Tag Archives: Hideo Kojima

Running the mercenary unit Militaires Sans Frontières like a Big Boss

peace walker gd early impressions

I’m not sure where I first heard this–or if it is even true–but Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was originally supposed to be the real Metal Gear Solid V. And Hideo Kojima’s last game. I’m glad neither of those came to be, and while I don’t know too much about The Phantom Pain–I’ve avoided listening to countless podcasts over the last month or so, as well as skipped any and all coverage at Giant Bomb to remain as spoiler-free as possible–I do know that the newest game involves taking on individual missions to recruit members to your main base and grow its power and potential. Well, Peace Walker does that too, but on a much smaller scale.

Set in 1974 in Costa Rica, Peace Walker follows the exploits of returning protagonist Big Boss–you might remember him as Naked Snake from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater–as he runs the mercenary unit Militaires Sans Frontières (Soldiers Without Borders). A mysterious group called the Peace Sentinels have been deployed in-country. Unfortunately, the Costa Rica government cannot do anything about them because the country’s constitution does not allow the creation of armed forces. The presence of the Peace Sentinels threatens to endanger the balance of power between the East and West, forcing Snake to intervene. Plus, he wants to build up his Mother Base.

Peace Walker is broken up into two primary modes: “Mission” and “Mother Base.” Missions are the traditional action/sneaking scenarios of the previous games, with Snake creeping through a jungle or occupied building to either kill a certain someone, rescue somebody or somebodies, or gather some intel. It’s the expected mix of sneaking, fighting, and watching. Mother Base is a crew managing simulation where you assign people to different work areas to strengthen your soldiers, upgrade your items and weapons, or keep everybody healthy, happy, and fed.

For missions, you can play either as Snake or a male or female MSF soldier, though some missions will only be available for one or the other. Your score is penalized with a lower rank and reduced heroism for the excessive murdering of soldiers or frequently being discovered, which works fine for me as I’m all about stealth pistols, stun grenades, and using the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system to send knocked-out enemies to Mother Base to switch sides. Also, using items and weapons results in leveling them up at the end of a successful mission, which means Snake is only going to get better and better at making grown men fall asleep where they stand. Peace Walker is designed for co-op play, but I’ve been doing fine so far going at it solo.

In terms of story, so far, Peace Walker is fairly traditional. Shocking, right? I mean, I’m fighting straight up tanks for boss battles at the moment, not psychics that can read my memory card save data. That said, I expect this to go from sane to insane in a short span of time, and I’m really digging the comic book style to the cutscenes, drawn by Ashley Wood, especially when they are interactive. Peace Walker was originally a PSP game, and it shows, but boy is its style on fleek. On the fleck? I don’t know how the kids talk these days.

Not all is amazing though. Camouflage, while still being there and a collectible factor in terms of different outfits for Naked Snake, seems to be completely inessential. You also cannot crawl, and I will never remember this as it is my go to when almost being spotted–to drop to the ground as swiftly as possible and lay prone. I’m not sure going forward what the bosses are like, but I’ve only taken on a tank currently and am looking to more supernatural elements to intervene. Lastly, the whole Mother Base simulation side can be extremely daunting at first, to the point that I simply relied on auto-assignment to place captured soldiers; thankfully, Mother Base opens slowly, which means it is not overwhelming immediately.

It certainly seems like there’s a lot of missions–both main story-wise and side objectives–to go for Peace Walker, so I’ve got some time still before I can load up Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and see how the newest franchise plays. Surely Naked Snake will be able to crawl on his stomach. Surely.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is not about changing the world

gd mgs4 gotp final thoughts and impressions

My goal for the Metal Gear Solid series of videogames has generally been pretty clear: play them all in the order they were released and stay ahead of Dan and Drew over at Giant Bomb, especially once they got to the Big Bosses in the series that I’ve not touched at all, that way I can enjoy all of Hideo Kojima’s mind-wank first for myself and then witness those goofballs grenade-toss and gun their way through all the meticulously heavy sneaking parts. I know I can be a slow gamer at times, but figured I wouldn’t have any problems with this.

