In what many call the first cinematic video game experience, Metal Gear Solid truly sets the mold for immersive gaming experiences to come. Combining an involved plot with white knuckles stealth action, you were truly made to feel like a pawn amongst the powerful. This peon like role was only exaggerated by the dire mission, in which you were surrounded by trained killers. One slip up and you were spotted, and that could mean certain death. That is, until one particular item turned the rules of engagement inside out.
As the genome solider slowly paces down the corridor, he wonders how he got stuck on patrol duty again. He also wonders how that Sasaki kid got prison cell guard duty, and how unfair it is he gets to watch the female inmate work out in her panties. On top of that injustice, somebody forgot to make more coffee this morning, and an intruder is rumored to have infiltrated the base via the air ducts. “Bullshit,” the soldier mutters to himself. Only the rats know how to navigate those frigid vents. The guard reaches the end of the hall, scopes the area, and turns on his heel to repeat the patrol route. “What the!?” he cries out loud as he sees a silenced pistol suspended in mid air. The firearm floats inches from his face for a moment, then zips out of his line of sight. Before he can turn around he feels a pair of strong arms envelope him in a sleeper hold, tightening like a boa constrictor around his neck. As consciousness fades from the genome solider, he notices he is being strangled by thin air.
The stealth camo technology in Metal Gear Solid for the PSone was first demonstrated in full badass-ery by the Cyborg Ninja. Seeing the psychopathic, roboticized war veteran basically teleport around the screen for the first time truly memorable. Gray Fox even forced you to play a sadomasochistic game of hide and seek with him, turning on the stealth technology and hiding in Otacon’s lab.
If the Cyborg Ninja’s use of stealth technology was the epitome of awesome, then Otacon’s use of it was the culmination of cowardice. Snake’s long time scientist buddy would use the technology to sneak around the battlefield unseen, offering the hero impromptu support when he could manage the nerve.
So it was that you were forced to play through Metal Gear Solid anticipating every movement of the enemy. Sure the game was sub-titled “Tactical Espionage Action,” but who didn’t want to try being invisible the whole game? Well, assuming you couldn’t hold out during the Ocelot’s torture minigame, you would receive the ending in which Ocatcon lives and Meryl dies. This meant unlocking the ultimate tool in sneaking technology, “stealth camo.”
The stealth item was equipped like any other non-weapon item in the game, such as night vision goggles. If the player equipped stealth and kept their firearm holstered, they could successfully do somersaults in front of their enemies without being noticed. No more hiding in boxes, and no more crawling under desks. Using stealth was the ultimate exercise in catharsis after painstakingly abiding by Metal Gear Solid’s sneaking premise.
Even more fun than running up behind a genome solider unseen and breaking their neck, was playing mind games with them. Similar to the fun you had misleading the soldiers with your snowy shoe prints, you could use stealth to knock on walls inches away to confuse them. Even more, you could equip your pistol and run circles around soldiers, confusing them to no end.
Sure, using stealth made the game laughably easy, but you earned it. Stealth camo will go down in the franchise’s history as the first time we actually felt empowered in a game that strived to keep us down. If the world of Metal Gear could be so drastically tilted in your favor with this item, imagine what it could do for your world.