Review by Kuja105 Reborn

"Kojima's latest installment tastes delicious"

It's certainly no wonder that Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is getting the attention it is. For one, Metal Gear has always been known for its gripping story, innovative stealth-based action, and wonderful voice acting. Also, there is the issue of Metal Gear Solid 2's “big surprise”.

The outrage of playing as someone other than Solid Snake in a Metal Gear game is still being felt today. Solid Snake made the franchise what it was (and still is), and it's understandable that people would be upset that he was no longer playable through the majority of Metal Gear Solid 2.

Well, rest assured that you won't be playing as Raiden again. In Metal Gear Solid 2, you play as “Naked Snake” (voiced by Metal Gear veteran David Hayter), a man charged with infiltrating a Soviet jungle during the Cold War era – 1964, to be exact. His mission is to rescue a brilliant scientist, Nikolai Sokolov, from the hands of the KGB before he is forced to complete a new type on nuclear device.

Obviously, it gets much more complicated than that. And while Snake Eater manages to tell a wonderfully woven tale of trust, betrayal and war, it never gets as complicated as Metal Gear Solid 2 and usually manages to keep the anti-nuke philosophy to a minimum. The story, to say the least, is not very complicated. While it will satisfy those who felt bored during the first two installments, it also hurts it a bit. Most of the Cobra Unit, the bosses of the game, have little background. Some characters that play more major roles than the bosses don't even get more than a little blurb. Some may see this as a welcome change, while those who loved the utter complexity of the first two may find it a bit off-putting.

The story is really pulled together by the wonderful score that accompanies it. Norihiko Hibino and Harry Gregson-Williams have done an outstanding job with this soundtrack. The use of guitar and drum beats sound perfect in this time period and location. The main vocal theme of the game, “Snake Eater”, sounds like it was taken right out of an early Bond movie, really making you feel as if you are a spy. When the soundtrack isn't making you feel like a one-man army, it's invoking emotion. The track “Enclosure” from Metal Gear Solid has long been hailed as the most emotional song in the Metal Gear world, and it has met its match, though I won't spoil the game for you by telling you about it.

The game also features the series' first non-original track – “Way To Fall” by Starsailor, which plays during the credit sequence. And if that isn't a big enough departure for you, this game takes a daring step seen seldom in video games – most of the areas in the game have only ambient noises. The jungle is alive with critters, and the sound in this game reflects this. The wilderness comes to life in the ambient tracks, from birds to bees, angry crocodiles and your own hungry stomach.

This installment features several new gameplay elements, including switching camouflage on fly, interrogating enemies, and hunting for your own food. The camouflage system is the crux of this game. Since you no longer have a radar to tell you when an enemy can see you, you must make sure you adequately blend in with your environment before moving around. How well you blend in is indicated with a percentage grade at the top of the screen. The higher the score, the less likely an enemy can see you. That's not to say you can simply run by them with reckless abandon. Enemy soldiers have heightened A.I. and can see you coming a mile away if you move around too much. Their hearing is much improved as well. You can no long simply run up to an enemy and take him down him because he'll hear you coming. To combat this, the game now allows you to “stalk” the enemy. By moving very slowly you'll make very little noise and be able to sneak up behind an enemy undetected. However, it drains your stamina more quickly than walking.

Stamina is Metal Gear's new way of adding a healthy does of realism to an otherwise wholly unrealistic game. Everything you do drains stamina, with some of the more strenuous acts using a substantial amount. Stamina is regained by killing and eating animals or eating fruit that you find lying around. If you let your stamina drop too low, your stomach will growl and any nearby enemies will hear it. Finding food is not hard, however. Every forest area is pretty full of wildlife for you to kill.

Another big addition to this game it the Cure system. Whenever you receive a serious injury, part of the health bar will turn red, effectively lowering you maximum amount of life. To heal yourself, you must go into the “Survival Viewer”, which runs just like an RPG inventory screen, and heal yourself but extracting bullets, disinfecting stitching up wounds, and even burning leaches off of your body. While it is a rather innovative feature, it seems to be way to accessible. You pause all action to do it, and supplies are pretty abundant, so being seriously injured never really gives you a sense of anxiety.

The graphics of this game are simply stunning. The PS2 has the least power of the current systems, but the Metal Gear team really shows us that it's the developers that count, not the system. All the areas of the game, from the smallest, most linear areas to the largest areas, look like absolutely gorgeous. The odd camera system of the game may cause a few headaches for those who are new to the series or have been over-reliant on the radar, but in the end the camera gives the game a more cinematic fell than one with fully free control would.

The motion capture is also at its best in this game. The lip-synching is still off, but pretty decent still. The facial expressions are far and above anything in Metal Gear Solid 2, and even the body language of the characters seems to have been drastically improved. You may not notice at first glance, as some of these things are really quite subtle, but it is very apparent they took their time to perfect the character movements.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater suffers from a few flaws to be sure. It's rather short and the camera can be awkward to newcomers and veterans alike. However, the overall experience gained from intense stealth and an emotionally driven story will leave you breathless, and possibly crying, in the end. I give Metal Gear Solid 3 a well-earned 9 out of 10.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/07/04, Updated 12/08/04

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