There are times when a game falls flat on expectations. When a game that is a personal favorite of many people you admire turns out to be something you just can’t get into. And times when it effectively kills your interest in the series it belongs to. But not Snake Eater, because it is my favorite Metal Gear Solid game thus far.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD Review Release Date: 08/11/2011 (HD Version), 17/11/2004 (Original) Platforms: Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3, Playstation Vita Developers: Bluepoint Games, Konami, and Kojima Productions Publisher: Konami
Alrighty, history time, because you kinda, should, maybe do that when talking about old games. After the smashing success of Metal Gear Solid 2, Hideo Kojima wanted to leave the series and focus on something else, which is the theme with his work. He wants to leave after pretty much every Metal Gear game, but if Metal Gear Rising is any indication, his employees are the earliest known infected by the Konami virus, and without direction, they get games canned because of over ambition. So after making everything from scratch over three years, a prequel for the entire saga was crafted about the antagonist from the MSX2 days, Big Boss aka Naked Snake, and his adventures in the Russian Jungles.
Set during the Cold War, Snake Eater is a largely unconnected plot in terms of the canon established in the prior two titles. With CIA agent Naked Snake, the ”father” to the series “main character”, trying to keep a nuclear weapons scientist away from the Russians by sneaking into the jungle and pulling him out. However, that only lasts for somewhere between two and three hours before the Snake is assaulted by this game’s colorful selection of bosses, as they nuke a Russian military installation.
Naturally, this does not make the Soviet Union very happy, as they threaten a third World War unless the US government can take down the jerks who stole not only a two miniature nukes, but also a prototypical tank capable of deploying nuclear missiles. Not an actual Metal Gear, but basically one minus the legs. However, it is obviously not that simple, as the game passes down the crazy train in the race to madness, but not in the way I expected.
For instance, the second boss in the game is a man who can turn hornets into bullets. While the plot is fairly grounded, owing a good deal due to being set in 1964. As the last game ended with highly advance AIs and Metal Gear Solid used Nanomachines as a key plot point. Here, you’re a guy crawling through the jungle and some hastily built bases, with the most advance item being an anti personnel locator. The most out there concept from a narrative perspective being something known as the Philosopher’s Legacy. Which actually is among the most reasonable ideas pushed out by this series.
Not that it stops being gloriously dumb as most of the antagonists are basically supervillians, and there are personal hovercrafts for no reason more complicated than it seemed neat. But it manages to stay safely between the bonkers scenes and sections that had my feet shaking for entirely different reasons. Which, despite the always lengthy cutscenes, I can’t help but feel like are helped by the gameplay.
From the very stark change of making all of the areas industrialized corridors except for the three snowy rooms in the first game, to making them only about 20-25% of the game, Kojima and hsi team got the often misleading idea of making the game more realistic. Choosing to incorporate elements like stamina that needs to be refurbished by eating food, treating wounds and poisons, and using the environment to your advantage as a stealth operative. But all of them are done in a manner that made the game the most fun out of the series as far as I’ve played it.
Instead of refilling your health by cramming a ration down your throat, you have a stamina bar that ontop of providing gradual health regeneration, also affects your aiming skills and capacity for things like ledge grabbing and swimming. How do you fill it up? Well, you’re in a jungle most of the time, there are goats, rabbits, snakes, frogs, and a whole lot of other animals for you to poke with a knife or fork before radioing a doctor who’ll tell you about the animal you shoved into your trousers, before Snake asks about how it tastes and crams it into his mouth. In other words, you can get on your belly, stab at a gator’s side, and then eat its meat raw.
I can not properly express what is enjoyable about putting a bullet through a bird’s head and asking what it tastes like to a professional doctor before picturing a grizzled bearded man chomping down onto it, but it is one of my favorite aspects to ever be featured in a game. Made all the better based on how the doctor also talks about old movies whenever you go to save your game, as if her and Snake didn’t already have enough time to develop an awkward relationship.