Unfortunately, it did not work out. I started playing Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots right before I left for a Disney World vacation in July, mostly inspired to play because I saw that those Giant Bomb duders were readying themselves for more nanomachine-driven madness. I figured there might have been a longer break between this and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but nope, I was wrong. So I played a little, and by the time I got back, they were nearly done with the game. Other things were happening in my life, and I just figured I’d wait the whole thing out for a bit. Then Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain dropped, and it’s all everyone is chatting about, and I desperately want to play it, but still have a few more games to get through first. This is what basically lead to me sitting down over two nights and pounding MGS4 into dust, which, when you realize it is more or less a visual novel, isn’t terribly challenging.

I think I covered the story stuff in my last post on MGS4, or what little story stuff I felt like spilling. It goes places, but mostly to the past. In a lot of ways, this felt like Metal Gear Solid: Callback Edition, what with you pounding X in every cutscene to get flashbacks and every character coming out of the woodwork to at least participate in some manner. Drebin’s long-winded stories of tragedy and woe about all four B&B Corps members really killed the game’s pace, and a lot of characters continued to speak in grandiose cliches, to the point that I felt like Old Snake all the time, constantly repeating back what people said, but as a question. GW? Microwaves? Suicide mission? Truthfully, I’ve never been able to 100% follow along with Kojima’s plot across all the Metal Gears, but this is the one where they tried to hit some nails into coffins and close a lot of loops, and even then I didn’t understand the bulk of it.

In terms of difficulty, I only hit a few snags, and if you’d rather not read about specific encounters–skip to the next paragraph. Now. Okay, here we go. The first big hiccup appeared while trying to track Naomi’s footprints in South America; I knew what the game wanted me to do, and I did it, really, and still, it took forever to find the cave she went into. The next problem arose in the boss fight against Vamp back at Shadow Moses, where you are supposed to remember you have a nanomachine-specific item in your inventory, given to you several acts back, and that’s the only way to defeat him. I used the Codec a bunch, but still Otacon never clued me in on this; I had to resort to the Internet’s guidance. Lastly, the final level has you landing on a massive battleship and trying to make it all the way down to the other side, where there’s a door. The ship is crawling with enemies, and after multiple attempts to shoot my way through–first with tranquilizer bullets and stun grenades, then with live ammunition–I resorted to wearing a full suit of OctoCamo and inch-worming my way down the left side, at the slowest pace in the world. Other than that, every else sort of handles itself.

It’s not my favorite Metal Gear, though I still don’t think I’m prepared to pick one. There’s not much to play here, especially early on when you are sided with the rebels and sort of shadowing them as they take out all the baddies and you sneak through without a scratch to your tired, leathery face. Even when you do decide to stand up and fight, the game gives you so many weapons and health items that surviving is fairly reasonable (save for that last section on the boat). Sure, my stats below show 23 continues, but the majority of those are from that final stretch.

Speaking of statistics, as always, Konami provides you a bunch at the end of the credits. Read ’em and weep:

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Seems like this time around you earn different emblems for how you play. I got the title of “Eagle,” which is brought about from accumulating 150 or more headshots. Go me and my headshotting skills. Other wearable emblems require specific ways of playing, such as not getting spotted at all or spending more than an hour inside the cardboard box/drum can. Hmm no thanks. That certainly helps with MGS4‘s replayability, though I have no interest right now in returning to it. Like an eagle, I’ll soar away, high in the sky, the world below zooming out, as if it doesn’t matter.

Up next…Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker! Y’know, that game no one seems to like or feel is part of the series at all, but is most likely important to the early story stuff of Big Boss and necessary to know before moving on to the most current adventure. Oh yeah. Bring on the excitement.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #47 – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

2015 gd games completed mgs 4 guns patriots

Old Snake is dying
Liquid has plans, control guns
Watch cutscenes, hit X

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

The supreme art of war in Metal Gear Solid IV is to subdue the enemy without fighting

mgs iv act one gd early thoughts

Well, the timing of me playing Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots could not be any poorer. Giant Bomb is gearing up (pun totally intended) for their next neck-stab at Metal Gear Scanlon, and, as with previous playthroughs, I like to experience it all first and then enjoy watching Dan and Drew figure things out on their own. Unfortunately, from this point on in the series, I’ve not touched any of the subsequent games, and so it is extra imperative that I see how Old Snake fairs before anyone else. Alas, I’m about to head out of town, and I only just finished the first Act, with many more hours to go, which means I’ll have to barrel through it all as soon as possible upon my return to New Jersey.

