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You’ve probably seen the same old rhetoric about how Metal Gear Solid was one of the greatest stealth-action titles of its time numerous times by now. Hey, at least it’s true! Gripping writing, challenging gameplay, and stellar graphics were just a few reasons why it was critically praised by journalists and gamers alike. Plus, you could hide in a cardboard box to fool guards. In 1999, Konami released Metal Gear Solid: Special Missions, an odd expansion pack full of training missions, mini-games and a few bizarre boss encounters. It’s a challenging, yet gratifying, addition to the series.
A whopping 300 Virtual Reality missions are included, at the expense of any sort of plot. The vast majority of these bite-sized stages are made up of giant colourful blocks floating in a digital void. More game modes are unlocked as you complete a certain percentage of stages, which can be a daunting task. It also comes with remixed versions of the music from the original Metal Gear games, and they’re a real treat. Otherwise, it looks and feels just like the original game, right down to the controls and movement.
First off, you get Sneaking Mode, where you must reach the goal without being spotted by the guards, cameras or spotlights. Once again, stealth is Solid Snake’s greatest weapon here, but you also get to try out the same selection of maps with a silenced pistol. Weapon Mode has you destroying targets with one of each weapon from the main game, like the claymores, remote-controlled rocket launcher, sniper rifle, etc. Meanwhile, Advanced Mode has you taking on armed guards instead of moving targets. You can play these missions in Time Attack mode with a limited amount of time and ammo. Sure, they may seem like rehashes, and while some of them are nail-bitingly frustrating, trying to get your score on the Top 3 rank list can be pretty tense.
1 Minute Battle and VS. 12 Battle has you up against targets and guards, either with a single weapon or a small selection of ‘em. These have plenty of replayability since you’re always trying to top your score, and aren’t needing to be stealthy all the time. The Puzzle, Variety and NG Selection modes, however, are pretty inconsistent in both quality and difficulty. They tend to throw some pretty wacky and unusual twists your way, like a battle with a 50-foot tall
guard or having to knock an enemy in a pool of lava with a rocket launcher. Some of them are bloomin’ frustrating since you’ll have to experiment a lot in order to find out how to pull them off. A few of the gimmicky ones are fun for at least one playthrough, like the Mystery mode, where you must examine a murder scene and drag the killer to the goal.
Some of the more unique special modes include VR Mission, which is made up of 10 exciting levels with no breaks in between. There’s a few missions that let you play as the cyborg Ninja for the first time; now you can leap around and slash enemies for maximum satisfaction. It kinda sucks that these missions require you to have a very high completion rate, which is no easy feat. Oh, and there’s a photography mode, but it’s not like taking snaps of low-poly models of Mei Ling or Naomi was ever fun to begin with, even in 1999.
While it may have its fair share of filler and gimmicks, Metal Gear Solid: Special Missions is bound to please most fans with the amount of levels on offer. It’ll definitely take a fair bit of effort to get to the meat of it all, and some of them are about as fun as plucking out your own bum hair. Still, its ranked game modes are well worth retrying, and the Ninja missions are proper bang-tidy (OK, Keith Lemon – Ed). It works really well as a training section and a distraction from the main game.