Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan | Publisher: Konami Corporation | Release Date: 2004 | Genre: Action-adventure / Stealth | Website: Official Website
The year is 1964, CIA agent “Naked Snake” is sent into a soviet jungle to rescue a scientist who is being forced to develop a nuclear tank. It doesn’t take long for things to go seriously wrong and threaten to turn the cold war into a nuclear one. With only his survival instincts to guide him in the jungle, Snake has to find a way to stop the threat.
Metal Gear Solid 2 split opinions but this installment is a stellar return to form and easily ranks as one of the best titles for the PS2. By setting this game many years before the first in the series, Konami allows players a fascinating glimpse into the origins of the characters and provide some nice back-story for fans. Things get off to a slow start with a few drawn out cut-scenes in typical Metal Gear Solid fashion and this is definitely the slowest (gameplay wise) title in the series but it’s not long before the pace picks up considerably. The setting makes for some interesting challenges seeing as the game takes place in the past. What it means is that you won’t have access to all those high tech gadgets that has been a staple for the series. The biggest loss is the radar which showed exactly where enemies are and in which direction they were looking which meant you didn’t have to be stealthy all the time, only in their presence. Now instead you have a simple motion detector which makes life much harder. Enemies wearing camouflage and standing still can easily be blundered into if you are not careful. Because of the awkward camera this is an even bigger problem and plenty of times you’ll find yourself being spotted simply because you couldn’t clearly see your surroundings. There is a first person view to help out with this but you can’t move while using it which limits its usefulness.
New to the series is a stamina bar which depletes over time and depending on your actions. The only way to top it up is by resting or eating. The jungle you find yourself in is teeming with life so snakes, frogs, birds and other things can be caught and eaten. Some taste better than others and a few will even make you ill so be careful what you put into your mouth. Another new addition is the fact that your character can break bones, get burned, cut or shot.
While in other games this might just have meant using some item to heal yourself, here it works a bit differently. Wounds have to be treated by going into the survival view menu and from here you can patch up your character with bandages, stitches, splints and ointments. Failure to do so will result in decreased health and longer healing times until you manage to treat the injuries. Then there is the new camouflage system. By applying face paint and wearing clothes suitable to the terrain you are in it will be harder for enemies to spot you. It can be a hassle to constantly go into menus to change these settings but it’s a cool idea none the less. Last up is the new close quarter combat moves that make your character much deadlier in melee fighting.
Visually the game ranks as one of the best on PS2 and even holds up well in this day and age. The dense forest is very impressive and the locations throughout the game are a treat for the eyes. Cut-scenes are well choreographed and interesting to watch with the motion captured fighting scenes in particular standing out. The frame rate might not be as high as in the last game but that’s not such a big issue. All the characters in the game are interesting although I didn’t find the boss encounters as great as the ones in the first game. One sniper duel with a boss called “The End” is quite impressive but the rest are pretty standard.
The audio is excellent and the characters are brought to life by some talented voice actors. The new snake has a different personality than the old one (although he is voiced by the same actor) but still has a charm of his own. What’s great is that a lot of the codec conversations are now optional so you don’t have to sit through hours of dialog if you don’t want to. The controls feel a bit fiddly at times simply because of the large amount of actions you are capable of but soon become second nature.
With a gripping story, tons of extras and some awesome gameplay elements Snake Eater is a must have title. If you have the option buy the upgraded “Subsistence” version as it fixes some minor flaws (like the camera (and adds a few more extras and online options. *Metal Gear Solid 3 is now available as part of the Metal Gear Solid HD collection on PS3 and Xbox360.
*Review originally published in 2004.