My biggest gripe so far with Old Snake’s revenge-driven plight against Liquid/Revolver Ocelot has to do with items, specifically the number of them you pick up in Act 1 alone. It is staggering and overwhelming, and all I found myself doing was ignoring the majority of guns and non-weapon items and sticking to the tried and true arsenal of Snake’s previous adventures. Like the tranquilizer gun and cardboard box, or, in the case of the Middle East, a deadly drum can. I’m also not completely sold on the item of earning points for picking up duplicate weapons, which you can spend through Drebin 893, a black market arms dealer. So far, I bought a sniper rifle, used it once, and haven’t looked back.

Amazingly, despite the epic scope and constant what-the-eff moments in the series, I can summarize the plot of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots in a single sentence. Here we go. Shortly after learning that he only has a year-long lifespan because of Werner’s Syndrome, Snake is given a mission by Colonel Roy Campbell to assassinate Liquid in the Middle East. Naturally, from there, things get crazy. I’ve run into some familiar characters, like Otacon and Meryl, as well as met some new, fairly untrustworthy sorts. Namely–Drebin and his monkey.

Gameplay picks up and remains constant from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, with players now assuming the role of an aged Solid Snake. Lovingly called Old Snake. He still uses stealth, close quarters combat, and traditional gun mechanics. Most aiming with a gun is via an over-the-shoulder angle, but thankfully there’s an optional first-person view via the toggle of a button, which I found extremely handy when aiming with the tranquilizer gun. Basically, it’s the same ol’ Metal Gear I’ve been playing this last year and change, with one big change–old bones.

Welcome to the Psyche Meter. Basically, psyche is decreased by non-lethal attacks and influenced by battlefield psychology. Stressors, such as temperature extremes, foul smells, taking damage, and being stalked by the enemy, increase Snake’s stress gauge, eventually depleting his psyche. This then affects Old Snake’s ability to aim, more frequent back pain, and a higher possibility of him passing out upon receiving damage. There are a few methods for restoring psyche–eating, drinking, smoking, reading an adult magazine, or making a Codec call to a certain someone I will not name to keep this spoiler-free. All that said, I’ve found everything pretty manageable, but please also note I’m playing on the standard difficulty, only dying a few times due to not paying attention to the health meter and equipping a ration in time.

As I expected, I have a lot of questions about Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Like, what’s up with Meryl and her team? In my playthrough of Metal Gear Solid 1, I was unable to endure the torture sequence and save her, but I guess the canon outcome is that she lived. Hmm. Also, um, at the start of Act II, one of the Beauty and Beasts Corps, a team of female PMC operatives in mechanized suits, took on the visage of Old Snake in a way that did not sit well with me. Lastly, how come Rat Patrol’s “Akiba” was unaffected by Liquid’s mind-controlled gas? I’m sure the answer is “because he shits his pants,” but part of me hopes there’s more to the man than that. Guess I’ll find out…in a few weeks. Until then, Old Snake and friends.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater takes on a 1960s Soviet jungle setting

mgs 3 snake eater gd early impressions

I’ve only played through Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater once in my life, and I remember very little, save for the obvious much-written about boss fight with The End. And a few other details. Borrowing the game from a friend kept the pressure on me to burn through Naked Snake’s map-less operation as quickly as possible and return it to its rightful owner. This is ultimately why I no longer borrow things; something goes wonky in my brain, and all I can concentrate on it how I’m holding captive someone else’s possession, as if they are just standing behind me, tapping their foot in impatience, demanding it all back.

All that said, I was hoping to not start playing Snake Eater this soon, especially considering I just started Final Fantasy IX up. Timing is everything though, and Metal Gear Scanlon is back in action, which means I need to stay a bit ahead of them to both enjoy my second replay and experience Drew’s first dip into Hideo Kojima’s Cold War antics. For me, it’s more enjoyably knowing what’s coming up and watching someone’s reaction as they get there. Granted, I don’t need to see everything first, but knowing that a young revolver-less Ocelot meows to summon extra back-up is the sort of ridiculousness that I like to be aware of as I watch Giant Bomb play.

It’s only been a few months since I took down twenty-five Metal Gear Rays in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, but whatever skills I refined then are now completely gone. In the few hours I’ve spent running through a Soviet Union rainforest, I’ve lead Naked Snake to his death more than at least twenty times already, and this was me just trying to get a handle on movement, shooting, and CQC-ing, all of which are still as clunky as ever. I was totally spoiled by radar and vision cones in the last game, now struggling with even being able to tell what’s around me when flat on my stomach in some thick, dark grass. There’s also a ton more meters to pay attention to–health, stamina, camouflage, battery life, the cure menu, your backpack–as well as your surroundings, such as enemies, wildlife, hidden mines, and so on. As a general rule, I go into these games trying to be stealthy and unseen, but I’m not afraid to pop an unconscious soldier in the head if he’s giving me grief; yes, I know what repercussions this will wrought.

