Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Platform: PlayStation 2
Memory Usage: 90 kb
Toward the end of the original PlayStation's lifespan two games were released that really pushed the envelope of design on the aging console. One was Ridge Racer Type 4 and the other was Metal Gear Solid. Metal Gear Solid was the rebirth of the original Metal Gear franchise from the 1980's, following the backstory of the original game as well as the sequel, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (unreleased outside of Japan). The NES game Snake's Revenge was not an actual Metal Gear game but rather a US made game based upon the Metal Gear universe. Metal Gear Solid introduced the stealth action genre but still did it with a style that no other series has gotten close to, not to mention an extremely complex and well crafted storyline by Hideo Kojima. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty launched a year after the PlayStation 2 and while it sold well, the point and ending of the game is still greatly misunderstood by much of the industry. At the end of 2004 Hideo Kojima released his final Metal Gear Solid game, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - a prequel to the entire Metal Gear series, including the original games from the 1980's.
Description: Being the granddaddy of all Metal Gear games MGS3 takes place in 1964. If you're wondering how Solid Snake could be alive in the early 60's then you won't mind the most obvious of all spoilers - the Snake in MGS3 is not Solid Snake but instead the main character is Big Boss, of which Solid Snake (as well as Liquid and Solidus) were cloned from in 1972. If you know your Metal Gear history then you know that Big Boss was the greatest soldier that ever lived, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater tells of how he came to be as well as a lot of backstory into the events of the previous Metal Gear games, including the original titles.
Things start out like in MGS2 where there's a smaller mission at the start of the game to get the player aquatinted with the controls and to set the plot for the rest of the events in the story. After that you'll begin the bulk of the game, operation Snake Eater. Your first mission is to infiltrate a Soviet research facility via a HALO (High Altitude - Low Open) jump and rescue a Soviet rocket scientist, Sokolov, who wishes to defect. He designed the Vostok rocket that carried Yuri Gagarin into space and has since been forced into developing a new type of weapon for a GRU commander by the name of Volgin. Things end up going sour when your mentor, The Boss, shows up and reveals that she is defecting to the Soviet Union. Things turn worse she delivers two small US nuclear shells to Volgin along with Sokolov. Volgin uses one of the shells to destroy Sokolov's research facility causing an uproar and since the drop aircraft Snake came in on was in the vicinity at the time of the nuclear explosion, the United States is held responsible for the destruction. To prevent an international incident and World War III, Snake has to go back into the jungle to retrieve Sokolov, destroy the superweapon he's been working on - the Shagohod, and finally kill his former mentor and the greatest living solider in history - The Boss.
Compared to the previous Metal Gear games there's just a hell of a lot more going on here. If you know your Metal Gear and Metal Gear Solid history then lots of things will fall into place and many questions will be answered. You'll get to see the origins of Big Boss, high tech special forces unit FOXHOUND, Revolver Ocelot, and even the origins of the Metal Gear project itself.
Graphics: The majority of the game takes place outside in the vast jungles. While the game is still linear, in that no matter how wide an area may be there's still an entrance and an exit, the scope is still very vast. Everything is nicely detailed and you can track creature movements by watching grass move or sneak up on enemies by following their footprints. Character faces are beefed up from MGS2 and are extremely detailed with realistic features and movements. Damage on your body is shown visually so if you get shot with a needle in the leg, you have a needle sticking out of your leg and your pants will be soaked with blood. It's not a huge advance and other games have done it before but it doesn't hurt either. Enemy troop movements are even better defined than in MGS2. For instance if a squad is sent out to look for you, you can tell what areas they've covered and which are safe by watching their hand gestures as they communicate with one another. Creature detail is good as well rather it be frogs, snakes, goats, birds, fish, and so forth. Larger enemy craft such as helicopters, flying platforms, and the Shagohod are very nicely rendered as well and appear realistic and even though some are slightly outside the bounds of reality - everything still looks like it could have existed.
There are some problems however. First and foremost there are collision detection problems with doors. Quite often you'll go to hide inside a room to wait for guards to come in so you can disarm or kill them and their arms or guns will protrude through the closed door. They can't shoot through the door so the detection isn't completely broken, however it still pulls you out of the game a bit. This also is the cause of some problems when guards with large bulletproof shields will rush you and knock you down. Sometimes they won't be near you to make solid contact but they'll knock you over anyway. There are also moments of slowdown in the game when someone throws a grenade that kills four or five animals in the underbrush or if there is a large firefight and someone throws a smoke grenade or white phosphorous grenade. Really they aren't a huge problem but they are still there, then again the PlayStation 2 is in its last two years of PRIME game development.
