Review by MachineMade

"The greatest achievement in stealth action as well as the best Metal Gear game to date."

When I first saw the screenshots and trailers for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, I knew I was looking at an entirely different game from what I experienced in its predecessors. Snake was no longer free to hide behind corners, in lockers, or behind furniture. He was in the wild, where it was a live or let die, killed or be killed, a true test of survival. MGS3: Subsistence is an extension of MGS3: Snake Eater, improving on various aspects and adding on new ones at the same time.

Instead of just focusing on the improvements and add ons, I'd like to discuss the entire game. The single player focuses on a time period before the entire Metal Gear saga, the 1960s. Where a young ex-Green Beret working for FOX, a American government agency handling covert operations, is assigned to the "Virtuous Mission": to rescue a scientist named Sokolov who is being held by the Soviets somewhere in the Eastern Bloc. Sokolov could be the key to winning the arms race. This spy-soldier, code name Naked Snake (mainly because he is jumping into a wilderness without immediate means of survival), is assisted through radio contact by his former mentor and mother-like figure, only known as The Boss. The Boss, considered to be the greatest soldier ever known worldwide, along with her (yes, she's a woman) elite comrades known as the Cobra Unit, was the key reason for the Allies victory in Europe in World War II. However, the Virtuous Mission goes awry when The Boss and the Cobras defect to the Soviets and joins Colonel Volgin, leader of the GRU, who has been holding Sokolov captive. Snake now has a new mission, to re-rescue Sokolov but also uncover what the insane Volgin is using Sokolov for. But he must also, eliminate the Cobra Unit and assassinate the woman who means the world to him, The Boss. Intertwined into the story is a young Colonel Ocelot, before he took up the revolver, who works for Volgin. Without revealing any more, I'd like to say that MGS3 provides one of the strongest and best written storylines every conceived. It portrays more like a film, with heavy doses of comedy, romance, action, and tragedy.

Unlike the previous Metal Gear Solid games, MGS3 is set in the wilderness. Concordantly, Snake must eat to survive the many days he will be out there alone. One of the newly added gameplay mechanics is the Stamina Bar. Almost everything Snake does uses up Stamina, and therefore he has to literally hunt the wildlife and plantlife as a source of food (hence the name Snake Eater). Snake can hunt a variety of wild animals native to the region, including snakes, scorpions, rabbits, goats, etc. Most of the smaller animals can be captured by tranquilizer and put in cages and used against the enemy, especially the venomous snakes. Stamina affects a variety of Snake's abilities, for example low stamina will cause his hand to tremble plenty and cause poor shot accuracy.

Another radical change to the gameplay is the stealth tactics. Snake no longer relies on being fully hidden behind objects to remain undetected. He uses face and body camouflage to blend into the surroundings. Snake is given a large selection of different face paint and attire to adapt to the many different locations that he visits. For example, if he is backed up against a tree, he should use Tree Bark camo, or if he's lying in grass, use Olive Drab camo. The effectiveness of the selection is portrayed in a Camouflage Meter on the top right corner. When selecting a face paint and attire, each choice is given a numerical rating. Therefore Snake simply chooses the highest rated paint or attire and go into hiding. 100% rating is pure invisibility, so most camos only reach to about 95%. The ratings influence how far the enemy needs to be to not notice Snake. For example, an enemy can be closeby only if Snake has 90-95% camo. But he's safe from a far away enemy even with 60-70% camo. However, Snake's movements and positions reduce his camo rating. For example, Snake has the lowest rating while standing up, but a better rating if he's kneeling and the best if he's prone. If Snake is creeping along the ground, his camo will drop a bit, walking will drop it even further, and running will make camo basically useless. Therefore, lying prone without movement will give Snake the best chance to practice his stealth maneuvers. Many of the camo face paints and attires are hidden throughout the game and several need to be unlocked by completing a certain in-game or post-game task. These special camos extend Snake's hiding abilities as well as other abilites. For example, Water camo will help him while swimming, whereas Fire camo is fire-proof, and Moss camo allows Snake to regenerate health during sunlight exposure.

The last main gameplay change is CQC or close-quarters-combat. Developed by The Boss with Snake, CQC is a more advanced method of attacking and defending, than the simple punch and kicks of the older MGS games. Under CQC, Snake uses both firearm and knife at the same time. Snake now has the ability to hold an enemy hostage with a knife at the throat. This way, Snake can use the hostage as a human shield while using his gun to continue firing. He can also use the knife to threaten the hostage and force answers, clues, or supplies out of him. Snake also has the choice of knocking out the hostage or silently killing them by slitting the throat. Nevertheless, Snake has the older tactics of sneaking up on a enemy and asking them to throw their hands up, pointing a gun at their vital places. But due to the camouflage, Snake has to do less sneaking.

