Metal Gear Solid: Original or Remake?

Developer: KCEJ
Platform: Playstation
Also on: PC
Release Date: Sep 1998

In 1998, a new genre was born with the arrival of Metal Gear Solid, the game that defined virtual stealth action. A huge commercial success, the game has a loyal fan base that is well-earned due to its incredibly cinematic story, well implemented action and also quirky break-the-fourth-wall humor. However…

Developer(s): Silicon Knights, Konami
Platform: Gamecube
Release Date: Mar 2004

In 2004, the success of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty prompted a remake of the first game. This version implemented the control scheme from MGS2 , as well as improved graphics, new voice acting and a very distinct cinematic style. But which one is the better game? Sure, The Twin Snakes makes a lot of improvements to the original, but does it lose something in that process? Is it the ultimate version of Metal Gear Solid? There’s only one way to find out…no, don’t go and play them! What are ye, thick?! Read my review! It saves time and has explosions!

Click here to watch the Metal Gear Solid trailer.
Click here to watch The Twin Snakes trailer (MUCH cooler!)

The Set-up:
In both games, you play as Solid Snake, a retired member of special forces FOXHOUND. He has been called back into duty because a group of terrorists have taken hostages on Shadow Moses Island, and are threatening to launch a nuclear missile. As Snake, you must infiltrate their base, rescue the hostages, and nullify their ability to launch a nuclear strike. Along the way, you will encounter a new strain of Genetically Engineered Soldier, the rogue members of FOXHOUND and, most terrifying of all, the terrorists’ secret weapon: Metal Gear.

Both games retain the basic story and gameplay elements, and thus, both games are deserving of high praise. Stealth action was a genre more or less unheard of before MGS, and its success resulted in plenty of ‘Me too!’ clones, such as Syphon Filter and Splinter Cell. Unlike MGS however, they lacked the incredibly cinematic feel and the light touch of in-your-face humor.

The novelty of staying hidden from your enemies, rather than running in willy nilly with guns-a-blazing, remains original today. No game has implemented the concept quite so well as this franchise. It gives the player a profound sense of danger, as though you really are up against insurmountable odds. Of course, you will end up taking on tanks and helicopters by yourself, and that also adds to the tension. But it’s ok. Because you can smoke while doing it. And that makes you look cool.

Which is another thing that MGS should be praised for, the sheer variety of things you can do that have little or nothing to do with the main narrative. Cigarettes can be equipped and, while they have only one minor function, they also take away your health, meaning they are more or less a fun novelty. There are also cardboard boxes you can hide in to avoid detection, and a camera with which you can take photos of your enemies, while they put more holes in you than a chunk of Swiss cheese.

And that’s just mean. To quote a great man: “If someone tries to kill you, you try to kill them right back!”. You start off with nothing, but over the course of the game, you pick up a wide variety of weapons, many of which are notably different from those you might have seen in other action games. You have your standard pistols and grenades, but you are also given remote control bombs, chaff grenades to scramble enemy electronics and Nikita missiles, that can be controlled via remote control. These high-tech gadgets give the game a bit of 007 feel. Sadly, you are not given a watch with a miniature circular saw in it, or a toaster that is also lightsabre.

As well as this, Snake is well-trained in hand-to-hand combat. He can do a punch-kick combo, flip his enemies over his shoulder, or, with an application of stealth, very audibly snap his opponents neck. Solid Snake: Not just a pretty face. All of these skills and weapons are sorely needed for the boss encounters throughout the game. Not simply exposition, these battles are well implemented and supplement the narrative well. They are often quite extreme, with the odds largely in your opponents favor. Imagine finding yourself in a Heavy Metal gig while wearing a Jedward t-shirt. Those kinds of odds.

However, this isn’t to say the game is very difficult. Hints can be obtained through the Codec system (a type of in-built radio). Both games’ most notable flaws are their length which, excluding cut scenes, will probably take a measly 3-4 hours to clear. It’s a shame because you will find yourself investing hugely into the game story and will be all the more disappointed to find it’s over so soon. The difficulty can be increased for replayability and, considering the special items that can be unlocked, there are plenty of reasons to do this.

