Review: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Retro PS2)

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Subsistence version)
Publisher: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan
Developer: Kojima Productions & Konami Computer Entertainment Japan
Genre: Stealth-Action
Original Release Dates: November 14, 2004 (NA) – December 16, 2004 (JP)
Subsistence Release Dates: March 14, 2006 (NA) – December 22, 2005 (JP)

As I’m sure anyone who reads this stuff knows, over the past few months I’ve been going through the the first three Metal Gear Solid games on PS2. MGS and MGS2 I posted impressions for, but I figured I’d go all out and post an entire review of MGS3 since it’s now the front runner for my favourite in the entire series. Let’s do this!

1. Story

The story for MGS3 is pretty epic and does not spare on the dramatics, that’s for sure. Set in Cold War-era Russia, FOX operative “Naked Snake” (aka the future Big Boss) is first sent on a mission to rescue a Soviet scientist weapons scientist named Sokolov who wishes to defect to the States. Upon his arrival, Snake discovers that this isn’t a simple extraction mission. A renegade Soviet commander, Volgin, is using Sokolov to finish building the first Metal Gear known to man — the Shagohod — a massive tank equipped with a nuclear warhead, that is also capable of launching it’s payload at great distances. Add to this the betrayal and defection of Snake’s mentor, the Boss, to Volgin’s team and you have the makings of Hideo Kojima’s best story to date, in my opinion. Even the minor characters are fleshed out enough that you find yourself wanting to see more of them and listening intently to their radio communications with Snake, instead of just skipping through them as I wanted to do so many times in Metal Gear Solid 2. The epilogue to this story, is also a great piece of storytelling. It’s very important to understanding how Big Boss got set down the path that he would follow in his attempts to create Outer Heaven and his future encounter with Solid Snake. Seeing it all go down, instead of just being told about it, makes all the difference.

Story Rating: Unparalleled

The Shagohod2. Graphics

MGS3 was initially slated for the PS3, but was released onto PS2 because of the delays with releasing Sony’s third console, so I can only imagine how great it would’ve looked in high-def. That being said, it’s obvious that developers at this time were already maxing out the PS2’s graphical capabilities, so with MGS3 you’re really getting some of the best of what you can on that console. The cut scenes alone are clean, crisp and flow at a respectable frame rate. A nice touch to these is that Snake even wears whatever camo he’s wearing in-game in the cut scenes. My only gripe with these scenes is that the characters mouth’s barely move when they’re speaking. It just looks weird. Outside of the cut scenes, the in-game graphics are pretty smooth as well. Characters in-game are pretty much identical to their cut scene counterparts from what I could tell. There are jaggies here and there and some awkward looking patterned textures (ie: the sides of some cliffs and closeups of some foliage) and the fire/explosions is definitely nothing to write home about. The liquid effects (waterfalls, rivers, etc) look great, though.

Graphics Rating: Great

3. Sound

The music is always one of my favourite aspects about Metal Gear Solid games. From the James Bond styled “Snake Eater” intro track (written by Hibino Norihiko) right on down to the amazing in-game pieces composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, MGS3 has an excellent and memorable soundtrack. The English voice acting is a few notches above your standard English dub fare, with a few stand out performances here and there – David Hayter as Snake, of course, but also EVA as voiced by Suzetta Miñet stood out for me. Some of the voices are terrible, though. The younger Ocelot’s voice is just awful and doesn’t fit him at all. I also couldn’t understand why half of the Russian characters (like Volgin) had standard English (ie: American, not British) accents instead of Russian accents (like Sokolov).

Sound Rating: Very Good

4. Control & Gameplay

The controls for MGS3 are pretty much mirrored to what we saw in MGS and MGS2. As with the other games, it’s not a perfect control scheme, and it loses points for the awkwardness of the first person mode. But otherwise, since I started with MGS4 where the controls were significantly changed, I had to get used to this new style when I popped in the first game. Thankfully, three games in and I have no problems using this scheme. What MGS3 brings in that’s new to the series are some twists on gameplay that make for a great experience when we’re talking about “tactical espionage action.”

First off, there’s no radar in MGS3. Well, not a traditional radar. Much like how, because of the era that this game is set in, Snake has to use a standard radio (instead of a codec) for transmissions with his commander, Snake only has a battery powered motion detector at his disposal to indicate where enemies may be located on the map. This device works just fine, but you have to wait for the radar to do a 360 each time in order to spot a potential enemy. I’ve read a lot of complaints about this, but I actually prefer this change. It adds more to the experience of the game and the whole fact that you could get caught at any second by your enemies if you’re not actually scouting your surroundings.

The second aspect I really enjoyed is the introduction of camo and face camo. As many fans know, this is fully expanded upon in MGS4, but MGS3 is where the feature was introduced and it definitely helps with keeping Snake hidden from the enemy. Snake has a set of standard camo uniforms but also a set of face paint camo that can further reduce his visibility on the games “camo index.” The game also offers several additional camos that the user can find throughout the game – such as the Sorrow’s “spirit camo” which is just all kinds of bad ass.

CQC, or Close Quarters Combat, has been refined and built upon from previous entries into the series. Snake can now not only administer choke holds to his enemies, but he can also choke them out, slit their throats, or use them as human shields while using his free hand to fire a handgun at other enemies.

