With an in depth analysis of the Metal Gear Solid trilogy, Grant Gordin attempts to draw comparisons and similarities between the games, as well as to distinguish the contrasting theme that each portrays. He divides his opinions into three categories of focus: plot, characters, and gameplay.
There has always been a lot of discussion about which of the three Metal Gear Solid games is the best in terms of gameplay, plot, character, and the like. Granted, it's true that it should be viewed as one continuing story, but in that same vain, there are so many similarities and differences between the games that it seems a player can't help but compare and contrast the aspects of them. I just decided to do a full-fledged analysis on the comparison and contrast between the games and express my own opinion in a very formal and unbiased way. I would like to point out prior to my analysis that the three Metal Gear Solid games are my three favorite games ever, period.
What you have here are three entirely different plots woven together to beexpressed as one superior storyline. However, each branch --- meme, gene, and scene --- is presented in an entirely different way. Some find some ways more fulfilling than others. I, myself, felt the storylines in the games all held very equal importance. Yet, I find myself leaning towards Metal Gear Solid 2's plot. Basically, here's why.
The plotline of Metal Gear Solid was both intricate and direct. The plot twists were spread very equally, and most, if not all of them were extremely impacting. They were meant to leave the gamer bewildered in front of the screen, leaving a big "WTF" for the gamer. Things such as Metal Gear REX's activation, Liquid Snake's identity from the disguise of Miller, Ocelot's ending conversation, Grey Fox's history, Naomi, the true purpose of FoxDie ... everything played out with such perfection. Accordingly, the subplots in the game were excellent, fleshing out both characters' purposes and meanings.
However, the basic plotline of the game fell short of the intricacy most would be coerced into believing. While everything that happened was crafted to perfection, once you figured that all out, the veil of excellence that masked the true plot of Metal Gear Solid withered. Gene alone needs support to create a game with such perfection, and it did get it; yet, it received this support in the form of subplots and plot twists ... not in the form that it truly needed: a flowing main plot and main conflict. You know the main plot to begin with, as do you the main conflict. Throughout the game, you're kept off-balance until the bitter end, but by subplots and plot twists. The true essence of the plot, parallel to that of gene, was uncovered in your briefing. This is the only thing that I feel kept Metal Gear Solid from reigning in the plot department.
Metal Gear Solid 3 was an entirely different story. You didn't realize the ultimate conflict until hours into the game, and while the plot twists weren't as numerous and impacting as its predecessors, it truly didn't need them. It relied on a direct, non-complex plot to go along with its purpose --- scene. Based on the above, it would appear that Metal Gear Solid 3 would take the cake for the greatest plot. However ... this was far from the case.
Surrounding the direct approach that Metal Gear Solid 3 took in presenting its storyline was a poor choice of crafting and pacing. This is something that many games suffer in; however, most of the games that fall victim to this discrepancy also fall victim to having a barely passable storyline to begin with. Metal Gear Solid 3, luckily, has an excellent and beautiful purpose of scene in its very impressive back-story. Still, the pacing and crafting of the game fell short. Most of the key details throughout the game are presented near the beginning, where everything "falls out of place," and in the end, where everything "is revealed." Between the first encounter with EVA and the encounter with EVA in the mountains, you're left with an almost painfully linear storyline. Other games that had this same problem were able to make up for a great deal of it because of the gameplay and memorable battles that took place in the "empty" span of the story.
Unfortunately, the likes of The Pain, The Fear, and countless areas of the jungle accompanied the "dead" time that Metal Gear Solid 3 waded through. Certain spots became bright, such as brief moments at the Warehouse and The End, but pacing definitely played an important role in Metal Gear Solid 3's dead time. The crafting, while much better than the pacing, ran into some problems with the Cobra unit itself and the "point" of the villains. You see, Liquid Snake and company in Metal Gear Solid had something they were doing while Solid Snake frantically tried to complete his mission. You were in a race against the clock, to stop REX before they could launch it, to rescue the hostages, etc etc. Even though the truth about REX came out at the end, the villains still gave off the impression that they were "doing something" while you pursued your mission objectives. In Metal Gear Solid 3, with the rare exception of Ocelot's obsession with Big Boss and The Boss's ultimate mission, lacked this same sense of urgency. Volgin was taking his sweet time, and the Cobra Unit lost its sense of fear after the first battles with them. You don't really feel like you're in a hurry as you continue the plot until the final hours of the game.
