Review by Dante Leonhart

"Absolute bliss for MGS fans"

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

For fans of the Metal Gear Solid series, this game has got to be absolute bliss, and even armchair fans of the espionage genre can't help but gape at everything Konomi has crammed into a single DVD for the PS2. If you were to compile all the ratings of this game on the internet, I'm will to bet money that you willing find more 10/10's and 5/5's than you will 9/10's or 4/5's.

Yes, this game is that good.

Graphics: 10/10

Imagine a game with dramatic, movie quality cut-scenes, motion capture animation to rival reality, action that keeps your heart pounding and detail so immersive that every blade of grass is not only rendered, but crumples and flattens as you crawl over it. Beams of light filter in through the trees and cast real time shadows onto Snake as you pass under them. Mud stains your camo as you crawl through it, but depending on whether you crawl, walk or roll through it determines exactly where the stains are placed and to what extent. Not only that, but doing so will cause Snake to leave muddy footprints that wash away when it rains. Want to hunt for food? Look for moving grass or buzzing bees. Getting shot, but don't know where the bullets are coming from? Watch the grass. You can track a bullet back to its source by watching where the vegetation is getting ripped up. Its hard to believe a game like this can run so smooth and not require the thinking power of an Xbox. MGS3 pushes the PS2 to its limits, no doubt.

Did I mention some of the cutscenes are interactive? As in you can change the view and zoom the camera?

Sounds: 10/10

I've been hooked on the MGS theme ever since the first one came out. The intro, while a blatant rip off of James Bond seemed to grow on me. The renditions of the theme during the cutscenes are just fantastic. Every sound in nature is here as well. Croaking frogs, rustling birds, slithering and hissing snakes, subtle footsteps, quiet whispers. A stealth game like this depends on high quality sound and MGS3 delivers on every level. Trying to interrogate a hostage you're holding during a firefight is probably not going to work, as its doubtful you'll hear their sniveling comments over the blaring alarms and hailstorm of gunfire.

Gameplay: 10/10 (This part is long. Feel free to skim over this, because I still wasn't able to cover everything there is to do.)

If you've been keeping up with the development of this game, then you know that Solid Snake doesn't actually appear in Snake Eater since it's 1964.

The names are kind of cheesy, even to me after hearing characters referred by such names for five years, but I chalk it up to Japanese translations. Maybe it doesn't sound so cheesy to the Japanese. (MGS3 is developed by Konomi. Konomi is a Japanese company. [Don't worry. The entire game is 100% English.])

Snake is dropped into the heart of a jungle and is set loose all by himself, just as in the previous games, only now there's more than just health to worry about. The system that determines Snake's well-being has been extremely overhauled and expanded. Now, on top of health, you also have to worry about his stamina. (How hungry/tired he is.) All kinds of things affect the stamina gauge. Running around the jungle like an idiot (assuming this doesn't get you shot dead) will drain the meter faster than walking obviously. Things like swimming, hanging from ledges, stalking quietly, holding alot of items out of the backpack all cause the stamina gauge to drain faster. This, naturally has a negative affect on all kinds of things. Low stamina means Snake won't be able to run as fast, nor hold a gun steady, nor hold a hostage easily, nor hang from a ledge for very long, nor hold his breath, ect, ect ect... Stamina affects just about everything, even his susceptibility to getting sick. That's right... run around half naked in the rain (I'll cover camo later on) with low stamina, and there's a good chance you'll catch a cold. Needless to say, stalking around the jungle quietly might be impeded by loud sneezes. Guards tend to investigate... lots of them. To fix your stamina, you're going to have to get Snake something to eat, but where, oh where are you going to find a McDonald's in the middle of the jungle?

You're not. Depending on the difficulty level you select, you may have a few rations to start the operation with, but once that runs out, you're going to have to hunt for food. There are all kinds of animals and insects and reptiles in the game, and depending on what you capture will determine how much stamina is replenished when you eat it. If all you can find is a little frog, then not only are you going to have an issue with your stamina, but Snake is not going to like eating it. That is, at first, perhaps. Sometimes he'll acquire a taste for certain things and actually grow to like it after a while, which also boosts the amount of stamina he receives from eating it. Now, if you're a good hunter or just lucky enough to stumble upon a plentiful bounty of prey and grab up all the raw meat you can carry, don't think you've got it made in the shade. That food will go bad eventually, and when it does, it would be a bad idea to eat it. You can either dump it, or toss it at a hungry patrol. If the guard is dumb enough to eat it, he'll be dry heaving for the next few hours... giving you the perfect chance to get the drop on him. If however, you eat the rotten food for some reason, then you better hope you have some digestive medicine on you, otherwise you'll suffer from food poisoning, which causes your stamina to drop like crazy, not to mention your health. If you don't have any digestive medicine, then you might be able to hunt for it. Some fruits have seeds that aid in digestion and you can use it to cure the food poisoning. If not, then your last option is to induce vomiting and Snake will hurl up the bad food.

Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg on the gameplay details. I haven't even gotten to the things you can do to guards. Don't want them to call for backup? Shoot their radio. They spot you? Try to grab a patrol and interrogate him, he might give you the radio frequency to either cancel the alert or have his own men call in fire support. (You'll want to find cover if you call in fire support though, as they'll blow you up along with their own men.) If you don't want them to spot you, then you'll need blend in with the surroundings. You'll get an indicator at the top right of the screen showing you how invisible Snake is. If the number is low, then you'll want to change into the appropriate camo and paint on the necessary face paint to increase your stealth.

If you do get spotted and then enemy calls for backup, then its time to run and hide. Trying to stand your ground by yourself is a surefire way to die. Alright, you might be able to take out the patrol that spotted you, but if you stand there with your M1911 and your bucknife when the guys with the AK's, shotguns, bullet bouncers and grenades come rolling in, you won't be standing for long. Assuming you get away, you probably won't get away unscathed everytime. If you take a round, it's likely that Snake will be wounded.

Get shot? You'll need to dig out the bullet with your knife, disinfect the wound, apply styptic to stop the bleeding, sow up the cut and place a bandage over it. Get hit by a poisoned arrow? You'll need to pull it out just like the bullet and then take a serum injection to keep Snake from dying.

Be warned though, wounds will heal by themselves slowly over time. If you run out of supplies and have to let projectiles sit inside Snake's body while it heals, then it will heal like that permanently. Injuries that are incurred can be viewed in a slick x-ray like viewer when you go to heal them. Everything shows up. From small bullets under the skin to broken bones, and it's all dynamic. Get shot in the arm left forearm just 3 inches above the wrist? You'll see a bullet there in the X-ray. Fall too far and land on your right foot? Chances are you'll see a fracture somewhere along the right leg.

Jeeze, there's so much more, that I can't think of how to summarize it without leaving something out. And it's not just about details in what happens... its also the details in what you can do as well as some pretty incredible AI.

For those who want boss fights to be a surprise, skip down to story.

Perhaps the absolute funnest sequence I have ever played in a video game has got to be the sniper duel about halfway through the game. This will probably be a love or hate thing for some people as this sniper duel is pretty grueling. On Very Easy difficulty setting (read: wuss) you can probably blow through it in about 10-15 mins. But if you play it on hard or extreme, this little bit can take an hour or longer. (I tried to be as stealthy as possible, swearing not to get hit even once and it took me 3 hrs to complete.)

There are all kinds of things that you can do to track the sniper or stay out of his sights altogether. Want to track his footprints? Look for muddy ground, but you better do it before it starts raining, or the tracks get washed away, and if you aren't careful and discover that you are leaving footprints, he'll track them straight to you. If you get in the grass, put on your camo and camp to try to turn the tables on him, then you better be listening hard, checking your six or planting claymores behind you, because if you keep your eye down the scope trying to find him and he sneaks up on you, its automatically over right then and there.

However, if you're patient, there are a ton of strategies you can employ, and even a few cheap tricks you can use to find him and end him. For example, if you pick up a directional mic, you can use it to scan around the jungle and listen for footsteps or breathing. Got the thermal scanners? Put'em on and look for the glowing spot. Or be a real trooper and just use the binocs to spot the flashing reflection of sunlight from his scope.

On being cheap: One of the cool features of this game is that it emulates sleep when you save and quit. Depending on how long you quit, the game will check the PS2 clock and restore the appropriate amount of health. If you save during the fight with this sniper and hole up in a secure space to sleep and set your clock ahead a couple of weeks, you'll receive a call over the radio informing you that the sniper has died...

Cheap indeed.

In some cases, when you ‘wake up' or load the game, you might find that Snake hasn't yet woken up, and you'll get to see/play through his nightmares. I'm not kidding.

Story: 9/10

Just about every question I ever had about the Metal Gear Solid series is wrapped up in this prequel, and then ending is guaranteed to blow you away. I sat there dumbfounded and the incredible revelation at the end. The reason it got only a 9, though, is that, at times, the conversations can seem long winded. This is more than made up for near the end, however, as the game picks up and will have you on the edge of your seat for the final four hours of gameplay AT LEAST. The ending is very well done. I can't say anymore than that without giving away everything, but you discover where Snake's sense of honor and duty comes from.

Overall: 10/10

There is no reason anyone would not have fun playing this game. I'm on my 7th play through right now, and I still haven't done everything I wanted to do. The story, the graphics, the gameplay all keep pulling me back for more, and if my long-assed review isn't enough to make you play it, then you need to be shot.

Seriously... put down Half-life 2/GTA:SA/Halo 2/Delta Force/Doom III/Metriod Prime 2. I guarantee, once you start Snake Eater, you'll forget you were ever playing anything else for the 30 hours that it sucks you in.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/07/04

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