When I say "different", I suppose I mean that all the characters you fight as bosses in MGS1 feel much more tightly integrated into the narrative than later boss characters, and this was a regular source of disappointment for me in other series installments. I'll try to explain what I mean.
The members of FOXHOUND whom you fight are all very developed, fleshed-out characters in their own right. Vulcan Raven, Sniper Wolf, Revolver Ocelot, and Psycho Mantis all have their own histories and motivations for being where they are, all of which are explored in nicely packed miniature arcs that culminate in a fight against the starring antagonist (This is a little less true for Ocelot, but he's a recurring character whom we find out more and more about throughout the series). Even characters you don't fight like Decoy Octopus have an important role to play in the story, to say nothing of the more headlining baddies like Liquid and Gray Fox. I feel this was a huge part of what MGS1 feel like such a monumental game when it came out.
Weirdly, frustratingly, I feel like Kojima never continued this philosophy around antagonists in future games, and would instead cherrypick one or two antagonists to focus one while everyone else got the short shrift. In MGS2, this was Ocelot/Liquid (at the time) and Solidus, to results I think a lot of people felt were mixed. Fatman, Fortune, and Vamp all felt pretty ephemeral to events, and Vamp in particular was a deeply confusing character (how the hell was he doing so many supernatural feats?) that never get a full explanation in the game he debuts in.
MGS3 continues this tradition, with the main narrative thrust on the antagonist end resting on Ocelot, The Boss, and Volgin. The members of COBRA seem very cool, but rather one-note and gimmicky, and most of them barely have any dialogue outside of combat. You don't get to know anything about them beyond snippets provided by conversations with codec partnets, and they exist rather transparently as obstacles to challenge you and be overcome to continue with the game.
MGS4 manages to get even worse with the Beauties and Beasts, who have no dialogue at all and have their entire, pained backstories exposited by Drebin after you kill them.
I haven't played Ground Zeroes/MGS5, but have no reason to believe Kojima did anything differently there. It seems like a deliberate design choice after so many games, and it seems an odd one to me since I feel MGS1 is so much better for the investment it places in all of its antagonists. I'm curious if i'm alone in this or if anyone else feels similarly.
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