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Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (PlayStation 2) artwork

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (PlayStation 2) review


"It has been nearly five years since the release of Metal Gear Solid 3, and in that time I can think of no game I’ve enjoyed more. The gameplay and narrative of MGS3 is far above those of the previous games, though I don’t mean them disrespect in anyway. MGS3 was simply the culmination of the strongest elements of the previous two games, while adding its own powerful flavor to the mix. MGS3 contains so much variety, so much depth, and so many possibilities that even well after 20 playthroughs I h..."



It has been nearly five years since the release of Metal Gear Solid 3, and in that time I can think of no game I’ve enjoyed more. The gameplay and narrative of MGS3 is far above those of the previous games, though I don’t mean them disrespect in anyway. MGS3 was simply the culmination of the strongest elements of the previous two games, while adding its own powerful flavor to the mix. MGS3 contains so much variety, so much depth, and so many possibilities that even well after 20 playthroughs I have not tired of it.

Every MGS game has contained the description “Tactical Espionage Action” but MGS3 is the only one to implement this description to the fullest extent. MGS3 is quite a departure from the series by featuring a primarily outdoors environment, compared to the industrial settings of the other games. As Snake is told early on “procure on sight”. And this has to necessarily done. MGS3 now has a stamina bar for Snake. It depletes slowly as Snake goes on his way and must be restored by eating. There is a wide variety of things to kill and plants to eat. Some may be detrimental to Snake’s health, causing sickness that must be cured through medicine. In one particular instance, eating a mushroom put him to sleep for about a minute. Failure to replenish his stamina results in poorer performance – for example his aim will become shakier. Most importantly there is now camouflage that can be used. If one plans to play in a stealthy fashion, this is not an optional feature. Certain camos work better for certain environments, and the effectiveness of a particular camo is shown in a percentage at the top of the screen. Furthermore, items cannot be taken for granted as they once could be: silencers for weapons must be replaced, and electronic equipment have batteries that can be depleted if used excessively.

Every boss fight in the game provides for creative thinking and strategy. Whereas previous MGSs had more pattern based bosses, MGS3 provides open alternatives for each encounter. First you can choose how to eliminate your enemy, either through a health kill or a stamina kill. A health kill is usually easier to achieve, but a stamina kill provides a greater reward. Depleting a boss’s stamina allows you to obtain his special camouflage which confers a special ability. To defeat a boss in this way requires more patience and thinking, rather than simply using sheer force. For instance, take the boss The Fear. This double-jointed freak of nature is highly agile and jumps from tree top to tree top as you struggle to remove the poisoned crossbow bolt he fired into your thigh. He is also completely stealth camouflaged. Let's say that in this particular case I forgot to grab the thermal goggles so killing him with the tranquilizer gun would be difficult. But since this particular boss is so constantly mobile he depletes his stamina bar quickly. At certain intervals in the battle he scavenges for food around the environment. Here’s where a novel strategy comes into play: there are many poisonous frogs around, so by shooting them and throwing them around, you can quickly finish him off. Then again, you might instead just spray him with bullets or throw stun grenades to let you give him a beatdown. Other battles provide even more creative alternative strategies.

The next boss fight pits Snake against an ancient sniper, a master of camouflage. This fight is a prime example of how MGS3 rewards a player's patience. To eliminate his health bar would take a significant lesser amount of time, but by doing so you miss the chance to get his weapon – a tranquilizer sniper rifle, one of the most useful weapons in the game. The battle takes place over three screens, with lush foliage and several hills covered with tall grass. This battle alone secures the MGS series as the ultimate champion of the stealth genre. To some players the idea of waiting and sneaking is intolerable. Luckily for them this battle can be circumvented entirely through two different, and two equally humorous ways. Yet those who persevere will be rewarded.

One of the easier but equally gratifying boss fights takes place against The Fury, an ex-cosmonaut with a jet pack, a flamethrower, and a fierce temper. The fight takes place in a large underground area, and near the end the entire area will be ablaze.

