I can’t think of anything better suited for an immersive VR experience than that Metal Gear Solid, a video game series that is so often about simulations, separating truth from falsehood and literal virtual reality. Now, thanks to an inspired modder who is a die-hard fan of the games, you can experience the first three main areas of the 1998 Metal Gear Solid (and some other fun surprises) in VR itself.
«Metal Gear Solid mod“created by modder Holydh, unites the style and aesthetics of the first MGS adventure with highly technical, very realistic-feeling physics and advanced virtual body simulation of popular VR game Boneworks. While Holydh’s mod right now only recreates the first three areas of the game, it’s a very potent concept for how cool it would be to experience Metal Gear Solid in true VR.
It also fits well. Gaming has never been the same since Metal Gear Solid hit the original PlayStation in 1998. While the groundbreaking stealth gameplay evolved from two previous 2D entries for the MSX 2 computer, Metal Gear Solid expanded the series’ storytelling and themes equally. What appeared to be a standard Hollywood-inspired spy thriller gave way to a twisted tale of truth, deception, genetics, advanced technology and government conspiracies.
As it happens, VR is both a staple of the world and gameplay, too Metal Gear Solid and its many sequels that allow players to train in simulated “VR” environments that mirror what you experience in the main games. These maps offer a concentrated experience of Metal Gear Solidits stealthy gameplay loop, challenging you with time trials set in stylized visual representations of what it might look like “inside” a computer. VR is also often referenced in the actual narratives, where it is subject to debate about its effects on a person’s sense of reality.
Metal Gear‘s the famous director Hideo Kojimahas also been known too often toy with the player’s expectations. By promotion Metal Gear Solid Vhe went so far as to hire an actor to play a fake game developer who gave bizarre interviews representing a fictional game studio. MGSVby the way, then continued to do you questioning the very concept of “identity”. If there’s a series that aims to make you question reality, this is it Metal Gear Solid.
Enter Holydh’s “Metal Gear Solid Mod” for Boneworksa VR game known for its rather sophisticated physics and a very Portal-esque narrative mood woven throughout the campaign and overall presentation. As Metal Gear Solid, Boneworks also plays with themes of virtual reality and experiments driven by manipulators beyond your immediate understanding, so while the VR title offers a rich physical palette of game mechanics to dabble with Metal Gear Solid‘s Shadow Moses Island, there is thematic resonance in that Boneworks‘ own narrative also gives room for suspicion about what is happening in the environment around you.
After playing with this mod until very late at night last night, I want to tell you that I still have chills from what I experienced. It felt surreal to move around the opening maps to Metal Gear Solid with my own body in first person, complete with the original graphical presentation largely intact. The environments of the first MGS is burned into my brain from playing it countless times as a youngster. But the obvious novelty of sneaking around vents and corners, getting into gunfights with genome soldiers, and staring up at the towering Metal Gear Rex (it’s parked in the mod’s “museum” area) was always underscored in my mind by literal quotes from games themselves about reality and simulated environments, and where society might go when this technology is sophisticated enough to fool us.
I’ll just give a quote from the character Eva from the 2008s Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots underline everything here:
Today, anyone with a computer can get combat training. The FPS games these kids love are distributed for free by these companies. Of course, it’s all just virtual training. It is so easy for them to get absorbed in these war games. And before they know it, they’re in the PMCs with real guns. These children end up fighting proxy wars that have nothing to do with their own lives. They think it’s cool to fight like that. They believe that struggle is life. They need no reason to fight. After all, to them it’s just a game.
Talking with Kotaku, Holydh described the experience of creating a VR mod based on a series so often concerned with technology manipulating our sense of reality as “amazing and terrifying at the same time.” Holydh’s first exposure to Kojima’s stealth series was through the 1998s Metal Gear Solid, which remains his favorite post. “I play games like I’m reading books,” he said, “to immerse myself in an atmosphere. And VR is just incredible for that.”