Progress-wise, I burned through the Virtuous Mission, showed The Pain, The Fear, and The End what real pain, fear, and end is, respectively, during Operation Snake Eater, if you catch my drift. If I’m being honest, I died once during the ravine-split encounter versus young Ocelot before those named gobbers, but didn’t die at all during the named boss fights. Which I find odd. I’m playing on Normal, but so far, I feel like these fights were…fairly easy. Certainly much more forgiving than the boss fights in Metal Gear Solid. Amusingly, I have more trouble getting through an area of four or five guards, or one loaded with booby-traps.

Everyone plays Metal Gear Solid differently. That’s just a way of life. I’d love to be sneaky all the time, but when the going gets rough, I do enjoy using CQC to knock dudes unconscious. Or the occasional shotgun blast to see their bodies cartoonishly zip backwards. Right now, there’s a lot of…let’s call it heated criticism over how Drew is playing in Metal Gear Scanlon 3, but I think he’s solving problems as he see fits. Personally, I’d like to see Dan be less of a backseat driver and let his friend experience the game in his own manner, his own pace. Sure, we as viewers might miss some content or silly codec calls or episodes could go on for pretty long, but if it means Drew takes his time (or doesn’t) and clears a room of soldiers (or doesn’t) without being seen (or is), then that’s more rewarding and still entertaining.

With that, I just saved before the ladder sequence. You know what I speak of. I’m thinking I’m now past the halfway mark, with a goal of finishing Snake Eater up soon so I can get back to learning equipped abilities in Final Fantasy IX.

Metal Gear Solid 2, an unpredictable mix of gloss and dross

comparison-mgs2-pc-snake-raiden

I wish I could remember whether I knew about the big early twist in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty or not before I deep dove into it. At this stage, it just seems like one of those known certainties that everyone who games is aware of. I was certainly reading a lot of gaming magazines at the time, though the Internet was not yet the spoiler battlefield we have to crawl through today. Plus, at the time, I had other priorities to worry about: drawing, failing at drawing, crying in bathrooms, girls, making friends, losing friends, throwing up in bathrooms, and pondering the future. Hideo Kojima’s second cool action guy game in the Metal Gear Solid series came out in November 2001, my freshman year of college at Rowan University when I was still rocking my original PlayStation and using a dorm-mate’s PlayStation 2 to experience things like Grand Theft Auto III.

In fact, I remember exactly when I got my copy of Metal Gear Solid 2 and for how much; the receipt is still in the case, though now very faded after about twelve years. I snagged it on November 22, 2002 for $16.99 at the Deptford Mall’s GameStop (the receipt says the cashier’s name was Jay–hey Jay!) and then visited a girl at a candy store before heading home to immerse myself in nanomachine-driven mindfuckery and yellow-green gummi worms. That was also probably roughly the last time I played it, completing it over a few days or so while juggling school, dates, something of a social life, and the impending Thanksgiving break.

All right, imagine if I’m telling you this plot summary via Codec and you can use the analog sticks to be silly and zoom in on my face. You start out by reprising your role as Solid Snake, ex-FOXHOUND operative, who is now working with his Shadow Moses buddy Otacon to stop the production of Metal Gear machines by the military. Currently, Snake sneaks aboard a tanker supposedly housing Metal Gear RAY, an anti-Metal Gear machine. Spoiler alert, but after this section runs its course, the story begins somewhere else, starring someone else. Big Shell, a massive offshore clean-up facility, has been seized by a group of terrorists calling themselves the “Sons of Liberty” and demanding a large ransom in exchange for the life of the POTUS. You now play as Raiden, a greenhorn member of FOXHOUND fresh out of VR training and ready for his first real mission.

