Review by Kaioshin Sama
Fun Initially, Utterly Tedious In The Long Run
Initially I loved this game for it's immersive setting and Cold War era setting, complete even with mention of historical figures such as Lyndon B. Johnson and Nikita Khrushchev. After a while though I began to realize the game was about as bloated and pompous as any mainstream title that has met with previous success should be, but all of it was style and little of it fun factor. The game seems almost in love with itself and seems to fish it were a movie. Funny that with this Subsistence release it actually got it's wish and now you don't actually have to play the game and partake of it's utterly odd, but nonetheless intriguing story. But I digress, let's get into the nitty gritty details then shall we.
When you first start the game proper you get one of the most immersive sequences I have ever seen in a PS2 game where you as Naked Snake are parachuting down into the Soviet jungle to conduct the "Virtuous Mission", which involves rescuing a scientist from the Russians before he can put the finishing touches on a new Soviet super weapon called the Shagohad, which appears to be the predecessor to the titular Metal Gear series of walking tank/missile silos. It is this first hour that proves to be one of the most engrossing experiences I think one will ever see on the PS2. The Metal Gear Solid 3 truly pushes the PS2's hardware to the absolute limits to bring create an immersive and eerily lifelike jungle setting in which you will be spending most of your time this installment. It's unfortunately too bad that the majority of the focus seems to have gone into the presentation and not so much your interaction with it.
Let me start with the first problem this game has, and that is the cutscenes. Simply put they are way WAY too long. We are talking entire segments where you are going to be putting down the controller to partake of the games self-indulgence in it's own storyline. It's a good thing that these cutscenes happen to at least be well directed, acted and written, otherwise I don't think I would have even bothered to continue much further into the game after they became it's main feature.
The next problem that the game has it's in how you are expected to interact with it. Simply put the controls are god awful. For a major title such as the Metal Gear Solid series you think they would be able to come up with a control scheme that would make Snake more easy to control. He's supposed to be the ultimate solider, but good luck bringing that out. Shooting is easy enough as is switching to first person, but 2 of what should be the utmost critical maneuvers in the game are among the most poorly mapped. Beginning with the Evade Roll and Crouch issue, the franchises vaunted evasion mechanic is made much harder than it needs to be. You see both are assigned to the X button, which means at times you are going to be wanting to do an evade roll, which requires you to be moving at a good clip before pressing the X button and instead you will end up going to crouch position and will eat a face full of lead. Other times you will be trying to crouch to mask your presence from a guard only to instead end up rolling right out in front of him, getting the alarm sounded and ending up in a firefight you should have easily been able to avoid. Also while crouching you are unable to move freely again until you press the X button once more and instead will go into the prone position. This while handy in effectively doubling your Camo Index can be a pain in the ass when you have just crouched to reduce your target profile in taking out an enemy and then need to get the heck out of your position pronto to avoid an enemy closing in on your right only to either have to press X and take a couple of good shots in getting up to THEN finally move forward, or even worse, forgetting to press X altogether and going full prone and just getting totally destroyed by a swarm of enemies. If Snake is such an ultimate badass soldier then he should have the controls to suit this. I mean I thought Resident Evil could be bad, but this is almost as close. The game is by no means overwhelmingly difficult in nature, but it's things like this that add an artificial layer to the difficulty where it needn't exist.
The whole tactical aspect of the game doesn't work as well as it should either. The new CQC system is extremely effective in taking enemies down (perhaps to the point of being broken and negating the need for weapons other than a simple pistol/knife combo that will allow you to segue into slamming an enemy into the ground, thus knocking them unconscious), but the whole aim your gun at the enemy to try to get them to drop stuff is a crapshoot. I've only ever gotten it to work a few times and to no real effect (it is claimed that sometimes enemies will drop goodies if you do this, but I never got it to happen) whereas most of the time the enemy will just get right back up, completely ignoring the mechanic that is supposed to make him freeze and put his hands behind his head. It strikes me as not worth it most of the time either as soldiers tend to travel in groups and while you are trying to draw a bead on a downed man his partner is going to be wailing on you with a kalashnikov. Why bother?
The last major detractor from what otherwise would have been a very solid action title is the utter randomness of the enemies behaviour. The enemies you are facing are supposed to be highly trained Soviet commando's and the Metal Gear Solid franchise has frequently been touted for it's great A.I. What I think is really going on however is that the enemies behaviour is just so erratic that anything you do could potentially end up getting you caught or not. Sometimes you will be standing within mere feet of the enemy and they still will not even notice you and other times it will seem like they have spotted you from across an entire field while you sit prone, or have spotted you when you are on the opposite corner of a corridor wall. They're also either stupid as can be when they actually engage you in combat or like the freaking Terminator and will sometimes not even bother to shoot you and lose track of you when you go around a corner, or pursue you relentlessly no matter where you go that should rightfully be a good hiding place. Some enemies will die with a shot to the arm, while others will take upwards of a clip from your Semi-Automatic and still keep going while you try to reload. The game also suffers from what I like to call Farcry syndrome wherein enemies will somehow be able to hit you from across an entire area with easy with no scope or sniper rifle of any kind. It's unpredictable as hell, but in a ridiculous way, not an ingenious way such as adaptive A.I should provide....that is if such a thing really exists or is just a clever trick that proves effective in creating the allusion of learning enemies in some games. Whatever the case it is most definitely not a feature of Metal Gear Solid 3 in any regard as Konami contends.
Where the tedium and "difficulty" really comes out in the game though is in it's Alert System. Get spotted by an enemy and they will sound an alert which will only start counting down once you are out of their line of sight or they are all dead. Go anywhere near them and it will refresh back to 99.99.99. If you choose to run and hide they will try to find you, creating an overly long game of cat and mouse. The Alert meter will start to count down to 0 for what seems like an eternity while you hide in the best possible camoflouge you can muster. At that point it will go to Evasion mode where the soldiers become "Less attentative" and you are expected to last another 99.99.99 seconds until the game then goes into Caution mode, wherein the soldiers take a "passive" demeanor to the intruder alert. It takes longer than you can possibly imagine and always seems to spawn an enemy right near you when time is just about to run out on the alert and bring things back to normal, thus bringing you back into full alert and leading to much frustration. Honestly, it really isn't worth trying to play the game it seems to want you to play and I've found running and gunning through as many rooms as possible before getting killed is the best method. Why? Well the game will just give you back a decent bit of health and start you off with no alert at the last checkpoint it has in the PS2's RAM, no fuss, no muss. The only time you have to worry about alerts is when it just happens to lock down the door to the next area you need to get into. So then what the hell is even the point of the "Tactical Espionage System"?
I think I know what it is, and that is padding. To put it bluntly the game is much shorter in actual gameplay then it actually appears to be. There aren't that many screens in the game, but everyone few them seems to feature a 10-20 minute long cutscene or a nigh impossible area to navigate without getting caught, forcing you to face the death screen in order to progress. Once I realized this the game started to feel more like a chore than anything, and frankly I wouldn't have minded the game having a shorter length if it meant cutting through all the tedious bull the game throws at you in wanting you to be stealthy when there is really no point. Simply put the game doesn't work the way it should, but it can provide you with some good entertainment (The boss fights are honestly the highlight of the what amounts to the gameplay, and Kojima Productions seems to notice this as it tends to throw one at you each time the tedium seems to be reaching the point where you just want to say "The hell with it") and an intriguing story, depending on how high your tolerance for the aforementioned padding is.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (US, 03/14/06)
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