Review by ZFS

"Subsistence takes an amazing game and improves upon it in every way imaginable."

Metal Gear Solid 3 : Subsistence is the re-released version of the already existing game Metal Gear Solid 3 : Snake Eater for the PlayStation 2. Like Metal Gear Solid 2 : Substance before it, Subsistence adds brand-new features and content that improves upon the game in every way imaginable. Subsistence is a two disc release that can be bought for $29.99; the two discs are separated for one to hold the actual game, Subsistence, and one to hold all the extra content and special features, Persistence.

Metal Gear Solid 3 takes place the two other games in the series, Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2, in the 1960s – 1964 to be precise – during the time of the Cold War. The U.S. and Soviet Union are both try to out do the other in terms of power without actually going to war; the arms race, space race, and missile race – both countries are trying to prove their superiority over the other. However, when a defected scientist named Nikolai Sokolov is captured by the Soviet Union, the U.S. sends in its top CIA agent, and Special Forces specialist, Naked Snake. His mission ends up being split into two parts – the “Virtuous Mission” and “Operation: Snake Eater.” The game takes you through one of the most brilliantly told stories in the videogame medium. Hideo Kojima takes actual historical events, but changes everything completely around to fit the world of Metal Gear Solid and helps to better explain the origins of the characters that would appear in later games. The plot twists are brilliant, the story is filled to the brim with emotion, and the execution of the telling of the story is remarkable.

Similarly, the characters are equally as amazing. Since this is a prequel to the previous Metal Gear Solid games is it particularly great to see these characters in their younger days and get to see just what happened to them to make them turn out the way they did. From Revolver Ocelot discovering the Single Action Army was his true calling to Big Boss finding out the truth behind the government that he once pledged his loyalty too. Each character is also brought to life by their respective voice actors. The Metal Gear series has been known for good voice acting and the third installment is no exception. The voice acting really does a great job of making the characters seem real and allows their personalities to come through. They also have some great character interaction. It does not feel forced or out of place – conversations flow really smoothly.

Even with a good storyline and characters a game is not a game unless it excels in gameplay – something that Metal Gear Solid 3 has down. The gameplay is actually the first area of the game where Subsistence actually makes the initial advancement over the original. In Subsistence, the newly added feature to the game is the camera control. Unlike in all the previous Metal Gear Solid games, Subsistence gives the player full control over the camera using the right analog stick. This helps tremendously and drastically improves the enjoyment of the game. No longer do you have to be stuck in fixed camera positions where you can barely see the enemies that may be around you. But, for those who rather enjoyed that camera, the option is still there for you to use it. By simply pressing down on the right analog stick you can switch the camera from the full control to the prefixed position of old.

Now, Metal Gear Solid 3 itself actually introduces some new elements to the series. First, since this is just as much about survival as it is stealth, Snake now has a stamina bar, which slowly depletes are extended periods of action. In order to raise the stamina bar, Snake must find food – whether it is a live animal or packaged noodles – in order to survive. That's right -- Snake Eater was a very appropriate title for the game, as you can and will eat actual snakes, which Naked Snake seems to rather enjoy. At first, the thought of a stamina bar may seem like a turnoff, but the actual implementation and execution is done extremely well. The bar itself is actually very long (longer than your actual health bar at the start) and it takes quite a number of things to actually bring it all the way down. Some of the side effects of losing stamina would be Snake's ability to hold a gun steady. If you go into first person mode to shoot, Snake will not be able to focus and hold the gun in line to fire it. He'll move it all over the place trying to keep it steady but failing miserably.

The other addition is actually a huge improvement to the series – camouflage. Right from the beginning of the game, player's have the ability to choose from a wide range of different camouflage uniforms and face paints that will help Snake blend into his environment, whether he's in the jungle or infiltrating a weapons laboratory. In the right hand corner of the screen at the top is a “camouflage index,” which tracks how well you are able to blend into your environment at all times. It actually tracks it well into the negative percentages, too. If you're running around in the jungle with snow camouflage on, the camouflage index is likely going to read number in the negatives. This lets you know that you are likely going to be seen and noticed even from a large distance.

Despite how the game introduces camouflage, you do not actually have to use any of it. This is primarily because there is a greater focus on weapons in this game than the previous two installments. You have pistols, machine guns, rifles, tranquilizers, and almost every type of gun you can imagine. If you want to ditch stealth and go straight to being Rambo, the game allows you to do that without many consequences. Hideo Kojima even included a camouflage labeled “Naked,” which is essentially Snake without a shirt, for those players who really want to play the part of “shoot first, ask questions later.”

