Metal Gear Solid thrilled me like nothing before when it first came out, and I still think it's the best one in the series. Subsequent games have added complexity in both gameplay and plot, but for me they've never recaptured the drama and excitement of this entry.
One of the rare occasions where I was genuinely eager to find out what would happen next in a game story, MGS had me playing solidly (no pun intended) until the finale, and not for a single moment was I bored or frustrated or disinterested. It's a greatest hits of action gaming, every area offering a new challenge. It's plainly obvious that Hideo Kojima and his team threw everything they had at the game. They had plenty of fun breaking the fourth wall, too, leading to some very inventive and memorable moments. The variety in the boss battles was great, from hand-to-hand combat to taking out a helicopter with missiles. Though it usually comes under criticism for its aspirations to a movie-like experience people tend to forget that it's packed full of gameplay of all kinds. I never felt short-changed at all.
The sense of place is outstanding, each environment packed with details. The whole thing hangs together beautifully as a consistent setting. Even the much-derided Codec conversations don't bother me here as they did in the immediate sequel because I was so invested in the story and characters, and they helped to make it feel like I was really a part of this adventure. Alongside the Resident Evil games it has one of the best ambient soundtracks I've heard as well. From a technical standpoint it still holds up remarkably well, and I do believe that it's particular style means that it will never look bad.
Reliance on the radar system can lessen the experience, and after a couple of plays I ditched that and moved onto the harder difficulties. It becomes almost a completely new game, and a much more satisfying one.
Cinematic in the very best sense, Metal Gear Solid remains a benchmark for action gaming that its sequels have so far struggled to equal.