The nuts and bolts of this mod are made with original code, but Holydh describes the work as building on the efforts of passionate modders and digital archaeologists who have tweaked the original game to bring these environments to life like never before. That work goes back more than a decade, Holydh said. “I’m like the little guy on the giant’s shoulder. … I met [fellow Metal Gear Solid modder Vapor_Cephalopod] and got into the actual creation of my mod a little over a year ago. But I only started working on it seriously at the end of last year.” He added that the mod has become a “fantastic hobby” that he works on almost every day.
The choice to recreate rooms from Metal Gear Solid is a bit scary considering that the game’s immediate sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Libertyreveals that the events of the first game were sampled and simulated to help train the protagonist. MGS2 protagonist Raiden states that he more or less “played” his way through the events of MGS as part of his VR combat training. MGS2 Referring to the actual game that you may have played yourself as a possible simulation is just one of its many fourth wall-breaking moments. Playing this VR recreation of Shadow Moses Island therefore feels strangely like something said to exist in the series’ own fiction.
Walking around in Metal Gear Solid‘s Shadow Moses in VR feels deeply connected to the revelations of Metal Gear Solid 2, and it was not lost on Holydh. The mod is largely a passion project for him that allows him and others to jump into one of gaming’s most famous environments, but he often thinks about the “meta” in his work. In a way, his VR mod is like a glue that binds the first game to the second.
“I think about it from time to time,” he said. “I’m kind of closing the loop.”
For all the cerebral trips this mod inspires, it’s still not a complete game. You need Boneworks itself and you have to go through a bit of a mod installation maze to get everything going. This is why, aside from adding more playable areas, Holydh hopes to repackage its mod as a standalone experience. However, as the project stands, some patience will be required to make everything work.
Once everything is sorted, you spawn into the room where Solid Snake fought Psycho Mantis. Here you can choose to go to the start of the classic campaign or enter a “museum” that displays various recreated assets from the game, including Metal Gear Rex and many character models and items. There’s even a recreation of the game’s opening submarine area, which is normally only ever visible through a cutscene. Being able to get up close and personal with such classic characters and environments is a joy.
After taking a tour, selecting “Campaign” will trigger the room’s secret door, which in the main game led you to the showdown with Sniper Wolf. Here it warps you to the opening level of the game, where Snake first encountered Shadow Moses.
Currently, the only playable areas are the opening crate/elevator area, the outdoor helipad, and the two-level interior tank hangar. You can use the elevators, find weapons and ammo around the maps, sneak past cameras and guards, and engage in gunfights with a SOCOM pistol, suppressed for stealth or muzzleless for full volume and mayhem.
Knallfiend AI, as well as the difficulty of navigating certain areas (I’ll probably have nightmares now about falling to my death from ladders attached to Metal Gear Rex), retain Boneworks “Metal Gear Solid mod” from feeling like a full game. However, there are some fun discoveries in the environments. It’s been hard to pull off every time, but you can hit enemies over the head to knock them out, or maybe even choke them? I’m not sure about the last one. Between the loving attention to detail and the narrative resonance this fun experience has with the real games, it feels like an authentic Metal Gear experience.
Here I am, standing in rooms that aren’t real, even though my brain feels like they have some sort of reality to them. How can I not think about Snake’s comment to Raiden about VR being able to play with your sense of reality? How can I not think of the countless times Metal Gear games have questioned why I find simulated gunfights, violence and death fun? Is it because I like all the murder? Is that why?
While this mod certainly doesn’t have the answers to those questions, it does lead me down the rabbit holes of puzzles and meta-perspectives that Metal Gear Solid is well loved. The main series’ last entry came seven years agoand the future is uncertain at best. I had given up hope that I could once again experience the classic brain teasers the series loves to pull, but this VR mod got me there in a way that I don’t think a newer, official game actually could. For everything talked about”metaverses” and ways we try give meaning to digital worlds and objectsit Boneworks “Metal Gear Solid mod” shows that such a thing is possible, if not a little terrifying.