Review by Fooling_Loki

"Hunting for the right words: MGS 3 is as close to perfection as any game I've played"

Konami's newest installment of tactical espionage gaming, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, has received a lot of hype from the nearly immeasurable fan base of the series. As a die-hard MG fan, I myself was also gripped with the anticipation of getting my sweaty hands on another bad-ass Snake sneaking game. With the excitement, however, also came the desperate hope that MGS 3 and Hideo Kojima were not just setting me up for a huge letdown.

The game, my friends, is simply breathtaking. It's that good. No more pansy main characters, no more nonsensical or utterly confusing storylines. MGS 3 is as close to perfection as any game I've ever played. Fans of the series most definitely won't be disappointed with this installment, and I'm betting my right eye (no pun intended) that Snake Eater will lure thousands of new gamers into the grips of director Kojima and the MG fan base.

For Kojima and Konami, MGS 3 was a giant, blind leap into risk and the unknown. First off, the main part of Snake Eater's gameplay takes place in the untamed jungle of the 1960s USSR. When the trailers for MGS 3 were released, veterans to the series were probably preparing themselves for a huge nervous breakdown. After all, what game set in a jungle could be all that interesting, even with our lovable Snake? It's been done before, right?!

Not like this. Unlike any other game I've experienced, Snake Eater relies heavily on the survival factor, making it much more realistic and interactive for us gamers. Now, players must watch their Stamina Gauge (located right underneath the health bar) and feed Snake whenever his tummy grumbles or he begins to lose a little speed. And don't think that this simple task is just tedium; MGS makes hunting fun with the sheer variety and accessibility of edible animals and plants. The food sources are realistic, too – some plants and animals are poisonous, and a certain special mushroom causes “drowsiness.” The game is also time sensitive, meaning that the longer food remains in Snake's backpack, the more likely it is to spoil.

Camouflaging Snake in the jungle is another survival related addition to the MG series. In Snake Eater, the Soliton Radar is gone. Instead of simply avoiding the vision cones of the guards, players are challenged to actually trick sentries and slip past them undetected. The top right hand corner of the screen indicates Snake's “Camo Index,” or how well he blends into the underbrush. Players must choose the camouflage uniform that best adapts to Snake's surroundings and utilize it thus. Adding to the difficulty of this new feature is the advanced AI of the guards, who aren't as stupid as they may appear. While their movement patterns are predictable, once an “Alert” is sounded everything is thrown out the window. Guards swarm in on Snake, flanking him and attacking him much like a real, trained militia would do. Unlike MGS 2, taking hostages won't do much good; it may slow the bullet barrages down a little, but many of the guards will sacrifice their comrade to bring the intruder – that's you – down.

As is the norm for the genre, the main character usually takes some damage after involvements with sentries. Another realistic addition to MG is the “Cure” menu. With this feature, Snake is responsible for curing his own wounds. At the commencement of each of the two missions in MGS 3, Snake is supplied with medicine and supplies to heal any wounds he receives on the job. After (or during) a firefight or a boss battle, players must enter the “Survival Viewer” and treat wounds accordingly. Also plaguing Snake may be other non-combat related injuries, such as food poisoning from spoiled fodder or blood sucking leeches acquired in a swamp. Failure to treat any wounds or maladies results in a consistent loss of stamina and a very hungry Snake.

The jungle setting alone did not completely surprise old fanboys (and girls!) of the MG series. When the announcement was made that Snake Eater was to take place in the sixties, everyone smelled prequel. But wait, if MGS 1 took place when Solid Snake was around 30, and MGS 2 (which took place in 2007) put Snake at around 35 – 37, wouldn't he be too itty-bitty to be the hero of a 1960s MG game?

Indeed, Snake Eater does not incorporate everyone's favorite Stinger-firing, Meryl loving hero. Remember Big Boss, that scary guy with the eye-patch in MGS 1, and the dude all three Snakes were cloned from? Yes, this is our man! Surprising and compelling events unfold in MGS 3, telling the story of Big Boss and likely inducing nostalgia for those of us who dearly loved the original PS1 MG game.

