In 1998, Metal Gear Solid was released and essentially triggered the next stage of evolution in modern gaming. Until its release, action/adventure titles were largely relegated to variations of the platformers and side-scroll shooters made famous by the 8 and 16-bit systems. The ability for the PlayStation to render 3-dimensional graphics allowed developers such as Metal Gear Solid’s Hideo Kojima to start experimenting with gameplay models. The original 8-bit Metal Gear’s always focused on stealth, as opposed to coming right out and spraying all of your enemies with bullets, and Kojima effectively birthed the modern Stealth title when he merged the gameplay of old with technology of new.
The series introduced a number of innovations besides the mere concept. As the protagonist, government infiltrator Solid Snake maintains a constant means of communication with Colonel Campbell the anti-terrorist organization to which he belongs. This is done by way of a CODEC system that allows the player to pause the game at any time and radio in for advice on the present situation in the game. Additionally, the series was one of the first to introduce a distinct cinematic presentation as a way of progressing through a game. Using in-game cut scenes and an ever-evolving camera system, the gamer is treated to a film-like experience when elements of the story are divulged. This would go on to be a staple of high-caliber releases such as Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series.
Metal Gear Solid 2 continued to fine-tune the structure initiated by its predecessor. While maintaining the same elements of gameplay, it was the ingenuity and complexity of the storyline and the themes it explored that really pushed the boundaries of narrative structure within games. Titles such as Killer 7 would go on to experiment with these boundaries even further.
With Metal Gear Solid 3, an emphasis was made on realism, something games have hardly been known for. In this title, in addition to infiltrating yet another terrorist organization, this time in the jungle, the player had to physically care for the well-being of Solid Snake, going so far as to have to eat and tend to injuries in order to fully heal. Also, as the game is set in the jungle, further emphasis is put on stealth and camouflage as a means of progressing through the game.
With Metal Gear Solid 4, the addition of Solid Snakes Psyche was introduced. In keeping with the realism factor achieved with past titles, there were now numerous factors that would affect how “well” Solid Snake was in the game, thus affecting his and the players performance. Also, the scope of the game was unmatched by any at this point, and is as deserving of the label “epic” as any game that has come since.