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Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PlayStation 2) artwork

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PlayStation 2) review

"The most recent entry in the Metal Gear lineup is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I thought the title was a joke when the game was announced. The same goes for all of the gameplay videos showing Snake, our mullet-cut hero, eating snakes and running around the jungle. "

The most recent entry in the Metal Gear lineup is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I thought the title was a joke when the game was announced. The same goes for all of the gameplay videos showing Snake, our mullet-cut hero, eating snakes and running around the jungle.

Well, it wasn’t a joke.

Snake really does have to eat snakes (and a variety of other jungle creatures) to maintain his stamina. Not only does he have to eat them, but also hunt them, and each meal has different nutritional values, so some will make him feel a lot fuller than others. Naturally, alligator is more nutritious than a cave bat.

And if Snake eats tainted food, he throws up. And you get to watch.

He does this because he's stuck in the jungles of Russia, left by his superiors to fend for himself, so he doesn’t have the luxury of rations to sustain him. Mind you, this isn’t the Snake from our generation, but another Snake, the original Snake (I presume that Solid Snake has been cloned from this Snake). Snake has been sent on this jungle expedition because his former mentor has stolen a shoulder-mounted nuclear missile from the USA and defected with it to the Soviet Union. Since Snake was her apprentice in the business of international espionage, he's considered the best for the job to not only recover the stolen ‘nuke and prevent nuclear apocalypse, but also take down his former instructor. Along the way, he’ll have to fight through swarms of elite troops and some powerful members of his old boss’ new posse.

And yeah, he’ll have to eat some snakes, too.

I really dug the storyline in this new adventure. The plot effectively combines Cold War ideologies with some basic political intrigue (like tense negotiations between Cold War leaders), along with the traditional Metal Gear Solid storyline based around love on the battlefield and overcoming your own personal fears in order to complete the mission. Every character has their own unique personality, and watching the many detailed, well-animated and well-acted cutscenes really connects the player on a personal level with the characters. The storyline seems very black-and-white from the beginning, with the good guys on one side and the bad guys on the other, but by the end of the story you’ll be left questioning why you’re really fighting. That’s a great feeling. There are some surprising plot twists and turns, but they’re never confusing in this entry like they were in Metal Gear Solid 2.

Although Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is set in the jungles of Russia at the height of the Cold War, don’t be expecting to prance through dense jungle foliage. For better or worse, the game is nearly as linear and restrictive as the previous titles in the series, though the size of each area has been significantly expanded. You can climb up some trees and crawl under some logs, but for the most part the game is divided up into a series of areas with the main goal of getting from point A to point B without causing too much suspicion. The first hour or so of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater features some very restrictive areas. It got to the point where it was almost boring, but after that hour or so was up, the game’s level design finally showed itself and became much more interesting. The early levels felt artificial and fake, but after a stretch of endless, repetitive jungle opened up to reveal forts, caves, rivers, and swamps, the feel of the game was finally presented and I was sucked in.

And that is what made me love this game so much. Once I got pulled into the level design, I started caring more and more about the storyline, and in turn, the characters. I even got into the idea of hunting and eating animals, as well as exploiting the brand-new camouflage system. Unlike previous Metal Gear Solid games that have the heroes running around in the same high-tech blue uniform, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater opens up Snake’s closet (Raiden is somewhere in there, I think) and lets him don specific uniforms, including face paints. As you progress through the game you’ll discover more uniforms that make it a lot easier to sneak past your enemies. It’s a rather simple system (black is best in the dark, green in the grass, brown in the dirt), but I thought it was a clever implementation that should definitely be brought into future titles.

Another simple but effective alteration was brought to the health system. Instead of just eating rations to restore health (like in previous Metal Gear Solid games), Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater makes things a little less simple. You’re essentially required to perform basic surgery on yourself. If Snake’s been shot, you’ve got to take out your knife and remove the bullet, apply some disinfectant, suture the wound, and then bandage it up. If a leach attaches itself to Snake’s skin when he’s wading through a swamp, you’ve got to take out your cigar and burn it off. It might sound complicated, but the system is made simple thanks to efficient menus and design.

This series has always been great at delivering some of the best graphics on the PS2, and I’m pleased to say that Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater continues this trend. One of the best boss fights in the game takes place in a cave with a series of islands sticking out of an underground lagoon. A maniac in the middle launches bees at you (yeah, bees, as in, “buzz, I’m going to sting you and then make honey, buzz”), so you have to constantly dive in and out of the water to avoid the onslaught. While the crowd of bees swarms around in the air, grenades explode underwater, casting water in every direction. Snake rolls around, with his trademarked bandana dripping water and swaying through the air as he dives for the best positions. Meanwhile, underwater creatures swim around in their now disturbed home, but even with all this activity the game chugs along at a constant framerate.

And when you combine all of this with an impressive soundtrack and some excellent voice work, you’ve got quite a game, but even beyond the soundtrack and voice work, the sound effects stand out the most. The explosions sound great, but the chirping of birds and insects in the jungle really went a long way towards putting me into the jungle. The trademark orchestrated scores are as good as they ever were, and David Hayter has once again reprised his role as Snake with excellent results, but it was the ambient noises that really captured my attention this time around.

Snake might not have the fancy footwork of Sam Fisher or other modern stealth heroes, but that’s alright with me. I don’t want a Metal Gear Solid game that’s all about stealth and light on action. That’s not why I play it. I play Metal Gear Solid games because the action is entertaining and easy to get hooked on, and (for the most part) the storylines are engaging. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater takes all the things we’ve loved from the previous games and combines them with some fresh new additions that have really taken this series to the next level. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t purchase this game.

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Community review by asherdeus (February 13, 2006)

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