Granted, the plot, as stated before, was excellent, but it lacked in a few key areas.
Metal Gear Solid 2, however with its flaws, as well, takes the cake, here. The plot twists were numerous and impacting, yet they weren't as spontaneous as the likes of Metal Gear Solid. Ocelot's true identity had been hinted at all through the game, such as with the President, Ames, Solidus, and end. The Patriots were slowly uncovered, through your first knowledge at the beginning to the Ninja, then to Ames, to the President, to Emma, and finally to the truth. Every major subplot in the game, while not as numerous as Metal Gear Solid, found a point in being existent due to foreshadowing in earlier parts of the game.
The basic plot that surrounded meme was also excellent, crafted perfectly with your mission as well as the characters thrown into the mix. Even the S3 protocol you encounter at the end of the game, or the AI, so you choose to believe, had a reason, and those reasons were presented in such an antagonizing manner that you really felt hatred for the true enemy. Volgin was an asshole, yes, but did you really hate him? Liquid was awesome in his villainous ways, but did you really love to hate him, or did you simply laugh in joy at the battles with him? While Solidus's role in Metal Gear Solid 2 was underdeveloped, which is one of the few plot flaws in the game, the ultimate antagonist --- the Patriots (and/or the S3, so you choose to believe it) --- was almost impossible to sympathize for. Even though it's so-called ideals had justification, you still wanted that thing dead. And how many of you are drooling for a fourth installment where Snake can take on the Patriots? That's what I thought.
However, the pacing of the game, while better than Metal Gear Solid 3, did run into a few problems. The Tanker Episode was crafted perfectly, as were the beginning scenes of the Big Shell. But the time of defusing the bombs, mainly between the encounter with Stillman and the disposal of Fatman, had some pacing problems. Still, it had a redeeming factor of the true essence of the C4, something that Metal Gear Solid 3's dead time lacked. Even still, this was a flaw, no doubt.
Overall, my final thoughts in terms of plot would no doubt be that Metal Gear Solid 2 was the best, followed closely by Metal Gear Solid, and then trailing behind Metal Gear Solid 3.
Some of you may find what I say here to be extremely unusual, so up front, I'm warning you that there's a great chance you won't agree with my logic. That said, let us continue.
The characters in the games of Metal Gear are not only frighteningly significant, but they also are the sole reason people complain about the games. Let's put it this way. Many people find themselves, regardless of their own self-knowledge, saying Metal Gear Solid is the best game out of the three because Liquid Snake ruled, or because Solid Snake was an absolute badass. Others claim Metal Gear Solid 3 is the best in the series because they can't resist Ocelot's hand-gesture and ultimate superiority. Others claim Metal Gear Solid 2 is the best one because Revolver Ocelot is so cool when he screws everyone over. The same goes in contrast. Many hated Metal Gear Solid 2 because of its select cast of characters - in particular, Raiden. Many despise the cast of Metal Gear Solid 3 because of the Cobra Unit and their unfortunate minor role in the game. Many dread playing Metal Gear Solid because they know they'll have to put up with Liquid's crybaby ways and horrid accent. Notice I just contradicted myself. This all goes to show how the characters of the game are ideally the most important aspect of a game when it comes to how much a gamer likes it.
In my own personal opinion, all three games have an excellent cast of characters. However, I also feel some were better than others.
Metal Gear Solid 2 sounds like a great place to start off. Raiden, although the newcomer and criminal on the accounts of theft in the first degree for stealing Snake's spotlight, was anything but a bad character. I felt the way the game portrayed the protagonist was nothing short of perfect, from his development of a green soldier to the realization of his terrible past. Rose, while annoying, played a huge role in the change of Raiden, and ergo deserves a lot of credit, in my book.
