Review by Janors 2
"MGS3: You can have your Snake, and eat it too."
In what is sure to be a banner year for gaming, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater stands out from the crowd, and is easily one of the best games released this year. This isn't 2001's Tactical Espionage Action - MGS3 ups the ante, and then some, with a slew of new features. Surviving the environment is just as difficult as navigating it, and combined with a stellar, focused story vision, this is arguably the best Metal Gear game to date.
The one aspect that most, myself included, consider crucial to the Metal Gear saga is the storyline. Many complained about the plot of MGS2, and while I enjoyed it, I acknowledge that it had faults; The pacing was poor in the ending sequence, and an over-abundance of cutscenes that restricted the raw gameplay. To those, I can assure you that your fears can be put to rest when it comes to the storyline of MGS3. The narrative here is much more focused - Whereas MGS2's plot sometimes felt like a conspiracy theorist's ramblings, MGS3 feels like a well-told action movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat. There are a few places where you will be hit with several cutscenes in a row, but they keep your interest and are few and far between. Gameplay segments are much, much longer now, and most radio dialogue is completely optional. Yet Hideo Kojima still manages to weave a gripping and well-paced plot that ranks up there among the best of them.
Previous games in the series have always excelled in the audio/video department, and MGS3 carries on this fine legacy. Voice overs, while sometimes a bit over the top, are well performed and fitting for each character. The ambient noise in the jungle is awesome as well, and you will find yourself immersed in the chirping birds, rustling leaves, and the hushed pitter-patter of a gentle rain hitting the ground. Graphically, MGS3 is one of the best looking PS2 games I've ever seen. While a jungle environment would've have been better served by the hardware available on the Xbox, the graphics engine still produces some breathtaking locations. The early levels are fairly boring and linear, but after the first few sections, the game opens up. You'll soon find yourself stalking through huge, open woods and through narrow, branching caves. Character models are well crafted as well. Each character, no matter how minor, has had a painstaking amount of work devoted to every last detail. It's a spectacle unlike anything seen before on the Playstation 2, and helps to enhance the game's "survival" feel.
The most important aspect of any game, Metal Gear or not, is the gameplay. At first glance, MGS3 seems to just be MGS2 in the jungle with some food. But it is, in fact, so much more. There are numerous additions which can each be explained in depth. The first of these is the food system. Snake has a "Stamina" bar, similar to the bosses in MGS2. This stamina bar gradually decreases depending on Snake's condition. If he is being sucked on by leeches, or is carrying a heavy load of weaponry in his backpack, the stamina drains faster. Catching and eating animals is simple and not a hassle. You shoot an animal, it turns into a ration icon, you pick it up, and wham, you've hunted. Eating is just as easy - Press start, go to the "Food" menu, pick the animal you want to eat, and eat it. Depending on the taste, Snake will gain varying degrees of stamina. If you feed them to him enough, Snake will even grow to like foods that he didn't like before. It's not a complex system, but it adds a nice layer of depth to the game.
Another added feature is the "Cure" system. During battle, certain damage will literally "wound" Snake. You can tell this has happened when a portion of his health bar turns red and limits his maximum health. This can be dealt with in two ways: You can let the wound sit and heal itself, or you can open the Cure menu and fix it up. If you choose the latter (And trust me, you need to), a nifty little submenu appears where you can view an X-ray of Snake and check out his physical condition, including his medical history and what he's eaten. Fixing wounds involves using certain items on the wound to help it heal. For example, if Snake receives a bullet wound, he must first use his knife to extract the bullet, use sytptic to stop the bleeding, use a sewing kit to stitch up the wound, then bandage it. Doing so occasionally triggers a mini-cutscene where we see Snake performing the operation. Once again, it's not a huge addition, but it helps deepen the game.
The highly touted camouflage system serves to further enhance the Tactical Espionage Action. By using a certain combination of camos, Snake's "camo index" will increase. This index ranges from around -40 to 100. -40 means Snake sticks out like a sore thumb, while 100 means he is essentially invisible. Changing camos involves a bit of some menu working, but it isn't a huge hassle. You rarely have to change camos more than once for an area, and you can manuever around enemies instead. Wheher or not Snake is crouching, crawling, or standing effects the index as well.
When it comes to blows, the gameplay is similar to MGS2, except for the addition of CQC, or Close Quarters Combat, which I'll get to later. Controlling Snake during battle is almost the same as MGS2, except with a few new options. Holding L1 now lets Snake strafe, which makes shootouts noticably easier. The D-Pad makes Snake "stalk", which is essentially a slow walk that helps him sneak up on guards. The rest of the controls are basically the same as MGS2, and they still retain the tight effeciency of that game. CQC is activated by pushing the circle button, and from there, the player is presented with several options. Should you interrogate the guard? Slit his throat? Use him as a shield while you shoot other foes? Throw him on the ground and hold him up there? Slam him head first and knock him out? Break his neck? This wide variety of options is a huge step from the simple "punch punch kick" of the past MGS games. My only complaint about the controls? The camera. While you can adjust it with the right analog stick, it is difficult to see what is ahead of Snake at times, and this can result in some accidental encounters with guards. But for the most part I found this to not be a major hassle, and it rarely detracted from my gaming experience.
Overall, Metal Gear Solid 3 is a huge step forward in not only the series, but the genre. By adding a flurry of new features, Konami has presented a deeper, more realistic Metal Gear that is a blast to play and experience. It gets my highest recommendation, and is a must play for any PS2 owner.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/22/04
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