So, how do the two games differ?

The Twin Snakes implements a number of improvements onto the original. Most noticeable from the beginning are the graphics. Many might remember the original being a stunning achievement in visual expression, but memory can be deceptive. Time has not been kind to the original Metal Gear Solid. Taking characters with flat and featureless faces seriously is tricky.

Look at him there. Look deep into his eye holes…intimidating eh? I’ll bet you wouldn’t mess with that face. Imagine him saying “We’re out of time!”.
Only instead of moving his lips, his expression remains the exact same and he just nods his head in sync with the words….yeah.

The Twin Snakes definitely improves on this area. The graphics aren’t revolutionary by today’s standards, but it’s some the best you would see on the Gamecube. The cinematics are especially impressive, and the snow feels a lot more natural, as though you were stuck in a giant, military themed snow globe (which WILL sell, as soon as I can find an investor!).

There is also a lot more action and set pieces this time around. Snake is expressed as a completely badass secret agent here, and how positive an addition this is will be a matter of taste. There is no doubt that it is awesome! Scenes which were barely a minute long and involved nothing other than a casual chat are suddenly exploding with incredible acrobatics and slow motion. It looks cool, but there is also a lot to be said for subtlety.

The way in which the Ninja is handled is a perfect example of this. In the original, he is a mysteriously ominous character and this is expressed wonderfully in one terrific scene, in which we see a corridor of corpses, at the end of which we know he is waiting. Whereas in the remake, we see these soldiers deaths actually happening. As awesome a scene as that is, it doesn’t instill as much fear in the player as their imagination might have in the original. It causes the Ninja to lose some of his mystique. This application of exposition is applied in many more instances throughout the game.

The controls are also improved upon greatly. It’s a great asset to have Snake being able to actually sneak/walk quietly, whereas in the original game he could only run. It is now a lot easier to sneak up on soldiers and ‘talk’ to them….with bullets. You can also hang off of ledges and hide in lockers, like in MGS2, allowing for more hiding places should you alert the soldiers to your presence.

And of course, there’s the inclusion of being able to shoot in first person mode. Whether or not this is an improvement is somewhat ambiguous. It certainly makes things easier, but does it make the game too easy? After all, avoiding security cameras was one of the primary challenges in the original, but if they can be simply shot and put out of commission, you can saunter through most of the game unhindered.

The soundtrack is another area in which the games differ. The original’s score had a lot of haunting melodies and well placed atmospheric music. The remake, while not terrible, actually takes a step back from this. It includes a bastardized version of the MGS2 theme song, which will please some, but for the most part, the music has become standard rather than memorable. The voice acting is also ambiguous. All voices have been re-recorded and while it some cases it is an improvement (Liquid’s speech at the games end is particularly good, and a lot clearer), there are moments when it is a let down (Mei Ling no longer has a Chinese accent….wha?!)

Other additions to The Twin Snakes aren’t really major enough to be relevant. There are empty gun clips that can be thrown to distract enemies and naughty books that can be left in corridors to stop them in their tracks. While a fun novelty, it will hardly be implemented continuously by the player, as it is much easier to just shoot them in the head.

Although, soldiers can also be held up this time around, meaning that you can force them to dispense of any valuable items they might be holding, including dog tags. They can then be put to sleep with the tranquilizer gun rather than killed, another new element for the more humane among you.

In terms of special features, the original and remake offer different bonus content. The original featured VR training, an additional ten mini-missions to help the player get to grips with the many concepts of MGS. (This was such a fun concept that Konami later released a spin-off, Metal Gear Solid: Special Missions, based entirely on the VR training. You could play as the Ninja and also photograph low resolution hot girls….awesome). The VR missions included a sneaking mode, time attack, weapon mode and VR mission (survival mode).

