Review by SolidSnake35

"By far the greatest and most immersive game in an already brilliant series"

The Metal Gear Solid series is, and will always be, one of the most memorable and recognisable gaming franchise ever. When Hideo Kojima, the creator of Metal Gear Solid, first released the original on the Playstation 1, it was a huge success. However, this was nothing compared to the second instalment, helped a lot by the new power of the Playstation 2. ‘Sons of Liberty' took the gaming world by storm, and was considered to be a game that was near perfect. There was no arguing that ‘Snake Eater' had a huge reputation to live up to.

The focus of the Metal Gear Solid series is stealth, and it is this aspect that has made the game such a success. You play as Snake. That's not his real name, obviously, but codenames are the norm throughout Snake Eater. Fighting alone in enemy territory calls for a little more strategy than storming in, guns blazing. Which is why remaining undetected is vital. Armed with minimal equipment, it is your job infiltrate enemy strongholds and carry out various missions. All of these flow together perfectly as there are no levels, except for a small starter mission before the main game begins.

The previous game in the series, Sons of Liberty, was set in a very futuristic environment. The equipment was very advanced, and more importantly the player could make simple use of a radar, located in the top corner of the screen. Not only did this show the player where to go, it also showed the location of enemies and their line of vision. Clearly this was a great advantage for remaining undetected. However, this feature has been removed in Snake Eater. Instead of being set in an indoor environment, this game is set deep in the jungle; but also many years in the past. The technology is much more basic, and instead of a radar, the player must make use of motion sensors and a directional microphone. This one change creates a completely new Metal Gear Solid experience.

Another new addition to Snake Eater is the camouflage and face paints. In order to remain invisible in the jungle it's necessary to blend in with your surroundings, which is now possible thanks to this new feature. In the top corner of the screen a percentage is displayed, representing how visible Snake is to enemy soldiers. When the percentage is high it means Snake is likely to remain undiscovered, but should this number drop, the enemy will discover Snake should they move near him. In an area of long grass it would be wise to wear the leaf camouflage and the woodland face paint, not the bright blue water camouflage for underwater missions. Most of the changes are common sense, but others can require a little more thought. Although this feature is very unique and works excellent, I have one complaint. The surroundings of the jungle change very frequently at times, meaning that you in turn must change your camouflage frequently as well. The problem lies in the fact that the menu must be accessed to change, which can destroy the tension of the game.

This problem does not affect the change between weapons; thankfully. Up to eight weapons can be stored in Snake's backpack, others remain in the inventory but are not immediately accessible. By holding down a button it is possible to freeze the action, allowing you to select one of the eight weapons. Unlike the camouflage, the interchange is very fast and does not cause any problems.

Snake's first choice of weapon is the Mk22, a tranquilizer gun. It is not in Snake's nature to kill for pleasure, so his enemies usually receive a dart to the chest, rather than a full clip of cold metal bullets. It is also in your best interest not to cause chaos. Taking out the patrol guard silently with a tranquilizer, then sneaking past, is much better than using a grenade and setting off the alarm. Alarms are usually activated by radio. Most soldiers have their own radio, with which they can call for backup from HQ. Once this happens Snake doesn't stand a chance. His only option is to hide, waiting for the reinforcements to leave the area.

There are three modes of alert; full alert, evasion, and caution. Each results in different behaviour from the guards. During full alert the enemy knows where Snake is and will begin to open fire. Should Snake lose the initial attention, and hide, the status changes to evasion. The enemy will still actively search the area in this mode, looking under buildings, behind trees and in long grass. The AI is surprisingly intelligent, and will often throw stun grenades into buildings before entering, and use smoke grenades to cover their advance. After a period of searching without success the reinforcements will retreat, but the guards who remain on patrol will now use extra caution, hence the reason why the status changes to caution. Anything out of the ordinary will set off the alarm once more, as the guards know Snake could still be in the area. During this time you needn't worry about using the bigger noisier weapons, unless you are trying to hide of course. Should you decide to stand your ground, then Snake does have many weapons for the job.

Most weapons can be found during your mission, ranging from a machine gun to a rocket launcher. Each has it's own unique feel, and all of them will be useful at some point during the game. The camera angle remains fixed at all times during Snake Eater, which means that the game is played in third person view. While this is helpful for avoiding guards because you're able to see your surroundings, it does make shooting difficult. You will be glad to know then, that it's possible to switch to first person view. This is excellent for shooting accurately, and the format for aiming is similar to all ‘first person shooters'. When using some weapons, such as the pistol, the camera automatically lines up as if you were looking through the gun's sights. As a result these guns are the most accurate. However, when using other more heavy weaponry, this does not happen. Instead you must imagine where the crosshairs would be, as none are displayed. Should you want to make an accurate shot with one of these guns then it is possible to look down the sight with the push of a button. The only problem with this is that the gun shakes alarmingly when fired, because of the rapid rate the bullets are being shot at. Not only does this look amazing, it also adds realism, aided by the vibrations from the Duel Shock controller. It really does give the impression that you are firing a real gun.

