Review by bloopo

"The Game That Defined an Entire Genre is Back Again..."

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the latest installment of the Metal Gear Solid Series, which first debuted in 1998, on the original Playstation. You played as veteran soldier come spy, Solid Snake, having to save the world from a massive walking battle tank, codenamed Metal Gear. The first game was an absolute hit, mixing western themes, with Japanese style comic book characters, with a smattering of fantasy that was actually believable.

Fans were suitably impressed by the first, and wanted more. Luckily the games creator and director, Hideo Kojima, and his team, were only to happy to oblige. 2001 saw the release of the epic, movie-like Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Mixing a soundtrack fit for the big screen, thanks to Harry Gregson-Williams, and beautifully crafted cut scenes tying all the fabulous action together. However this game did not feature the previous game's main character, Solid Snake, but a new recruit to ‘Foxhound' unit, Raiden, with Solid Snake only having a small part in the beginning chapter, which set the scene for the main game. Kojima said that in distancing our selves from Snake and playing as a different character, Raiden, we get to appreciate what Solid Snake is really like. Unfortunately, many fans disagreed completely, accusing Raiden of being more ‘feminine', with his pearly white hair, and frankly, girly voice.

In the latest game, Metal Gear Solid 3, fans were disappointed again to hear that they wouldn't play as Solid Snake, star of Metal Gear Solid 1, and two previous ‘Metal Gear' games on the Nintendo. Instead, Kojima told us (well, we just sort of…found out.), that we would be playing as the father of Solid Snake, Big Boss, (trust me, it doesn't sound that stupid when you play the game). The general consensus on gaming message boards worldwide, is that people would rather play as ‘The greatest soldier that ever lived', than, ‘That pansy Raiden'. The whole idea for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, is that you are alone in the jungle, having to survive by yourself, catching animals and using wild plants for medicine, which is very well done, due to the easy to use nature of the ‘Cure' and ‘Food' micromanaging screens.

MGS3 backtracks to 1964, during the cold war, where everyone was afraid of everyone else, and what sort of nasty things they could do. In the opening of Snake Eater, you are dropped right into the heart of it, the Soviet Union, sent to rescue an arms engineer that is developing a battle tank capable of launching a nuclear warhead, from anywhere in the world, to anywhere in the world.

Most of the game is focused around you finding ‘Sokolov', and rescuing him by (of course), bringing him back to the USA. Although, things don't go according to plan when your mentor and her groovy gang of ‘Cobras' (read: really freaky people), takes him back to ‘Volgin', the man in charge of building this battle tank. Essentially taking you back to square one. Of course, Metal Gear Solid has never been without plot turns and twists, and the ones in the third installment are no let down, that I can assure you of, but I will leave you to find out the rest.

The soundtrack of this game, like the last one, Sons of Liberty, were written by Harry Gregson-Williams, who worked on ‘The Rock', and many other Hollywood blockbusters, which probably explains why the main theme doesn't sound too dissimilar.
When you stand still in a jungle area in Snake Eater, (and there are lots to choose from), and close you eyes, you feel like you are standing in the middle of a living and thriving ecosystem, with birds flying around overhead, snakes slithering past, and the odd squirrel or monkey scurrying past. The weapon sounds have been greatly improved since the last one, the assault rifles actually sound like assault rifles, as opposed to a rat clawing at an empty wine glass.

The graphics in Snake Eater are that much better than the previous game, but there have been some more major overhauls of the explosions, such as when you shoot a barrel in one of the first areas, your vision whites out for just a split second, and the fire effects replicate that of a miniature nuclear explosion. Small details have had attention paid to them on the various sets of camouflage, with tiny writing on clothing such as the sneaking suit. The facial animation system also seems to be more refined than the former, the eyes actually looking like they are inside the characters head, not like they are wearing a mask and the eyeballs have been directly situated behind the eye holes. The graphics technology of this now aging system have been massively exploited, a lesson to PC game manufacturers, that people don't necessarily need to have the latest and greatest GPU.

One of the main differences between this new installment and the rest is the addition of a ‘Close Quarter Combat' system, or CQC for short. It allows the player to pull of various hand-to-hand combat moves, such as interrogation, or just slitting the guys throat. The CQC system can be learnt pretty quickly, but takes a fair amount of time to be mastered. When interrogated, guards will often give you locations to food, or equipment, or even tell you radio codes capable of calling off alerts…or they may simply swear at you. When you use them as a human shield, you can shoot at the enemies that don't want to shoot at you human shield, but it takes some time to master, because to hold all of the necessary buttons, you seem to need a third hand.

