Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes review
Solid Sneaking In This Remake
So if you're into stealth games in the slightest then chances are you're already aware of Snake and his line of games. Metal Gear Solid helped define the genre and have pretty much settled at home on Sony's consoles. Occasionally though, Konami likes to throw Nintendo a bone and offer them an entry in their series. The Twin Snakes is an interesting offering, by letting Nintendo gamers see where the Solid arc started while updating the game to match more modern standards.
The first thing to note are the obviously improved graphics, making effective use of the Gamecube hardware to redo the visual assets of the original PlayStation game. Character models are very well detailed, like seeing the cool design of Snake's sneaking suit as he stealthily makes his way around the facility. The environment is largely split between two styles - the interior of the base you're infiltrating and some outdoor areas bathed in snow. It marks a stark contrast between the two but nevertheless manages to impress on both fronts. The cold metallic feel of the base really comes across in the visual design, while the cruel weather and piled up snow present a differing frosty reception in the outdoor segments.
Characters models do the GCN hardware some justice, giving us a good view of the cast involved. Movement animation for the various characters is, especially when it comes to neat touches like a guard radioing for backup or recoiling in pain from being shot, which works well when sneaking around seeing how enemies react. The HUD is reasonably well designed as well, giving you all the vital information you need and keeping things clear. Admittedly, the camera angle choices at certain points can be a little confusing and ill-suited, but thankfully this rarely impacts on the gameplay all that much.
On the audio sides of things the voice work is excellent. David Hayter naturally delivers an excellent performance as Snake and he is backed up by a suitably talented cast voicing the other characters in the game. You can hear the guards uttering a few phrases too during gameplay which is great. The background music is pretty good too and generally suits the flow of action well.
As per typical for MGS, there's a really cool story involved about tackling a highly trained terrorist group that have seized control of a base and plan on using the weapons there for their own gain. Of course, this is largely a smokescreen and there's a lot more going on behind the scenes that you gradually learn about as you play. A few good twists are used effectively leading up to a satisfying conclusion. The one thing to note is that, as usual, there is a tremendous amount of cutscenes and codec conversations designed to deliver this story, leading to a scenario where you spend a great deal of the time watching events proceed.
So the point of the game is to sneak about in order to find and subdue the terrorists. In most situations, stealth is without doubt the best course of action where avoiding detection is the best way to keep your body decidedly bullet free. The camera mostly looks at the action from above, although will switch to other angles as it feels the need arises. You also have access to a radar that shows the enemy and a few other things like cameras, giving you a good idea of the layout and how to proceed. How you proceed is up to you and the game gives you a good number of options. The obvious option is to take out the enemy, either through well placed gunshots or close quarters combat. In addition you can opt to distract the enemy via noise or simply monitor their movements patterns and sneak past. If you do happen to incapacitate soldiers, it may become necessary to move the body just in case another guard finds it and becomes suspicious.
That's an element I love about the series and it works just as well here. While you're always encouraged to focus on stealth, the game doesn't throw out too harsh a penalty should the alarm be raised. If that does happen, special armed forces sweep into the area ready to gun you down. Snake does have some means to fight back, like picking up some more serious weapons like rifles and explosives. Of course, you're not supposed to just stand your ground and kill everything that comes at you but it gives you the ideal opportunity to put down the immediate enemies and then find a place to hide while the alarm level resets.
When it comes to dealing with enemies hand to hand melee attacks are simple and to the point. The controls for weapon combat may seem strange to players as first but it is possible to get used to them and then it works just fine. A carryover from the second game makes it in here, allowing players to aim in first person mode instead of hoping the autoaim is on your side today. This lets players be a lot more accurate when dealing with enemies, letting you aim at specific parts of the body either for efficiency or simply for hilarious results. Snake can get a variety of weapons like handguns, rifles, explosives and more that give him a number of choices when it comes to dealing with enemies. When sneaking about, the silenced and/or tranquilliser options are obviously the best and will be the most used, but the other options are good too when stealth is less of a concern.
Aside from a couple of set pieces with grunts, those "stealthless" segments mostly come down to bosses. MGS has a few tricks up its sleeve to keep these interesting, like having to take down a Hind helicopter busy shooting at you or a gun duel with a gunslinger. Admittedly, most of these aren't actually very difficult even on the harder settings but I did like the setups involved in them.
Enemy AI is fairly solid with a few quirks. Soldiers will investigate strange noises and sights, such as hearing someone knocking or seeing a colleague out cold on the floor. They'll radio in when they think an intruder is in the area and will become more aware of their surroundings at higher alert levels. On the other hand, soldiers quickly lose interest if they lose sight of whatever attracted their attention and limited vision fields can lead to some odd scenarios. For me it was enough to give a reasonable challenge to keeping myself undetected, though perhaps not as tough as MGS2.
Progression through the facility is done pretty well. You'll pick up card keys to unlock more security doors, opening more of the base to you. The item interface itself is good, letting you hold a button to bring up either the item list or weapon list, then cycling to what you need and letting go to equip it. You can collect more, as well as supplies, by simply looking around the place and shaking enemies down. Some interesting layouts are in here, giving a bit of complexity as you find various ways to move around. There's an element of exploration as you can find a few extra optional items that can prove useful, all the while being mindful of sentries and cameras alerting the entire enemy force to your presence. A few times you'll have some interesting challenges to overcome, like sending a guided missile to destroy a control panel or having to watch out for planted claymore mines.
The challenge isn't really as high as veterans might hope for. Certainly it's easier than MGS2, but at the same time I think it does deliver just enough difficulty to be satisfying to most. The game lasts a good while too, even without counting all the time taken up for the story, so players should get quite a lot out of it.
Once again, this is how stealth should be done. OK, the difficulty could do with being turned up a little bit, but there are some interesting game mechanics in here and it still adheres to the idea that stealth should be encouraged without stupidly harsh penalties for failing it. It's an ideal game to sample a key point in the MGS story and see how events led into MGS2.
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