Review by World3Level2

"Metal Gear Solid gets a facelift as Snake gets some new moves to survive in the jungle"

Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater is a terrific addition to the MGS franchise, featuring a few new gameplay elements and an excellent emotionally driven plot. Taking place entirely in the jungles of the Soviet Union during the 1960s Cold War era, MGS3 tells the story of our hero Naked Snake's transformation into Metal Gear super-villain Big Boss.

THE BASICS OF GAMEPLAY

First of all just about everything you loved or hated from MGS2 is back, enemies can be held up, put to sleep and stashed away in a safe place. The one feature that is explicitly missing however is the radar system; in its place a well-designed camouflage system has been implemented. Instead of hiding behind walls now you can hide anywhere and go completely unnoticed, in grass, mud, and even lying on the concrete floor. Conveniently represented by the “Camo Index” in the upper right corner your camouflage status can range from deer in the headlights (0% and below) to completely invisible (100%). As you move over terrains simply go into the pause menu and swap out your camo and face paint anytime you see your camouflage starting to weaken. Intuitively Snake's camouflage is strongest when he's lying down, less if he's crouching, much lower when he's standing and virtually gone if he's running. What this adds up to is a lot more time crawling and much more planning on when and where you should run. Thankfully the need to change camo doesn't happen too often on any given map, but regardless it does tend to slow down what is already a relatively slow-paced game. As hard as it is to imagine MGS without the radar, the camouflage system works quite well when used in conjunction with Snake's Anti-Personnel Sensor which makes the controller vibrate when enemies are nearby. The freedom to move from point to point hidden in the environment, slowly stalking your enemies is part of what makes the stealth experience so captivating and exhilarating.

The second new addition to gameplay is a more developed and fine-tuned version of the “hold up” system found in MGS2. In MGS2 once you got the jump on an unsuspecting enemy you were limited to a few options. Now Snake has a couple of more moves up his sleeve, in the appropriately named Close Quarters Combat (CQC) system. If you want to quickly knock out the enemy you can hurl him to the ground immediately, letting you run back into hiding. Or you can interrogate him to do things such as add enemy locations to your map or discover radio frequencies to remove the alert phase. And you can even use your captured enemies as human shields!.

The last significant additions to the game all revolve around the new concept of stamina. Stamina as in the real world is an indicator of Snake's strength. If Snake's stamina gets low he will as expected get tired and weaken, represented in game by a lowered shooting accuracy and slower health regeneration. To complement this new idea, MGS3 introduces three new systems, eating, surgery (curing), and the backpack system. To maintain his stamina he must find food in his surroundings by collecting plants and animals. Snake can pick up mushrooms and fruit from trees or capture animals. This time around rations only serve as food, not health recovery items. Instead Snake's life slowly recovers as time passes while his stamina drains requiring players to play a tad more strategic and conservative to avoid taking heavy damage. This interestingly enough goes hand in hand with the new surgery system. It works like this, if Snake takes damage he will likely sustain a debilitating injury that will drop his max health until he operates on the wound. In his bag Snake has an assortment of surgical items and medicine, which when used in conjunction with one another will instantly remove his max health cap. So for example a knife cut can be healed by using disinfectant, styptic, a suture kit, and a bandage. The final piece of the stamina system is the backpack. This time Snake has a weight limit on how many items he can actively hold in battle, the rest are stored in his backpack. Active items are treated the same way as the previous MGS games handled your items. Of course the more items Snake is actively carrying the faster his stamina drains. In any case you can swap out items at anytime or even choose to carry fewer items than necessary to preserve stamina. The one setback much like the camouflage system is the constant item management which tends to slow down the action. Never the less when looked at from an overall perspective these new concepts drive home the survivalist image MGS3 portrays.

GRAPHICS & SOUND

In the graphics and sound departments fans will not be disappointed. Few games I've played manage to make any environment feel this alive, let alone a jungle. Just about everything you'd expect to see in a jungle is perfectly recreated here. All the details are captured to the letter, from the mushrooms growing at the base of the tree trunks to the flying squirrels floating from tree top to tree top. One drawback is heavy frame rate slowdown in the larger areas if Snake gets spotted. Once the screen fills up with soldiers the game slows down to a crawl.

