Allow me to start by saying, I love Metal Gear Solid! Ever since I first loaded the first MGS it into my PS1 at 9 years old I was simply overwhelmed with the sheer grandeur of it all. Never before had I been so taken aback by a games story before, on the surface the games tell you ‘Tactical espionage action’ but over the years the series almost 30 year lore has delved not into war, nuclear annihilation and love on the battlefield, but it has also dared to take on subjects such as the supernatural, science fiction and soon zombies (but let’s not speak of that shall we?) Even with MGS2’s questionable creative choices I was still hooked, it was like Hideo Kojima tried to make a bad game but just couldn’t! So you can imagine how stoked I was when I saw the first screenshots of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater all the way back in 2003. It’s like the series took a strange yet necessary U-turn. And upon playing it for the first time in what seems forever memories came flooding back of it’s contrast to the previous games, the grittiness, the violence and the innovation and you know what? It still holds up today!
Much like MGS2’s Tanker and Big Shell chapters MGS3 is also split into two separate missions. The Virtuous mission a short beginner mission to help first-time players come to terms with the whole Metal Gear mythos and to aid the die hard fans into the new game mechanics, the virtuous mission also lays the foundation for the events of the game’s second mission ‘Operation Snake Eater’.
Taking place in 1964 during the cold war Snake Eater takes us to the very beginning of Metal Gear Solids timeline, following the original NES’ main antagonist Big Boss (named Naked Snake in this game) as a young green operative sent into the jungles of Tselinoyarsk in the USSR to find and extract a defecting soviet scientist who is developing the Shagohod, a nuclear equipped tank. The rescue mission soon becomes a tale of betrayal and redemption (SPOILERS) as Snake is betrayed and almost killed by his mentor and Snake Eater’s main antagonist The Boss who has defected to the soviet union setting the events for the games second and main mission. However the story can become somewhat convoluted and confusing at times and the cutscenes can go on for quite some time, they can be skipped but you do your best to avoid doing this so as not to possibly miss a huge plot point or twist because it’s Metal Gear, of course, they’re going to be in there somewhere!
The first thing that jumps out and bites the player in terms of Snake Eater’s gameplay is the drastic change of environment. Gone are the corridors, tankers and conveniently placed crates to hide from the genomes and into the vast, wide open jungle which looks beautiful for its time with well-rendered surfaces and lighting. Because of this change making your way to the next cutscene has become less linear making you comes across different routes and hiding places. Snake Eater also introduces the camouflage system. Throughout the game, you collect various outfits and face paints to help blend into your surroundings to avoid being sighted. Your inventory also takes a massive leap from previous entries as well, the soliton radar system which aided the player in the past is GONE! Yes there is sonar to help you locate your adversaries however it must be equipped in your inventory menu and it has a battery life with the humming and beeping noises having the possibility of alerting nearby soldiers to your location, this also applies to series staples the thermal goggles and night vision goggles. The environment is indeed a huge part of the game with the sound of birds chirping, wind blowing and plants rustling being your soundtrack to your mission out in the wilderness, speaking of soundtracks the James Bond-esque song that plays at the very beginning of the second mission is spectacular check it out. The way you restore health has also evolved beyond just eating rations to restore your health bar. Snake Eater now encourages you to hunt for animals and plants in the wilderness each with varying degrees of taste and effectiveness, you can still find rations and dry foods in bases and outposts making the hunting and gathering aspect feel somewhat redundant but the option to do so is still there if you choose to. You can also get lacerations, break bones and get poisoned during your adventure, this brings the first aid system into play where you take herbs and plants to relieve your poisoning, suture your cuts, splint your broken bones and use your trusty field knife to remove embedded bullets you may have gotten in the way of during combat, this makes the game incredibly immersive and helps you realise that each battle has a consequence and prices to pay.
As for the combat system hand to hand combat has changed with the addition of CQC (Close Quarter Combat) making it so much more than just punch, punch, kick! Also, your arsenal has expanded the pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles and missile launchers are still there but there are more models and varieties to try as well as shotguns to blow your foes away should they get too close. Snake Eater also contains some of the most awesome and unique boss battles which have become synonymous with Hideo Kojima’s creative mind (Psycho Mantis anyone?) the sniper battle with ‘The End’ to this day remains one most innovative and intense boss battles of all time and the confrontation with the Cobra Unit’s ethereal spectre ‘The Sorrow’ is extremely provoking and makes you think of the lives you have ended during the game…….unless you vie for the option of tranquilizing your enemies then it doesn’t take all that long. The stamina bar introduced in MGS3 is still used in the games now, the more it diminishes so does your movement and accuracy.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater pretty much ticks all the boxes with its beautiful presentation, near flawless gameplay, new and recurring characters with protagonists you invest in, villains you detest and side switching anti-heroes that keep you all on your collective toes. Kojima’s charm, fourth wall obliterating tendencies and nods to the series’ past is also present at times, yes the story can be hard to follow which only makes you give the game 100% of your attention but this is forgiven given how awesome it truly is. This is the game that sets everything in motion, the pebble dropped in the ocean, the butterfly flapping its winds causing the hurricane. Its set in the past but the mechanics, feel and look of the game evolves and moves forward with this entry making it great for the first time player and engrossing to the long time devotee.
Love Metal Gear Solid as much as I do? Let me know why in the comments section below!