Review by dargonnetlr

"Back to the Origins."

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of the best selling games of 2001, despite some negative fan reaction against the highly philosophical and perplexing storyline of MGS2, as well as the surprise introduction of a new playable character named Raiden. This season, gamers are once again confronted by several high-profile game releases vying for their attention, and Konami's latest chapter in the Metal Gear Solid series certainly generated a fair amount of interest, despite the marketing blitz of sequels to wildly successful games like Half-Life, Halo and Grand Theft Auto.

Storyline

For those familiar with the series, the events in the game occur before the “Les Enfant Terribles” project in 1972, hence Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a prequel to the other games of the Metal Gear series. The game transports gamers back to the 1960's, during a time of uncertain political climate know as the Cold War. Naked Snake, the ‘father' of Solid Snake and fondly known as Big Boss, is a soldier stuck between the ideological conflict the East and West and carries out his missions under the orders of the American president. While it first appears to be a typical rescue mission, it evolves into a complex tale of relationships, espionage, loyalty, betrayal and Metal Gear, shrewdly weaved into real world historical accounts.

The Metal Gear in the game is represented by Shagohod – a primitive Metal Gear that is the prototype for the Metal Gears in the earlier games. There will be references to the previous games of the series, including a Raiden look-alike appropriately named Raidenovich. The game also traces the beginnings of Revolver Ocelot as a young maverick who was then not proficient in his use of the revolver. Probing any deeper into the storyline will be spoiling half your fun, but it closely follows the general theme of the series, including a scientist rescue mission. Like MGS2, the plot contains enough twists to rival The Sixth Sense. Also expect tongue-in-cheek humour typical of Kojima games. But unlike MGS2, there will be fewer moments when you feel that your head is being whacked around constantly by confusing pseudo-intelligent philosophical ramblings. While fans will feel warmth in their heart with the story, it will also appeal to those new to the series, luring them into the MGS universe.

Gameplay

While half the story is told on non-interactive cutscenes and radio conversations, there is so much to look forward to in the gameplay. Essentially the same, ‘tactical espionage action' – the tradition of MGS games – looks dated on first glance, especially with newer games like Splinter Cell jumping on the stealth action bandwagon. However, it is still as refreshing as ever, with all the refinements that Kojima made to the game and the amazing attention to detail.

Snake's need to survive in the jungle introduces a new element into the gameplay. Snake can now switch his attire along with matching face paint to suit the changes in the environment, whether he is sneaking around in a warehouse or crawling in the grass. The camouflage index indicates how well concealed Snake is, and this is especially important to maintain stealth. Stamina is also vital for Snake's survival and this involves hunting for food instead of having strategically placed rations thoughout the game like MGS2. Stamina will also determine the speed Snake's health recovers, and he will soon be in full health when left to rest. As long as he is free of leeches and bone fractures of course, which can be treated with the relevant medical supplies. The introduction of the backpack however creates unnecessary tedium in equipment selection. The controls are never an issue apart from the need to have to access the survival menu numerous times.

There is a variety of ways to deal with enemy confrontation, including a new set of close-quarters combat moves, ranging from interrogation to slitting of the throat. Also, Snake can choose from an arsenal of weapons, including Snake's regular issue silenced tranquilizer gun to other more powerful (albeit less discreet) guns he will pick up along the way. The absence of the radar leaves Snake having to rely on his reconnaissance tools to sniff out enemies. While the Active Sonar and Thermal Goggles are indispensable, they drain battery like the other tools you acquired. Kojima also added a nice touch to the gameplay by having suppressors that deteriorate with ever shot fired. You are given everything you possibly need, but unlike your typical no-brainer shooter, a good deal of strategy is essential for survival and success. Boss battles – against mainly the Cobras – are varied, each requiring different strategies to beat. One lengthy battle involving a sniper tests much patience, as well as the ability to conceal and scout.

Graphics

This is no doubt one of the most beautiful games to grace the PS2. Kojima's vision is told through brilliantly choreographed cinematic cutscenes in MGS3:SE that MGS fans are already familiar with. In-game jungle environment is realistically recreated along with its related living and breathing organisms such as mushrooms, snakes and even hornets. The detailed environment also enhances the gameplay, as the surroundings are factored into the camouflage index. There are quite a few cinematic moments in the game that look simply amazing. The only limitation is the potential of the aging hardware, which is already pushed to the threshold. The camera view remains basically unchanged, which is rather disappointing considering the rapid advancement of games in the past 6 years. The outdated camera view constantly hampers gameplay, especially the slight pause when switching to first person view.

Sound

MGS3:SE is (proudly) presented in Dolby Pro Logic II, which is the current norm for respectable PS2 game releases. Sounds are produced based on your interaction with the environment, such as footsteps on metal staircases and the ruffling of grass, contributing a critical aspect of the stealth gameplay. Simply put, the environments sound like you are actually there. The sounds created when you use your items and weapons are credible, each distinct in their own ways. The powerful score by Harry-Gregson Williams (The Rock, Armageddon) puts you in the fitting mood whether it is a tense situation during Alert mode or an emotional boss battle. Furthermore, MGS3:SE offers consistently good English dubbing that is better than most American games. The extended radio transmissions are kept engaging with the convincing voice acting and the interesting dialog that takes place. It must be noted that some gamers experienced issues with sound quality during the radio transmissions where some words get cut off.

Lasting Appeal

The game typically lasts between 15 to 20 hours but MGS3:SE warrants several revisits with its charming storyline and the diversity of ways to beat the game. The addition of collectible items such as different camos and facemasks also boosts its lasting appeal. Players will also be rewarded if they find all the hidden Kerotans (green frogs) placed throughout the game levels. This is one game that will never be left to collect dust on the shelf. Do not be misled by the online-enabled emblem on the box art though, as it only involves the download of camouflage that Snake can use.

Final Word

It has been 3 years since the last MGS game and Metal Gear Solid 3 is well worth the wait. Expect no less from MGS3:SE as you would from any big-budget Hollywood production and it will not disappoint. With its high production value, amazing visuals and appealing storyline and engaging gameplay, MGS3:SE comes highly recommended despite its shortcomings.

Score: 9 (out of 10)


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/13/04


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