On the other front sounds of the forest have replaced a lot of in-game music, making for a very cool ambience. It really does wonders in creating an atmosphere perfect for stalking Snake's enemies. Not to worry though we get a healthy dose of Harry Gregson-Williams' music during boss fights, cutscenes, and anytime Snake is spotted. When the heart strings need to be pulled the soundtrack delivers with some terrific melodies, and the MGS theme has been remixed a couple of times to fit in with the new jungle setting as well. And not to be forgotten is the theme song for MGS3 “Snake Eater”, this song is downright perfect with a catchy hook, great vocals and appropriate lyrics. As anyone will tell you its very reminiscent of James Bond in Goldfinger and fits in well with the 60's spy theme.

BOSS FIGHTS & CUTSCENES

But what about all the things fans have come to expect from MGS, classic boss fights, theatrical cutscenes, intriguing sophisticated story lines? To the delight of fans MGS3 outshines even its predecessors in the one area where MGS never fails to deliver, incredibly designed boss fights. Once again MGS raises the bar with boss fights that will go down in history as some of the best of all time. The first boss worth mentioning is the final boss with a design that succeeds on a number of levels. Not only is it very unique in its presentation and battle strategy but it succeeds in its strong emotional ties to the final conclusion of MGS3. This is represented beautifully by the graphical design, style, atmosphere and setting that is completely unique to any other boss fight I've played. As amazing as that is, it's an earlier fight with a legendary sniper that manages to overshadow even the final boss battle. Based solely on design alone, it is so original in its implementation that it completely redefines what a boss fight can be. This is not your usual MGS sniper battle and I won't go into any details here to avoid spoiling the coolness of seeing it unfold for the first time. But trust me when I say there's nothing else like it, you have to see it to believe it!

As far as cutscenes go they are extremely well done with all the action, suspense and comical moments that you'd expect from a MGS game. In this game especially there seems to be more of a focus on capturing hand-to-hand combat sequences with slick camera angles making for some exciting encounters between Snake and his enemies. And to make the cutscenes a little more engaging there is a new feature where you can check things out from Snake's viewpoint; a number of easter eggs are found this way creating a worthwhile option to play around with. A final nod needs to be given to two phenomenal escape sequences at the climax of the game. They are very unique in that they blend gameplay with cutscene-like camera angles letting you flip between a dynamic camera and the more playable first-person view on the fly.

If you weren't a fan of watching a lot of cutscenes in MGS2 than you will appreciate the fact that they seem to have been reduced with noticeable cuts around boss fights. After Snake wins they no longer have lengthy “deathbed” speeches to develop their characters and because of this a once heavily used area to deliver more backstory is left untapped. Depending on if you like your MGS with more action or story this might not be to your liking but needless to say the story is still very entertaining revolving around only a few key characters.

ONE FLAW

Before concluding there is one minor flaw in MGS3 which seems to be a common criticism among reviewers; the now three game old over-the-top camera doesn't work quite as well this time around. It's not that the camera is designed differently, instead it's an issue that is compounded by a number of gameplay mechanics new to the jungle setting. In the previous games the indoor rectangular environments and occasional tight corridor made the maps slightly linear, giving Snake a straight v-line to the next area. This made it quite easy in hindsight to lean against any of the numerous walls and mentally plan out a route. The first thing you'll notice in MGS3 is its much harder to do this since the number of flat, good hiding surfaces to hide behind are few and far between. Without the radar you'll need to rely heavily on the camera angle but ironically the over-the-top camera has always prevented the player from seeing very far in front of Snake. This forces you to constantly stand still and switch into first person view to scope out the enemy and even with extra caution you will consistently find yourself accidentally getting spotted.

CONCLUSION

When looking at MGS3 on the whole, the pluses far outweigh the minuses making it an absolute must play for serious fans of MGS. In case you're wondering about the length of the game, I've heard about 10-15 hours is the norm for most players making it perhaps a bit longer than the previous games. And to keep your interest a little longer there is also a small mini-game included called Snake vs. Monkey. But if you've waited this long to play MGS3 you might as well get the special extended re-release called Metal Gear Solid 3 Subsistence. Some of the extra features include a new 3rd-person camera which should address the camera issue mentioned above, more maps of Snake vs. Monkey, the original NES/MSX Metal Gear 1 and 2 and best of all the first online multiplayer mode in MGS history!


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/10/07, Updated 04/16/07


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