Review by Showtime1080

"Good action game"

With only a single shot tranquilizer gun, how do you kill two sentry guards roving about a small area of a forest? Its dead at night and you're in the suffocating foliage of an Asian jungle. You don all black camouflage to blend in with the darkness, further pushing you into the role as a stealth operative. You're standing straight up, tall and ominous; ready to takedown anyone willing to step in your way. But these sentry guards have fully automatic AK47 machine guns, capable of ripping you to shreds with a few bursts of the trigger. Even more dangerous is the fact that they can call for backup. Therefore, you do not want them conscious enough to alert anyone else. It is absolutely imperative you take them down as quickly and as quietly as possible --- a stealth kill.

Then, somewhere in the back of your training memory, you recall the most important rule to stealth kills: Stay out of sight.

In this case, the best way to stay out of their sight is to get low on the ground and hide among the tall, spiny blades of grass.

And so you wait.

You wait among the bushes for one of the sentry guards to patrol near you, so you can brutally slug a 15-inch tranquilizer dart right into the meaty flesh of his body. Finally sauntering near you, taking laborious step after step, he's moved so close to you that you can see the laces tying up his combat boots. You aim all the way up to his head and fire. THWAP! The dart lands square in his noggin. The once menacing sentry guard has been reduced to a sleeping baby.

One down.

THWAP!

Another perfectly aimed dart pulverizes the neurological agents running through the other guard's body, putting him to sleep with a heavy thud.

All this was possible because you were out of sight. The #1 rule imperative to any stealth based adventure game. In fact, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater designed their entire game around the stealth system by introducing a numerical measure of your stealth status onscreen. While not the 1st time used in a game, this stealth meter is so roughly obvious it almost seems forced and insincere to the overall “mesh” factor of stealth into a game. It ranges from 0% (indicating that you are fully visible) and 100% (indicating you are complete hidden from enemy). The difference between a 40% and a 75% stealth factor is anyone's guess, and the ambivalence of the meter will make you confused.

So rather than relying on the imprecise stealth meter you will have to judge your positioning and opponents visible status by looking at the gamescreen.

No problem. For MGS:SE uses a fantastic engine to illustrate your movements. The camera places the action in a pseudo top down 3rd person viewpoint, which really showcases the incredible locals used in MGS.

Every location in Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater is beautifully rendered with exquisite details protruding from every possible object. Trees, bushes, snakes, rivers, concrete, rubble, fire, all of it creates an immersive atmosphere. You'll always notice something minute that's seems too inconspicuous to enhance the look and overall feel, but it does. Little things like swarms of bees that flutter around their beehive with a realistic flaunt. The slight jagged edge of a building that's been blown to shreds; you can literally see where the blast stripped off paint from the exterior. You can also see rusted nails protrude from broken bits of concrete where the wall used to be whole. When you walk across a suspension bridge it doesn't just move --- it buoys and sways according to which foot you've planted on the bridge and which side of the bridge you're putting you're weight on. An excellent showcase in physics, the bridge naturally sways with your own movement, run on the right side, and the bridge will tilt and respond to your weight.

The environments leave you little option other than to be absorbed in the different locals. So that's why it seems almost unnecessary to destroy that beautifulness with the huge stealth numbers at the top right. I guarantee, if it weren't for the numbers, at times, the game becomes more than a game, it becomes a virtual reality simulation (like the computers the military use to train rookies) on viewing different topographies.

The brash meter is also unnecessary because you can easily spot the enemies with the 1st person view, or various 3rd person angle shifts, like peeking around a corner.

But, once again, MGS:SE tries something new and unprecedented.

As another measure of stealth, MGS includes a camouflage system. It's supposed to affect that stealth meter number, but you're never exactly sure how well it's doing its job. And just like you, enemies blend in well with environments. They aren't as versatile as you, they can't switch camouflage at a moments notice depending on the current location, they can't arbitrarily paint their face to further maximize their camouflage, but they always come equipped wearing difficult to see uniforms.

