Review by OmegaOpt5
"One huge step forward"
I will admit straight up that I am not a die hard Metal Gear player. My introduction to the series was the original Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation. The first Metal Gear Solid impressed me, but I felt the way in which the series creator, Hideo Kojima, delivered his story was a little mechanical. This "feeling" really solidified after I played the second game "Sons of Liberty" on the Playstation 2. The lengthy cut scenes and exhausting dialog not only distracted from the game play, but also seemed out of context in many situations. I just could not believe that such conversations could or would take place in those pressing situations. My overall assessment was that Kojima needed to try a more subtle way of delivering his point rather than beating the player over the head with it in hour and a half cut scenes.
Well, the obvious question is, does Snake Eater suffer from these same problems.
Yes and No.
Story and Presentation
From the introduction you can guess that this is an important section. The first answer to the question asked above is no, Snake Eater does not suffer from the problems found in "Sons of Liberty". In this latest Metal Gear, Kojima has done a much better job of balancing the game play and story. The presentation has always been a high point in all of the Solid games thus far, and Snake Eater is hands down the best yet. The scenes themselves are delivered in dynamic ways and manage to keep your attention throughout. Some of the scenes do run a bit too long, but nothing like what you'd find in "Sons of Liberty", and more importantly the characters don't always stand there and deliver line after line. Again, there are scenes that run long and become a bit static in terms of delivery, but these are few and far between.
Where Snake Eater fails to improve are the codec conversations, which are about as lengthy (and longer in some cases) as those found in the previous games. Some of this dialog is interesting and gives a more intimate look at some of the other characters involved in the story, but again I felt that they were overall inappropriate for the situation. To put it in plainly, you do not have 5-10 minutes discussions on movies when you're infiltrating a Russian base. However, I believe this is a small quibble, as only a few of these codec transmissions are important to the story and the rest can simply be skipped, unless you really want to know the other characters.
The bottom line is that Snake Eater is a huge step in the right direction in terms of story-telling and presentation. From the opening theme song to the exhilarating ending, Kojima has created a great piece of spy fiction worth experiencing.
Music and Sound
The Metal Gear Solid series has always been strong in this category. It is not often that music or sound really stands out in a game for me, but when it does, it always makes the experience more memorable. Snake Eater is just one of those stand out games, at least in my opinion. It's been said before, but the opening theme is derivative of a James Bond film and seems to fit the setting and feel of the game rather nicely. The theme is played in the background at different points throughout the game as well, which adds nicely to the overall presentation of the story. Touches like this really make this feel like a movie.
As for the sound effects, the most obvious improvement is the ambient sounds of the jungle and forests you will find yourself navigating. Some areas are quiet, while others are bristling with the sounds of birds, bugs, running water, snakes in the grass, ect...There was significant effort put into making the setting not only look authentic, but sound authentic as well.
The development that went into the music and sound of this game really shows in its quality and execution. All of this compliments the story scenes and game play and is an integral part of the wonderful presentation of the game.
Yowza! The graphics in Snake Eater are simply amazing. I have, of course, seen better, but in the case of Snake Eater, it's the presentation that I come back to again. Imagine slinking through some high grass with snakes slithering around at your feet, cresting a small hill, and being assaulted with a blazing evening sunset across a sky that stretches above a large swamp stretching off into the low mist (oh my god, I've butchered the English language). Well, you get the idea. There are so many scenes in the game that are just mesmerizing in their delivery that never once did I loose the sense of wonder over the lush jungle settings. Even those areas not in the jungle are improved in quality over that of the previous games (yes, even the Tanker area from "Sons of Liberty"). There is a lot of variety to be found in this virtual world, which also makes for some interesting boss fights.
I was impressed every step of the way by the graphics in Snake Eater. I would never recommend a game based wholly on the visual presentation, but even if Snake Eater lacked its other strong points, I would still recommend a rental simply to witness the realism of these visuals.
