Indie Metal Gear replaces Solid Snake with a gritty gecko

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The 22-year-old Metal Gear Solid 1 port we have on PC is patchy at best. It can be a little glitchy, is prone to the odd crash, and whenever I try to play it there’s a 50/50 chance it will forget my input settings. But what if there was an alternative? What if someone put together an exactingly faithful homage? What if it condensed MGS1’s cutscene-heavy sprawl to a tight half hour?

What if you were a literal gecko instead of a figurative snake?

These are the questions Covert Critters dares to ask. Made in 12 days by two developers—sodaraptor and NormalHumanSixx—for Portland’s Summer Slow Jams event, Covert Critters is a nostalgic salute to the first 3D Metal Gear that just so happens to replace the Genome Soldiers and Solid Snake with a flock of birds and a lizard.

Your mission? To infiltrate a nuclear-armed research facility that’s been taken over by terrorists known as the Red Hawks. Using an “arsenal of gadgets and gizmos” that includes drones and boomboxes, your task is stop the terrorists from launching their nukes. Weapons and equipment are, of course, OSP.

The attention to detail across Covert Critter’s eight levels is genuinely impressive for a snack-sized experience. The Hawks wield FAMAS rifles, your boss’ codec frequency is 140.85, and the textures swim in that disorienting PS1 way. You can’t actually fight anyone though: you have to rely on your trusty drone and an inventory of banana peels to scout ahead and lay traps. But considering what a nightmare it was to get someone in a chokehold in the original MGS, that might actually work in Covert Critters’ favour.

It’s a challenging wrinkle: Not being able to resort to combat forces you to think about how you’re going to deal with every new guard and security camera. Plus it’s free and lasts about 30 minutes, so you don’t have much to lose.

As for the real Metal Gear, well, the series still has a patchy presence on PC. The 1987 original and old, barebones ports of Metal Gear Solid 1 and 2 arrived via GOG in September 2020, but 2 was subsequently pulled from sale and has only recently shown signs of returning. Meanwhile, the other games in the series, other than MGS5, have been entombed on consoles since they were released. There have been whispers that the series will return at some point, though, so we might not be waiting long for those games to finally sneak their way onto PC.

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