Sound: Konami did it again! The ambient sounds in the jungle are dead on and you can usually tell if there's a snake or some other animal nearby just by hearing it move or make noise. Enemy soldiers have dialogue between themselves, flying platforms have a distinctive whirrr sound, sweeping winds and running water sound realistic, and over all everything sounds as it should. The voicework is excellent once again with David Hayter reprising his role as Snake (okay, it's not really a reprisal since it's Big Boss this time around, but Solid Snake was cloned as a near exact duplicate of Big Boss so it works out). Your commanding officer in this game, Major Zero, has a British accent and is just as you would expect someone of his character to be - especially when he rambles on about 007 films. Your medical and save contact this time around is Para-Medic and similar to save contacts of previous MGS games she always has something to ramble on about, this time it's about popular films of the early 1960's. Your weapons information contact, Sigint, is great as well. The young voice of Ocelot is excellent, your contact EVA is well done, The Boss starts off sounding a bit canned but by the end of the game she really stands out as one of the best voiced characters in video gaming. Your enemy bosses this time around, the Cobra unit, are all well voiced too including the immortal Michael Bell (voicework in over 200 series as well as Voltron and Rugrats) as The Fear. Additionally the theme song fits right in with the 007-esque title sequence and sounds like it was ripped from the opening sequence of an early Bond film.
Play Control: Nearly everything from MGS2 has been carried over, no need to fix something that isn't broken. When you get hurt or need to recover stamina you hit start and open up the "cure" or "food" menus. Camouflage changes are handled this way too. Slightly different from the previous games, you can only hold eight items and eight weapons in your onscreen menu at any time. These can be swapped out by going into the "backpack" menu but it takes a couple minutes to get used to not having all your weapons available instantly. Climbing up trees and the like are handled with the action button so not much changes there. CQC or Close Quarters Combat is a new addition in MGS3 that opens up some interesting game play elements. You can stab an enemy, or pull them over and interrogate them for information with your knife to their throat, or use them as a human shield, or knock them to the ground and disarm them. This changes the strategy of taking care of enemy guards since now you can eliminate them silently without firing a gun as well as gain information from them.
Replay: Compared to the previous MGS titles this is where Snake Eater really shines. It will take most people 20 to 25 hours to go through the game the first time. After that there are tons of unlockable camouflage and facepaint patterns to be found, different easter eggs to find, new weapons to acquire and so forth. There is also a "Snake vs Monkey" minigame that plays similar to Ape Escape where you can unlock special items. It was pretty cool to have Snake tell Campbell during the Snake vs Monkey intro that no matter what he's "not destroying any more Metal Gears!" Given the amount of unlockables and hidden scenes (including another hidden minigame that is a nightmare Snake has) you can easily play through MGS3 five or six times before you see it all. In fact the story alone holds up for another couple play throughs.
Final Verdict: If you've played the previous Metal Gear games you owe it to yourself to play MGS3. If you haven't played the previous Metal Gear games then I suggest playing them first. Also be sure to read up on the events from Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in the options menus of the original Metal Gear Solid - it's a lot of reading but it explains a lot and really since Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was never released in the US it should be required reading. Hands down my favorite part in the game was when Snake meets Granin who is disgusted at Sokolov's design for the Shagohod, "what's a tank need a rocket booster for?" Granin tells Snake what a tank needs is legs, the ability to stand upright is what propelled humans to the top of the food chain. Granin also says that he's been developing just such a tank, a robot, but Volgin doesn't want anything to do with his designs anymore so he was going to send them to this friends in the United States. Now the picture that is shown when Granin says this looks an awful lot like Otakon from MGS who designed Metal Gear Rex - Otakon said that his whole family worked in weapons development and that his grandfather was part of the manhattan project. It can only be assumed that the person in the picture with Granin was either Otakon's father or grandfather. Lastly Granin asks Snake if he's heard of the theory of a link between humans and chimpanzees, and then states that his new weapon will be the link between infantry and artillery, a metal gear of sorts. Snake responds "...Metal....Gear?.." It took all these years but finally the person who designed the original Metal Gear is revealed. And from MGS we all know what the definition of Metal Gear is: "a nuclear-equipped walking battletank."
This is by far the best written game in
the history of video games up until this point, the ending alone is worth
picking up this title. Hideo Kojima has expressed that this will
be the last Metal Gear Solid game he writes or produces. (although
he said that after MGS2) He also expressed that just as with the
James Bond franchise where different teams produce every few films, he
would like different production teams to create different games in the
series. Ironically enough there is finally a Metal Gear Solid movie
in the works and it seems that Hideo Kojima may produce it as well.
Even more ironic the opening sequence for Snake Eater (which comes up after
the Virtuous Mission is completed) pays homage to classic James Bond title
sequences from the 1960's.
Written on 03-14-05 by David, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last amended 04-15-06 by David, email@example.com
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