To Let the World Be.
Like Marty McFly in the Dolorean, Snake travels back in time to 1964 to save the world from almost certain nuclear destruction. Well, no…but it sure seemed that way when Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was first revealed to gamers. What a departure for Hideo Kojima and the folks at Kojima Productions! As it turns out - this is actually a genesis story of how a young CIA agent, known as John/Jack, would eventually be known as the greatest soldier of the 20th century – Big Boss. In my humble opinion, this is the greatest Metal Gear Solid story (so far) and nearly wipes away the stench that was Sons of Liberty.
Welcome to the jungle. We’ve got fun and games. For this week’s Metal Gear Solid Retrospective Review it’s Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD Edition for the PS3.
“I’m not your boss anymore.” - The Boss
Metal Gear Solid 3 begins in August of 1964 as Snake is sent in by the CIA’s FOX unit to extract a Soviet Scientist named Sokolov from a KGB controlled military outpost in Tselinoyarsk, a southern part of the USSR. After saving Sokolov and proceeding to the extraction point, Snake is ambushed by members of the Cobra Unit lead by his former monitor The Boss. The Boss betrays Snake, steals back Sokolov and gives two mini nuclear shells including the Davy Crocket delivery system to Colonel Volgin of GRU. Snake is thrown off a bridge into a raging river and witnesses Volgin destroy a nearby nuclear research facility using one of the mini nuclear shells.
One Week Later
In the aftermath of the mission’s failure, the USSR blames the US for the nuclear attack. In its effort to avoid World War 3, the government sends Snake back behind enemy lines to retrieve Sokolov before he can complete the Shagohod, a massive nuclear missile delivery system using rockets, as well as ‘prove’ America’s innocence by eliminating The Boss. Throughout the campaign, Snake battles the likes of the Cobra Unit as well as our main man Ocelot (a major for GRU working with Volgin).
As I stated in the beginning of this article, Snake Eater is currently the greatest MGS story. Sure, the Cobra Unit is a fantastical group of paranormal freaks (e.g. The Pain and The Fear) but the basis of the story is rooted in realism with an exceptionally written Cold War espionage plot that hits all the right notes any old James Bond film from the 60’s would. But more important is that it hits all the familiar notes a Metal Gear Solid game should as well as adds new wrinkles to the story that keep the story fresh and entertaining.
“I’ve never felt a tension like this before.” - Ocelot
First things first ladies and gentlemen – full third person control. Game. Changer. Added to the game in the ‘Subsistence’ release, having complete control over the camera right behind Snake makes Snake Eater exponentially more accessible and a completely different experience than when I first played it with the traditional ‘angled’ top-down perspective. This is most notable in the boss fights as it is much easier to see your opponent relative to your position and determine the best way to engage them more effectively.
A major change to the gameplay involves using camo and face paint to blend in with the environment. This mechanic uses a camo index on the top right corner of the screen. The more suitable your clothes and face paint are to blending in to the surroundings, the higher your camo index and the lower the chance of being spotted by the enemy. However, the one down side of this system is navigating several menus each time you want to change your outfit.
Another addition to MGS 3 is CQC. When snake encounters an enemy in close quarters, he can grab and throw them to the ground or towards enemies as well as sneak up behind them and either knock them out or slit their throat. Also, it is worth noting that this game allows more freedom to engage the enemy head on with a greatly expanded weapons selection ranging from a M63 machine gun, anti-aircraft weapons, and a very powerful shotgun. Snake Eater does a fantastic job in balancing its signature stealth gameplay with the ability to go in guns-a-blazing!
And of course, I must address the boss fights. They’re amazing! Each one is unique to the specific bosses you encounter and use sound logic and interesting gameplay mechanics to defeat them. The battle with The End, a century old sniper that can blend in seamlessly with the environment, is one of the best boss battles in video game history. The amount of different ways to defeat this boss are so varied and original that you can play it over and over again and still find new solutions. It really is a testament to how well Kojima-san and his team know how to effectively engage the player.
“Does it have to be one or the other - love or hate? - Snake
MGS 3 looks incredible. It truly pushed the limits of the PS2 back in the day and with the remastered HD edition – it looks even better. All the environments including animals, plants and buildings are extremely detailed and everything looks crisp and clear. The jungle in particular feels alive with rivers, streams, trees, brush and animals. The character models are superb a have a great amount more detail than their MGS 2 counterparts.
Another element of Snake Eater’s graphics is in the animations of the various flora and fauna. Bushes and grass move realistically when Snake crawls past them and animals will roam around. Snake’s clothes will get dirty while trending through a muddy swamp. The water reflections as the sun sets down over a river really bring a level of realism that surprisingly still holds up today.
However, given that Snake Eater is now over a decade old, the graphics have aged - but only slightly. For instance, there are moments when characters’ clothes are flapping in heavy wind that make it seem that a significant number of frames of animation are missing (or something) because it doesn’t look natural. Despite some minor technical issues, this remastered HD edition makes one of the best looking PS2 games ever – even more so!
“It’s not over yet!” - Col. Volgin
Included in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD Edition are the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake title originally released for the Japanese MSX computer system. While this is a great little addition to the overall package, I have to say that the controls and graphics have not aged well and it was very difficult for me to get engaged with these classic games. That aside, this version of Snake Eater features a demo mode where you can view all the cut scenes once you start the game. You can change Snake’s face paint and camo for most scenes, just be sure to finish the game first – you don’t want to spoil this excellent story for yourself!
Overall: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater HD Edition is a masterpiece that combines a well-flushed out and compelling narrative with an updated camera and supremely entertaining gameplay that make this Kojima production one extremely satisfying experience.