Every boss fight is a pleasure, and every one allows, or actually requires for innovation and creativity by the player. Take the fight against Volgin, an electrically charged power house. The fight requires you to hit his back in order to inflict damage. It’s possible to dodge his attacks, run around and shoot him, but there are also several tools at your disposal. Snake has a “fake” suicide pill which stimulates a temporary death. This creates a window of opportunity to strike Volgin as he turns around to walk away. Another humorous method is to wear the disguise mask of his male lover (who is identical to Raiden) which fools him long enough for Snake to attack. The possibilities are wide and varied.

It’s trendy to criticize the storylines of MGS games, and some authors will childishly point out various situations they think to be homosexual in nature, obviously for no other reason than to mock the game. There is a sense that the story takes itself too seriously. But there is no other game that can rival the presentation of the stories in the MGS series. The first game established itself very well in this regard, and MGS3 carries it on. MGS3 serves as a prequel, detailing the experiences of Big Boss (who is known as Naked Snake is this game) who is the father of Solid Snake. The story itself is embedded within the Cold War and questions the ideas of patriotism and loyalty. Snake is assigned to kill his mentor and comrade, a woman known as The Boss. However, it is revealed that she was ordered to defect by the US as a concession to the Soviet Union, and to retrieve a valuable piece of information. The groundwork for the story of future MGS games is laid within the framework of MGS3’s story, namely, introducing the secret society known as The Patriots.

What’s beautiful about MGS3 is that it can be played in any way you want. Those with patience will want to sneak their way through the game using full advantage of the environment, and will find they will be justly rewarded for taking this route. Others may want to go on a murderous killing spree throughout the game with the shotgun or the M63 which causes Snake to yell at the top of his lungs. Enemies can be interrogated, their necks slit or merely knocked out, and there is several ways to go about every infiltration. But most great is the sense of reward through patience. Every playthrough can be approached a different way. Since this review is for the Subsistence version of the game, I must mention that it regains a point lost by the original MGS3 for the fixed camera. The improved camera makes Subsistence an entirely new experience, making once painful situations much more enjoyable.

I can still enjoy it and still find new things, even after 20 playthroughs.

Rating: 10/10

draculasrevenge's avatar
Community review by draculasrevenge (March 04, 2009)

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bluberry posted March 05, 2009:

I had originally posted this in your blog but I figure Venter will get me some drugs if I help drum up submission feedback board activity:

cool review, even if you stole my way of killing the fear. >:0

though I do have to disagree with one thing. if there's anything I hate about the MGS stories, it's their presentations. MGS3 had an awful translation, the dialog felt incredibly clunky to me. especially The Boss'. these games do get kind of trashed too harshly around these parts but I still don't quite understand how you can feel anything but ambivalence for them; something like MGS2 has moments of fucking brilliance the likes of which Irrational wish they could come up with, mixed with bisexual ninja vampires and the main villain having a Doc Ock suit. if anything, the stories don't take themselves seriously enough.
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draculasrevenge posted March 05, 2009:

I never felt the same "cringe factor" from MGS3 that I did from the previous two. But I agree, 2 had the coolest stuff, especially all the pseudoscientific genetic and digital things. Raiden/Rose though, ugh.

Your Fear idea was too good to leave out. It's an homage to your brilliance.
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JANUS2 posted March 05, 2009:

I liked the way you focused on the boss battles. Looking back, they were pretty damn unique and engaging. They were actual epic contests, unlike Ninja Gaiden II's pathetic bosses who fall to their knees after a couple of eclipse scythe combos.
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draculasrevenge posted March 05, 2009:

Yeah, the boss fights made the game really special, especially when you compare them to other Metal Gear games.

I never play MGS 2 on expert because I dread the bossfights. They require twitch reflexes and perfect timing. Even defeating Olga near the beginning drives me mad.
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bluberry posted March 05, 2009:

the trick to at least half of them, especially Vamp and the Harrier jet, is that you have i-frames when you're climbing up/down from ledges. so like if the Harrier is about to shoot a bunch of missiles at you, time it so that you're flipping over the railing as they hit.

but Olga and the Metal Gear RAY army really do just require insane skills, haha. you have to fight 20 RAYs and they kill you in like two hits even with the body armor on.
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Probester posted March 05, 2009:

I actually thought the boss fights took a lot away from the game. They were just too sci fi for me.

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