The cast of villains in the second installment was good, as well. Both Vamp and Fortune were excellent choices. Even the stereotypical bomber Fatman had a unique back-story that intertwined him with another pleasant addition in the game - Stillman. Solidus Snake, while an important aspect of the storyline and an excellent character, lacked greatly. There was so much more that the game could've done with him, and all of his great moments are revealed far too late to truly appreciate. Liquid was truly in control, a person that had to be stopped at all costs. Volgin was a madman bent on domination. What was Solidus? You would think he was a man trying to liberate the people of the world, but you find out that the urgency of his plans play no major part, as Ocelot ends up at the epicenter of the terror anyways. Ocelot and Olga were, however, extremely good in the game, and in my opinion put this game's cast of characters a notch or two above.
Emma Emmerich, however, is a different story. In my own personal opinion, Emma is the single best character in the entire series. Yes, you're damned right, I said it.
Overall, Metal Gear Solid 2 had a great set of characters, both developing and interesting.
Metal Gear Solid 3 is probably the most widespread addition in the series. First off, you have Naked Snake, easily the best protagonist in the series with the best character Kojima has to offer, a growing Ocelot that fans drool over, and The Boss, easily the most interesting non-villain/hero of the series with the only challengers being Naomi Hunter and Grey Fox.
But, unfortunately, the game didn't keep that up.
You then have Sigint. Sigint is an excellent character ... though most of you probably would never know. It takes hundreds (literally) of radio calls to learn everything about him, and once you make all these calls, it's hard not to like the guy. But without all of these optional calls, Sigint is an absolutely worthless aspect in the game. The same goes for Para-Medic and even Major Zero, to a certain degree. They CAN be great ... but it takes far too much to discover this.
The villains. Oh, God, the villains. Contrary to popular belief, I happened to like Volgin. But Cobra Unit ... great battles, horrible villains. I'm sorry, but I want to at least know something more about them, especially after being spoiled on Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2's villains. And the little you DO learn about the villains is through optional radio conversations.
Overall, Metal Gear Solid 3 has some of the best characters in the series ... and some of the worst ones. And, another major reason why is because of the character relationships --- Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2 presented excellent bonds, such as Fatman/Stillman, Raiden/Rose, Raiden/Emma, Emma/Otacon, Snake/Otacon, Snake/Liquid, Ocelot/Liquid, Vamp/Fortune, Solidus/Raiden, Naomi/Fox, Fox/Snake, and many others. Metal Gear Solid 3 had only a couple worth mentioning --- The Sorrow/The Boss, The Boss/Snake, and Snake/Ocelot. Not even Volgin/Ocelot was that good. And every other relationship in the game absolutely sucked in comparison with Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2.
Metal Gear Solid, in my opinion, has the best cast. Solid Snake is excellent, Otacon is a great change of pace, FOXHOUND consists of both interesting and awesome characters, Naomi and Grey Fox and the plot they share makes the game just that much better, and even Meryl has great moments. There really aren't any weak links.
So, to conclude, I'd say Metal Gear Solid is the best in this category, followed by Metal Gear Solid 2, and picking up the rear is Metal Gear Solid 3.
It's true that my opinion of gameplay may be controversial to some . I tend to favor characters and plot over gameplay, but that's not to say I don't appreciate gameplay. Some might say my priorities are skewed, but I truly believe that it is the characters of a game that draw you into it the most.
However, gameplay is what games are ultimately all about. If story and characters were all that mattered, games like Unreal Tournament and Super Mario wouldn't be what they are.
In regards to the actual comparison here, I'm not doing this category simply by the new gameplay elements, because if I was, it would be a useless category. Over time, gameplay needs to improve, so it would be obvious the order. Instead, I'm going by the gameplay scenarios.
