Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
Bringing a classic to a new generation or flogging a cash cow until it's ready to die? Here's what we thought of The Twin Snakes.
There's no question that the original Metal Gear Solid for PlayStation was a monumental occasion in gaming, but will the world benefit from a flashy remake, or is this a step closer to making us sick of a franchise?
For some it was a questionable decision to remake the original rather than put the time and effort into a proper continuation of the series, but for others it was a gift from the gaming gods... they're the same people who keep shouting about a Final Fantasy VII remake as well we suspect. We must confess though, we too felt our hearts flutter at the prospect of playing the classic game with an up-to-date look, a true fan service from Konami indeed.
It didn't seem like it at the time but looking back on the original Metal Gear now reveals some "laughable" first generation PS1 visuals, Snake with his shaded in face and pointy joints make it hard to return to that game for a replay without tarnishing some good memories. It seems obvious then that Twin Snakes is here to preserve our memories by making it possible to play the game and not laugh during cut scenes. Stepping into Twin Snakes now is a visual treat that managed to shock and amaze despite us having been in the same situation a few years ago. One moment that comes to mind is the final section of the game with the Ninja, Metal Gear and a few gallons of blood, before this scene was limited by weak hardware but now it makes for one of the most exciting and brutal game scenes we've seen.
When put side to side with some of today's more impressive titles Twin Snakes really doesn't perform as well as it should. During intense battles the slowdown is noticeable while in first person mode due to smoke effects, and the smaller effects we were treated to in MGS2 have been played down as well. For example the destructible items around the environment such as melons, bottles and magazines would explode into fine shards depending on where they were shot but in Twin Snakes you are given a standard break for almost all items, shooting pictures on the wall will result in a four way split that looks mediocre at best. On close inspection of the game it becomes clear that despite its vast improvements, it's still inferior to the PS2's Metal Gear Solid 2 which makes us wonder what Twin Snakes could have looked like on the PS2, if made by the original team.
Another major change to the game is the control scheme and the fact that you must now use the Gamecube's pad. The GC pad has a total of eight buttons, two analogue sticks and one D-Pad compared to the PS2s ten buttons, two analogue sticks and one D-Pad. Seeing as the majority of existing MGS fans will probably have played one of the games on a PS pad before as we did, it won't be long until they will realize how frustrating it becomes as you try to get to grips with the new controls and less sensitive buttons.
The GC pad lacks the level of pressure sensitivity that the PS2 pad puts to use meaning that you can often make the mistake of shooting a guard in the face when all you want to do is hold him up. Also you no longer have the option of pointing your gun then lowering it without firing a shot, which means staying hidden becomes an annoying task and getting those dog tags becomes an intense challenge to beat poor design. This is one of the best examples we've seen so far that proves the GC pad was designed specifically for Nintendo games and other developers titles were an afterthought.
Taking advantage of the GameCube's Pro Logic II capabilities Metal Gear's audio booms to life all around you. The sound effects have been beefed up to fantastic levels of realism right down to the clicking of the quivering guards gun belts and Snake's heavy breathing while taking aim in first person mode. The only flaw we found with the sound effects was the regular over-the-top volume that is placed on most events, it's one thing for gunshots to blast out but Snake's stealthy feet shouldn't sound like a pair of size twelve army boots.
The voice work is... well almost identical to the original except for Mei Ling who has lost here cute Chinese accent (but luckily not her cute Chinese face) and gained a normal American voice which makes more sense we guess, the only noticeably new additions to the voice acting comes from Psycho Mantis and the genome soldiers (who are now voiced by the ever present Scott Dolph).
When you reach Mantis he will prove his amazing powers of mind reading by detecting what game saves you have on your memory card, in the original he did this but there wasn't a vast amount of games that he could detect, now however he can pick out the likes of Mario Sunshine and Zelda (guaranteed to be found on most GC memory cards right?). Upon detecting one of the Nintendo games he will hit you with an in-depth analysis of your personality, something like "I see you like adventure games" and credit to him... he was right.
Some of the most played upon new features of Twin Snakes are the cut scenes directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (the famous Japanese action director), which make up about sixty percent of the game. The new scenes were all made using the latest motion capture technology to make the fight sequences some of the most realistic and bone shattering sequences ever seen in a game. The mix of movie direction, real action and computer generated special effects all come together to create something new, something that isn't just another game cut scene or another action movie, what Konami, Kitamura and Silicon Knights have done is push the boundaries of quality and innovation in the interactive entertainment industry and set a new benchmark for future development.
Kitamura's involvement is a great touch to the game, fans of his work will be able to pick up on a few of his trade marks as well which is a great little extra. The only issue we had with the movie work in Twin Snakes is the level of realism and the fact that there is almost none involved. Don't take that the wrong way, the scenes are fantastically entertaining but offer little of the military realism that was incorporated into MGS2. The series has gone from accurately depicting stealth and military techniques to Snake fighting in slow-motion and jumping off the back of missiles... although there are still giant robots and enemies with super powers so we won't linger on the realism for long.
For some the inclusion of new cinematic scenes and powered up visuals will be enough to draw them back to Metal Gear but others will probably want a few more extras to sweeten the deal. Despite Silicon Knights saying there would be some new extras added to the game we're afraid to say that said extras are somewhat thin on the ground, we have been treated to the dog tag side missions from MGS2 (although you'll find that collecting all the tags will lead to no reward) as well as the boss survival mode but very little else.
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Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes
Utterly awesome (and long) 14 minute 'Ultimate' trailer! [320x240, 568kbps]
Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes
Shaky cam footage from Nintendo's MGS booth at E3 2003.