Review by ShinKojiro

"Metal Gear Solid 3, a defining game that will stick with you even when PS2 is long gone."

Everything has changed, and nothing has changed.

Let's start off with the story, since in all Metal Gear games this is the aspect that sets it apart from the pack. It's slow to start and you may say to yourself, "why the hell am I running around in the jungle for?" But slowly the pace picks up and little plot points that shed light onto the origin of Metal Gear, and the fun cameos, will put a smile on the face any hardcore MG fan. We get a pseudo origin story on “Revolver” Ocelot, and a few in-jokes at the expense of Raiden. But I couldn't help feeling like Kojima is trying to get back in with the fans by insulting Raiden. I truly believe he liked the silver haired sissy back in the MGS 2 days, and is now only trying to deny it. Regardless he's not the main character and most fans will be very happy about that that. And you gotta love the boss names—The pain, The End (and yes the hour long sniper battle is lives up to the hype), come on, you know you love it. Another nice touch is the storyline is played out more cinematically this time. Not so much reading text while you play with your characters codec face, during important narrative exchanges. By the end, you see the story is much bigger than it seemed at first.

On the game play side of things, it's certainly the cleanest and tightest playing game in the series. Not much has changed, but the added abilities really shine in Snake's new environment. The CQC techniques are a lot of fun and really make you feel like a sneak. You can toss ‘em down, use ‘em as a shield, or my personal favorite (and probably everyone else's), slit their throat in a cloud of splattered blood. This makes up for the neck snap which seems to be lacking in this game.

So how does being a ‘snake in the grass' change the game? Read the opening sentence. Fundamentally, it feels the same; you'd never mistake this for something other than Metal Gear. The over-head view is still dominate, the guards still creep around looking for you, and you're still better off not being seen. But there is a lot of freshness in this package, mainly the removal of the radar, and the inclusion of the camouflage. This is the one change makes the most difference. You can no longer see the enemies and their ‘cone vision', you have to use camo to hide, sneak and try real hard not to make any noise. At first it may be frustrating, but a few hours in you'll want to go back and play the other games this way. It makes you feel better about yourself when you get a sneak kill with nothing but your camo and wits.

The graphics are absolutely incredible. Never before have jungle environments been so beautifully rendered. When you stop and look around at the shadows and leaves, you'll be partial to get lost for a moment—at least until the alert goes off and you have to splatter the trees red. Fair warning, though, this game really pushes the PS2 to the limits. If too much is happening on screen, there will be some slowdown, but it's really not enough to affect the game play.

The graphics shine the brightest in the amazing cut-scenes (which make up a lot of the game by the way). You may have seen some screen shots, but it doesn't hit home until you see the subtle animations and facial features that really bring the characters to life. The style is more a mix of anime and reality then the stiff, trying-too-hard-to-hard-to-look-realistic-but-just-look-like-plastic-dolls, graphics we've been seeing lately. And as usual, Kojima is a wonderful director, going for style over substance most of the time. But in a game like this, would you want it any other way?

The game also boasts great sound design, from the birds chirping in the trees to the muzzle blast of an AK-47. Play with a set of headphones and you're likely to forget your playing a game. On the other side of the spectrum, the voice actors do leave something to be desired, not all the time but on several occasions they can be over the top, and make you laugh when you shouldn't be. But American voice actors have come a long way over the years, so you should cut ‘em some slack. The music really is the nail in the coffin, tying together a truly cinematic experience, that if pitched as a film, good ‘ol Hollywood would never dare let out of the gates.

So, why a nine and not a ten? It's not perfect. It can get slow at times and some repetitive levels find their way in later on. I'd have to say the game got me so reminiscent that I scoured the net, found the original MSX titles, and plan on playing through the entire saga—one game at a time. If your looking for the best stealth game (Splinter Cell has nothing on this), then pick this game up, slit some throats, and have a good time playing in the woods like you were a kid again.

Please don't let this be The End, Kojima.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/29/04

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