MetaFilter Solid 4: Wisdom of the MeFites
June 2, 2008 10:31 PM   Subscribe

MetaFilter Solid: New Playstation owner, getting Metal Gear Solid 4, but I've never played any of the earlier games. How can I best get up to speed?

I looked on Wikipedia for the story summaries, but they're incredibly short, and since the stories are notoriously confusing anyway, the passages actually made my eyes hurt.

Also, since I'm enmeshed in GTA IV right now, playing the first three MGS games doesn't seem like a good (or efficient) option.

Is there a better way for me to get acquainted with the characters and events, or are the Wikipedia blurbs the best I've got?

Also, if some or most of the previous games' content isn't going to be all that relevant, I'd love to know what I can just ignore.

So come out from under those cardboard boxes and help me out!
posted by Doctor Suarez to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I haven't played MGS 4 yet obviously, but MGS 2 and 3 are two of my favorite games ever, any platform.

One of the things that your character has in MGS2 and 3 is a radio he can use to contact people. At different points in the game, you can talk to different people who will tell you different things. One of these people is always there to give you the backstory you need (if any) to understand what's going on at that point in the game. They took great pains to make sure that the player new to the game would have enough backstory to know what's going on. This does mean that you can't skip cutscenes, but the cutscenes are top notch and very entertaining.

Both MGS2 and MGS3 have epic plots - each one could easily be a cheap paperback trilogy, if novelized. After you finish MGS4 I do recommend going back and playing the previous 2; they're spectacular and they hold up well over time.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:14 PM on June 2, 2008

I think it's MGS3 (though could be wrong) that comes in a special-edition version accompanied by a video of someone playing through the whole game. That would probably be quicker than playing yourself but might ruin future enjoyment.

I've only played 3 (end of last year, I'm not really with the trends when it comes to games...) and picked up enough of the backstory from that and from a bit of more specific internet-hunting to not feel confused
posted by gregjones at 11:38 PM on June 2, 2008

Apparently you are all missing out, because the first MGS was one of the best video games ever made, period. While the gameplay elements in 2 and 3 advanced, as one would expect, neither reached the pinnacle of interactive storytelling that the first achieved, partially because they both got quite a bit weirder. Three, however, was significantly better than two, which gives me hope for four.

As for the actual question, I'd like to imagine that there's a full play through of the games hiding somewhere on YouTube, but I don't know that for certain. Honestly, I think you're depriving yourself if you don't actually play through all three of them; even the high weirdness that is two has some truly worthy bits of gameplay and story in there.
posted by Caduceus at 12:00 AM on June 3, 2008

Best answer: Ignore the following paragraph and play MGS 1-3. No? OK:

I highly recommend the Gametrailers Metal Gear retrospective. Michael Abbot of Brainy Gamer also posted a Metal Gear Primer that I have not reviewed, however his writing is generally reliable and engaging, so I imagine his primer is likely to be useful.
posted by thedaniel at 12:35 AM on June 3, 2008

Rumor has it that MSG4 will have 90-minute cut scenes, so the complexity of the story is likely getting kicked up a notch. Gotta believe that a substantial percentage of that time will be devoted to newbie-friendly catch-up content.
posted by jbickers at 3:52 AM on June 3, 2008

Chances are, the Retronauts podcast will probably cover it, if they haven't already... I wish they were a bit more organized about their discussions, but they're a bunch of really nerdy / knowledgeable / insightful guys who work in the game industry, so they generally do a good job of going through the history of the series and putting it all into some kind of context.
posted by ph00dz at 6:18 AM on June 3, 2008

Seconding Gametrailer's Retrospectives. They not only give a rundown of the plots of each Metal Gear, but they also give history lessons on how the series progressed technically.

In fact, watch the other retrospectives while you're at it, too Watching the Final Fantasy series made me want to re-play FFVIII :x
posted by carpyful at 7:28 AM on June 3, 2008

MGS1-3 are all amazing, MGS1 being the best. There is a PC version swimming around (I got one sometime around 2001..) that might still be available on Amazon or something.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 7:52 AM on June 3, 2008

even the high weirdness that is two has some truly worthy bits of gameplay and story in there.

Not to mention that Harry Gregson-Williams seriously cut loose with some the best music he's ever composed in his career.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 7:54 AM on June 3, 2008

2nding the thedaniel here, both the Retrospective and the Primer are pretty good summaries. Although, I have to say, while playing MGS 1-3 may not be an efficient option it isn't expensive. And there is nothing quite like experiencing the narrative unraveling in "real(play)time" rather than in canned summaries and edited webvids.
posted by lilnemo at 3:55 PM on June 3, 2008

I believe there's a Playstation Network download called "Metal Gear Encyclopedia" or somesuch that can get you up to speed . . . though I guess now that it's almost a month after the release, you don't need this anymore. for posterity however

I just played MGS4 and loved it, but a lot of what I loved about it depended on the experience of playing the earlier games. Knowing the story is an imperfect substitute. For example, the battle at the very end of Act 4 between [redacted] and [redacted] is tremendously enhanced by having encountered these [redacted] in MGS and MGS2 respectively.
posted by grobstein at 12:51 PM on July 8, 2008

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