When rating video games, there are few sources comparable to Metacritic and one of the most examined gaming franchises of all time is the Metal Gear Solid series. It includes several main entries that rank very high on Metacritic making it difficult to judge which is better than the other.
The epic saga created by Hideo Kojima has undergone many remakes like The Twin Snakes for Nintendo, remasters such as The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for the PS3 and Xb0x 360, and spin-offs like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. However, not every entry is rated by Metacritic. When pinpointing their good and bad qualities, it seems clear Metacritic’s evaluation is based on a combination of playing time, age, and narrative focus.
7 Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (2014) – 75
Following the Peace Walker Incident, Big Boss undertakes a mission to rescue two of his allies, Paz and Chico, held at an American prison camp, Camp Ortega, in Cuba. Both are wanted for their information regarding Big Boss’s mercenary group while Snake desires their intelligence of Cipher, a rival paramilitary force commanded by the disfigured Skull Face.
It is essentially a two-hour demo for Kojima Productions’ FOX Engine that bridges the gap between Peace Walker and Phantom Pain. Ground Zeroes featured improved character movement, making it easier to traverse the game map while adding interrogation to silent takedowns. In a preview of Phantom Pain‘s immersive nature, Ground Zeroes offers optional objectives alongside the main quest that serves as practice for the main game.
6 Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010) – 89
Set in Central America, Big Boss has established Militaries Sans Frontieres (Soldiers Without Borders) for soldiers avoiding exploitation. The MSF are hired by a KGB asset to investigate a disturbing report an independent CIA unit possesses a prototype Metal Gear called Peace Walker. Together, with members of a local resistance, and Huey Emmerich, Snake pursues Peace Walker through the Costa Rican jungle.
Originally released exclusively for the Playstation Portable, the combat mechanics felt familiar to the past Metal Gear Solid entries. As a result, however, the storytelling was handled by comic-style artwork with recorded dialogue instead of traditional cutscenes. Peace Walker‘s shorter missions maintained the series’ traditional linear storytelling, which was a plus. The Mother Base menu to craft gear and recruit allies expanded in Phantom Pain.
5 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004) – 91
While on a mission to recover a top Russian scientist named Sokolov during the Cold War, CIA operative Naked Snake discovers his mentor The Boss appears to have defected to the Soviet Union. After barely escaping, Snake returns to the jungle on the outskirts of Groznji Grad, a scientific research facility housing a prototype tank, The Shagohod, capable of deploying nuclear missiles. Snake’s mission is to destroy the Shagohod, rescue Sokolov and eliminate the Cobra squad including The Boss.
This thoughtful and insightful origin story of the Metal Gear franchise is beloved by the series’ fanbase for its clear James Bond inspiration. The greatest evidence is Snake Eater‘s opening credits complimented by Cynthia Harrell’s music track of the same name. The story is rich in plot reinforced by compelling and challenging villain encounters throughout. Some players, over the years, have complained about the camouflage, health, and sustenance systems that required constant attention, but it is a footnote in an otherwise excellent and popular entry.
4 Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots (2008) – 94
The iconic Solid Snake, now Old Snake, thanks to the FOXDIE virus implanted in his genetic code, pursues Liquid Ocelot, possessing the arm (DNA) and soul of Liquid Snake from Metal Gear Solid. He controls a consortium of private military companies using artificial intelligence to hijack The Patriots’ master satellite to seize control of the digital airwaves. Snake partners with FOXDIE’s creator Naomi Hunter, Raiden, Meryl, and genetic mother Eva to bring an end to the cycle of war the PMCs represent at the behest of The Patriots who are on the verge of installing a superior all-encompassing AI.