The Twin Snakes actually gets rid of this section and instead offers a Boss Survival mode, in which you can take on every boss in the game, one after another, and see how long you can survive. Other extras include a Dog Tag viewer which is pretty pointless, and a Demo theater, so you can watch all the cut scenes from beginning to end.

The Verdict:

When dealing with a classic game such as Metal Gear Solid, it’s a relief to see that the original has held up so well over time, and also that the remake retains most of what made Metal Gear Solid great.

Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is the better game, when taken as a standalone experience. The controls are smoother, it is visually more impressive and, while certainly easier than the original, it is still far more enjoyable to play.

However, players would ideally want to play the original at least once before indulging in the fan service that is the remake. Because, while The Twin Snakes is better, it still loses something in the process. The first Metal Gear Solid had a very distinctive tone, darker than all of the games that followed it, and sets up the sequel perfectly. Fans will remember a lot of haunting scenes, such as approaching Psycho Mantis, fighting Sniper Wolf and huge plot twists at the end of the game.

The remake has all of these scenes, but the effect they have on the player is blunted, as the developers clearly favored style over substance. Play the original once, so you can have that stunning experience of a wonderfully subtle and well crafted story. Having done that, opt for The Twin Snakes, as it is just generally more enjoyable in terms of gameplay and ranks higher on the awesome scale.

Metal Gear Solid Rating: 8/10
The Twin Snakes Rating: 9/10

“We’re not tools of the government, or anyone else. Fighting was the only thing…the only thing I was good at. But at least I always fought for what I believed in.” – The Ninja

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • In an homage to James Bond, which the game emulates in many ways, players can play through the game with Snake wearing a tuxedo if they beat the game twice.
  • European Extreme mode is the hardest mode there is in the game. In an attempt to clear this, I got as far as Sniper Wolf, which is a pretty tough fight. After weeks of trying, I finally beat her! Afterwards, I was supposed to move onto the second disc, but I pressed the power button when I put the disc in because it was such a force of habit. Tears followed.
  • The Psycho Mantis battle breaks down the fourth wall, in that it can turn your screen blank and also requires you to switch controllers so that he can’t read your thoughts. He also ‘reads your mind’ at the beginning, which results in him checking the data on your memory card. Amusing in the original, it is hilarious in the remake to hear him say “I see you like playing Nintendo games…You’ve been playing Super Mario Sunshine, haven’t you?!”
  • Depending on which version you play, you can find either a Playstation or Gamecube in Otacon’s office.
  • Apparently the character of Snake was based on Snake Plisken from Escape from New York, his physique was based on Jean Claude Van Damme, and his facial appearance was based on Christopher Walken.
  • The song at the end of the game is actually sung in Irish and performed by Aoife Nì Fhearraigh, often known as simply Aoife.
  • Snake and Otacon’s first names are Dave and Hal, characters that appear in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Naomi Hunter is also a scientist in that film. The submarine that Snake is launched from is called the Discovery, the same name as the spaceship in 2001.
  • There is no greater sport than shooting rats and pigeons, and then looking smug when the colonel gives out to you for wasting time 🙂
Metal Gear Solid is kind of like:
  • Discovering that your Dad, you likes reading the funny pages and puts on a brave face, was secretly a Cold War veteran and hired killer.

Whereas The Twin Snakes is kind of like:

  • Discovering an acrobat at the circus, who likes reading the funny pages and puts on a brave face, was secretly a Cold War veteran and hired killer.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I really like reading through an article that can make people think.

    Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!

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  4. Personally I think the rawness of the original is what adds character to the game. I haven’t played the remake myself so I can’t really compare. I have played the metal gear solid HD collection which I feel are somewhat more fabricated than the originals (particularly MGS3). I also think they were too quick bringing out a remake, they only waited 6 years… It would have been nicer if they waited another 10 years or so and brought out a remake for newer consoles (although it would be very hard for them to avoid ruining the whole thing). Maybe they could have included it in the HD collection, I might try getting my hands on a download of twin snakes to see what it’s like

  5. […] the Metal Gear Solid Remake debate, deciding which Resident Evil game is better is an easy choice to make. It is a game designed to […]

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