Few game titles have the calibre of the original Metal Gear Solid. Widely regarded as the PlayStation's defining release, its tale of twins, traitors and terrorism has since set the benchmark for videogame storytelling and action adventuring.
Yet that was all back in 1998. Children that were born then are now discovering gaming for themselves; a new generation is forming, and amidst the GTAs, Need For Speeds and Splinter Cells, the first - and greatest - 3D outing of Metal Gear's iconic character, Solid Snake, is in danger of being forgotten.
Enter Silicon Knights. In conjunction with Konami, it is they, the creators of Eternal Darkness, who were tasked with the retelling of the Shadow Moses story. Indeed, with this remake, their education of a new slew of gamers has been well-targeted; the struggling GameCube has both the youngest audience and most need for an exclusive title of such quality. And though many may bemoan the fact that this is not Metal Gear Solid 3 on the 'Cube, the place of The Twin Snakes in the Metal Gear canon cannot be underestimated.
While hype for the PS2's Snake Eater promised to take us 'back to the origin', it is Twin Snakes that elaborates on the series' chronological recent history in true next generation fashion. The result is Metal Gear Solid the way it was always intended, and though some sheen may have been lost in the intermittent years, the fundamental Metal Gear experience is no less brilliant or unique.
'it's a plot-twist-laden one-man sneaking mission'
The story of Metal Gear Solid is well known, and Twin Snakes does little to differ from the famous original. Lone government operative Solid Snake must infiltrate the Nuclear Missile Disposal Facility on Shadow Moses Island in Alaska's Fox Archipelago, in order to prevent a terrorist stronghold, and - as discovered early in the game - a missile attack from a nuclear-equipped walking battle tank, codenamed Metal Gear Rex. The added subtext that Snake's former unit, Foxhound, is leading the terrorist rebellion is further convoluted by the name of their leader, Liquid Snake; a link existing between Solid and Liquid at which the remake's subtitle unsubtly hints. Meanwhile, the genetically altered genome soldiers with whom Foxhound were guarding the base are now also Snake's mortal enemies, leaving our protagonist woefully outnumbered and hopelessly outgunned. In short, it's a plot-twist-laden one-man sneaking mission which perfectly suits the series' tagline: Tactical Espionage Action.
Presentation of Snake's old adventure on GameCube is understandably a big step up from the PlayStation original. Though lacking detail in comparison to Sons of Liberty and especially the more recent Snake Eater, Twin Snakes still updates character models and areas in eye-pleasing fashion - an acceptable middle ground, given the title's 32bit roots.
What these updated visuals truly open the door for however, is realization of Hideo Kojima's love of the film genre which Metal Gear so unapologetically mimics. For Twin Snakes, Japanese action flick director Ryuhei Kitamura (best known for the film Versus) has reworked the game's cutscenes into a veritable visceral bullet-time extravaganza. Though undoubtedly over the top, these new cutscenes fit into the series quasi-cartoon style world of supernatural abilities and giant walking robots, and though lacking true substance, they give the game a style all of its own. In truth, it is an unneeded alteration, but serves to separate Twin Snakes from Metal Gear Solid, and exhibits production values few games ever warrant or dare display, which can't be a bad thing.
These production values also extend to the sound in The Twin Snakes. The screenplay remains ostensibly unchanged, featuring the same ham-acted good guys and melodramatic antagonist as before. David Hayter reprises the main role with dialogue re-recorded for Twin Snakes, as opposed to recycled in a lower-quality from the original, and delivers the familiar deep growl and dense nature we've come to expect from Solid Snake. Most other actors also return from the original MGS and put in similar performances. However, the decision to change Mei Ling's voice from oriental to a generic American accent has got to be questionable. Also, certain script changes lose something in the translation to English. For instance, calling Otacon, only to hear that "Metal Gear doesn't have a weakness, I like to think of it as a weakness", obviously makes no sense at all. On the whole though, some niggles aside, the reworked voiceover is a superficial success.