Everything about Metal Gear Solid 4 is lengthy from its narrative chapters to cinematics that set the scene and connecting the dots from past games. True to sequel form, it incorporates plot points from Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2 Bringing back characters like Raiden, Vamp, and Meryl Silverburgh with constructs like The Patriots and Outer Haven, a representation of Big Boss’s Outer Heaven. The most intriguing aspect is its international setting from the South American jungle to the streets of Europe and the Alaskan Peninsula. Its allusion to perpetual guerilla warfare and war profiteering makes it a compelling allegory for ongoing geopolitical events.
3 Metal Gear Solid (1998) – 94
An elite special forces unit FOXHOUND seizes control of the Shadow Moses nuclear facility in Alaska, taking hostages with the goal of making the base’s nuclear arsenal operational whilst demanding the remains of a super-soldier codenamed Big Boss and one billion in ransom. With less than 24 hours to respond, the US government dispatches retired FOXHOUND operative Solid Snake to investigate, discovering the terrorists are led by his genetic brother, Liquid Snake. Along with his team of genetically enhanced lieutenants, he attempts to launch nuclear missiles from a land-based module called Metal Gear REX.
The 1998 classic shows its PlayStation One age with heavily pixilated cinematics and overhead camera view, but the intellectually driven narrative outweighs the difficult gameplay elements. Successful completion grants the player armor and weapon bonuses for replays. The combat relies heavily on the player’s ability to master the environment silently while collecting weapons, ammunition, and health packs. The voice acting of Snake’s David Hayter and many other gaming veterans deliver a masterful work of fiction warning of the dangers of nuclear proliferation and genetic engineering whilst analyzing good and evil.
2 Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015) – 95
Nearly a decade after MSF was wiped out in a vicious attack in Ground Zeroes, Snake awakens in a Cyprus hospital under siege from Cipher. He manages to escape and embark on a quest throughout Afghanistan, reuniting with MSF survivors and key allies to form the Diamond Dogs to exact vengeance on those responsible for Mother Base’s destruction. Soon, Snake learns a new generation of Metal Gear technology is being developed in the Afghani mountains by Huey Emmerich under the Soviet direction. Snake must find a way to neutralize the threat while being stalked by a hideously disfigured man, Skull Face, and his band of supernatural Skulls.
For the first time, a Kojima-based Metal Gear game stepped away from a linear story and offered players a vast open world to explore across two continents. Every side quest is optional although a select few are strongly recommended for narrative purposes. There is no shortage of weapons, vehicles, and other toys to assemble and upgrade for Snake to gain the upper hand. The player could theoretically reenact Rambo III repeatedly or they might call on an ally like Quiet to snipe targets as they’re painted. And there’s always a helicopter nearby for airstrikes. Phantom Pain can be as easy or as difficult as the player wants. Its convoluted story gets lost in the shuffle of so many tasks to perform but its overall theme of revenge is omnipresent.
1 Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty (2001) – 96
Solid Snake is presumed dead after infiltrating an oil tanker, supposedly housing an American-built Metal Gear RAY that capsizes on the Hudson River. Two years later, rookie FOXHOUND agent, Raiden, is assigned to investigate the presence of his agency’s elite team Dead Cell at the “Big Shell” plant and finds they’re overseeing the launch of a new superweapon, Arsenal Gear, under the rouse of a hostage crisis. Their leader, Solidus, is attempting to employ Arsenal Gear’s artificial intelligence to infiltrate The Patriots, a clandestine group of men who supposedly rule the world by committee. Raiden teams up with a man named Pliskin to thwart the launch and discover the truth behind Solidus’ heritage and The Patriots’ motives.
2001’s Metal Gear Solid 2 is heralded as one of the best video games ever made. The Snake-Raiden misdirection was unheard of in 2001 but it put players into Raiden’s shoes as they uncovered secrets of the Tanker Incident and the Big Shell adding up to a thought-provoking conclusion commenting on artificial intelligence potentially governing the flow of information for consumers because they have fallen into tribalism. The construction and flow of the game rivaled its 1998 predecessor with substantially enhanced graphics on PlayStation 2 allowing for easier character movement aided by a first-person shooting mode.
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