It won't just be you firing the bullets though. At some point in the game you are going to shot as well, or sustain another injury of some sort. It's inevitable. The consequences of this in most games in the loss of health, but more is at risk in Snake Eater. Being shot hurt's Snake; no surprises there then, but sometimes this may cause permanent damage. When Snake is shot the bullets don't simply disappear, they remain in his body and prevent him from fully recovering. Various injuries like these can be treated in the survival viewer, located on the pause menu. Snake has his own medical field kit, full of bandages, ointments and disinfectants; he even has serum for treating snake bites. However, it's not just his health that will be drained in battle.
Infiltrating enemy strongholds is hard work even for a hardened, trained soldier like Snake. After hours of running through the jungle he's going to get tired sooner or later, even hungry. This is why you have been equipped with a knife, and it's not just for slitting guard's throats. As the environment is a jungle, there are numerous animals hiding in the tall grass. All of which can be caught and then eaten to increase Snake's stamina levels. Some provide more energy that others, and as there is limited space in your inventory, you must choose wisely what to capture. Should your stamina become too low then you will become more vulnerable. Snake's aim slowly deteriorates as he becomes weaker, and his hands shake making accurate shooting almost impossible. Aside from this, his stomach also rumbles because of hunger, which might alert nearby guards. It is these small details that make this such a realistic experience.

Throughout Snake Eater the graphics are second to no other game. Even though there is a set path you must take through the jungle, it still feels as though you are deep in the rainforest. Everything, ranging from the crocodiles in the water to the trees in the background, are highly detailed three dimensional models. The characters themselves are unique in their own way, especially the bosses. There are no graphical glitches, such as disappearing limbs through walls, that can be common in games that attempt too much.

People may disagree that Snake Eater is perfect to play, but one thing they can't deny is the brilliance that is the storyline. Snake Eater certainly doesn't lack cut scenes; in total there is more than six hours of them. You might be thinking about skipping them when you hear this. After all it is a game, and you want to be involved. However, the action in these scenes is comparable to a Hollywood movie. It never gets boring either as the story moves at a fast pace, keeping the player fully immersed in the events. Like most games, the cut scenes are in widescreen for that cinematic experience. To help the player connect with Snake during the game, it is possible to watch through his eyes during cut scenes, so you can relate to the frequent trauma he has to go through.

Snake's realistic personality, which many gamers have come to love, is mainly thanks to David Hayter. He does the voice acting for Snake, and does it extremely well. As do the rest of the voice actors for the other characters. The dialogue in Snake Eater does not seem forced, or feel awkward at any time, which combines perfectly with the visual presentation of the game. Other sounds that represent being in the rainforest, are just as in fitting with the excellent nature of this game, but will probably go unnoticed due to the other aspects that you will be marvelling at. The soundtrack for this game is very fitting, and very well selected by the developers. They even had the main theme song implemented into the gameplay at a dramatic point, because they know it will have an emotional effect on the player. To be honest, there was nothing the developers didn't think of.

If watched with all the cut scenes then Snake Eater is more than a substantial length, but no doubt everyone who finishes it will wish the experience lasted longer. Once completed there are enough reasons to play through again, such as bonus items that are acquired only at the end. The daring may wish to attempt to play on the European Extreme difficult level, where even a snake bite could be fatal. As well as this there are plenty of other levels of difficulty to try, harder than the one you just completed; each one provides a whole new challenge. If you enjoyed the story, which you probably did, then it's possible to watch every cut scene again as a full length movie, or simply watch your favourite parts. The boss battles can be repeated as well, and this time a score is given for how well you did. There definitely isn't a lack of things to do once Snake Eater is completed, that's for sure.

It really is impossible to mention all of the small details in this review, and the only way you'll discover them is to play the game. If you we're a fan of the previous Metal Gear Solid titles then this game will not disappoint, and will only increase your passion for this magnificent series. It will not take newcomers long to become engrossed in Snake Eater either. Any fan of shooting or action games will also find this a rewarding game to play, but most importantly I believe that everyone can enjoy some aspect of this game.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/06/06

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