Review by BeefieCheesie

"Snake here...Snake in the jungle...Snake gon git you."

The Metal Gear series as a whole has always been a love it or hate it sort of franchise. Either you love the Tactical Espionage Action or you hate waiting around for some guard to turn his back so you can either run past him or choke him to death. Then you have to hide the body. Some gamers eat this up, some gamers loath all that work for what seems to be little pay-off. A few gamers just see the player running from corridor to corridor, sneaking around. What's the point. The Metal Gear Solid series has always been about a great story. Although Metal Gear Solid 2 had its moments of sheer "WTF?", it still told a pretty good story. Here to please the fans with a supposed "final" entry for the director himself Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater takes the series back in time to tie up loose ends, and to put a fresh, if interesting perspective on the entire series.

First things first, if you didn't like any of the previous Metal Gear Solid games, you're probably not going to like this one. Even though there a few changes to the whole game. If you don't have the patience for some of the sneakier parts of the game, then don't bother, it's not going to change your mind. If you're a fan of the series, even the ENTIRE series, you will absolutely love this game. The new additions take a while to get used to, but over time you will develop a love for those things.

One of the first things you'll run in to with MGS3 is the lack of the radar. No longer will you know where every enemy is and which way the are looking. Now you have to literally use your eyes and ears, and actually hide out and plan where you want to go in any given area. You'll have active sonar, and a couple of other tools to help you scout out the surrounding areas. But as you'll learn, these items prove pretty pointless as most of the time you'll be able to scope out and see what's ahead and be able to deal with it. While this may seem like a fault to some gamers, it's not until a little under half-way through the game, when you enter a complex, and have to sneak around, that you realize the true reason for the lack of radar (other than it being the early sixties). It puts the stealth back in to this stealth game. You'll find your self switching to first-person view, looking around...moving up against a wall, looking around the corner, then moving down the hallway or are truly sneaking around. You have to use your "senses" this time around and actually try to be stealthy, never before has this been done in a series. The immerseiveness doesn't end there.

Although many may hate this, I'm sure all of the fans love this. The survival viewer is probably one of the best aspects of the game. Even if you won't like it, you'll still have to go to it again...and again...and again...and...well Again. Every time you are injured it's off to the survival viewer, then to the cure screen, where you're then given options on fixing your self. If you have a gun shot wound. You take the knife, dig it out, the you put styptic and another disinfectant, then you sew it up and bandage it. Anything major that you do to Snake damage wise is going to cause you to lose stamina.

The new camouflage feature is a great addition as well, although, after the 2nd Act of the game, you'll hardly need it again. It adds to the level of detail this game strives for.

The cure part of the survival viewer involves the almost unbelievable amount of animals you can kill or capture in this game. Even more mind blowing, each animal has a different use and effect on Snake, some more than others. Once Snakes stamina begins to dwindle, he become more shaky and his stomach growls (which in turn can get a wandering gaurd's attention and you know where that will lead). Eating animals makes the new stamina bar go up, and the more you cure and take care of yourself, the larger your life bar will become, and in turn the more damage you will take. If you play a little more stealth-fully your life bar won't be as huge as say a gamer that Rambo's his way through the game and takes huge amount of damage.

The whole reason for the survival viewer is simple. If you don't want to hassle with all the menus, don't get hurt. Take your time, use stealth. That's the major point of this game, stealth. The gamer is punished for not adhering. Although the menus weren't a hassle for me, I can see the average gamer being pretty tired of pausing the game, opening up menu after to menu, and literally taking time to cure Snake and make sure there isn't a wound on him or anything.

The gameplay and engine is essentially the same, and maybe even a little flawed. Don't be fooled by what you've read in developer interviews, this is literally the MGS2 engine with trees and grass. You still have little areas to run around in, and there's little load areas in between. But...and this is key, a lot of the "rooms" are tens times larger than any enviroment in MGS2. Take in to account the terrain differences, high and low areas, deep boggy areas, huge trees, and you've got a great engine. Although getting trapped on a tree and having the camera switch to "In front of Snake" view is a little tiring after the 12th accidental time, it's not really anything to fuss about. The sheer amount of detail in any given area is stunning.

Unlike a lot of other games set in the jungle (the myriad of Vietnam games). MGS3's jungles actually looks, sound, and feel like a huge jungle. Early in the game you are shown a map of your mission, and where the major points of interest are. After playing the game, you actually feel like you covered all the terrain. Because you do. Although sort of linear in how you get there. The jungle areas are huge, the areas themselves are huge. From the jungles to mountains to the huge Complex. You will cover a lot of ground. This game as a whole is very immersive. Especially with all the animals covering the ground. Birds will fly up out of the grass and bushes as you approach and startle them. Light will peek through the holes in the canopy. The day-night cycle of the entire game is great, although barely noticeable.

On top of all this is a great story. Loaded with memorable characters you actually feel for. MGS2 really tired to do the whole empathy with the characters thing, but I never truly felt for any of the characters. If anything they were annoying. MGS3's characters especially The Boss and Snake, are the most endearing of any of the Metal Gear games. The story doesn't try to make you feel for any of the characters but as the game progresses and through the many replays you will find yourself attaching to characters and actually rooting for them once things hit the fan. The voice acting is top notch, and to be expected from a Metal Gear Soild game. The codec screen time has also been dwindled down in favor of showing more through cutscenes. Early on in the game you will spend a goodly amount of time in the radio screen but after a while the entire game as a whole starts rolling and you will literally have to start radio conversations if you truly want to flesh out more of the game. The story is a little less twisty than MGS2, but it still keeps you guessing and may be a little to easy to figure out if your a veteran of the series, although in the end, you're once again turned on your ear by the end conversations. The motion capture acting is superb as well, the characters all have different mannerisms that are truly their own, they actually look and act alive. The cut scenes are in game, using the actual models. The models look spot on. Almost realistic but limited by the console constraints. This is about as realistic looking as your going to get on the PS2. This game pushed the PS2 to almost XBOX like quality perhaps even surpassing it.

On the subject of characters the boss battles in this game will once again be a truly love or hate it experience. This game forces it's players to use their minds and even, their imagination. Although some of the bosses aren't particularly deep, they are varied enough and have a "thing" about them that makes them more endearing. The Cobra unit is a mixed bag of straight-forward bosses to a total tests of a players patience. Be prepared when fighting The End, you may very well spend over an hour trying to find and end the battle with him.

Personally I thought everything in this game was clever and totally fresh. You will not find an experience like this in ANY game. The last "flaw" would be the dated camera. But that's the Metal Gear Solid series for you. The camera kind of forces you to use stealth. And to use your mind, no stealth game can allow so much freedom as to allow you to be sneaky or Rambo your way through the entire game. There is benefits and consequences for each. But both are enjoyable and great ways to play the game. The story, characters and overall package are great and worth every cent and hour of a players time. Although not the longest game, it is truly worth it to play through again. MGS3 puts the entire Metal Gear series in a new perspective, and for a "final" entry is a great book end to a great series. The flaws are few and not enough to even lower this games score, regardless of how the player may feel about it. At the end of the game you will feel truly satisfied, that's something a lot games that have come out this season cannot do.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/10/04

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