With Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain just coming out, a lot of people are likely going back and enjoying the first four Metal Gear Solid games for the second or third or twenty-sixth time, taking in the sights and sounds and over-the-top boss fights that have long set the series apart from its peers. While I haven't actually done that, I still thought it would be fun to do my own little thing involving the previous games, so what better than a quick look back at the moments that really stood out in each game? Reminisce with me as I take you on a fun-filled journey back through time involving Snakes, walking nuclear weapons, and storylines so tangled with intrigue that you'd need a PhD. in Kojimantics to understand any of it!
*** NOTE: THERE WILL BE CARELESS SPOILERS AHEAD. THIS IS YOUR ONLY WARNING! ***
Metal Gear Solid - You Like Castlevania, Don't You?
"Stand right where he can see you...and tell him about Konami's exciting new games!"
C'mon, what did you expect? Even now, 17(!) years after the game released, the fight against Psycho Mantis is still one of the most unique and memorable boss fights in all of gaming. Every little trick and mind game, like having to swap controller ports, serves to keep you on your toes and challenge what you thought you knew about playing action games. Of course, the precursor to the fight is just as mind-blowing, when Mantis not only reveals that he knows you like Castlevania (or Super Mario Sunshine if you're playing the remake) but then moves your entire controller with a single thought. Okay, yeah, we all know how it was done...now. But back in 1998, we'd never seen anything like it, and I'd argue that we still haven't seen anything quite like it, at least outside of the Metal Gear series itself.
Honorable Mentions - You're a Real PAL, Snake
So you need three PAL keys to override Metal Gear REX's activation, but you only have one key. What do you do? Why, use it at room temperature, and then after exposing it to both extreme heat and extreme cold, of course! Now that you've figured out the puzzle behind the key, you insert it three times into the console that will deactivate REX. You did it! You saved the - what!? Metal Gear!? It's already active! Yes, finding out you've been duped into turning the ignition key to a walking, nuclear-equipped death machine is enough to put a damper on anyone's day, but just to add insult to injury, Liquid Snake also reveals how you were manipulated into helping him by posing as your old mentor, Master Miller. Now it's time to REALLY save the world the only way you can - by blowing Metal Gear REX to bits.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - Infiltrating Core 1 of the Big Shell
"Freeze...tag! We should play freeze tag!"
First, if you thought I was going to say "the Tanker chapter because you play as Snake" then kindly go sit in the corner. No, I'm not defending Raiden or anything of the sort, but the twists and turns you'll experience while playing the Plant chapter hit no less hard just because you're not Snake. Anyway, of all the places Raiden goes and the things he does, one part I always look forward to is when he's tasked with infiltrating the core of the Big Shell to rendezvous with an agent named Ames. What's so great about that? You do it disguised as one of the enemy soldiers! While, on its own, that's not anything special, what is really great is how you can mess around with the enemies. Punch them in the face, shoot them in the eye, do cartwheels in front of them, then run around the corner and they'll be none the wiser when they come looking for their comrade gone rogue, because you look just like any other soldier. Granted, it's not actually part of the game's objective for you to do any of that, but the fact that you can if you want makes what would otherwise be a short, fairly uneventful section that much more entertaining.
Honorable Mentions - Fission Mailed
Oh, sweet! Raiden's got that high frequency blade and he's ready to carve through some enemies! Why, here's some bad guys now! Time to get slicing and dicing and--what!? How did I die?? Wait, am I dead? I'm not? WHAT'S EVEN HAPPENING I CAN'T SEE!! Aside from the Colonel's crazy Codecs, one of the side effects of installing the GW virus into Arsenal Gear's AI causes the entire game to start wigging out and throwing up fake death screens, while you're up in the corner just trying to kill the bad guys you can barely even make out anymore. It's a crazy section in the craziest act of the game, but hey, you get to use a sword and pretend you're a ninja, so it's still pretty awesome. Or you can just use your guns and shoot the enemies, I guess, but why would you waste a good sword?
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - Sorrowful Recollections
Arriving Naked to someone's pool party is generally considered indecent.
I could have easily just filled this entire article with boss fights from the games, because each one is unique and amazing in its own right, but the "battle" against The Sorrow is in an entirely different league. First of all, though you can see him and he can actually hurt you, you can't attack The Sorrow at all. Secondly, as you wade through the waist-deep water, you'll see ghostly apparitions of soldiers coming at you with what seems like a vengeance. That's because they are! The soldiers and other characters you see during this haunting journey are actually all of the enemies you've killed up to that point in the game. So if you've been a pacifist, you might find it to just be a leisurely stroll through an unpleasant looking river, but if you had an itchy trigger finger, watch out. The other thing that's unique about this fight is that the only way to win is to lose, or, more specifically, die. You can't actually DIE, though, because that just gets you a game over. If only there was some way you could fake it...