And as much as the idea of going into a menu to manually place disinfectant on a wound before tying it up and bandaging it sound boring. As well as impossible given how you can do it in the middle of a battle. I couldn’t help but feel some sort of zen to manually healing the main character, because chances are it is you who got that broken leg, so you should be the one to fix it. The same thing could be said about the camouflage system, where you have a visibility percentage based on how well your uniform and face paint allow you to blend into the surroundings. It is just a very welcomed sense of involvement that hits the sweet spot of vulnerability and empowerment.
It is a feeling of control that helps the game, seeing as how the staple of the series, the radar system that let you view enemy’s sight, is gone. Now you’ve got your own wits to abide by, and a fully adjustable camera. Which was amdittedly not in the original, with a fixed camera toggleable by pressing down on the right stick. Granted, the game is still fully playable and even sometimes better with the fixed perspective, but once I started the game with the loose camera, I found it hard to go back.
And while I think that most of the mechanics integrated from the previous titles still work very well when applicable due to the lack of concrete walls and ledges, there is one altered mechanic that I simply don’t get, the CQC. In the past games, CQC was kept at a pretty basic level of either hitting the baddie with your fists, or choking them. Here, I think, by pressing the punch button while sneaking up on an enemy, you’re suppose to be able to get them into a hold, where you can go through a laundry list of maneuvers explained only in the in-game instructions.
Admittedly, I never had to use CQC in my attempted no kill run, I was unaware that continuing after exploding myself with grenades as a form of quick suicide that killed some enemies counted. And I really should’ve used the pills to fake death instead, but I forgot about them due to the toy box of gadgets you get. And while I am all for expanding that to weapons I choose to never use other than when I took an AK to a pseudo petting zoo and tried to fish with an RPG. Why are there 64 hidden frog statues that the game wants you to hunt for?
But before I feel the need to critique having hidden alternate views during a few cutscene, I have to say that in terms of sheer gameplay, this game is probably up there in terms of games that aim to be cinematic. Owing a lot due to how in my failed no kill run, taking out the bosses by lowering their stamina gauges made some fo my favorite boss fights in recent memory all the better.
And speaking of better, I only think one thing about this game would need to be made visually better for me to accept it as a brand new title in this day and age, and that is the textures. While most of them look fine, they are clearly from the PS2 era, and you do spend a lot of time on the ground in a first person view, passing through blades of grass. But considering the technology available, I can’t help but enjoy looking at things in the game thanks to how well the models and animations are done. Not that I dislike how Metal Gear Solid V is looking either, but that’s beside the point.
And paired with the always pleasurable voice cast as it brings the characters to life with some of the funniest dialog in the series, while being quotable in the other manner that would make me squee. As the score continues to make me flirt back between giddy joy about fighting a man made of lightning, and pushing away my head with a smile on my face as my eyes flutter. Along with sound design that made me curse how my ears are weird and I wear headphones invertedly. In addition to the both pleasant and devious rustling of the bushes and listening in on enemy movements.
On all fronts, I can’t help but adore Snake Eater. The story with the only overall goal of setting up a framework for the rest of the series, keeps the balance of cheesiness, excitement, and engagement at a level I wish more media would strive for. With characters who I actively enjoyed listening to, and some of the most stupidly awesome antagonists to ever be named after two three to four letter words. Along with gameplay that approaches “realism” in a manner that only made the experience better. And a presentation that rock solid all across the board. With the biggest issue being how an optional mechanic is not explained very well. There are games I love playing, and games with words I never want to leave. Where everything reaches a fever pitch and I need to convince myself to not automatically dive back in. It was among my most anticipated titles in recent memory, and it delivered. What a thrill, what a thrill indeed.
Stellar!!! (20/20) An exceptional product that is hindered by a few issues to the point where they are barely worth noting for this superb title. Definitely worth both your time and money.