The best aspect of the gameplay perhaps are the boss fights in MGS3. Most of the fights are against the Cobra Unit: The Pain, The Fear, The End, The Fury, The Sorrow, each of who inflict their names as emotions against their enemies and in battle. But obviously fights against Volgin, Ocelot, a pre-Metal Gear like tank, and of course The Boss are expected. The most unique boss fight is easily against The End, the inventor of modern sniping. The battle is sniper-vs-sniper battle through 3 enormous forest areas. This battle is truly amazing because of the number of ways to defeat The End. However, The End refuses to kill you, in fact, he fires tranquilizers to lower Snake's stamina until he runs out. Then The End will simply take you back to the enemy base, for you to escape and traverse out of until you reach The End again, to take him on once more. All the bosses have Stamina bars as well, allowing the player to complete the entire game without using any real bullets. In fact, incapacitating the bosses with physical blows or tranquilizers rewards you with that bosse's individual camo attire, each of which has a somewhat supernatural ability.

A few minor gameplay changes have been made too. The game is considerably more difficult since all laser sight has been removed (mainly because it was not invented during the game's time period). This makes aiming more realistic, but more challenging. In addition, the environment plays a larger role in the gameplay. For example, if the enemies are approaching by a rope bridge, Snake can use his knife to cut the ropes and make the bridge unstable, causing the enemies to plummet to their deaths. Or shooting a honeycomb near an enemy, causing the bees to swarm the enemy and drive them away. Another addition is the wear-and-tear of the silencers of many of the guns. Unlike the previous games, each silencer can only handle a number of shots, and sooner or later will not be able to silence gunfire. Therefore, collecting silencers (by holding enemies hostage) and conserving bullets in order to keep the silencer functioning is important. Every bullet counts more than ever.

MGS3 features the best visual presentation I have ever seen, on and off a Playstation 2. The jungle is massive and extremely detailed. The birds (which can be hunted) will fly away if Snake comes close to them (note that this may make enemies suspicious). The individual blades of grass will move as Snake wades through it. Although the game's resolution may not be high, the character models are gorgeous and Snake (who looks identical to Solid Snake) has more facial detail than ever before. Facial expressions and emotions are finally life-like. While Snake Eater has a limited camera angle, Subsistence gives you a fully 3D rotatable camera that makes viewing the surroundings just as pleasing as playing the game. Graphically, MGS3 is unmatched on the sixth generation systems.

Perhaps MGS3's strongest aspect is the sound and music. This game truly deserves to be played in a 5.1 surround sound set up. The individual clinking of the metal on Volgin's boots, along with the thumping of the boots against the ground is easily differentiated. The stealth in this game is heavily dependent on the sound. Many of the boss fights are much harder without a surround sound setup. The ambient noise of the jungle is incredible. The chirping of crickets at night, or singing of birds, hissing of snakes, braying of goats, or Snake's feet against the different terrains: grass, mud, bog, stone, desert are very unique sounding. The music in the game is superb, in fact this game has it's own Bond-like theme song. The music ranges from action-packed to tragic depending on the appropriate scenarios. MGS3 also provides the best voice-acting I've seen in a video game. David Hayter returns as the voice of Snake, but he's never short of spectacular. Unmatched composing allows MGS3 to be an auditory escapade.

The game has a lot of unique aspects as well. First, a "Snake-vs-Monkey" mode where Snake captures the weasly monkeys from Ape Escape. This mode is even accessible to younger audiences as the weapon you use to hunt down the monkeys, the appropriately named Banana Gun, only stuns the monkeys. This is not only a great side-game but also rewarding with new camos and weapons. Subsistence provides online-play as well. Various modes of assault are available and the players can choose almost any game character, including a few found in other Konami games. The multiplayer is superbly developed and extremely fun. You can either use stealth tactics individually or organize a squad to attack the enemy. Subsistence also provides a theater mode where you can view the great cutscenes throughout the movie.

MGS3, being set in the past before the others in the series, ties a lot of loose ends and explains a lot of mysteries found in the other games. One example is how Naked Snake earns the title of the legendary Big Boss and why he becomes a "villain" in the future series. Another example is how Ocelot learns to love the revolver and who he really is. MGS3 is perhaps the best stealth action game developed so far. Hideo Kojima seems to be improving his already ultra talented directing skills. MGS3 is more available to the casual gamer too, with a more effectively written story and less radio dialogue but more film like cutscenes. Best of all, you get to play as Snake the throughout the entire game. Nevertheless, anyone who has played the previous Metal Gear games will obviously pick this one up, but those who haven't will be happy to know that they can play MGS3 without playing MGS1 or MGS2 since it's a prequel. Yet, this game's outstanding innovative gameplay, breath-taking visuals, and majestic sound gives it much praise as one of the best games ever made.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/13/06


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