Jon Gracey's

Games That Rocked My World – #17: Metal Gear Solid

In PC, PlayStation on November 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Title: Metal Gear Solid

Format: PlayStation, PC

Released: 3rd September, 1998

Box_art

Two short stories:

#1. I was about 8 years old. Maybe 9. We were on a Cub camp in Gilwell Park (Centre for Scouting in the UK, don’t you know) and for some reason we were running around in the forest after dark. I remember emerging from the woodland and pelting down a hill, with lots of other cubs running alongside. I don’t know why, but we were excited, and it was awesome. And this little devil in my ear goes: “Trip Angus Abbot up, Jon. It’ll be hilarious”.

Here’s all you need to know about Angus Abbot: he was (and still is) much bigger than me, and could totally beat me up. But I was a cheeky little turd, so I tripped him. It was glorious. I totally caught his leg, and he went flying. He got up, and started chasing me. I knew I was in for a battering.

Metal_gear_rex

#2. Once, when I was around 5 years old, we played hide and seek in my grandparent’s impossibly huge mansion in Devon (actually just a decent sized house, but I was 5), with my distressingly attractive second cousin. We locked ourselves in the toilet, and giggled, hearts pounding, as the others scoured the house, trying to find us.

Now then. These two experiences, though unrelated – other than painting me as both mildly sadistic and with an apparent penchant for incest (it’s ok, she’s distressingly attractive now, not when I was 5. Doubt I noticed then) – sum up the appeal of Metal Gear Solid. It’s hide & seek – but when you’re caught, you can fight. But you’ll probably get destroyed.

Fight

There’s something thrilling about the feeling of being somewhere you’re not supposed to which clings to a game of hide and seek like cellophane – it taps into our survival instincts, hardwired millennia ago. You’re pressed to the walls or the ground, shuffling around corners, transformed into an eagle-eyed and sharp-eared spy in an instant, knowing that if they catch sight of you, it’s all over.

This is what Hideo Kojima based his Metal Gear series on. Hide and seek, dressed up with elegant costumes and weaponry and increasingly convoluted plotting. But at its core: don’t get seen by the bad dudes. It’s brilliant.

There was something secretive about the game itself. It came out in 1998: I was 15, and had no chance of getting my hands on a PlayStation. I’d hear about great games from school mates, and daydream about what it might be like to play them. A good friend of mine, Seb, invited me round once and we played through a good chunk of Metal Gear Solid in one day. We got so engrossed we were late for some event at school, and when we arrived spent the evening outside, sneaking around the grounds trying to avoid imaginary security cameras.

Great games have this effect on me – bleeding into my everyday existence, and Metal Gear Solid was no different. Soon every waking hour seemed like an opportunity to be a spy: corners were for edging around, ketchup was for playing dead. School lockers were the perfect size to hide knocked-out guards. And this desire to be clandestine never went away.

Camera

One final story: New Year’s Eve, 2006. I was 21, in the midst of uni, and had arranged to party with some old school friends. The party was body-paint themed, so we’d naturally all gone as Smurfs. I went as far as painting my dick blue and was later convinced I’d had an allergic reaction to the paint, but that’s another story for another time.

It was a great night. Catching up with old friends, getting wasted and clattering pans in the street as a new, exciting year rolled around. But it’s the journey home that really sticks in my mind.

You see, until this point, I’d never gone Garden Hopping. Perhaps you never have. Perhaps, just perhaps, you have no clue what “Garden Hopping” is, and think I’m a bell-end. Now then. Garden Hopping is seeing how far you can traverse along a street of terraced houses, using *only* the garden space available.

Stand_hide

Let me elaborate what you’ve already deduced: Garden Hopping is fucking stupid. God knows how many people we scared into thinking they were being robbed, or stalked, or any other terrible scenario dreamed up by a bleary-eyed home-owner at 2am on 1st January, 2007. But regardless; it was amazing.

Clad purely in white, with only blue skin showing, we sneaked our way across what seemed like 50 gardens. I remember crawling flat across a shed to distribute my weight and avoid it caving in. I remember darting from hedge to hedge, as a neighbour called out asking who was there, all the while texting Gerry Tang to “not move a muscle”, quietly hoping his phone might go off and we’d have to take evasive action. I remember hopping over fences, and flattening against walls. It was so freakin’ Metal Gear Solid. Each garden was its own level: the entrance was where you landed, the exit the lowest point on the opposite fence. Sometimes they were easy, sometimes they were punishingly hard. They were never boring.

Hind_d

But eventually we made it through the gauntlet, hearts pounding, and escaped into the Essex night.

It felt like one last, irresponsible lunge at childhood. At playing about outside, sneaking around in the cold, and laughing with your mates. I know this seems completely at odds with an article about videogames, but they both tap into the same feeling: playing Metal Gear Solid at 15 with my friend Matt evoked the same feelings as the Garden Hopping with him all those years later. Hide and seek, man.

Choke_hold

Metal Gear Solid is such a pure game at heart. Other titles in the series represent gaming at its most bloated and pretentious, but the core gameplay, window-dressing aside, is beautifully simple. And it makes you wonder what else from our glory days can be captured, processed, and put down on a disc to be experienced, again and again.

My money’s on Trip-Up Friendz Smurfin’ Incest Partay 2012 but that’s probably why I’ve got no fucking money.

Smurfin_brilliant
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  1. […] of’ demo disc courtesy of Playstation Magazine. You’d think my attention would be grabbed by Metal Gear Solid’s espionage antics, Tombi’s impenetrable aesthetics, or something my friends called ‘the one […]

  2. […] along came Metal Gear Solid and everything changed. For the next decade and a half, I allowed my brain to turn into mush. I no […]

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