Review by NeoTS

"Don't You Like Snakes?"

After many, many years of patiently waiting, Metal Gear Solid 2 was considered to be a disappointment by a lot of fans. Most reviewers at major gaming websites and magazines knocked the story, which was convoluted, yet still much better than what most games have to offer. Legions of fanboys rose in protest against the new lead man, Raiden. Despite these two "flaws", MGS2 was an amazing game. I played nonstop for weeks on end. I realized that it was not quite as good as MGS for the PlayStation. And now comes Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Hideo Kojima's latest masterpiece. It brings advanced types of gameplay, and returns to a more traditional form of story-telling. The power of this story may not hit you until the final few lines are delivered. But when it does, you'll be begging for more. If MGS2 needs redemption, then this is it.

First of all, Snake Eater is a prequel. Make no mistake about that. I takes place in 1962, at the height of the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union. To ease the tensions, the President is forced to give the USSR back a nuclear scientist that had previously defected. Now, it has been discovered that this scientist, named Sokolov, is being forced to work on a new type of nuclear weapon. What that may be, only Sokolov knows, so it is imperative that the United States take him back so he cannot finish work. Of course, an invasion on Soviet soil would trigger a nuclear war, so things are left up to the FOX unit, headed up by Major Zero. He sends in his best agent, whose code name is Naked Snake. His job is to rescue Sokolov, but several huge plot events lead up to a much larger, and more daring mission. This is definitely Metal Gear alright.

Unlike the industrial backdrops of the previous MGS games, MGS3 takes place primarily in a jungle. This opens up a multitude of new gameplay tweaks and fairly large additions. In addition to this being a sneaking mission, it is also a survival mission. A jungle is a far more dangerous and demanding environment than a tanker, and it will take longer to traverse. So, Snake will have to survive by keeping his stamina up. This decreases naturally over time, and a little quicker when performing strenuous activities like stalking, slogging through some deep mud or inching hand over hand across a vine. It will also decrease very rapidly when Snake is wounded. In MGS2, if your life was a little too low, you would start to bleed, and you would have to patch yourself up with a bandage. That idea has been greatly expanded. When bringing up the pause menu, the player can access the Cure section, which allows Snake to take medicine or perform surgery. Snake will suffer just about every injury imaginable: broken bones, gunshot wounds, burns, leeches, cuts, and several injuries specific to the bosses. He'll have to take a unique process to healing himself for each injury. For example, while leeches can simply be burned off with a cigar, a gunshot will make you dig the bullet out, suture it up, disinfect it, stop the bleeding and bandage it. Thankfully, this is all done very easily, and quickly, using the R2/L2 pull down menu from the main game.

So naturally, you'll want to keep your stamina high, or Snake will slow down and his aim will be terrible. To do so, you have to hunt for and eat food. This is actually a lot of fun, and a very cool feature. You'll have to use your eyes and ears to hunt- rustling in the bushes, footsteps, grunts- whatever you can make out. You can eat anything from snakes (duh) to alligators, birds, and all sorts of plant life. Each type of food will recover stamina in a different way, so bad tasting food will not likely help you very much, but if it tastes good to Snake, it will help him more. You can store food for as long as you like, but it will go rotten, and will give Snake a stomach virus if you eat it. If you tranquilize the animals instead, thus keeping alive, they will stay good for much longer. You can look at your food through the same pause menu where you find the Cure section. While we're in the pause menu, we can take a look at the back pack, which allows Snake to take out and put away weapons and items. Now, if you only want two weapons on the main menu to cycle through, you can do that. You can have a maximum of eight, though I don't see any part in the game where you would truly need eight weapons.

The actual gameplay of MGS3 has changed relatively significantly, in the fact that you can't rely on radar. You have sonar and a few other devices, but this never differentiates from animals or humans. That little cone of vision is gone, so if you're loud, they're going to see you. Unless of course, you manage to hit the dirt fast enough and put on some effective camo. The camoflauge will be your main defensive item as you progress through the game. As you find more combinations, you can become nearly invisible in your environment. The effectiveness of your camo is seen in the corner of the screen, and it will give a percent. The higher the number, the more hidden you are. Anything above 90% and you're practically a ghost. Just don't forget to change your camo, you won't get to far sneaking along a mountain path in black camo.

