Review by Korubi

"Metal Gear Solid 3 isn't just an improvement on the Metal Gear Solid franchise. It's a superb game by any standard."

Back in 2001 Hideo Kojima announced that Metal Gear Solid 2 would mark the end of his involvement in the series. Metal Gear's debut on PlayStation 2 was a huge international success, and Kojima decided that he'd opt for just one more title to round out the series. Metal Gear Solid 3 wouldn't be just another improvement on the already solid Metal Gear Solid franchise, but the single greatest gaming experience on the PlayStation 2.

The game opens with Snake's deep, familiar voice: "After the end of World War II, the world was split into two - East and West. This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War." Snake Eater takes place approximately forty years before the original Metal Gear Solid during--you guessed it--the Cold War. The Soviet Union has taken one of the U.S.'s most important nuclear scientists hostage and forced him to develop deadly weapons for their own destructive purposes. It's your job the infiltrate the enemy base, rescue Dr. Sokolov, and bring him back with as little fuss as possible. As a precaution you've been dropped off in the forest miles outside of the enemy base. Alone. Before letting you set off on your own, Major Tom sums up your mission, "Avoid heavy combat and don't let anyone see you. Don't forget that this is a stealth mission."

In tried and true Kojima fashion, Snake will butt heads with a varied cast of interesting characters ranging from old friends to newly developed animosities. Early on you'll encounter the voluptuous but stern Big Boss--a motherly figure Snake hasn't seen in years; she taught him everything he knows. It is unclear where The Boss's loyalty truly lies, and finding out her motives plays a big role in the story of the game. You'll also eventually team up with the younger and more risque special agent simply named EVA who acts as Snake's love interest. Each character has a deep history that connects to Snake's past more than it might seem at first. On the surface the plot to save Dr. Sokolov is exciting, but Snake Eater brings so much more to the table than that. Once you're underway, the story becomes Snake Eater's strongest feature until the very end. All of Kojima's characters, plot twists, and drawn out action sequences amount to more than just an entertaining story. At its best, the story is an intricately woven commentary on war and loyalty that connects to the bigger picture worldwide. That's what makes it so powerful.

Instead of infiltrating various military edifices like you're used to, you'll be navigating the the jungle of the Soviet Union in MGS3. Now that you're sneaking around outside the mechanics have been tweaked slightly, and it's mostly for the better. The radar system has been done away with altogether, which forces you to become more aware of your surroundings. It is key that you use your camouflage in tandem with face paint in order to stay hidden in the various jungle environments. But, the different camouflage types don't just help you blend in. They also have other advantageous features. One camouflage, for example, makes your footsteps silent, while another gives you unlimited grenades. Switching your outfits on the fly as you progress through the various areas adds to the suspense and makes the stealth action more engaging. On top of all that, it's a lot of fun collecting all the different outfits and face paints scattered across the entire game--especially the more humorous ones (i.e. Santa Claus suit).

Snake Eater's various new editions to its core stealth mechanics make it feel like a more well rounded and engaging action game. One of the new additions is the stamina bar located underneath your life bar. If your stamina gets too low Snake will become sluggish and have a hard time performing usually straightforward tasks like aiming his gun steadily. In order to maintain stamina you'll have to hunt for food. You can either tranquilize or kill your prey, but tranquilized food stays fresh longer. If you use your tranquilizer gun you might not have enough ammo for the big fights, so sometimes it pays off to get on the ground and start swiping with the knife. The hunting system highlights the fact that Snake is truly alone in the jungle and forced to survive under the circumstances. Aside from the stamina system, there's also a new way in which Snake must heal his wounds. Whenever an enemy injures you in battle you'll have to pull up the healing menu to stop your life bar from degrading. At your disposal is an assortment of bandages, splints, injections, ointments, and much more to help Snake feel just right. These new aspect of Snake Eater makes the game feel more realistic overall, and more well rounded.

The basic mechanics consisting of tranquilizing and sneaking past guards sometimes get repetitive for the sole reason that that not much has changed since the original Metal Gear Solid. It's not that that the core gameplay is bad – it's just not quite perfected when put side by side with the mechanics of say the technically sound Splinter Cell series. Fortunately, the boss fights utilize the mechanics creatively, and make for the most enjoyable parts of playing the game. Each boss has an epithet that relates to how they fight. For example, The Pain uses a swarm of killer bees in order to attack Snake, and The Sorrow unleashes the ghosts of all of your victims as his weapon of choice. Most importantly, the boss fights put in you in situations that you normally wouldn't be in during the regular segments of the game.

Unlike most games, you'll meet each and every boss several times throughout the story before you actually go head to head. To finally meet up with bosses like The Sorrow or The End after learning so much about their past provides for both satisfaction and emotional involvement you won't receive from most games. The boss fights provide an enjoyable tangent from the regular mechanics.

Snake Eater looks wonderful. Whether you're laying prone in the tall and wavy grass or blending in with what is left of a dilapidated brick warehouse, Snake Eater does a great job of making the environments look and feel realistic. All the characters animate realistically, especially during hand to hand combat. You'll also end up watching a lot of cut scenes throughout Snake Eater that all use the same character models the game does. All in all the scope of the environments and attention to detail make for an awesome graphical experience.

To go along with the great visuals is a wonderful musical score that includes its very own Snake Eater theme song translated and performed by an American artist from the original Japanese theme song. The mood is always matched with a similarly themed musical piece, whether it be an orchestra or something more light. The voice acting for each character is distinct and very lifelike which adds to the overall polish of the characters. But, the background noises are what set Snake Eater apart from any stealth or action game. Little touches like the light chirping of some birds in the distance, or the sound of a snake stalking through the grass ingrain the feeling that you are truly playing in the heart of a jungle.

With an experience as enthralling as Metal Gear Solid 3 it's hard to say anything negative about it. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater's memorable story, characters and boss fights make it “the” essential game for the PS2 as well as anyone with a remote interest in action games. If you have a PS2, there is no reason for you not to play this game.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 10/02/06

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