Part 3: Episode III: Sneaking Salamander
Stage Start (This one might be familiar to ya...)
And so we finally begin the game with Snake gliding down to the ground following his HALO jump back during the briefing. A patrolling guard would have clearly seen his descent were Gindran troops not afflicted with the same degenerative disease preventing upward head movement and peripheral vision which afflicted the Genome Soldiers over on Shadow Moses Island.
Snake is able to jog from his initial landing position all the way into a single screen before he is interrupted by his first of no doubt many Codec calls.
"Successful HALO landing, I see."
"Nothing like skydiving at dawn. Present location, 3km south of fortress. Heavy security; sentries ahead."
"Snake, make sure you stay out of their sight."
"Watch the radar to keep track of enemy movements. I'll go over it again just in case."
Mei Ling briefly goes over the radar. But long story short...the Game Boy Color had a 160 x 144 sized screen (these screenshots are 3x that.) You couldn't see that tiny ass radar for SHIT when playing this game, making it about as useful as an asshole on your elbow as far as a tool to evade enemies goes. The single pixel white dot indicates enemies' position but nothing useful like the direction they're facing or anything fancy like that. I guess it took Mei Ling three more years to figure out that tech.
At best, it serves as a really crappy map. It also gets knocked out if you're spotted by an enemy. So there's that.
"...work with Delta Force to rescue the researchers, and destroy Metal Gear. Orders will be relayed via the Codec. My frequency is 140.85; call if anything turns up. To use the Codec, just press SELECT, and then START. We'll be in touch; when a call sounds, push the SELECT button to receive."
"Raise me on frequency 140.96 when you need to save."
"Buttons... Saving...? I still don't know what this all MEANS."
"First, get to the front of the fortress; cut northward through the jungle you're in."
Stage 1 Theme
And so we finally get to begin playing the game. Apparently they forgot to pack Snake a box lunch or any kind of weapon for the whole saving the world from a hostile, nuclear armed nation. I guess it sorta kinda made sense in Metal Gear Solid where they shot him out of a torpedo and he had to swim the rest of the way so Snake had to travel light. But...I think that parachute could have handled a few extra pounds for a pistol and a couple magazines of ammo. But details...
What they DID give Snake for the trip is a
See? the little puff of smoke animates out of Snake's HAND not his mouth. Why does it come in puffs...? Err... Look, we've got a Sneaking Mission to attend to. No more dawdling around.
Well, okay. Maybe a LITTLE more dawdling around. Let's take a quick look at the Codec. We've got the digits for Colonel Campbell and Mei Ling. Both have the same frequency as back in Metal Gear Solid. Indeed, the Colonel has been rocking that number since back in Metal Gear 2. Cyber Campbell and Major Zero also used that for the designated commander character frequency in Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3.
Snake calls 140.85...
"Proceed northward and stay out of the enemy's way at all cost."
And... That's all he has to say. Campbell is remarkably useless for calling on the codec as he does nothing other than give the most generic advice possible or repeat what he said in the mandatory codec call. As such, we'll probably not be checking in with him very much.
Snake calls 140.96...
140.96 has been the designated game saving character number for most of the series. Mei Ling got it in Metal Gear Solid. Then Otacon stole it for a bit in the Tanker Chapter of MGS2 before (UGH) Rosemary took it over for the second half of the game. And Paramedic had it last in Snake Eater. Guns of the Patriots just had Otacon pulling double duty with saving but that game pretty much gutted Codec calls anyway so meh... Anyway, Mei Ling will chatter a bit whenever Snake saves his game.
"...mission, but as long as you have confidence in yourself, you can carry it out. 'Confidence is the first rule of success', like Emerson said."
"Emerson? So you're a literature expert too?"
"Aha, I knew you had me pegged as a hardware geek."
"No, not exactly but..."
"Well, you know... Designing the radar and err...'saving'... seems pretty techie. Question... Is there any way I can make this radar screen picture... I don't know.... slightly bigger than a postage stamp?"
"Sorry, the technology isn't exactly there yet."
"You know, I did take electives in college. I purposefully tried to learn things outside of my major too. I'd rather be a well-balanced engineer."
So that's why you're always quoting?"
