Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater comes at a most inopportune time for Konami. With a full load of games coming out in November along with heavy hitters like Halo 2 on Xbox and Half-Life 2 on the PC, MGS3 has sort of flown under the radar. The game certainly does not have as much hype surrounding it as Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, where the hype engine started turning as soon as the game was shown off at E3 2000, through the release of the demo with Zone of the Enders and finally with the release of the game in November 2001. Then people got the surprise of their lives when they found out they didn’t play Solid Snake throughout the whole game and those that made it through to the end felt thoroughly confused by the ending. What did it all mean and why the heck was Raiden naked in a section? For those looking for answers to those questions in MGS3, there are a few…but many more questions are left.
A lot of people are going to be apprehensive about picking up MGS3 and wonder whether it’s going to be more grounded in the original Metal Gear Solid‘s roots or if it will be a codec/cutscene filled game with little action elements and a swerve out of left field like MGS2. I’m here to tell you that MGS3 combines the best parts of the two previous games and creates an all-new experience where you do indeed play Snake through the whole game, although this is a different Snake than the one in MGS and MGS2 since this game takes place in 1964.
MGS3 takes the best parts of MGS2, such as the engine MGS2 and new hand-to-hand combat options. This game also takes the best parts of the original game with the interesting boss battles. To be honest, the boss battles are an experience not to be missed and they easily stand as MGS3‘s greatest asset when you take the game as a whole. However there is a lot more to like as well in this game, so let’s get to the scores.
Somehow Hideo Kojima’s team and Konami itself makes the Playstation 2 do tricks that many other developers cannot. The graphics are phenomenal in this game and I noticed slowdown very rarely. The in-engine cutscenes are top notch, although the lip syncing is out of sync a lot, but that is probably because the mouths were created with Japanese dialogue in mind.
This game is a lot brighter than Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was, which mostly took place on a ship in stormy waters and a tanker that wasn’t the best lit place around. This time you’ll find yourself going through environments that are both dark and very bright. You’ll even come along areas where you will be doing things both in the day and night. The graphics are just jaw-dropping, but that isn’t a surprise given how powerful MGS2 was in the graphics category when it came out.
The environmental effects are easily the most noticeable difference in this game. As you’re going through thick grass while prone the leaves bend as you move through them. If you’re in the water you will see waves as you move through them. There are animals all around and you have to catch them in order to keep your stamina up, something I will talk about later. There is a large variety of animals through the game and some are even poisonous to you, so be careful.
I have to say this is the best graphics on the Playstation 2 I’ve seen in a long time, even outdoing Jak 3 (note I have not played Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal as of yet).
The sound and music are top notch, just as they have been with the other 2 games. David Hayter comes back to voice Snake again and I at least feel he does a little change in his voice in order to let people know this isn’t Solid Snake you’re playing as, but the voice is very familiar. The other voice actors do wonderful jobs, although some lines can be a little dead with emotion as they are being spoken. This is a pretty new voice group since the game is based in 1964 and although there are some younger versions of other MGS characters present, their voices are vastly different. I miss some of the voice actors from previous games, but I do realize this is a different era I’m playing in.
The big award goes to the boss voice actors. Each one is well done and many of their voices will strike fear into you, especially if you have Dolby Pro Logic II decoding on. They may repeat themselves from time to time as you are in the elongated battles, but their voices are so good and fit the characters so well.
The game is full of cutscenes and codec talk, although it doesn’t overtake the game like many thought they did in MGS2. The general game sounds are also done very well. The guns sound realistic and the environments have their own nature sounds in them. Who ever knew that Russia had jungles like the ones Snake had to go through?
The one minus in this category is the theme song “Snake Eater”. It’s cool to watch the opening movie after the prologue, which blatantly rips off the James Bond movie intros, but I could do without the song. Hearing the singer sing “Snake Eatahhhhhhhh” in full vibrato a few times will make you go crazy. It probably would have sounded cooler had they kept the Japanese lyrics, but who really knows. The theme song here is just not as good as in MGS2…my one lone gripe in this section.
If you played Metal Gear Solid 2 then you’ve pretty much got the MGS3 controls down to a science. The biggest addition to the game is the Survival screen. You hit start and a survival screen comes up. From here you can choose what weapons/items to have ready to equip through your backpack, check on what animals you have that you can eat to gain stamina and you can perform medical tasks on yourself (a cool thing all by itself). The menus are all well laid out and easy to get to.
I found the first-person shooting interface to be very similar to MGS2, so it was quite easy to get the hang of. Remember to invert the controls if you like to reverse the vertical axis on games like this.
