Mento Gear Solid 3: Snark Eater: Part One

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So here we are again. Dan and Drew's tactical espionage action continues unabated, despite the rapid proximity of PAX East and GDC, and we're once again dropped deep within the hazy jungles of Kojima's imagination, devoid of supplies, weapons and reason. I've heard Metal Gear Solid 3 is the best MGS game, so maybe I'll feel something greater than apathy (Metal Gear Solid) or antipathy (Metal Gear Solid 2) this time around. Maybe I'll just hate everything about its camouflage system, starvation gauge and vaguely Ninja Scroll-esque bosses.

Speaking of which, I'll be speaking my mind on said bosses and on a great many other things about this game with a whole new bulletpoint list of observations, reactions and anything else that deserves comment. You can refer back to the last two times I did this (here and here), but it's essentially a freeform, scattered sort of LP where I don't really delve too much into the game's story or characters (unless it's really stupid). Therefore, as previously, this feature is really only for those familiar with the game, or are seeing it for the first time with Drew on the Metal Gear Scanlon Premium feature. I'll be breaking up these observations with spoiler blocks once again to coincide with the progress made by Drew, so I don't end up spoiling stuff for those who, like me, are new to all this. Suffice it to say, though, if you haven't seen or played this game before and intend to, maybe bookmark this for later. (I guess asking for bookmarks is kind of cocky, huh? It's like the written article equivalent of "like, comment and subscribe".)

Of course, this leaves me with a dilemma with regards to how to partition all these observations. MGS2 had two "chapters", more or less, but MGS3 seems more like a contiguous chain of events. I'm thinking I'll update whenever I reach/defeat a new boss? Hopefully Kojima doesn't pull a fast one on me and decide to throw out three bosses in a row to mix things up.

(My thanks to everyone who gave me recommendations for how to play this one. A lot of it boiled down to "Codec a lot", "try out all the gadgets you're given", "stealth is more about crawling and camos" and "familiarize yourself with the controls, especially the camera". I'll try to keep all that in mind, then forget, and then complain about how difficult/unwieldy the game is, i.e. The Classic LP Cycle.)

