An Unforgettable Game
Despite the title of Metal Gear Solid, Snake Eater is a very different game than previous installments in the series. After Metal Gear Solid 2 received criticism for its complex story, Kojima Productions created a narrative that was more fluid, yet includes the great plot twists that we have come to expect from the series. While the player does not control the namesake character of the series, Solid Snake, we are put in control of an close-to-complete carbon copy. It will be easy for those who have not followed the story arc to not understand that they are not controlling Solid Snake but are actually controlling Naked Snake, the man who becomes Big Boss.
The mission takes place during the tumultuous 1960s during the peak of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States and the possible nuclear holocaust that could occur with any confrontation. The delicate balance of peace between the Soviet Union and the United States is threatened by the rogue Colonel Volgin who feels betrayed by what he perceives as the weakness of the Soviet leaders during times of stress. Volgin plans to take over the USSR after promoting a conflict between the two powers by capturing key scientists and creating a nuclear weapons delivery system. One of these scientists, Sokolov, defected to the United States but is recaptured by Volgin and is forced to create Shagohold, the mobile nuclear tank that threatens the United States from any position in the world.
The CIA drops Naked Snake into the thick Soviet jungle so as to rescue Sokolov and therefore disrupt Colonel Volgin's plans. The game creates a sense of survival through the implementation of the stamina bar and the injury treatment system, as Naked Snake is all by himself with no hope of rescue if something wrong occurs.
Keeping with the 1960s time period, Naked Snake is also unable to employ the same high tech gadgetry that is used in previous installments of the series rather he must utilize weapons and gadgets which would be high tech at the time. Even though the aforementioned gadgets can be used, Snake must use the jungle environment to his advantage. He must capture local fauna and flora to eat in order to keep his stamina up and will also need to adjust his stealth strategy due to the large number of environment variations. In order to not alert enemy soldiers, players will need to adjust Snake's appearances, whether it be different camo patters and face paints or donning a complete disguise.
As there is no hope of evacuation when Snake gets injured, he must perform surgery on himself when he gets injured and administer medication if he gets sick. This new element to the gameplay adds tremendously to the idea that Snake is all alone in the jungle and provides for a small mini-game. However, it is important to note that the injury treatment system does get tedious towards the end of the game, especially when many injuries occur during boss battles.
Unless you are a very skilled Metal Gear Solid player, Snake will be detected and will have to either hide or fight his way out of the situation. The good news is that the implementation of a free moving camera now allows players to scan for enemies in the vicinity more easily which will allow for less unwanted encounters with the enemy. During sections of the game where fighting is necessary, Snake now has a more balancing fighting repertoire due to the inclusion of the "close-quarter-combat" system. Players now have the ability to neutralize their foes when they get too close while not alerting other enemies.
One of the staples of the gameplay in the Metal Gear Solid series are the boss battles. Snake Eater includes some of the most diverse and satisfying boss encounters that one will come across in video games. Not only are boss' appearances and personalities different, but they also have different fighting techniques which are used to take advantage of the wide range of locations in which the battles take place. One particularly memorable fight is the sniper battle between Naked Snake and The End, which proves to be one of the hardest and longest boss battles you will ever participate in, but more importantly, one of the most satisfying.
The great combat and stealth sections really highlight the overall presentation of the game. When moving around the world, the attention to detail really comes into the forefront of your mind. The complexity and detailed world called for the creation of a new game engine and pushes the Playstation 2 to its technical limits. The amount of creatures and enemies in a world that includes cycling weather patterns and diverse areas of the jungle create one of the most realistic environments seen on this generation. More importantly, the game's frame rate holds up nicely while their are no noticeable technical glitches--quite an achievement due to the ambitious presentation.
In addition to the graphical presentation, the voice work and musical score are very memorable. David Hayter, the voice of Solid Snake, performs the voice of Naked Snake and proves why he is one of the best voice actors in the industry. However, the one bad element of the voice acting seems to be that of Ocelot's character. The actor seemed to put stress on the wrong words while delivering lines that really detract from the cinematic experience that is seemingly perfected by Hayter's voice work and Kojima's cut scene direction. The musical score, on the other hand, is flawless and thus very memorable, especially the title song "Snake Eater". Performed in a very James Bond-like manner, the lyrics were written by Hideo Kojima and capture the themes and ideas behind the game, while the actual singer gives a powerful performance that add to the emotion of Naked Snake's odyssey .
All of these elements combined together creates one of the most ambitious Playstation 2 titles, but more importantly, one of the best. The criticisms of the complex story in MGS2 are eradicated in Snake Eater, but nonetheless include plot twists that one has come to expect in the series. Frustrating camera and close combat control are eradicated and thus no longer detract from the overall experience, while the presentation causes player to really admire the environment that was created. Some of the final missions in the game seem to drag on too long, but one's enthusiasm and enjoyment is never belittled due to the unsurpassed voice work and cut scene direction. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is simply unforgettable.