It is quite easy to recommend Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, even to people that didn’t like Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty all that much. You play as Snake throughout the whole game, although it is obvious this is not Solid Snake we are playing as, but someone totally different from 1964. Basically Snake’s mission is to get a scientist named Sokolav out of Russia and back to the United States where his family waits for him. The Russians blackmailed him back to work on his top secret project called the Shagohod, a mechanical robot which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Metal Gears of the present day games. It is obvious early on that Hideo Kojima is going to give us the backstory of what happened before the events of the first Metal Gear on the NES where Solid Snake took down Big Boss.
In my mind there is a lot of excellent storytelling here and although there are a few “out there” conversations and ideas if you delve deep into codec talk, the crazy things are kept to a real minimum this time around. You will get some answers to questions you have now as well as questions you never dreamed of. Although there is no time jumping to the present day, MGS3 does a good job of explaining everything that happened back at the beginning of the whole Metal Gear mess.
Giving away more about the game would be unkind because there is a lot to find out and understand. Questions you had at the end of MGS2 are somewhat answered by this game or you are lead enough to draw your own conclusions based on the information given. There will be some shocking moments as you go through the game, although many people may already know what the shocking things are as you read this. In the end though this is very much a game about a rookie Snake growing into his own and having to take down a group that is more experienced than he is that is run by a person that knows Snake all too well.
The big changes with this game are the use of camouflage, the necessity of food for stamina, the Close Quarters Combat and the ability to treat your wounds. As you go through the game you will pick up different articles of camouflage both for your face and uniform. Depending on what you wear you can blend in with the environment better and make yourself virtually invisible to guards. This helps a lot since most of the game is made up of sneaking into places. Add to this the fact that you no longer have an active map that shows you where you are and where enemies are and camouflage becomes much more important. Yes, there is no radar, although you do have a motion detector and animal detector that run on batteries. The motion detector is especially useful against at least one of the main bosses.
Food is also very important in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but it isn’t as annoying as you may initially think. Basically everywhere you go there are animals that you can kill or tranquilize and eat once your stamina bar is going down (the bar below the health bar). If your stamina gets too low it affects your aim and many other things. In order to keep in tip-top shape you need to eat the animals that are around. It is as simple as killing them or knocking them out. They change into items and you pick them up. When you want to eat you hit Start and go into the Food sub-menu and eat from there. Be careful if you have food with flies on it as it may have become tainted and may take away from Snake’s stamina.
Close Quarters Combat is new this time around as well. CQC is involved once you grapple with an enemy. There are a number of things you can do, such as interrogate him while holding a knife to his throat, throw him aside, use him as a human shield, etc. Once you are done interrogating you can also kill them with the knife or blow their brains out with a gun. You can get a lot of information from the guards, so the CQC is an excellent ability that you can use a lot. You very much have the choice between killing everyone or taking them out while sneaking around, the way you play the game is totally open.
You can also treat wounds in this game via the Start menu. Gunshot wounds, poison, leeches, etc. can all happen to you. You go into the menu and after you get a short explanation of how it works you can disinfect, suture and bandage your wounds, take bullets and arrows out with a knife, etc. It’s all very cool and even though it may sound meticulous it actually isn’t. You will be using this a lot because Snake can automatically regenerate health, but his wounds have to be healed for it to work at an optimum level.
By far the thing that will stay with you the most after you beat the game will be the boss battles. The bosses presented here are not the pansy or odd bosses that were present in MGS2 and they are a lot more like the bosses in the original Metal Gear Solid. Each boss here is named “The (something)” and they are part of the Cobra group. Their only task is to make sure Snake is put to rest. Get ready for some really interesting boss battles, some of which will take a long time to beat. There’s even one boss that takes into account everything you’ve done up to that point, but I don’t want to give too much away because it is it’s something to experience. They are an interesting group of people and you’re going to have a heck of a time with a lot of them.
Overall the story and gameplay are simply top notch in this game. This game is longer than the last one and it probably has more cutscenes and codecs, but each of those had a lot to do with the game and not going off on tangents like many of the ones in MGS2 did. This truly is a game to behold and should bring those betrayed by MGS2 back into the fold.
This game can take quite a while to beat depending on how you go after it. It took me about 15 hours to beat and I have heard of people taking upwards of 30 hours to beat the game. There is a bunch of mini-games to play, such as trying to round up the monkeys from the Ape Escape series and trying to find hidden frogs in the game. You also can go online to download more camouflage and once you beat the game you get a special brand of camouflage that you can then go through the game again with. All in all, this game has more bang for your buck than the last game did unless you take into account the Substance re-issue.
Another interesting thing with this game is that there are a lot of hidden things that you probably won’t know about unless you pick up the Official Strategy Guide. For instance, there is a boss that you can kill early on so you don’t have to face them at the regular boss battle time. There are also certain places where you can save the game, come back to it and go through an interesting sequence. There is even a time-based hidden feature as well. There’s a lot of love that went into this game and giving Snake the opportunity to take a lot of avenues to get where he needs to get to.