Finally, another huge aspect to the gameplay of MGS3 are stamina and injuries. As Snake loses stamina (not necessarily health) he gets hungry. His stomach starts to groan (which can get him spotted) and he just has to eat. This is where your surroundings come in. Snake has to hunt and eat the various wild animals of the Russian wilderness in order to stay alive. Seriously, seeing this guy eat a Snake (ha ha, Snake Eater) for the first time is pretty funny. Different foods will have different effects. Some taste like garbage and give you minimal stamina, but others can max you out or go rotten and even poison you! Snake also has to keep an eye on his injuries. If an injury is left untreated it can sap the health bar until Snake succumbs. Luckily, Snake has a first aid kid with all sorts of handy goodies. What if he runs out? Well, get out your garden shears because you’ll need the local flora and fauna to mix new herbs and ointments in order to get by. Good times! Seriously, though. These two aspects of food and injuries bring a bit more depth to the game and they’re welcome additions in my opinion.

Gameplay Rating: Incredible

5. Replayability

Replayability really depends on if you’re a fan of the series or are just playing the game casually. I’m going to consider it from the vantage point of a fan – which I am. As far as the main game goes – you may want to play through again in order to grab some items that you may have missed (camo and facepaint mainly) or just to experience the awesome story again, which is fine. The two disc Subsistence version of MGS3 has a TON of replay value. Never mind the whole introduction of Metal Gear Online (which I won’t get into because I don’t have a connection going to my PS2) but you’re given quite a few bonuses in the form of mini-games, video theatres and the super excellent ultra awesome inclusion of the ORIGINAL MSX2 versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in all of their 6-bit glory! These two gems will be getting their own review down the line!

Replayability Rating: Classic

6. Balance

At times the game may leave you feeling frustrated with enemy AI or constantly being spotted in certain areas. This forces you to sit back and scope out the AI’s patterns or just look for an alternate method which there almost always is. Though, there is one spot in the game where you have to escort an injured comrade across the forest and the enemies just keep on coming, and your comrade keeps getting you spotted – argh! Besides a few instances like that, I never once felt that I was overwhelmed by the enemy AI, even in boss battles. Outside of the enemy AI, there are always ample caches of ammo hidden around the bases, as well as various scurrying wild animals with which to make a meal out of, so the game definitely doesn’t leave you out there empty handed.

Balance Rating: Incredible

7. Originality

I don’t think you can get more original than the mind of Hideo Kojima, to be honest. This man has the ability to weave an intricate tale, which may be confusing at times, but is captivating enough that it keeps you glued to the screen from start to finish.. or until it’s 3AM.. and you just realized that you have work the next day. In-game, MGS3 doesn’t reinvent the series.. even better, it expands and evolves upon the system that the games before it were based on. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” they always say. Which is kind of why I’m disappointed with the news that MGS5 is getting a brand new engine. Of course, I’ll reserve judgement on that one for when I actually play the game.

Originality Rating: Unparalleled

8. Addictiveness

I always have a hard time putting down MGS games, and MGS3 was no different. I think I finished this one in record time (for me, in recent years anyway) which was about a week. Okay, so obviously I don’t have the kind of time for these things that I used to have. But outside of that, I found that MGS3 offered plenty of opportunities for me to put the game down, which I did take advantage of during the “escorting” mission I mentioned above. But the norm would be to save and just keep on going! It’s just that damn good!

Addictiveness Rating: Classic

9. Appeal Factor

Fans of the MGS series love it and it shows – the game originally received critical ratings across the board and things aren’t going to change here in 2009. If you’re a new fan to MGS like I was, then go for it! The beauty of MGS3 is that it’s a prequel to everything else, so you could feasibly even start with this game and be a-okay with the storyline. Plus, where else are you going to see the origins of Big Boss?! Okay, maybe Wikipedia, but that’s no fun…

Also, it goes without saying that you should probably be a fan of these types of stealth/action games in the first place, but even if you’re not.. MGS3 might be the game to start out and test the waters.

Appeal Factor Rating: Unparalleled

10. Miscellaneous

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence was released about a year (a bit longer in North America) after the original Snake Eater title came out. Konami and Kojima continued their trend of releasing enhanced versions of their games loaded with extra content such as the groundbreaking Metal Gear Online and the inclusion of the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake 8-bit games. The 8-bit games alone make tracking down the Subsistence version worth the trouble!

Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled

*It should be noted that the MGS3 disc that comes with the Metal Gear Solid Essential Collection is only disc one of the Subsistence version. If you want disc two with all of the goodies, then you’re going to have to track down the original Subsistence release.

The Scores
Story: Unparalleled
Graphics: Great
Sound: Very Good
Control & Gameplay: Incredible
Replayability: Classic
Balance: Incredible
Originality: Unparalleled
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal Factor: Unparalleled
Miscellaneous: Unparalleled
FINAL SCORE: CLASSIC GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater / Subsistence is just as the rating says – a CLASSIC GAME. From beautiful graphics, a monumental soundtrack, an EPIC storyline and just an all around excellent gameplay experience — it’s ALL there. Do yourselves a favour and play this game if you haven’t already. If you have.. well, play it again! It’s worth it!!

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