Let's take the best, Metal Gear Solid 3. In Metal Gear Solid 3, you're presented a new type of environment, the jungle, in which camouflage, face pain, stealth, and such are necessary. Quite the one-up on the previous two titles, if you ask me. Other highlights of the game consisted of the chase scene near the end, a scenario many consider to be the best part of next-generation gaming. The escorting scenes of the game required great technique and planning, as well --- who could forget setting a few claymores behind you while you take EVA through the jungle? ... Nothing like the sweet sound of agonizing screams behind you. The AI in the game also excelled, creating difficult circumstances for Naked Snake to get himself out of. The game played an exceptionally well character-to-player front, exercising unmatched scenarios for the gamer. On top of all of that, the boss fights were simply incredible. It may be true that most of the bosses themselves lacked in detail, but their respective boss fights did not, by any means. The boss fights ranged from downright insane and cool (The End) to intuitive and haunting (The Sorrow). And few fights in history could ever match the beauty of the final fight with The Boss. Quite possibly the best overall boss fight in gaming history as we know it. Furthermore, while CQC was more of gaming development than scenario, it provided for such scenarios like nothing ever had.
Overall, Metal Gear Solid 3 took the cake in terms of gameplay, but the race for second place was much, much closer than most would think, in my honest opinion.
Metal Gear Solid, while the first game, was dead even with Metal Gear Solid 2. Perhaps it was the nostalgia of the original masterpiece that threw it into equilibrium. The environment, on paper, was nothing short of bland. However, immerse yourself in it, and you find this is far from the case. The compound provided for excellent scenarios, and the concept of stealth was quickly brought to a new horizon. The "chase scene" of Metal Gear Solid, while nothing like its Metal Gear Solid 3 counterpart, was probably just as good. The final showdown between Solid Snake and Liquid Snake in the jeeps ... in my opinion, one of the few things The Twin Snakes captured better than its original did. Then again, half of the greatness was the "Escape" theme behind Metal Gear Solid's chase scene, so in reality, The Twin Snakes could never beat it out. In contrast, however, to Metal Gear Solid 3, the escorting scenes were somewhat ... bad. Then again, when you have a freak like Meryl by your side, it's hard to imagine an escort that doesn't reek of instability. The guards in the game, while new and intuitive, really didn't have an essence of the human mind. It doesn't help that their "genetic enhancements" permitted them to view only about ten feet in front of them. Every negative you could ever come up with, however, is completely cancelled out by the incredible boss fights of the game. The Hind D, Metal Gear REX, Revolver Ocelot, Psycho Mantis, Liquid Snake ... the game just keeps them coming like no other game does. While no one fight stood out like The Boss's fight did, the range of fights, in my opinion, edged out Metal Gear Solid 3's. A conclusive pat on Metal Gear Solid's butt must ensue.
Metal Gear Solid 2 played out in a different light. The two completely different environments in the game were a bit lacking in detail, and the acclaimed idea of "stealth" was only truly necessary in a few select places of the game. Furthermore, there wasn't any replica of the acclaimed chase scene. However, this was more than made up for by the Tengu shootouts in Arsenal Gear. The escorting scenes in the game also were probably the best of the three, as you actually felt you were escorting someone. EVA was pretty good on her own, and Meryl is just a *****. But Emma truly needed help. And on Extreme, you'd damned well better give it. The guards, however, were just downright pathetic at times. The AI doesn't truly meet its potential until you crank up the difficulty meter, whereas Normal mode ends up being far too easy. The boss fights in the game, contrary to what you may believe, ruled. I loved the scenarios of histories behind the boss fights, as well. There was one major hindrance, though --- there were far too few of them. Dead Cell may have been awesome, but it had far too few members to truly feel like a complete obstacle. The inability to really ever do anything to Fortune also kind of hurt it. However, a major plus in the game was the ability to work with more than one character. Because, unlike most fans of MGS, I liked Raiden just as much as I ever liked Solid Snake.
Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2 are essentially dead even in gameplay, but Metal Gear Solid 3 easily has the best.
1) Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Libery
2) Metal Gear Solid
3) Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
1) Metal Gear Solid
2) Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
3) Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
1) Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
2) Metal Gear Solid
2) Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Draw your own conclusions.
-- Article by Grant Gordin