Surrounded by the new additions and standing out like a keenly polished gemstone is the gameplay of Snake Eater. Unlike the previous installment, Snake Eater physically feels like gamers are involved in and playing through a movie. Cutscenes, while common, are beautifully rendered and equally vital to the plotline of the game. Instead of gaming moments being defined from non-playable sequences, though, Snake Eater provides many memorable instances when you're actually controlling Snake.

A little frustrating, however, is that MGS 3 fails to correct the error of first person shooting. While this in itself is an important aspect of gameplay, it is irritating that players still cannot move Snake while viewing the game in first person. Making up for this inconvenience is the new CQC system, or Close-Quarters Combat. A much needed and amply usable technique, CQC is defined as hand-to-hand combat involving a knife, a pistol, or bare hands. It's much more fun than choking guards to death, let me tell you. In CQC, Snake has the option of throwing guards, interrogating them, or simply slitting their throats and leaving them to die. “Sneaking” is also a new way to get close to sentries, either to employ CQC or to bash them over the head with an assault rifle.

At the peak of Snake Eater's gameplay lie the boss battles, which – during the last half of the game – become both anticipated for their provision of fun and feared for their difficulty. As is usual, Kojima provides gamers with lasting impressions of boss characters; the Cobra Unit (much like FOXHOUND or Dead Cell) is out to get Snake and they aren't looking to compromise. Taken out of the equation this time around are some of the fantastical elements of the bosses – no more undead or ridiculously superhuman characters. Snake Eater's bosses – The Pain, The Fear, The End, The Fury, and The Sorrow – all carry their respective emotions into the game and all pack a punch when it comes to damage and difficulty. These bosses are tough, folks; however, a background knowledge of how previous MG bosses die helps in defeating these new additions.

Succeeding hand in hand with the revamped gameplay of Snake Eater is the heartrending and emotional storyline of MGS 3. While many fans of the series hated or were confused by Sons of Liberty's plot (myself included), Snake Eater completely ignores the second installment and gives us a fully complete background story on Solid Snake's father and the founder of FOXHOUND. Jack, or “Naked Snake,” starts the game as a green soldier and a student of a hardcore, female American heroine named The Boss. As the game progresses, Snake learns that The Boss has defected to the Soviet Union and is now his enemy. Jack's mission is familiar: rescue a Soviet scientist and destroy the Shagohod (Metal Gear) – however, the depth and brilliance of the plot twists are riveting and completely sated my hunger for a truly fantastic MG game. When, after 21 hours and 53 minutes of play time, I beat this game, I wanted to cry. Not because of my accomplishment, but because of the ending to the story. It's just so perfectly sad and satisfying at the same time. When all else is stripped away, the epic story of Snake Eater is what really defines it as a classically great game.

In Snake Eater, graphics and cinematics are nearly indistinguishable, as the game is simply perfectly processed. Graphically, the character models are beautiful (there's even a Raiden look-alike!), and the attention to detail is mind-boggling. Simply put, nothing has ever looked better on the PS2, and nothing probably will for a long time. The sad part is that the many of the impressive details become overshadowed by the other outstanding aspects of the game.

The cinematography, while not a usual source of game praise, is too good to go overlooked in Snake Eater. While the camera views of the game sometimes lack, the beauty of the cut scenes is their artful design and almost direct homage to Akira Kurosawa. Dramatic lighting and facial expressions are key in MGS 3, as are the brilliance of the voice performances. David Hayter, to be specific, especially outdoes himself in his performance of Snake.

In addition with the almost flawless voice acting, the soundtrack to MGS 3 is quite commendable and ties in directly with the plot. The theme song, “Snake Eater,” honestly stuck in my head for days after I beat the game and got me emotional every time I thought about the ending. The instrumental scores are appropriate, and the secondary song, while not great, is adequate. In a surprise move, Konami actually sanctioned an ending song instead of slapping one together with its employees. This song, “Way to Fall” by Starsailor, is touching and adds a final frosting to the finished product of the game.

I can't give a game a better review than I did Snake Eater. I don't want to sound cheesy, but all I can say is “wow.” This game is worth every penny of $50, and it's honestly a game and a story that will forever impact both MGS fans and newcomers alike. Kojima has finally released a game worthy of his legacy and more.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/22/04


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