In celebration of the recent release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, I thought it'd be interesting to revisit these much loved stealth action games and see if they still hold up to my fond memories. While I'll certainly be playing the HD versions of Snake Eater, Peace Walker and Sons of Liberty, not to mention Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, I'm also hoping to play either the original Metal Gear Solid game, or the Twin Snakes version released on GameCube, though no guarantees. Why am I doing this? Out of pure interest of course plus it'll be entertaining, so let's kick things off with part one: Snake Eater.
Snake Eater was released for the Playstation 2 in the March of 2005 (December 2004 in the United States), it was Mr Hideo Kojima's second Metal Gear game on Sony's second piece of gaming hardware after the release of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in 2001. Snake Eater is technically a prequel to the entire MGS series, so it's was only right to start at the very beginning of the timeline. Now I won't be going deep into storyline details or anything like that, all I want to do is provide my impressions upon playing through these games again. As I mentioned previously, I'll be playing the HD versions of a few of these games so please keep that in mind.
Now Snake Eater isn't one of my favourite games in the Metal Gear series, that's not to say I've never appreciated it on some level, I might even say I respect Snake Eater more than any of the other games in the franchise. Playing through this HD version reminded me of the niggling parts of gameplay that don't quite hold up to the standards of today, now I'm speaking of a game made about ten years ago so of course the experience of playing isn't up to snuff compared to modern standards and its certainly not an awful game to play, it simply feels more aged than ever from a modern point of view. That said I'm sure some of you might argue that the controls of the Metal Gear games were poor all the way back to the original Metal Gear Solid game on Playstation 1, it's only been since Metal Gear Solid 4 that we've seen any real change in how controls are handled.
Gameplay aside, I was taken aback by what a great job Mr Hideo Kojima and his team at Kojima Productions did with the Playstation 2's hardware restrictions, the HD version highlights some beautiful art design and while you'll certainly notice a few blurry dull textures here and there, for the most part Snake Eater looks as splendid as it did in my memories; another nice addition is the framerate, which runs buttery smooth. Kojima's games have always had a strong art design and that's especially true for Snake Eater. I'd forgotten how much I loved his take on the 1960's Cold War era, while they do take a few liberties when it comes to the technology on display, it's forgiveable when you get to face some amazing looking bosses like The Fury with his cosmonaut suit.
Food and medicine were key gameplay mechanics in Snake Eater, requiring the player to fix up cuts, bullet wounds or burns, while hunting for food to keep up stamina. It's understandable that some out there disliked these mechanics, I wasn't entirely keen on them myself when I first popped in my MGS3 disc back in 2005, however my views on the mechanics have since changed and there one of the real highlights to the Snake Eater experience. It's sort of a shame we haven't seen many other games have a crack at similar features, all we have nowadays is magical potions and regenerating health. Oh don't get me wrong, drudging through the menu's to gain access to 'cure' and 'food' is a chore, but it as a charm.
Snake Eater (being the first game I've revisited) reminded me how mechanically stiff and awkward the stealth mechanics were in past Metal Gear games, it's unfortunate that not a great deal has changed in the years since. While I wouldn't go as far as to say it's not fun and there's certainly a degree of challenge, it simply feels as if the stealth sections are just another hurdle to the next awesome cut-scene. I'm sure this wouldn't be the case if the stealth sections were more varied, take for example the section where Snake is required to knock out and steal the uniform of a major in order to gain access to a locked area of the base, that's a blast and a fun challenge solely because it feels different, however I'd forgotten how much I disliked the mountainous regions of the game as you're crawling through trenches and knocking out soldier after soldier, it just isn't a whole lot of fun. I guess the real frustration comes from the lack of available options within these stealth sections, possibly a sign of the times rather than actual design.
Memorable characters linger throughout the Metal Gear franchise, but I might argue that Snake Eater contains some of the most memorable, with the likes of a young Ocelot, The Sorrow, The Boss and of course Volgin, whom might just be one of the most dislikeable bosses I can recall in any Metal Gear game... dislikeable in a good way I might add, the dude is just evil, in a way you just kind of got to love. Being a prequel, I had forgotten just how much setup is contained within Snake Eater, though there may be one to many in-jokes and whilst I appreciate a film related chat with Para-Medic everytime I go and save my game, it gets sort of boring. I've never been one of those gamers who moans about lengthy cut-scenes or to much dialogue (in fact it's one of the reasons I love the MGS franchise) but putting those Para-Medic chats in with the process of saving a game seems like a mistake, no it was a mistake.
Playing through Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater reminded me of all the reasons why it's never been my favourite in the franchise, it might be more personal preference then a case of one game being better than another, but there's still something about Snake Eater that left me as frustrated as it did entertained. That ending is still splendid, and the story weaved throughout is captivating and dare I say, mature in a way videogames often aren't. A memorable Playstation 2 title for certain, maybe one of the best that can now be enjoyed on both Playstation 3, Playstation Vita and Xbox 360 (not to mention a Nintendo 3DS version) with the HD collection or bought separately. If you've yet to experience any Metal Gear game, than there's no better place to start then Snake Eater, the natural beginnings of the franchise that still holds up today... Kuwabara, kuwabara.
Next up... Peace Walker (once I've cleansed my palate of course.)
Thanks for reading,