NEW SKIN - SAME SNAKE.
In the universe of games, there are two ways a classic title can be remade. You either get the complete makeover, or you get the remix - same song, different beat.
``Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes'' finds itself in remix-land. The collaborative effort between Silicon Knights, Konami and Nintendo gives GameCube owners a taste of the joy original PlayStation owners felt years ago. But if you're a fan looking for a brand-new experience, you're probably not going to find it.
This isn't a ``Resident Evil''-type overhaul where even the maps and rooms were redesigned. You're getting a refreshed, next-generation take on one of the greatest games ever created. If you've never played ``Metal Gear Solid'' before, this game will look and play like pure magic. But the spell might not work on the diehards.
For newcomers - you control Solid Snake, a black ops expert recruited to infiltrate an Alaskan nuclear base taken over by terrorists. The first things you'll notice are the visuals, especially the cinematics. The GameCube's considerable power helps the main characters spring to life, allowing them to show off a kind of emotional range that wasn't possible back in the day. The redone scenes also toss in some John Woo-style action elements with off-the-wall humor.
An example of stylish action is a memorable exchange with boss character Sniper Wolf, where Snake dodges a bullet, kicks up a sniper rifle off the ground and catches it. He then does a spin that would make Chow Yun-Fat proud, points the rifle at Wolf (who seems 100 yards away) and fires. Didn't see that on the PSOne.
In addition to the cinematic changes, ``Twin Snakes'' also features new and richer music. The boss melodies are more personalized - listen to the American Indian-style wailing in the background as you fight Vulcan Raven, a giant Inuit who carries a helicopter machine gun. It's a subtle change, but one that adds an extra dimension to a familiar experience.
``Twin Snakes'' also features some control tricks taken from ``Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty'' on the PS2. First and foremost is the ability to switch to first-person mode at any point during the game. Snake can also now grab and hang off edges, somersault and dispose of bodies. Enemy soldiers now ``clear out'' rooms whenever Snake tries to run and hide, and there are bad guys with bulletproof shields.
All these new elements make ``Twin Snakes'' sound like a completely different game. It's not. The story, the dialogue and the emphasis on stealth over strength is still there. Unfortunately, the game has also retained some of its flaws.
The original 1998 title wasn't renowned for its difficulty or length. Anyone who fully explored that game can rip through ``Twin Snakes'' in a day. Despite the new looks and perspectives, you can still beat all of the boss characters the same way. I managed to take out Metal Gear (a walking battle tank) the first time I faced it, and that because I remembered my 1998 strategy. That's a little disheartening. Gamers like curveballs in their remakes, and this game used many of its best pitches on all the sights and sounds.
``Twin Snakes'' is also a victim of its own history. Back in 1998, ``Metal Gear Solid'' was the premier stealth-action game. But a ``Syphon Filter'' and ``Splinter Cell'' later, veteran gamers could wonder why they would want to revisit charted territory.
METAL GEAR SOLID: THE TWIN SNAKES - Three stars
Rated: M for Mature.
In a nutshell: Makeover of classic espionage game looks and plays great but devotees of the original will find little new here.
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