Snake Eater is also without the ‘Soliton Radar System', which allowed the player to see the position of enemy soldiers and their field of view depicted on a small mini map in the top right hand corner. To get around this, the player needs to use first person view far more often, or use a sonar that shows the enemies as little white dots. The drawback to this is that it also shows animals, and uses up a battery that is shared with a motion detector (which is much of the same), and the anti-personnel detector. Players that have familiarized themselves with the style of play in ‘Snake Tales', in Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, shouldn't have too much of a problem with Snake Eater.

The jungle areas are set out in much the same way as the areas in the previous two games. This may seem slightly linear for a game set mostly in the outdoors, but a large number of places are pretty massive, and have multiple entrances and exits. So to a player on their first play through, it is still easy to get lost. The pathways connecting the different areas, while slightly enclosed and linear, don't make you feel like you're trapped and unable to explore the rest of the jungle, as cliffs or large trees surround most of them.

Mastering the camouflage and camouflage index is absolutely crucial to survive in this game, even in the earlier levels. Snake has many different camouflage suits to choose from, one for every different environment imaginable, and some that don't actually seem to fit in with any. The camouflage index in the upper right hand corner displays the percentage that your camouflage helps you blend into the environment. Sometimes if you have a high percentage on you camo index, you can simply sit in a clump of grass and wait for an enemy guard to walk past. Weather you let him walk past unscathed, or pop a round in his head with your silenced pistol, is you choice.

When you do finally get into a building, the camouflage can have another use. At one part in the game, you get to dress up as an enemy officer, (Ivan Raidenovich Raikov, yes, almost definitely one of Raidens relatives, but don't worry, you get to beat the crap out of him.), and as a scientist. But you have to be careful, as the other scientists in the base will recognize the fact that you are not one of them. However, you can dispatch of them with a few James Bond style gadgets, namely a knock out handkerchief and a sleeping gas spray disguised as a cigar.

If you do dispatch of an enemy, and would rather not alert the rest of the guards to your location, you can hide the body in a locker, or creative places. The realism of the game is slightly let down by the fact that after you got through the different alert phases (alert, evasion and caution), the enemy are once again, blissfully unaware of your presence is their stronghold. This was the same in all Metal Gear Solid games to date, and is no way a flaw in the game system, as it is hard to imagine another way of doing things, as the games developers, Konami, have ironed out the creases to create an almost flawless ‘Hide and Seek', system. Which works very well, and blends in with the rest of the gameplay more than seamlessly.

In the previous game, Sons of Liberty, lots of people were disappointed by the fact that the guards could use shotguns (but only in a few cases), but the players couldn't. This has been more than rectified in this game, with the addition of a shotgun (that creates a lovely effect when fired), and also many other new weapons, such as the legendary Revolver Ocelots singe action army, which has bullets whose ricochets home in on the nearest enemy, and that you can spin on one finger in first person mode. Granted a lot of weapons are almost the same, but the ones that are slightly similar, do have slight differences, such as being able to be shot in burst fire mode, and the ability to zoom in, in first person view. There have been so many weapon additions, that to keep the game as realistic a possible, have created a ‘backpack' system, where you can micromanage which items and weapons you have on your person, and which you have in your backpack (which seems to have the added bonus of being invisible). You can also use captured animals, such as snakes, as weapons, to scare away enemies, along with being able to give them rotten food to eat, to make them sick and unable to carry on fighting.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, would be a game that I wouldn't hesitate to buy, because I am a hardcore fan of the series. And this installment doesn't disappoint. It builds on the already massively popular ‘sneak ‘em up' genre, which Metal Gear Solid ultimately created. There are several big names in this genre, Splinter Cell and Syphon Filter, just to name a couple, but I think the latest in the Metal Gear Solid series beats all of them into the dust.

This shouldn't be a game that people that are new to Metal Gear Solid, or even the whole sneaking genre, should avoid. I would advise at least playing Metal Gear Solid 2 first, just to get an idea of the whole Metal Gear Solid universe, but you wouldn't miss much if you didn't, as this game strays quite far away from the plot of the others.

You may be able to complete MGS3 in one sitting if you're familiar with the controls and gameplay of Metal Gear Solid, but the extras and secrets will last you a long time. All in all, this is, in my opinion, the best third person shooter on the market today, and will be for quite a long time. It strays from the original Metal Gear Solid ethos in a few places, but makes up for it fifty times over. In terms of gameplay and graphics, this is the best Metal Gear Solid to date.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/31/05


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