Mission Abort? So Far, Sokolov

  • SMAKA Alert #1! [Which is to say, "Stuff Mento Already Knew About". I'll be peppering in a few of these whenever I feel like acknowledging that, yes, since its release a decade ago, I managed to overhear, see or read a few things about Metal Gear Solid 3. Kind of hard to avoid it all entirely, despite my efforts to do exactly that.] SMAKA #1 is for the theme song that announces the game, a very deliberate tongue-in-cheek Bond theme ersatz about eating tree frogs. Did they get John Barry in for this?
  • Virtuous Mission? We gotta spring a scientist called Sokolov from his Soviet handlers. I'm listening to the mission briefing now.
  • "The Earth was blue, but there was no God." Oh lordy. I'll give MGS a break, since that's a real quote. Well, maybe.
  • This Snake also repeats back keywords to the person he's speaking to. Maybe it's a genetic thing.
  • Talking of whom, it's some British handler guy? I don't know who he is yet. I'm sure he'll be Codec correspondent number one.
  • I think I'll save the "Snake Eater" briefing for later, if it's supposed to be contingent on the events of this first mission. It appears this game does have an intro chapter after all. We're heading to Virgin Cliffs in the USSR somewhere to complete Virtuous Mission.
  • But first! I'm going over the tutorials. Seems fairly straightforward so far, even the CQC stuff. It's just chokeholds and then either throwing a guy down to KO them temporarily, or using them for cover/info while they're indisposed. Sure sounds difficult. (I'm sure I'll be eating this snark later. Oh hey, title drop.)
  • I also found the Metal Gear/Metal Gear 2 MSX games while going through the menu. Hmm... maybe later.
  • Oh, and there's transfarring too. We don't talk about that. Let's hit New Game already.
  • So this is odd. I'm asked a question with four answers: "I'm playing the MGS series for the first time!" (technically incorrect), "I like MGS1!" (sure, I guess), "I like MGS2!" (I believe I will plead the fifth here), "I like MGS3!" (you mean, so far?). I went with the second one, but I'm hoping that didn't disable first-person shooting or a bunch of other useful MGS2 additions.
  • Should I be a wuss and go with "Easy"? I've never been a big fan of the stealth gameplay and I'm only really here for the story, but... hey, guess what, I just won't say which difficulty I went for. Credibility restored. (I went for Normal.)
  • Did that guy just call Big Boss a pantywaist? Let him enjoy his cigar on an airplane in peace why dontcha.
  • His oxygen mask/helmet had "Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater" printed on it. Was it from the prop department? There won't be any Metal Gears for another twenty years... don't overthink it? I hear ya.
  • Oh, they're giving us the briefing again. Serves me right for thinking it was a separate thing, what with it being an actual separate thing on the main menu. Ah well, I might've missed something the first time.
  • Landed safely. We're getting the basic movement tutorials now.
  • British handler guy is called Major Tom. Yeah, fuck you too, game. I suppose the fact he looks and sounds like a scarred Bowie isn't a coincidence.
  • First mission: recover my backpack. I just had to climb a tree.
  • Now I get the other Codec Crew. First is Para-Medic, a.k.a. saving girl. The second is The Boss, a rather feminine Bruce Springsteen. Snake has some sort weird mother issues with this lady. We're talking about technique and spirit while fighting?
  • Wow, she's being super foreshadowy. "You might have to fight comrades tomorrow, because politics. Don't get attached." She sorta sounds like Twitter.
  • Oh yeah, SMAKA Alert #2: I already know about The Boss and what she'll end up doing. Kind of hard to miss it in the synopsis.
  • While I'm here, SMAKA Alert #3: I'm fairly sure "Para-Medic" is called Eva. I don't know anything else about her, except that she'll be the requisite escort albatross around my neck at some point later on. (Big question mark here though. Maybe I've SMAKA'd off more than I can chew.)
  • The Boss also has a "Cobra Unit" of heroes that helped her win WW2. Gee, I wonder if they all have cool codename and are unusually gifted in various, vaguely-supernatural ways?
  • I made a courtesy save. Para-Medic lady gave me an earful about Godzilla. She even managed to plug the 2004 Godzilla 50th anniversary movie, which is impressive for a game set in 1964.
  • Callin' everybody! The Boss told me how camouflage works, and that I should always ensure that I have fatigues/face paint that matches the colors of the surroundings. They create a badass female soldier character and have her give me make-up tips? I spoke to Para-Medic about reticulated pythons, and about eating them. Like lamb, you want to cook them with mint sauce for a bit of a pep. Nothing like a minty python. I spoke to Major Tom too, and he told me that the Soviets have ground control to the north. I guess he just has the standard "where do I go next?" Campbell role.
  • Spent the next few minutes hunting local wildlife and calling Para-Medic about them, since the game suggested I do so. I kinda like this feature. (I'm going to be using a collectibles guide, incidentally, but I picked one out that doesn't spoil anything. Hey, I'm already doing my due diligence by putting this on Normal.)
  • Man, crocodiles? They don't seem that aggressive, at least they're not until you start chopping away with them at a knife because you want to find out what they taste like. I'm more worried about this quicksand swamp, honestly. (First death, for those counting at home.)
  • Ah, there are enemies in this area. Human ones. And now the game gets less fun, as it always does when I'm forced to be sneaky. I've discovered that, once again, there's no quick "reload last save" or soft reset option, so once caught I can either: A) try to wait out the alarms in a hidey hole after wasting half my tranq darts to lose the guys in the area, B) let myself get killed as they very, very slowly AK-47 my HP bar away, or C) reset the game from the XMB. Yay. (P.S. These games continue to be hateable garbage that only garbage people like.)
  • All right, so I might've gone a little far there. I'll just have to be extra careful not to get caught! Maybe I should've gone for "Easy" after all, if it meant not going through this process nearly as often.
  • Caught three times in a row. I guess this isn't MGS2. In MGS2 they didn't spot you nearly this fast, and the whole army wasn't instantly alerted once they did either. There was often a grace period when you can pop a guy in the head before they radioed it in. I miss those days. (Can't believe I said I missed MGS2.)
  • Ah, no there's difficulty adjusting once you've begun a game, so it looks like I'll be starting over. HOORJ. Maybe I'll put the game away for a while instead...

So, uh... doesn't like this is going to go particularly well. It's pretty rare that I get so turned off by a game that I don't want to touch it after about an hour of playtime, even with the crappy Indies I look at every year for Steam May Madness. I've taken everyone's advice about CQC and camouflage and crawling to heart, it's just the stealth in this game is a little too severe for my liking (on the normal setting, at least). I'd struggle through it if this were Dishonored or any modern stealth game with a quick load function, but... MGS 3 ain't that. Really, this game came out in 2004?

Sorry folks. I wanted to post something to coincide with the first episode of Metal Gear Scanlon 3 (mostly so I could watch it myself without spoiling anything), but this is a really bad first impression and once you've gotten older and played as many games as I have you get a very distinct sense of whether a game is right for you or not.

Maybe I'll come back to it tomorrow, once I've had some time to reflect.

Snake, out.

Kojima-style fake-out! (Sorta anyway. I do think this game has more than a few problems.) Let's keep going:

