Is the MGS series worth playing through? I am really wary because I hear they are heavily story/cutscene-driven but people with good taste seem to like them and I love the visual design.
The thing is, however long the cutscenes are (and they get way too long with some of the longest clocking in at 90 minutes), there’s an equal dedication to the gameplay systems. Beyond that, Kojima has no problems with using gamey abstractions wherever he wants with no hint of irony. Characters will actively tell you to press the action button when needed. He makes up things like jungles in Russia when it suits him. There’s the Soliton Radar based on “currently existing technology”. MGS3 introduced the “Active Reload” system, which allowed you to reload a gun by unequipping it, also canceling that gun’s animation. This was mentioned in the manual. MGS games break the 4th wall frequently without making a joke.
Beyond that, they’re just good games. The first one is kind of rough and simple, don’t know if I’d really advocate it, but it has its moments like vulcan raven. The second one onwards is where it really comes into its own. The games offer an absurd number of options to the player in how to distract enemies, take them down, manipulate their AI, and even simply move around.
I’d personally consider Metal Gear Solid 3 the actual best stealth game ever made. You can capture animals, live or dead, to serve as food. They all help different amounts. Some can be released to distract guards. Some are poisonous. You can also poison guards by blowing up their food supply, then tossing them rotten food, which they’ll eat. You can knock guards out, shoot their limbs, then they’ll walk with a limp. You have disguises where you need to show your face to some people and hide it from others, camouflage based on floor tiles, a stamina meter that depletes based on how much you’re carrying at one time. It has bizarre things like spinning snake in the survival viewer to get him to throw up, which can actually help food poisoning. You can knock on walls, throw expended magazines, shoot guards in the foot so they’ll fall asleep later rather than sooner, timing it for the perfect moment, or in the head to take them out now. You can diveroll through windows or over walls. You can of course hold guards up, shoot out their radios so they can’t call for help, interrogate them, and throw them to the ground, knocking them out. You can plant TNT and remotely detonate it. You can fake kill yourself and come back to life. You can leave dirty magazines on the ground to occupy guard attention. All the bosses leave you special items if you can take them out nonlethally.
The Metal Gear Solid series is fantastic. It has this amazing dedication to simulation as a way of augmenting gameplay complexity, not for a sense of realism or immersion, and frequently has characters tell you to press the action button, or comes up with awesome abstractions that fit the gameplay really well.
It’s the bizarre perfect split between a story focus and a gameplay focus. There’s nothing else like it.