There are many things that stand out when you go right from Metal Gear Solid to Metal Gear Solid 2, and I’m not just talking about the graphical uptick that greatly allows characters to emote more voicelessly. The goal remains the same and always has since the beginning: sneak, scurry, crawl, cartwheel, and occasionally shoot your way past enemies until you’ve reached your destination. However, Metal Gear Solid 2 really ups the ante, giving both Snake and Raiden new tools, new ways of traversing, and new perspectives. My favorite was being able to hop over guard rails to a floor below or, if needed, just hang there until the enemy walks past. You can also dive into a roll, if you need to get under a desk real fast. Plus, there’s the first-person shooting perspective, which is vital for using the tranquilizer gun, as well as looking around corners. That said, the controls are still tough to master and do not work 100% of the time (I won’t even go into how many times I’d try to pick up an unconscious guard only to immediately drop them back down); in line with that, I’ll also never master holding up an enemy from behind and then walking in front of them, weapon still drawn, to make them nervous. I got less than five dog tags total during my replay.

I continue to find it easier to simply die or jump off into the water after being spotted in Metal Gear games, rather than try to hide and wait for the enemies to go back to their standard patrol routes. For one thing, in Metal Gear Solid 2, the enemy artificial intelligence got a serious boost, as they will hunt you down, call for reinforcements, double-check areas, and so forth. Their vision cones also extend a bit further than what the radar actually displays, which leads to me getting spotted more often than I wanted. Still, one of my favorite moments is when Snake leans against a wall and accidentally knocks over a fire extinguisher, alerting a nearby guard. In fact, I had more trouble dealing with guards and flying gun-toting drones than boss fights, which is probably the completely opposite with all the previous games in the series.

The action in Metal Gear Solid 2 is mostly solid (pun intended), but it’s the story that many remember (or continue to disbelieve). It goes to some zany places, and I truthfully don’t know how I swallowed it all the first time I completed it, doing naked cartwheels and reliving the past. That said, that’s one of my favorite thing about this series, the clash of super series tech talk and then the ghost of a dead twin brother in the arm of your enemy. Fighting a tentacle-wielding ex-U.S. President after taking down a bunch of Metal Gear RAYs. Learning about top-secret military weapon technology while hiding in a locker and masturbating to pin-up posters. I’m so looking forward to Giant Bomb‘s playthrough, especially given the moments in the original game that Drew scoffed at; he has no idea what’s in store.

There’s a lot of bonus stuff to experience on this copy of Metal Gear Sold 2 from the Legacy Collection. Not sure if it was included in the original or not. Sadly, there’s no skate-boarding mini-game from the Substance version, which I’ve always heard was silly fun. Included though are a bunch of VR missions, Snake Tales (five story-based missions featuring Solid Snake as the main character), and some kind of cutscene remix tool. I dabbled in each a wee bit, but think I’m sated for the time being.

Truthfully, this final summary blog post exists so I can continue sharing my end-game screen statistics with y’all:

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I also believe my code animal grade was…elephant? Which was what Drew got for his recent completion of Metal Gear Solid. I think elephants are pretty cool, but I feel like it’s a “bad” grade. Let’s compare rations across the series so far though:

  • Metal Gear – used 57 rations
  • Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake – used 27 rations
  • Metal Gear Solid – used 90 rations (the photo I took is a little blurry and hard to decipher)
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – used 69 rations

I’m not exactly sure what those statistics say about my skills, but at least I didn’t need to heal as much as a I did in the previous game. Either way, rations are yummers. I look forward to eating more of them, as well as snakes, in the next cool action guy game in the series. When will that happen, I muse out loud as I glance at the calendar and see that 2014 is dangerously close to closing. I don’t really know. My goal of playing through all the Metal Gear games this year is, alas, teetering on the edge, and I didn’t bother upgrading my grip strength to level 3.

Solid Snake struggles with investigating the development of a new Metal Gear

Metal Gear Solid 2 initial thoughts

Well, with Suikoden done, I’m moving on to my next target for 2014, which is coincidentally another Konami title–replaying Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. You might’ve assumed I’d go right into Suikoden II, but there is a wee time-crunch hanging over my head. See, Dan Ryckert and Drew Scanlon are playing through the original Metal Gear Solid over at Giant Bomb, with hints that they’ll be tackling more tactical espionage action titles in the series afterwards. And they’re moving forward swiftly. Personally, I’d love to watch them replay Solid Snake’s first outing on the PlayStation 2 after I get to re-experience it myself. Call me selfish, but I don’t want my replay to be tainted by their actions or thoughts in any way whatsoever. Thus, I loaded up Metal Gear Solid 2 the other night via my disc copy of Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection 1987 – 2012.

