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Friday, 26 February, 1999, 17:49 GMT
Game review: Where stealth beats strength
Solid Snake hiding from the Genome Soldiers
Pete Lane reviews Metal Gear Solid for Playstation

Once upon a time, any game failing to feature copious amounts of gratuitous violence would fail in the marketplace. But now there is a new craze for games where avoiding combat is the key.

Metal Gear Solid is arguably the best of this new genre where stealth beats strength.

This long awaited Playstation (PSX) title from Konami goes on sale in Britain on 26 February and casts the player as mercenary Solid Snake.

You have to avoid guards and security cameras, collect weapons and gadgets (you begin the game with nothing) and fight the members of terrorist movement FOX-HOUND in a bid to stop them launching a nuclear missile from a secret US government research base in Alaska.

James Bond style gadgets - stealth vision goggles
From the start, Metal Gear Solid strives for a cinematic atmosphere. It is what you would expect from a games director like Hideo Kojima - the Japanese creator of the character which is now in its third gaming incarnation.

Credits run during the start of the game, and cut-scenes are used to inform the player of events occurring around them. These are not merely movies pre-rendered for the occasion as in most games. Instead, the game uses an impressive real-time system to tell its own story. This aids the sense of realism, since there are no lengthy pauses between these scenes and the action.

Terrorist encounters

Throughout the game you talk to your superiors using a James Bond-style communications gadget. They inform you of much of the plot and reveal game objectives to you. This lends the proceedings a significant level of tension as you learn more about your mission, which turns out to be far more complicated than expected.

Encounters with the terrorists are central to the gameplay - and most lead to a battle

Inside the nuclear warhead building
Combat includes fist-fighting with a Cyborg Ninja, gun-fighting with a psychic who can read your mind, shooting a helicopter out of the sky with a shoulder-mounted missile launcher, and coming up against Snake's nemesis - the immense nuclear-equipped weapon of the game's title, Metal Gear.

Other parts of the game see the player abseiling down a wall and steering a guided missile to destroy a power generator.

We want more...

Metal Gear Solid excels by taking all these diverse elements, and tying them all together with its convoluted story so that the game flows naturally.

The difficulty level is well paced, and the attention to detail is impressive. Even saving your game is integrated into the narrative, and at one point the CD case itself becomes integral to achieving success.

The game's only real flaw is its length. Most people will finish it in days rather than weeks, and while it does have two endings, there is little replay value after these have both been attained. But while it lasts, Metal Gear Solid is an exceptional title.

Metal Gear Solid costs 39.99 at all good gaming shops

See also:

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