Reaching Full Potential
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is truly unlike its predecessors. The focus is taken away from stealth action and instead directed toward moving the plot and action along at a smoother pace than the previous two games in the MGS series. The dynamics of the stealth action are changed to fit appropriately with the time-period of the game – gone is the radar screen and the sneaking suit. Instead, camouflage is introduced to keep this Snake hidden in the proverbial grass.
Now that the focus was taken away from stealth, the player has been freed to give Snake whatever kind of weapon he needs to get the job done. Pulling out an AK-47 and laying down a hail of bullets is not as taboo as it once was. Incentives for sneaking come via the rankings one gets at the end of the game. But if you’re just playing through for the story your first time, there are only a few places in which you can’t just run through at full force (although, sneaking has been ingrained in the mentality of MGS players.) Also introduced is the cure system and the food system, in which Snake performs medical fixes on himself to maintain his health while eating objects in the environment to retain his stamina. It might seem inconvenient at first, but it quickly becomes a natural process.
Once again, the boss battles are the pinnacles of the gameplay. While not perfect, they feel much more like the battles of MGS1 than Sons of Liberty – a better variety of strange characters with interesting ticks and hang-ups. There’s some interesting environment stuff going on for a few of them, one boss that’s hardly a battle yet manages to retain an eerie intensity, and one boss that will eat up a good portion of your game clock. One of the most impressive battles comes toward the end; displaying dynamic camera angles unlike any other game I’ve played (imagine getting the chance to play during a cut scene).
Perhaps the biggest draw of the game is the expectations for plot resolution. As a prequel, Snake Eater had the opportunity to fill in a lot of holes, tie some loose ends together, and self-reflexively comment on the series’ own history. As a result, Snake Eater’s ending is far more grounded than that of Sons of Liberty. Though the series has always been focused on plot and cinematics, Snake Eater feels the least like a “movie that you can sometimes play.” In that regard, Snake Eater is also the most well balanced of the three games.
MGS3 also shows the possibilities of the PlayStation 2 hardware. It was one of the first visually stunning PS2 games, and helped to usher in a new era of well done graphics. While graphics aren’t everything, well done visuals compliment a well done game. Snake Eater pays obvious homage to James Bond films, as seen in the opening movie and title song. One can’t help but get goosebumps when the MGS theme finds its way into the game subtly.
Overall, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a fantastic play. It does have a few problems, such as length, but at least it’s not artificially lengthened. This can be compensated for by the replay value, in which there are more incentives than ever in the form of unlockables. Players who are unfamiliar with the first two games won’t find the plot nearly as satisfying, but it can hold up on its own if necessary. MGS3 is a game that should be on every PlayStation 2 owner’s shelf.