Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Review
When I heard we were going to do Metal Gear Solid 3 for the game club I came to the sudden realization that I actually owned a ridiculous amount of copies of the game across four systems. So I felt it was an appropriate time to challenge myself as a gamer and begin the month long quest of playing the game through five times across each iteration of the game. What a fascinating journey it’s been. Not only do I now eat snakes for my lunch but I find myself actively camouflaging up and hiding in the spare room from my lady friend. Fortunately, before I completely lost my mind I wrote a review on the game which covers the following five versions of the game: the original PS2 version, Subsistence version on PS2, HD collection edition on Xbox 360, the Vita version, and finally the 3DS version. Be sure to check out my breakdown of which was my favourite of the five and which one I would recommend people track down.
Metal Gear Solid 3 puts you in the masculine shoes of a soldier code-named Naked Snake. Don’t get too excited he isn’t that naked. You’re on a mission to simply save a scientist but of course this is a Kojima game so expect there to be hours of cut scenes, lots of twists and turns to the plot and a huge array of memorable characters. Now I’ve been very vague in the plot, mostly to protect the few of you that haven’t played the game yet. Unlike a lot of reviews of the game I really feel the story is not something to be spoiled here and you should just go into this blind and enjoy it for what it is. This game is essentially a mix of long cinematics with stealth gameplay. Yes the plot will not sit well with everyone, but I have say out of the entire Metal Gear Solid series this game probably has the best plot most accessible to everyone. You don’t have to have played any of the previous games to enjoy the experience here. This story is also possibly one of the strongest and kinda sad tales in the series, touching on themes of honor, loyalty and questioning who the real enemies are. If you are a Metal Gear Solid series fan you’ll probably enjoy the character developments in this game as well as the game tying up some unexplained plot points from other games in the series.
While I really the majority of the characters in this game there is one in particular I had a lot of issues with. You come across a female character in the game who spends the majority of the time quite literally flirting with Snake. She walks around with her top half unzipped showing her bra but even that’s too much clothing as she spends far too many scenes in this game in her pants. Now many will argue this was the point to the character or that’s just the Japanese for you. But then why is it they have another female character in this game who is strong, has a fantastic character arc and is not sexualized at all. Kojima never really learned from this in fact the guy got worse with Metal Gear Solid V where he designs a sniper to wear practically no clothes, in the hopes it inspires real women to cosplay like that. This is not a good character design and feels kinda awkward when playing. A minor problem yes, but something I thought was worth discussing.
The game is set in the jungle and unlike previous games in the series has a lot more open environments. The game is still linear but you now have a bit more freedom to get to your route. The environments are very impressive it feels like care and attention has been given to the vegetation in this game. The world feels alive too, there are animals literally running around everywhere and birds will fly out of grass as you walk past them. You will of course come to the occasional building to sneak through but the highlight of this game is definitely the wild.
Metal Gear Solid 3 is a stealth game that really wants you to feel immersed into the game. There are various design choices through out to keep yourself hidden. First off you can camouflage your face and outfit. Choosing the appropriate attire will improve your camo index with the higher percentage making you better hidden from the enemy. You also have a lot of weapons at your disposal both stealth based and loud. The intention is obviously to stick to the silenced tranquillizer gun which lets you put enemies to sleep and causes far less mess. But of course if you decide stealth is not your thing, you can just equip your assault rifle or rocket launcher (provided you have found them of course) and blow the hell out of everyone. Although, doing this will alert all the guards and back up to your presence but unlike previous games in the series its really not the end of the world if you get caught. You can defend yourself and just shoot all the guards if you prefer. This really is a game you could spend hours and hours being as stealthy as possible or you could just spend minutes running straight for your goal. The only time you can’t get away with this is if you play on the hardest setting (titled European Extreme) which will cause the game to end if you get caught by anybody.
As well as weapons you also have a lot of tools at your disposal. The most useful of these being the thermal goggles which you find located out in the wild. You do get equipped with other items that are designed to help like a sonar which is supposed to show you objects of interest in the area and a motion tracker to help you monitor enemy movement, but I found myself really not using a lot of these. The tools are there if you want to use them but you’ll quickly discover which are most useful.
To add to that immersion further there is a heavy influence on stamina. Basically your stamina is gradually declining and you will need to feed yourself to build it back up. So that means you’ve got to go murder helpless animals in the wild and eat them. A kinda interesting additional mechanic is if you leave the food to long, or you save and return to the game a few days later your food will literally rot. Its a cool mechanic and the stamina is a great idea but once you start to master the game and you probably will after just one playthrough you will find yourself very rarely needing to feed yourself. Added to this there is a very in depth cure mechanic. If you take a bullet, break a limb or get set on fire, you have to pause the game and literally give yourself medical attention but using several items like a knife to dig the bullet out and bandages to wrap yourself. Once again this is a cool mechanic and very immersive but can get very irritating especially on boss fights where you will probably have to pause the game a lot to give yourself medical attention.
The boss battles are the highlight of this game by far. Every encounter can be approached and dealt with in different ways. The ideal way is of course to attempt to take them down non lethally as this will net you a handy reward for your effort. Of course this is usually the hardest option. A lot of these boss encounters are also just bizarre characters that you only find in Metal Gear games. There is also an occasion where you can literally take down a boss before you even fight them. A fantastic idea that is so unexpected and feels like a throw back to Deus Ex on the PC.
The music in this game is just fantastic you have an infamous James Bond style song thrown in. As well as some truly memorable scores that hit the emotional notes at just the right moments provided you are sucked into the story that is. They also throw in a Starsailor song a band I used to love in my youth so it felt like quite the nostalgia hit when that came on.
On a first playthrough Metal Gear Solid 3 will take you upwards of 15 hours to finish but that figure does include the cutscenes, my last play through took me under 4 hours. You can skip these (at least most of them) thank goodness because this game really does warrant multiple playthroughs just to try things different and best yourself from your previous attempt. There are multiple difficulties so there really is a setting for everyone and there are several things to unlock. Also if your quite the film buff then this will probably be a game you will want to experience and again over time.
To finish Metal Gear Solid 3 is a game I really wasn’t sucked into back in the day. Maybe its the brain washing after playing it five times in a row but I really grew to love this game, just appreciating its design and what this game executes to make itself unique to other games in general. But with that in mind this won’t sit well with people looking for point action and if you hate stealth this really isn’t for you. It’s a game that split gamers then and will still split gamers today. You will either be on board or not. I was this time around and if you haven’t had a chance to try any Metal Gear Solid games you really can’t go wrong giving this game a go. Strap on a bandanna, hide behind the sofa and enjoy.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
First of the score for this review reflects all versions of the game (except maybe the original PS2) but I’m just going to spend a few short sentences discussing the differences in the ports. So which is the version of the game you should play? Check out my version difference guide for the answer.
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