Okay, so far so good. Is there anything I can complain about here? Is the game play the one week point of Snake Eater? Well....no and no. The game play has never been the issue for me with the Metal Gear Solid series. From the first, I've always enjoyed the game play and Snake Eater is no exception. What I particularly like about Snake Eater is the new options that it affords the player and the improvements made over what was already in place in "Sons of Liberty". To give one example of an improvement, the player now has the ability to switch to third person perspective when holding up the enemy. If you remember, "Sons of Liberty" allowed the player to "hold up" the enemy from behind, however the execution was a little rough, as it forced the player to do this solely in first person, then drop your resolve and run around the enemy soldier and hold him up again before he reached for his gun. This wasn't necessarily hard to do, but seemed a bit unrealistic. Snake Eater allows you to hold your gun on your enemy while moving around him in third person perspective. And this is just one of the improvements that make for a more realistic experience.
Other additions are the survival system, cure system, and camo (camouflage) system. The survival system fits right into the setting by forcing you to hunt the animals, bugs, fish, and birds (and possibly other critters) of your surroundings and eat to keep your stamina healthy. Fortunately, this system is executed well and never becomes tiresome or a burden on your progress, but simply adds to the overall presentation of the game. The cure system again fits the setting and situation as it forces you to keep track of your health. If you break a bone, get a cut, get burned, or perhaps have a leach on your ___ (use your imagination), you'll have to deal with it before your health can return to full. Actually, I believe most injuries will heal themselves over time, but like the survival system, this never becomes a burden, simply another great addition that adds to the presentation. Lastly, the camo system allows you to equip different camos (clothes and face paint) in order to better blend in with your surroundings. There is always a camo index in the upper right corner of the screen that gives you a good idea of how visible you currently are to the enemy. While I don't believe this system becomes a burden, I wish they had given the option of a quick change via a click on one of the thumb sticks or something, because you'll find that you'll use this system more often than the others and it can become somewhat annoying to enter the status screen over and over simply to change camo. Overall, though, all three systems add something to the whole and make the adventure feel that much more real.
I mentioned previously that the environments make for some interesting boss fights. These confrontations in Snake Eater truly must be experienced. I don't want to ruin any of the surprise, but be prepared for some intense and well designed encounters.
Okay, so I lied. I do have one gripe here with the camera. While the camera angle chosen isn't extremely bad, it is far from good. It quickly becomes very hard to know what's in front of you without going into first person view. After awhile you will get used to it and learn to work around it, but I would like to see this improved upon in the future.
Lousy camera aside, the game play is simply better and offers more options to the player. The survival, cure, and camo systems give the game a somewhat different feel than the previous two and add greatly to the experience.
Well, I never really care that much about replay. It is important to many people, so I will tell you that I've gone through the game twice now and enjoyed both playthroughs. There are multiple difficulty levels and some extra incentive in the form of frogs (yes, frogs) and camos. Little green frogs that make lots of noise are scattered throughout the game. Shoot all of them and you get the optic camo (invisible, remember?). There is also the extra challenge of beating each boss by way of draining their stamina, instead of health, which allows you to gain that boss' camo. These boss camos typically carry special abilities.
There are probably many more secrets and easter eggs in the game that you could discover on gamefaqs. In my opinion, there is much here to warrant a second or third playthrough. Snake Eater is one of the games in my library that I'll hold onto for good and come back to again in the future.
So, why did I say "Yes and No" to my original question when I just spent the whole review praising most of Snake Eater? Well, it all comes back to the story and presentation. There is much in the game that really adds and enhances the experience, but given the story and the presentation of that story (cut scenes), Snake Eater is still a little off. There is a huge, HUGE, improvement here over "Sons of Liberty", but I would still like to see more improvement (never satisfied, right?). Snake Eater is a massive step in the right direction and the whole of its improvements and new features makes it a must buy, but I'm still hoping for reduced scenes and more subtlety in the presentation for the next Metal Gear Solid.
TOTAL SCORE: 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/05/05
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