Do you remember how damn irritating it was to have a guard turn around on you when you were right behind him going for a quick kill in the previous games? Well, be afraid no longer. A completely new un-armed combat system has been introduced, called CQC. Say you're stalking a guard, but he turns and you're too far to do anything. You've only got one bullet left. Just run up to him, press circle, and Snake will slam him into the ground before he can alert anybody else. This isn't simply a little toss like the previous games. This one leaves guard down for the count. Now, if you manage to get him in a hold, which can even be done during alert phases, there are several options you can take. By pressing in the L3 button, Snake will hold his knife to the guards throat, forcing him to talk. You can shoot in this stance, which means you can hold a hostage and still return fire. If you want to get rid of the guard, you can tilt the stick a few times, which will knock him unconscious, or push circle down hard to slit his throat. CQC is just one of the many ways you can toy with the enemy.

A jungle is much more alive than any previous MGS environment, which just expands the number of things you can do to sneak through enemy territory. You can capture poisonous snakes and throw them, shoot beehives and watch them swarm, blow up armories, blow up food storage buildings, shoot while hanging from a tree branch, get them to run into a trap, and even the scare them by wearing a crocodile 'hat' for those watery areas. There are even a few areas that allow you to get behind the trigger of mounted machine guns. Not the kind of thing you want to do if you're trying to sneak... but oh my is it ridiculously fun to mow down guards like a madman. As with any MGS game, the boss fights are about as unbelievable as they can get. The first three are really nothing new, but are still fun. The duel with Ocelot is seriously amazing, and really sets the tone for the rest of the game. There is one boss fight that could take up to an hour, or as low as 10 minutes if you're good. The last few boss fights would spoil the story, but allow me to say that the last 2-3 hours of this game are simply as good as it gets in a videogames. You may think the game is winding down, but trust me, you haven't seen anything yet.

Speaking of things being as good as they can be, the graphics here cannot be beaten by any game on the PS2. At first glance, they appear to be the same as MGS2, but there is a huge difference. The first noticeable area is the facial expressions. Sometimes there expressions say something stronger than there actual words do. The jungle itself is downright gorgeous, filled with wildlife and overflowing with plant life. The setting itself really didn't hit me until late in the game. I was all alone in the middle of a huge enemy fortress, a little past dusk, when I happened to look up at the sky and saw a mountain that I had just been at. It's just incredible. If you were amazed with MGS2's graphics, you may be just as amazed with the graphics found here. There is very little slowdown, and a few cases of screen-tearing can be found, but it does very little to detract from the experience. It's just too good.

Quality voice acting has been a staple of the MGS series, and unfortunately, it takes a very small dip here. The only excellent voice actor is of course David Hayter, while the rest are sadly, average. It's better than most videogames, but I've come to expect a little more from MGS. The rest of the sound and music is done phenomenally. In the jungle you can hear little critters scurrying about, guards walking, birds chirping, and rivers running. My favorite little thing in the game occurs when Snake uses a certain type of machine gun. If you just open up with it, and start killing a lot of people, he'll start screaming like he's Rambo or something. I didn't hear this until the end of the game, during that really good part I was talking about earlier. If you're a fan of the MGS series, it'll make your hair stand on end. The music is good, is not a bit of departure from the typical stuff. For example, no music plays in-game now. You've really got to listen this time around, and music would make the game harder than it should be. The main theme is the most radical departure, which comes in the form of a James Bond-like song. You might think this could never work, but it actually does, and quite well.

Just like it's predecessors, MGS3 is a game you can play over and over, experimenting with different moves and weapons and such. There are a few unlockable goodies, like the infamous Stealth Camoflauge. If you ask me, MGS is all about the story. Snake Eater does a perfect job of setting up what could be the conclusion to the series, at least for it's main characters anyway. If you're afraid the story won't be as good since it's a prequel, you're dead wrong. The story is every bit as good as Metal Gear Solid, if not better. Yes, it's on par with Liquid crying out his dying words, and Gray Fox stopping 'it from moving'. This game proves that Hideo Kojima really does know what the players want. It proves he has total control over the outcome of his legacy. This game is Metal Gear Solid at it's finest.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/28/04


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