To open, it didn’t go well, and I’m going to call my first hour or so with the game a complete wash. I didn’t even bother saving it once, knowing I’d like to try again and not immediately goof up and get spotted every few steps. I’m not sure exactly where everything went wrong, but the controls are a huge change from the–well, what now seems rudimentary–controls from Metal Gear Solid. The biggest addition is a useful first-person POV, one where you can aim your gun in and strafe. Before, you merely used it to look around the environment, but this new angle becomes vital when using the M9 tranquilizer gun because guards will fall asleep faster based on where you hit them with darts (go for the heads, Snake, not the knees). However, every time I went to use it, I kept trying to hit the Triangle button instead of the now used R1 button, causing Snake to stand still out in the open a few seconds longer than I’d like. I also found it harder to stick to surfaces using the analog stick, with Snake often slipping off cover and getting spotted. Ugh.

Wait, wait, wait. I guess I should actually try to some up the story before getting into the trials and triumphs of my replay. Metal Gear Solid 2 opens with a flashback in 2007, two years after the Shadow Moses incident that went down in the original Metal Gear Solid. Solid Snake and Otacon, now members of the non-governmental organization Philanthropy, are investigating the development of a new Metal Gear by American marines. To do this, Snake sneaks on to the tanker transporting the weapon and must produce legitimate pictures of it.

Of course, as many fans of the series already knows, this was a bait and switch tactic by Konami, and the tanker section is only a prologue, with the main meat of the game starring FOXHOUND’s newest recruit Raiden two years later. His objectives are to infiltrate the Big Shell clean-up facility to rescue hostages, including the U.S. president, from the terrorist group Sons of Liberty. This terrorist group is purported to be lead by Solid Snake and backed up by Dead Cell, a rogue anti-terror training unit. They are also threatening to destroy the facility they have seized.

So, I had trouble on the tanker. I played for an hour, got spotted a lot, tried to fight my way out of alert mode, died, and so on. At one point, because I didn’t remember how hanging worked, I dropped Snake right into the cold, unrelenting mistress known as the ocean. Thinking back to my VR days, I decided to try a few training sessions out and see if they helped any. Once I felt ready, I went back in to Metal Gear Solid 2 with the following repeating loudly and clearly in my mind: getting caught is not the end. See, games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mark of the Ninja really pushed for non-lethal playthroughs, the perfect kind, where you don’t even get spotted once. Well, that seems really hard and also not fun, so I’m not going to worry too much if things go awry rather fast because I darted by some guard’s vision cone too soon. Plus, I’ve found it is easier to simply let Raiden die than try to take out five or six guards or, even more impossible, hide from them; the game does a good job of auto-saving when you enter a new area.

Metal Gear Solid and its earlier brethren spoiled me by providing the radar from the get-go. Here, you have to first find a terminal and download a radar for each new area, which means when you first arrive somewhere, you can only see what you can see, and have to use the AP sensor as much as possible. This makes each new area tougher to initially run through, but also more exciting. There’s some strange new items, like pornographic magazines and coolant sprays, to use, and I am still horrible at holding up soldiers and getting them to shake dog tags free. Well, that’s only partially true; I can consistently sneak up behind a guard and get them to freeze, but then trying to reposition Raiden to take advantage of this always leads to mayhem.

If there is one thing I forgot about Metal Gear Solid 2, it’s that its color scheme, specifically once you get to Big Shell, is phenomenal. I know teal and orange is a bit overdone, but maybe it is used over and over for a reason–it works. I love traveling from one strut to another and being outside on the bridges with the sea gulls and blue sky. The music is intense and stirring, and while there is the occasional bit of still awkward and robotic dialogue (ironically from the Colonel), the voice acting still draws you in despite the ridiculous characters and situations. I particularly like the Rosemary and Jack stuff, which I somehow forgot entirely since I last played this back in college.

Right now, I’ve infiltrated Raiden’s way into Shell 1’s core by wearing an enemy’s disguise and carrying an assault rifle. Now I need to figure out how to work around a retinal scan in hopes of learning the location of the captured U.S. president from a man or woman named Ames, who apparently has a pacemaker. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the rest of this zany plot unravels as I really only remember the most zany moments–naked cartwheels–and not the quiet stuff, like Fortune’s affection for Vamp and the silly detail of Fatman drinking a fruity drink before starting the boss fight.