|By Chris Derosa||Saturday, 8 Jan 2005|
Before I get started, I just want to say that I think, nay, BELIEVE that Metal Gear Solid 2 was genius. Now for the 2 of you that didn’t click the back button on your browser, let me get to the actual review. The Metal Gear franchise has become so huge that most folks that are into the series have probably never even played the game that really started it all. That’s what Metal gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is all about – Finding its roots. In the end, it becomes the greatest game in the series, and easily one of the best games of 2004.
Director and Stealth Messiah Hideo Kojima decided that the best way finish the MGS trilogy was to show us the true origins of the series by taking us back in time to the 60’s Cold War era. He also throws our main man Snake straight into the jungle with nothing but a communicator and a hunting knife. The cinemas are very well done, which has become trademark for the MGS games, and the voice acting is still topnotch as a few old voices return. The presentation on a whole is on a whole new level when compared to other games. The music is scored just as well as every other Metal Gear game. I’m a sucker for the theme song, a James Bond like funk piece complete with female vocals. The graphics may have taken a small step down, but the ways your surroundings are displayed easily make up for any visual discrepancies.
For Metal Gear, game play has always shined. Truly mastering the stealth action genre, Snake Eater brings back what you loved doing from the previous incarnations and adds a little spice to it all. Most notably is the Camouflage System. You browse through various face paints and suits that blend in with the environment the most, and the higher your percentage is, the more likely an enemy sentry will not spot you. This is a great new concept, but to tell the truth, I did stick with about 3 or 4 of them the whole game, and you can still be spotted in most situations if you’re not too careful. Which brings me to the next feature – no more radar. Sure you get a Motion Detector and Sonar, but there’s no real way you can monitor enemies anymore unless you can see them with your own eyes. I actually welcome this more realistic setup, as it makes it all the more challenging and in the end rewarding if you do sneak by or get stealth kill completely unnoticed.
Snake Eater gets its name from a new Survival Food system in the game. You now have a stamina meter below your regular life meter that indicates how steady you can aim while in first person, how fast you can run without ever getting tired, and how fast your wounds will heal if you ever crouch down to regain health. It will slowly decrease through various ways, and whenever you get low, you have to fill it back up by eating the wildlife that inhabits the jungle. Finding numerous snakes in the bushes, fungus around trees, rabbits hopping around, you’ll never find yourself running out of food. And it is very fun and satisfying to just walk up to one, hunt it with your knife, then eat it in the menu to hear Snake’s verdict on whether it filled him up or made him want to vomit. This is a welcome addition and really gives the survival theme a whole new dimension.
The game’s difficulty comes in various ways. One is trying to avoid being spotted. The A.I. has increased since MGS 2. The guards have much better eyes and ears this time, and that makes it all the more challenging. Some certain sections of the game may get on your nerves, as it seems no matter how hard you try, you’ll always be spotted. Just think of it as a more interactive puzzle. There’s always a safe route, and that’s where the great environmental design comes in. You can hide around nearly every object this time, a great improvement from the other games, as you can use your imagination instead of following certain guidance from wall to wall. The boss fights range from pretty easy to amazingly tough. Without spoiling much, one of them will surely have you reaching for the aspirin. This is all welcome however; as it helps it become a more engaging game for those that just can’t quit.
Now it’s story time. This is really what makes Metal Gear so great in the end. The engrossing story, complete with twists and devices that will make anyone’s head spin, most people seem so divided when it comes to discussing a MGS story. For those that can’t seem to come to terms with the Sons of Liberty plot, Snake Eater helps bring most of it to a new light and made me appreciate it even more than I did before. While doing so, it tells a great story of love, deception, and saving America from a great threat and a new Gear. I can’t say much about the story, as the slightest thing could waste the experience for anyone that hasn’t played yet, but I must say from the beginning to the end, you’ll always want to know what happens next. And when you see that final 20 minutes after the last boss fight, a variety of emotions will overcome you and you simply become at a loss for words. It truly has the makings of a great Hollywood action flick, and it’ll become something that you’ll remember at least until the next Metal Gear comes out.
In the end, Metal Gear Solid 3 has become the series pinnacle. Where it goes from here, no one really knows, not even Kojima himself could tell you. But enjoy what you can from his latest and most arguably finest work to date. This is truly one for the books.