A solid upgrade.
Director's cuts of films have become quite common, but we don't see this too often in gaming. One example is the Super Mario Collection on the SNES, which simply brought back the entire classic series with burlier graphics. Then there's the recently released Metroid: Zero Mission, which took us to a completely overhauled Zebes (or was it SR388?) with ass kicking Samus.
Well, chalk up another one in Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes for the Gamecube. This remake of the brilliant Metal Gear Solid revisits the original Playstation game as a "special edition" that's engrossing for those new to the series, but less relevant to fans waiting forMetal Gear 3.
The plot of Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes will be instantly familiar to those who played MGS because it's exactly the same. So once again, former super-spy/tactical operative Solid Snake has been called in to fight a terrorist threat at a remote Alaskan base. Expect copious twists and turns along the way, but don't expect anything new. Veterans of the PSX game will already know how it all plays out.
That means there's still an abundance of videos and radio conversations to wade through. Sometimes you just want to get in and play; MGS: Twin Snakes' adherence to the original story means you still spend a lot of time sitting there watching it all unfold. Thankfully, you still have the ability to skip through the lengthier sequences.
On a purely technical level, this new Metal Gear edges out the original Playstation game point for point. You still have access to the same moves, abilities and items as before, from peering around corners to hiding in a cardboard box to slinging hellfire with the guided Nikita missiles. MGS: Twin Snakes, however, ups the ante by incorporating gameplay elements found previously only in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
Solid Snake can now use the tranquilizer pistol, flip himself over ledges and aim in the first person. In order to account for these changes, minor adjustments have been made to some of the maps, which can lead to some somewhat strange moments for those who have played the original. For example, just in the very first area, the realigned map layout and the more sharply tuned AI create an overly difficult introduction. For the most part, however, the levels are just as they were in MGS.
Which is to say, this is still a great game. MGS was outstanding in its day and doesn't lose really any gameplay luster at all despite its age. The shooting, sneaking and overall snaking still generally rocks.
In order to deal with the fact that Solid can now go headshot crazy in first-person, the game's AI has been ramped up. Guards work better together and will radio for support at the drop of a hat. It matches the gameplay tweaks and keeps the game from being too easy, although several boss fights are noticeably easier thanks to the first-person aiming.
Some odd inconsistencies remain, however. If you hide in a box after alerting soldiers to your presence, the soldiers will fire shots at the box in their search for you. Why? If the soldiers were so afraid of an out of place box, wouldn't they start firing at boxes everywhere? Maybe this wasn't a problem the first time we all played MGS, but stealth gaming has come pretty far since then.
Those who spent time with the original PSX version might also take issue with the change in controller. The Gamecube controller uses the analog function of the L and R buttons to replicate the two sets of Playstation shoulder buttons – press lightly to equip different weapons, press and hold to access the whole inventory. It works, but is not as quick and direct as having independent buttons for different actions.
Few of you will take issue with the graphics, though. MGS: Twin Snakes looks great, a big step up from the original, obviously. New details and added FMV sequences (nearly a full hour of extra scenes!) are rife with beautiful effects and are spit-shined to near perfection. With loads of new bullet-time style Matrix moments, it's here where the change from PSX to the far more powerful Gamecube is most felt. It's also a little overdone, at times feeling a little out of place (like a digital Jabba the Hutt). Overall, though, the new look will satisfy newbies and old-school MGS gamers alike.
As will the sound, which is on par with the original. The voice actors all make a return and have re-recorded the dialogue entirely. Mei Ling's accent is noticeably thinner, in particular. The music is still pretty great.
MGS: Twin Snakes reminds me of the shot for shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho that came out, incidentally, the same year as Metal Gear Solid. The graphics and sound may have more flair than the original, but the guts are the same. Revisiting it for the second time is fun because MGS itself was great, though it's still just revisiting a game many of us have already played.
For Gamecube gamers tiring of their Mario, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes will resonate in the same revolutionary ways as the original. If you missed it the first time, you owe it to yourself not to miss it again.