In order to bring up the codec, you have to press the A button in conjunction with the Start button, which I found to be a little odd. My only other complaint is the fact Snake has two speeds, running & sneaking, nothing in between. Granted, this game is more of a facelift than an out-and-out remake of the original, however, it’s been six years since the original Metal Gear Solid was released and not one change or innovation has been made to the control scheme. I will say that assigning first person mode to the Z button was a good choice, felt comfortable and worked well with the A/fire button. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Splinter Cell and its control scheme, but I certainly prefer it over the Metal Gear Solid one.

I’m sure others will agree with me when I say that one of the best things about the Metal Gear games are the boss battles. Every battle is unique, each boss has their own ability and each one requires a different strategy. No two boss battles are the same, although you do run into a couple of them more than once, and even then they’re not usually the same as before. They’re tense, full of action and a lot of fun. Cut scenes and codec conversations aside, the game moves at a pretty brisk pace, which in turn is one of its downfalls. An experienced gamer, especially one who has played the original, could finish the game in an afternoon. To make matters worse, you probably spend more time watching cut scenes and in codec conversations than you do actual game play. If someone had enough time on their hands, which I might with Winter coming up, I’d like to see how much time is spent in each area. I like the cut scenes as much as anyone else, but there are just too many of them. When I got close enough to the end of the game and had put most of the plot together I started to skip them and fast forwarded through all the codec conversations. Just get me to the action damn it!

With most games, there are the little things that can get irritating at times. How many times does one need to receive a codec call at the worst possible time? Why have hand-to-hand combat with bosses and regulate Snake to one move, a punch punch kick combo? Characters are introduced, say their lines and then disappear never to be heard again? Why even bother?. And don’t get me started on the dialogue in the game. Why does Snake answer everything with a question? Like Dan mentioned in his review, for example:

Colonel: You need you to enter the secret base and defuse the bomb.
Snake: Secret base?
Colonel: Yes, the secret base located in the Alaska.
Snake: In Alaska?

All these aggravating things aside, The Twin Snakes is still a fun gaming experience, especially if you weren’t around for the original release six years ago. It’s too bad that MGS 2 left a bad taste in many gamers’ mouths because The Twin Snakes is what Sons of Liberty should have been. A storyline that people could half-ass follow, plenty of action to keep you on your toes and a game where you could play as Snake from beginning to end. Granted the controls could use some work and there’s enough plot here for three more games, but this was THE game six years ago and even though it’s starting to show it’s age, it’s still a lot of fun. There is some replay value here, alternate endings and a few fun bonuses, however, unless you plan on keeping this game for your private collection, rent it for the week. Chances are you’ll have it finished before it’s due back.

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