Title :Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions
Platforms :Sony PlayStation
Publisher :Konami
ESRB Rating :Mature
Game Rating :9.0
Review by :Ken Gagne

Metal Gear Solid was fantastic, but it wasn't enough. "More!" screamed the gaming masses when they finished the 1998 Game of the Year. Konami was happy to oblige — but not in the way we expected. Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions expands on the original MGS's Virtual Training mode, upping the number of missions from ten to over 300. It's not a full-featured game like MGS, but it's surprisingly fun. 

MGS VR Missions puts stealth-spy Solid Snake in VR training. He must learn the fine arts of munitions and stealth to make it to the goal in each level. There are several different types of missions: 

  • Sneaking: make it to the goal as quickly as possible. If Snake is spotted by enemy sentries, whom he may be required to eliminate, then the mission is aborted. 
  • Weapon: practice against targets with each of the eight weapons at Snake's disposal. 
  • Advanced: same as Weapon, except against live opponents. 
  • Special: here's where the fun really starts. There are eight sub-categories to Special, including some you'd never expect from a Metal Gear game. Defeat as many enemies as you can in a minute, or defeat a dozen using limited weapons; slice up the guards as the ninja, Gray Fox; or even solve a murder mystery. (a dead body was found, the only clue: a blue popsicle… whodunnit?) 

All levels must be completed to get a rating of 100%. Some levels have multiple modes, such as practice and time attack. Sometimes the monotony of the levels can be frustrating, such as with the Standard missions, each of which must be completed four times: practice and time attack, weaponless and with Socom (handgun). As some levels are finished, others become playable, with a few extras: MGS movie clips (shown at the Tokyo Game Show (TGS) and E3), and a photo shoot between Solid Snake and government doctor Naomi Hunter. 

You don't have to be extremely competitive to enjoy VR Missions. Time attacks give the three best times, and to not rank requires a major mess-up. And if you really messed up, chances are you'll want to try again anyway. Since the more levels become available as you progress, there's a wide selection of missions and mission types to tackle. In some ways, VR Missions has more variety and requires more skills than MGS! 

Snake must use all his skills to make it through his training. He can walk, run, crawl, duck, and slide along walls; guards can be made to follow footprints or sounds and, when encountered, can be punched, kicked, choked, and dragged. Players will need to consider innovative uses for the weapons, from sniper rifles to grenades to C4. Since stealth is often mandatory, running in with guns blazing will prove futile. 

VR Missions' engine is the same as the one used in MGS. Play occurs from a 3/4ths overhead perspective, with different camera angles for peeking around corners, aiming certain weapons, or looking through first-person view. The background is a repeating montage of computer displays, which can be a bit monotonous throughout 300 missions. The enemies are the stock Siberian soldiers. Little extras like sneezing guards, punctuation marks appearing over their heads to indicate realizations, and Snake leaving footprints in the snow add a sense of realism to the game. 

The sound and music is similarly left unchanged from MGS, except the vast amounts of spoken dialogue are, naturally, absent. The music rarely changes from stage to stage, but fortunately sets an appropriate mood for Snake's sneaking. When he's discovered by the guards, the alarm will have the player's heart pounding. 

VR Missions takes several hours to finish. Beyond that, the replay value is up to you. If you're happy to be done, then the game's over; if going back and getting better times on the time trials sounds appealing, then you have many more hours of play ahead. 

This game is rated "M" for Mature, though it perhaps could've sneaked by with a Teen rating. There is some mild language, a little blood, and a lot of death by various ways, including snapping an adversary's neck. Guards do not experience dismemberment, and simply disappear when killed. 

VR Missions is not Metal Gear Solid 2, but it's an entertaining spin-off of the original universe. At the time of this writing, VR Missions has been available for ten months, and can be found new for only $20. There's still some time before MGS2: Sons of Liberty (PlayStation 2) is available, so head back into Snake's world with this solid offering. 

This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Video Gaming Central (CompuServe), 26-Aug-00