This year marked 25 years since the world's greatest tactical espionage game was born. Here's why Solid Snake, Ocelot, Foxhound and the rest hold a special place in my heart...
With the introduction of names I couldn’t pronounce, concepts I couldn’t comprehend and an elaborate back story already passing me by, it was clear as I swam into the nuclear weapons disposal facility on Shadow Moses Island that this wasn’t Solid Snake’s first adventure.
This may have been my first foray into tactical espionage action but Solid Snake was a seasoned soldier being yanked from the relative repose of retirement and thrust into the impending decadence of potential nuclear annihilation for a third time.
Before Snake set foot on Shadow Moses he’d already endured years of warfare in Outer Heaven and Zanzibarland. August marked the 25th anniversary of the saga which began in 1987 with the release of Metal Gear, later followed by Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in 1990, both for the MSX2.
Eventually the ideals imparted unto me by Solid Snake would inform the way I play all games. I would eliminate adversaries, exercising unwavering restraint and inflexible discipline. My every action would be calculated, considered, controlled. But in 1998 the concept of stealth was alien to me. I’d been conditioned by ultraviolence and was reckless and impatient, far from the veteran soldier I was controlling.
Naively sprinting through the docks, I quickly learned the penalty for impatience after taking fire from genome soldiers and being forced back into the water, where I remained, cowering for some time. I couldn’t play this game the way I’d played other games. It wasn’t an option. Success required genuine consideration the likes of which I had never given to a game before. Fear of alerting the guards and prompting the fabled “!” radically altered my behaviour. For the first time I was actually thinking about what I would do next.
Midway through the game I found myself attacking my controller in a desperate bid to keep Solid Snake alive as Revolver Ocelot ran electricity through his body. Snake was being tortured. During this section I had two choices, each of which affected the game’s ending. Submission was the easy choice. But submission somehow didn’t seem in keeping with Solid Snake’s character. I wanted to be a hero, to do Snake justice; I had to endure. I had to tap buttons to replenish Snake’s health as it was quickly drained from him. But at age seven I was simply incapable of tapping at such ferocious speeds. I couldn’t keep Snake alive. Thankfully my father’s nicotine stained fingers were much more nimble than my own. He was able to save my hero.
My dad wasn’t always around to help me. Sometimes I was trusted with preventing the world from nuclear armageddon alone. Later in the game I found myself at the summit of Communications Tower B. Suddenly I was attacked by a helicopter gunship piloted by Liquid Snake, Solid Snake’s brother and enemy. He hovered out of sight, hiding beyond the snow and attacking from cover. I couldn’t see him. I didn’t know what to do.
I was equipped with a controller, Snake with Stinger Missiles. I cowered behind the only source of cover atop the tower, shivering as Liquid Snake circled me in his Russian gunship. I observed his movements, I saw how he would duck behind the blizzard and out of my sight, how he would swoop overhead machine-gunning everything in his path. I meticulously studied his attacks and devised my strategy. Lunging out at moments when he was at his weakest, I equipped the Stinger Missiles and fired. Liquid’s ship twitched and exploded as my final missile struck its cold exterior and it was sent tumbling into the white. No sooner had the helicopter hit the ground than I sprang into my father’s room and leapt on his bed. I had done it and I felt I was obliged to inform him of this. I, a seven-year-old boy, had beaten Metal Gear Solid’s sixth boss, the Hind D, alone.
The Metal Gear franchise has been a source of memorable gaming moments like these, for me and countless others. Even in its 25th year it shows no sign of stopping.
Metal Gear’s 25th year has already seen the release of Metal Gear Solid HD Collection featuring remastered ports of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3.
With the recent confirmation of Metal Gear Solid 5 and that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots will receive a trophy support four years after its initial release, Metal Gear’s 25th year is shaping up to be a great one for fans.