And what do you do when you see an enemy? You kill them. You take out whatever weapon you have and kill them and move on with your mission. Yes, the game thrives on the stealth portion, especially when your Commander tells you over and over about the importance of non-lethal, non-noisy maneuvering, but you'll realize the methods to complete the “stealth” kills are largely unnecessary. The fancy stealthery you can perform, like grabbing a guards neck, putting a pistol to his temple, and walking him around as a human shield, looks cool, and admittedly it feels satisfying, but its unnecessary. It's too much work. The far easier way is to pull out the tranquilizer gun and pop him in the head.

Now if guards see YOU during the journey through the missions, that's a different story. These guys are clever, relentless and willing to chase you wherever you run and willing to seek you out wherever you try to hide.

Once you're spotted, it's on.

Before even firing a shot, the guard immediately picks up his radio and alerts Headquarters of the intruder in his base. Boom. A red light alarms you that your small area is about to be swarmed with hungry, menacing guards, ready to rip out their AKs and slaughter you. And they come at you in numbers. Even if you do shoot one or two, more will come and they'll eventually be surround you.

So you hide. Feeling a nervous tension never experienced in a game, you panic and run like a little sissy boy to anything that will give you some cover. You're in the jungle. You run full speed and cartwheel to a prone position on your stomach. Then you crawl a few feet into the high grass. You are now well hidden, but the guards are still chasing you. You can hear the *smush* *smush* of his boots stepping on grass and leaves, creeping closer and closer. You hold your breath in anticipation as the music slowly descends, indicating he's not sure of where you're hiding. Do you take a chance and try for a headshot? Or do you wait it out and pray he doesn't notice you?

Whatever you decide, you can be sure the guards will be ready to counteract that decision. For the enemy AI is ruthless, especially when only targets of small weapons. MGS :SE doesn't let you use the powerful automatic weapons at will --- often times the game forces you to use either the tranquilizer gun or small pistol for the sole purpose of complicating the game. Perhaps Konami realized the big guns would make the game too easy. And for the most part, judging by the few times I've had both the gun and ammo, mowing down guards in the tight spaces is easy. The 1st person mode enlarges the enemies to a palpable size, and coupled with their relatively static movements, holding down the trigger and shooting wildly is just too easy for a game like this. Or rather, too easy for a guy like Snake.

Because Snake is the man. A super secret, agent hired by government agencies around the world, his method of completing missions is more stylish than his long list of actual accomplishments. For instance, while a normal parachute might work for other agents dropping down into the nighttime jungle, Snake has to do things his way. He pilots a tiny, almost pod-like aircraft that clings to the bottom of a carrier jet, and freefalls to the earth, like a falling spaceship. He bulldozes over tall trees and thick bushes with reckless abandon, drops down from pod, equips his gun, and proceeds with the mission.

This brashness is perhaps the reason why Snake is asked to perform such outrageous, impossible missions. The very first mission has you infiltrate a base deep in the jungle among a throng of guards to rescue one man: Nikolai Stepanovich Sokolov --- who holds the secret to unleashing a nuclear weapon. Sokolov, of course, cannot fall into evil hands or else the nuclear weapon will be detonated. And true with Konami's standards, that info can only be learned by watching a huge opening intro, followed by numerous cutscene after cutscene. Opting for the overdramatic, Konami gives a detailed history on any and everything associated with Vladimir, his nuclear weapon, the group financing the project and the enemies trying to steal the weapon.

But it's not as bad as before.

Where the last metal gear seemed to go on endless tangents, Snake Eater stays focused on the current crisis, and you can faithfully sit through the cutscenes and enjoy the story. Especially with the top-notch, Hollywood-esque, production quality that even permits certain shifts of view with the R1 button, a subtle reminder that Konami doesn't want you to fall asleep this time.

But you won't fall asleep. Not during the cutscenes, during the gameplay, not even during the prologue that took 2 days and multiple saves just to beat. While eliminating enemies, while gawking at the lush locations, while figuring out exactly why your boss turned to the wrong side, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater remains action packed throughout, but it also presents this clinging sense of purpose, where they implant that nuclear bomb into the back of your head, making you kill and hide with a purpose.






Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/10/05


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