"Not to knock a hobby or anything, but some people might find that a bit pretentious..."
"It's not like I'm always throwing out quotations in conversation. I'm just trying to help you out during the mission. What would you have me do instead? Talk about old movies?"
"No. No movie talk. I've sworn those off for a while. I got burned by the last one I spent money to see."
"Attack of the Clones."
"There's a lot to learn from things different people have said. I'll make sure you get your exposure too."
Alright, now we can properly begin our sneaking mission. Here's a handy little map of the first area for reference sake. I hope you don't mind too much StarFighters76. You know how the Colonel said Snake had to proceed through a jungle?
Yeah...it's less "jungle" and more "hedge maze". Look, landscaping is a huge industry in Gindra. We can't pass judgment on their way of life. It's been a while since I've LPed a game with a hedge maze. I think the last one was old Ramon Salazar's garden. Ah...memories.
At the moment, Snake is unarmed so we ought to fix that before proceeding to the next area. But, even unarmed Snake is still able to punch bad guys. And indeed punching the shit out of people is a pretty damn effective way of dealing with sentries. Three punches will knock out a guard for a solid 30 seconds or so and guards are stun locked while being punched so there's virtually no risk of being caught as long as the first blow lands. When the guard wakes back up, he'll just shrug off his mild concussion and resume his patrol.
Really, the only two downsides of beating the shit out of everyone is the punch will be heard by nearby guards and they'll run over to investigate. And if the guard wakes up and gets beaten up a second time Snake will punch them to DEATH. Which will reflect negatively on the score for the level if you're into that kinda thing.
A bit to the east of where we begin are a couple of parked trucks left unattended. Snake is free to hop in any of these to check out the...
...surprisingly roomy interior. Christ, you could probably transport a Metal Gear in the back of one of these things.
In the back of the truck to the left we'll find our first Ration. In this game, and most of the early titles until Snake Eater, rations served as health pick-ups. They can be either used manually for a health boost or equipped and automatically used when Snake's health is depleted. Using rations will also decrease the level rating if you're into that sort of thing. In Ghost Babel (at least on Normal difficulty) Snake is limited to just 2 rations early on.
Heading north to the next area and to the northwest corner of the hedge maze will produce Solid Snake's first proper weapon: the FN Five-seveN. It's your basic pistol. Two shots will kill any guard. However the gun is unsuppressed and any nearby baddies will be alerted to Snake's presence if he fires it. So we won't be doing that until we find its buddy: the silencer.
One feature making the jump over to the 2D games from its PSX cousin is the ability to press up against walls. Not really too useful as the guards' tunnel vision will prevent them from seeing Snake regardless of his position against the wall. But while pressed up on surfaces, Snake can tap on the wall to get a patrolmen's attention in order to sneak around 'em. It works on any surface. Even bushes!
Further into the compound, we'll come across two other tools of our stealth gameplay. Mud and tall grass. What, you thought Metal Gear Solid 3 was the first game to use the environments to sneak around? Solid Snake was doing that back on '00 buddy. Typing '00 I realize I have no idea how you'd say that without sounding like an ass. "Zero Zero"? "O-O"? Double Ought? Meh... That decade was lame.
When moving through mud, Snake will walk at about half speed and make a lot of noise sloshing about. But if he crawls in mud he'll dive beneath the surface and become completely invisible to guards for the duration. However, Solid Snake can only pretend to be a pig for as long as his O2 meter lasts. Which is only about 30 seconds. So he can't spend all day covered in shit avoiding bad guys.
Tall grass works sort of the same way as mud but without the oxygen loss. It's not quite as effective as mud since guards will notice Snake if he's particularly close to their view. But you're still effectively invisible at range.
Anyway, not much more going on in the rest of Stage 1. Snake makes his way past Gindra's famous shitpile river and then jogs forth into...
...Galuade. Or Outer Heaven, as it used to be called. It's now a giant doom tower, by the way. Not sure when that happened. Campbell...probably could have afforded to mention that in the briefing. But the title "Ghost Babel" suddenly makes a bit more sense...
And so concludes Stage 1 of Metal Gear: Ghost Babel. A whole 3:22 seconds of gameplay without cutscene interruption.