Honorable Mentions - I Like MGS2!
Before starting Snake Eater, the game asks you which of the first two Metal Gear Solid games is your favorite. If you choose Metal Gear Solid 2, you'll get a bit of a surprise upon seeing Naked Snake for the first time - he'll look less like the grizzled soldier you've seen in the previews and quite a bit more like the baby-faced, nasally voiced, perpetual whine machine Raiden from the previous game, sporting a firm, clean-shaven face and shoulder-length blonde hair. You find out shortly after the opening cutscenes that it's just a mask, and you'll actually need it later in the game, but starting out with it on is quite a bit more jarring - not to mention hilarious - than if you'd known about it and put it on yourself.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - Shadows of the Past
"Snake, I've disabled the use of weapons on this floor, even though there's no one here."
To say Metal Gear Solid 4 has a lot of (nigh incomprehensible) callbacks and allusions to previous Metal Gear games would be an understatement, but the one that stands out most is the one that manifests itself in the form of a playable level. I'm talking, of course, about the return trip to Shadow Moses Island. Retreading the dilapidated ruins of the original game while Snake recalls many of the game's stand-out moments is a much better way to revisit series history than long-winded monologues. The real icing on the cake though is the two boss battles that play out here - the first being more a more or less straight up recreation of the Sniper Wolf fight from the first game, and the second being a no-holds-barred brawl between Metal Gears REX and RAY, with you in REX's pilot seat. This was the first and only (in the console games, at least) time players were allowed to climb inside one of the titular Metal Gears and take it for a spin, and it was an absolute joy stomping about and shredding RAY to pieces with heavy artillery.
Honorable Mentions - What's Your Secret?
Call me shallow, but the section where Snake dons a mask that makes him look like his younger self stands out because we were finally (sort of) playing as the Snake we all know and love, and not what appears to be his grandfather. That's not the only good thing about this level, mind you - there's also the fact that the first part of the act is pure stealth, and the consequences of failure can be dire. Snake must tail a member of the Paradise Lost Army through the dimly lit streets of an unnamed European town, avoiding being seen not just by the resistance member he's following, but PMC units patrolling the streets as well. It's a tense section where going guns-blazing upon getting spotted isn't really an option, so you have to stretch your stealth legs and learn to become effectively invisible. Just like Snake would do it.
BONUS: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes - DÃ©jÃ Vu
Wait, I only have an Options button...
Oh, hey, Metal Gear Solid V did sneak in! Kind of! While Ground Zeroes was a nice teaser of what's to come, the main mission didn't really offer much to keep you busy since, other than finding the XOF patches, there wasn't much reason to replay it. Thankfully, there were side missions that gave you more chances to play around with the new gameplay elements before The Phantom Pain arrived. One of these missions stands out more than others, that being the DÃ©jÃ Vu side op, unlocked after you've tirelessly searched (or looked up online) and found all of the aforementioned XOF patches. In this op, your goal is to recreate scenes from the original Metal Gear Solid by following visual clues, while your radio contact throws out several memorable lines calling back to Snake's first 3D adventure. The mission can be pretty short if you know what you're looking for, but it's still an entertaining and often funny way to recall the series' history in a new setting.
Honorable Mentions - Reflexive
Ground Zeroes introduced a new feature to the Metal Gear games in the form of Reflex Mode, where, upon being discovered by an enemy, time slows down for a brief period and gives you a chance to put down the enemy (or enemies!) that spotted you before they can warn others. The first time it kicks in is a rush, especially if the enemy is a good distance away or was somewhere off screen, because you only have a few precious seconds to locate and silence them. Even after the 50th (if you're not very good, like me) time the mode kicks in, it still provides an intense adrenaline kick as you shoot down enemies and disappear back into the shadows without a trace.
So there's a fun little retrospective of just some of the amazing things the Metal Gear Solid series has offered players in the past. Now that you're in a proper nostalgic mood and sporting your rose-tinted glasses, what are some of your favorite moments from the series? Are you excited to play The Phantom Pain? Already playing it? Whatever you've got to say about Kojima's wonderful stealth-action series, say it loud and proud down in the comments!