  • Resuming where we left off: the first of the KGB soldiers, patrolling this part of the Russian jungle. I wasn't even aware Russia had jungles, but then it is a very big country. It probably has tropics somewhere too.
  • What's the deal with these frog statues? It's on the collectibles list, but... why? They sorta remind me of the Sanrio frog, Kero Kero Keroppi.
  • Spotted three guards in this area so far. Would explain how they kept ganging up on me. Also because I kept trying to hold them up (they didn't like that, for some reason). Decided to just pop them with the tranq instead of trying any monkey business. It's not MGS 2, and I gotta remind myself of that. These aren't state of the art Genome clone soldiers or highly trained 21st century Patriot mercenaries; they're schmoes in a jungle, which means they're several magnitudes more alert and cunning.
  • Boy, is it easy to slash someone's throat open when you're grabbing them. The basics of CQC appear to include giving everyone red smiles whether you mean to or not. I think I'm just going to use the long-distance option to spare casualties for now. No doubt I'll be forced to interrogate someone at some point, though. (DualShock face buttons were never meant to measure this level of sensitivity, damn it!)
  • Fun: Getting Para-Medic's disgusted reactions when Snake asks her how some rare or beautiful animal tastes. More fun: When you she phones you up to tell you there's one of those animals in the area, and she suddenly realizes Snake's already eaten them all.
  • Snake's evil smile when he spots the hornet's nest above the guard... We're really getting a sense early on of how this guy became a dastardly Sean Connery in his later years.
  • I didn't mention it yet, because I can't see when I'd use it, but the fake death pill's an interesting conceit. I guess the idea is that I use it when in trouble, the guards kick the body, shrug, and walk off, and then I activate the antidote in my tooth at some point during the short interval between getting instantly spotted again by the retreating guards, or dying permanently from going too long without the antidote. I appreciate how it's both narratively and mechanically a very risky and desperate last resort.
  • After a brief saunter across a ruined building with the loudest floors, I found Sokolov. Time for an exposition dump. Some guy called Colonel "Thunderbolt" Volgin wants Sokolov's superweapon to overthrow Khrushchev. The goons I've been shooting were there to stop Volgin and his GRU men, not me.
  • Man, Sokolov's got some moves. He's pulling all this Vogue shit as we try to escape. Or he's panicking, I'm not a behaviorist.
  • Goddamn it, is that Baby Ocelot? I guess he had to come from somewhere. The Portrait of Ocelot as a Young Man is as cocky as his more familiar Old Van Cleef incarnation. Just as decent a shot too. I feel every subsequent MGS game has to emphasize his badass moves more, for some reason (maybe because he was taken out so quick in the first game and Kojima feels bad for him?).
  • Did he just purr? Oh, that was an ocelot noise. How dumb. You know, we didn't really need to know he was the commander of something called the Ocelot unit. Like, it's simple to just assume everyone has animal names in Kojima's world of global espionage.
  • Ohhhh, so that's CQC. That's way more impressive than the half-assed chokeslam/throat-slitting I've been doing. Snake just took out all those Spetznaz goons! And Ocelot!
  • Sokolov ran off. Simply a matter of catching up to him to complete Virtuous Mission and get back home to the US. Maybe visit a zoo or, as Snake calls it, "an all-you-can-eat buffet". I'm sure the fact that The Boss went radio silent some time ago isn't portentous. Ah, whatever, if this was a Bond movie (like the theme music suggests), James Bond would already be leaping off a cliff with an audacious Union Jack parachute by this point. Leave the subtlety for John le Carr√© novels.
  • Just for funzies, I shot Ocelot in the head with a sniper rifle from close range. Series over. (Yeah, I saved it first. Figured it wouldn't let me get away with it. I did get a special "Time Paradox" game over from Colonel Campbell though.)
  • I did shake down Ocelot just in case he had a special revolver on him or something. Nope. Just a mousetrap? I guess it's an ocelot thing.
  • Sokolov's been building an even more impressive looking Metal Gear, called the Shagohod. In 1964. It's not even its final form! I get you want these end boss super-tanks to look more impressive each game, but there's some anachronistic nonsense going on here.
  • For as cartoonishly evil as Sokolov looks, he sure is a 'fraidy cat. Guess there needs to be one callow, genius munitions scientist in every game.
  • Oh hey, the Boss is here. On this bridge. With crazy bee powers. Oh, she has a bunch of weird assholes with her. The sort that look like bosses.
  • Let's see, we've got: Bee guy, ghost guy, crazy pointy-noise guy, electricity guy and weird old beardy guy. (SMAKA Alert #4: Volgin is electricity guy, because he was just introduced, but I know who the others are too. They all have definite articles, if that helps.)
  • Oh, and The Boss has defected to the Soviet Union. "Born in the USA" my ass. She threw Snake's ass into a river too, but I guess that beats getting sonic (&) knuckled by Volgin.
  • Hey, there's some Trauma Center thrown in for color. That's kind of weird. Will I end up half-dead a lot in this game?
  • Did The Boss and Snake just do a Fievel "somewhere out there" gesture to each other? Why am I still asking these questions, after two and a half games?
  • Volgin, meanwhile, is grinning maniacally about his nukes and creeping on some blonde they picked up with Sokolov (yo, is Volgin a bad guy?). Blonde is maybe a future Codec contact? Maybe the actual Eva?
  • "You're going to nuke your fellow Russians?" "Remember the Alamo." Right, because Davy Crockett pulled a thermonuclear device out of his coonskin cap and vaporized the Mexican army. Get outta here with this crap. (Before you all comment: Yes, the context for this quote comes a little later and, yes, it's still stupid.)

Talking of crap, that's the first chapter of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater complete, and the first chapter of Mento Gear Solid 3: Snark Eater done and dusted to boot. Now to listen to that Bond theme again. Did you know Goldfinger came out in 1964? I bet Kojima did.

For now, I'll be leaving you all in a dream, at least until Part Two. See ya.

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