Snake is not all about the guns, though, as he is fully trained in his new combat style – CQC, or close-quarters-combat. If the fight is being brought to you in close quarters, Snake is fully capable of handling himself. By pressing the circle button, player's have the ability to perform a number of different CQC techniques to take out the opponent. You can grab hold of their neck and choke them until they pass out, slit their throat, slam them into the ground, or whatever else you deem fit for the situation. Naked Snake has all the bases covered in this operation. If he doesn't get the enemy in long range, he'll almost assuredly take them out in close range.

Also newly added to the game, and one of the biggest reasons to own Subsistence, is the online play. Subsistence is Konami's first attempt at actually bring Metal Gear into the online world. For a first attempt, it's actually pretty good. There are a variety of modes that are available to play, which range from a sneaking mission where one person is selected to be Snake and everyone else are random troops who must prevent Snake from gathering the microfilm to a standard deathmatch mode. There are a few other modes, such as a Capture the Flag type bit, that are available to play as well. And while it all sounds really good, the problem arises with the controls. The controls work wonderfully as a single player experience, but they can be a bit tricky online. In something like deathmatch, where the point is just to go all out and kill each other, the first person mode is not optimal like it is in the single player game. When the fire fights start really heating up, you'll find yourself in a somewhat annoying situation. This game certainly isn't trying to win any awards as a First Person Shooter, but it would help if there were more FPS-like controls for modes such as that. Still, while that is a pain, the online mode for the most part is really enjoyable. It is also completely free, so there's no worry about having to pay to play it online.

With gameplay covered, it is about time to get into the real technical aspects of the game – graphics and sound. Metal Gear Solid has always ahead of the pack when it comes to technical achievements. Metal Gear Solid 2 was incredible to see running on the PlayStation 2, as it was the first real jump forward in pushing the system to its apparent limits. However, Metal Gear Solid 3 takes it even further, making use of every ounce of power the PlayStation 2 has. The character models are gorgeous with detail ranging from their clothes to their hair. Everything is very smooth and looks quite realistic, which is fitting considering the game takes a more realistic approach to things. The environments are also beautiful, especially those with sun shining. There is almost no difference at all between a cut-scene and actually playing the game. The entire game just looks really polished. Everything from great lighting effects to ridiculously good looking weather – Metal Gear Solid 3 has it all.

On the opposite side of the coin, we have the soundtrack to the game, which is just mind blowingly good. The soundtrack was put together by Harry-Gregson Williams and Norihiko Hibino, who both did the soundtrack for Metal Gear Solid 2. The soundtrack to the game contains a few vocal tracks, which include “Snake Eater” – the game's theme – and “Don't Be Afraid,” which is an ending theme, among others. All of the tracks give off that older feel to them to fit the mood of the 1960s while complementing the game's jungle theme. The music is at its best when it is heard during the cut-scenes of the game. It tends to make a dramatic scene that much better by setting the mood for it. This is right up there with the best of them in how well composed this soundtrack is.

The last bit that needs to be covered is all the extra content that is not really apart of the main game, which can all be found on the Persistence disc. Stuff such as the “Secret Theater,” which is a bunch of scenes that appeared on Konami Japan's website and are made to be funny and lighthearted. There are clips like “Metal Gear Raiden: Snake Eraser,” “The Ultimate Weapon,” and “Metal Gear Signit” all on there, along with the first Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer. Everything in it is meant to be comical and it certainly delivers. Other extras include a “Snake v. Monkey” mini-game in which you play as Solid Snake and go around the different areas of the game shooting monkeys and capturing them – apparently Solid Snake was the only one who was capable of completing this mission! There is also a “Duel” mode, which allows you to fight all of the bosses over again. At the end of the fights, you'll be scored on how you did in terms of weapon usage, time that it took to defeat them, and how much ammo you have left for your weapons. It's a neat extra and does serve to give the game some extra replay value. All of the bonuses are really cool and certainly are a welcome addition.

Overall, Metal Gear Solid 3 : Subsistence is a superb re-release of an already fantastic game. By giving it new content, such as the ability to play online and improving the gameplay of the single player game make this one an absolute must have. On top of that, this does not even retail for the full price of a game (you can purchase it for $29.99). Subsistence has raised the bar and set a new standard for what kinds of things re-releases should include. You owe it to yourself to play one of the best games of 2004 once again in 2006. Even if you already beat the game, there is always the incentive to go online and beat down some fellow Metal Gear fans.

Final Score: 10.0

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 05/26/06

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