Review by ZFS

"Snake? SNAKE?! SNAAAAAKE EAAAATER!"


Metal Gear Solid 3 : Snake Eater is the most recent installment in the highly acclaimed Metal Gear Solid franchise that started way back on the PlayStation. This time survival is of the utmost importance, as Snake has to now eat live animals in order to continue this most grueling mission. Luckily, he'll have a support team to help him via codec, though Konami has luckily managed to make this much easier on gamers by not having a codec call every time you take a step! But, what it all comes down to is if this game lives up to the quality that previous Metal Gear titles have put forth. The answer is clear: it raises the bar in quality to a standard that following Metal Gear Solid games must reach.

Metal Gear Solid 3 takes place the two other games in the series, Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2, in the 1960s – 1964 to be precise – during the time of the Cold War. The U.S. and Soviet Union are both try to out do the other in terms of power without actually going to war; the arms race, space race, and missile race – both countries are trying to prove their superiority over the other. However, when a defected scientist named Nikolai Sokolov is captured by the Soviet Union, the U.S. sends in its top CIA agent, and Special Forces specialist, Naked Snake. His mission ends up being split into two parts – the “Virtuous Mission” and “Operation: Snake Eater.” The game takes you through one of the most brilliantly told stories in the videogame medium. Hideo Kojima takes actual historical events, but changes everything completely around to fit the world of Metal Gear Solid and helps to better explain the origins of the characters that would appear in later games. The plot twists are brilliant, the story is filled to the brim with emotion, and the execution of the telling of the story is remarkable.

Similarly, the characters are equally as amazing. Since this is a prequel to the previous Metal Gear Solid games is it particularly great to see these characters in their younger days and get to see just what happened to them to make them turn out the way they did. From Revolver Ocelot discovering the Single Action Army was his true calling to Big Boss finding out the truth behind the government that he once pledged his loyalty too. Each character is also brought to life by their respective voice actors. The Metal Gear series has been known for good voice acting and the third installment is no exception. The voice acting really does a great job of making the characters seem real and allows their personalities to come through. They also have some great character interaction. It does not feel forced or out of place – conversations flow really smoothly.

Even with a good storyline and characters a game is not a game unless it excels in gameplay – something that Metal Gear Solid 3 has down. Now, Metal Gear Solid 3 itself actually introduces some new elements to the series. First, since this is just as much about survival as it is stealth, Snake now has a stamina bar, which slowly depletes are extended periods of action. In order to raise the stamina bar, Snake must find food – whether it is a live animal or packaged noodles – in order to survive. That's right -- Snake Eater was a very appropriate title for the game, as you can and will eat actual snakes, which Naked Snake seems to rather enjoy. At first, the thought of a stamina bar may seem like a turnoff, but the actual implementation and execution is done extremely well. The bar itself is actually very long (longer than your actual health bar at the start) and it takes quite a number of things to actually bring it all the way down. Some of the side effects of losing stamina would be Snake's ability to hold a gun steady. If you go into first person mode to shoot, Snake will not be able to focus and hold the gun in line to fire it. He'll move it all over the place trying to keep it steady but failing miserably.

The other addition is actually a huge improvement to the series – camouflage. Right from the beginning of the game, player's have the ability to choose from a wide range of different camouflage uniforms and face paints that will help Snake blend into his environment, whether he's in the jungle or infiltrating a weapons laboratory. In the right hand corner of the screen at the top is a “camouflage index,” which tracks how well you are able to blend into your environment at all times. It actually tracks it well into the negative percentages, too. If you're running around in the jungle with snow camouflage on, the camouflage index is likely going to read number in the negatives. This lets you know that you are likely going to be seen and noticed even from a large distance.

Despite how the game introduces camouflage, you do not actually have to use any of it. This is primarily because there is a greater focus on weapons in this game than the previous two installments. You have pistols, machine guns, rifles, tranquilizers, and almost every type of gun you can imagine. If you want to ditch stealth and go straight to being Rambo, the game allows you to do that without many consequences. Hideo Kojima even included a camouflage labeled “Naked,” which is essentially Snake without a shirt, for those players who really want to play the part of “shoot first, ask questions later.”

Snake is not all about the guns, though, as he is fully trained in his new combat style – CQC, or close-quarters-combat. If the fight is being brought to you in close quarters, Snake is fully capable of handling himself. By pressing the circle button, player's have the ability to perform a number of different CQC techniques to take out the opponent. You can grab hold of their neck and choke them until they pass out, slit their throat, slam them into the ground, or whatever else you deem fit for the situation. Naked Snake has all the bases covered in this operation. If he doesn't get the enemy in long range, he'll almost assuredly take them out in close range.

With gameplay covered, it is about time to get into the real technical aspects of the game – graphics and sound. Metal Gear Solid has always ahead of the pack when it comes to technical achievements. Metal Gear Solid 2 was incredible to see running on the PlayStation 2, as it was the first real jump forward in pushing the system to its apparent limits. However, Metal Gear Solid 3 takes it even further, making use of every ounce of power the PlayStation 2 has. The character models are gorgeous with detail ranging from their clothes to their hair. Everything is very smooth and looks quite realistic, which is fitting considering the game takes a more realistic approach to things. The environments are also beautiful, especially those with sun shining. There is almost no difference at all between a cut-scene and actually playing the game. The entire game just looks really polished. Everything from great lighting effects to ridiculously good looking weather – Metal Gear Solid 3 has it all.

On the opposite side of the coin, we have the soundtrack to the game, which is just mind blowingly good. The soundtrack was put together by Harry-Gregson Williams and Norihiko Hibino, who both did the soundtrack for Metal Gear Solid 2. The soundtrack to the game contains a few vocal tracks, which include “Snake Eater” – the game's theme – and “Don't Be Afraid,” which is an ending theme, among others. All of the tracks give off that older feel to them to fit the mood of the 1960s while complementing the game's jungle theme. The music is at its best when it is heard during the cut-scenes of the game. It tends to make a dramatic scene that much better by setting the mood for it. This is right up there with the best of them in how well composed this soundtrack is.

In the end, Metal Gear Solid 3 : Snake Eater is an absolutely spectacular game that absolutely cannot be missed. It is clear that the bar in quality has been raised with its release. The combination of superb gameplay and perfect story telling is one that goes unmatched in the videogame realm. On top of that, the game has superb visuals that push the PlayStation 2 console to their absolute limits, and has a beautifully composed soundtrack. There is no doubt that MGS3 is one of the best games of the generation. Everything is put together perfectly; a complete package. If Metal Gear Solid 3 is any indication of what we can expect in the future, Hideo Kojima's already legendary status could be receiving quite the boost -- as if it wasn't already high enough. It would be tough to find flaws in this one, folks; this is one for the record books ...

... The world's first ever HALO jump.

Final Score: 9.0


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/30/06


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