In some ways, setting up METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER as a prequel was a big step forward while also being the perfect moment for the series to take a step back as well. Putting the game in the Big Boss’ perspective, in a jungle, during the 1960s, allowed the series to be stripped down to its bare essences in both gameplay and story.
I liked METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY, appreciating its meta-ness and cyberpunk elements than I had years ago. But had it continued down that path, the series would’ve probably become a self-parody through too much introspection and complicated twists and turns.
MGS3 is essentially in a JAMES BOND meets survival story. And while the METAL GEAR games have always owed a small debt to 007, MGS3 is especially influenced by the famous spy series.
But before you think this is nothing more than an homage, MGS3 trades tuxedos and casinos for camos and jungles. And while it does have plenty of new tricks up its sleeves, both gameplay and story, it’s still the METAL GEAR we know and love.
Rules are still the same. You try to be as stealthy as possible and avoid enemies, use a variety of gadgets, weapons, and advice from allies, and if you’re caught, try to either fight your way out or hide until the enemy gives up. And of course, plenty of boss battles, codec conversations, and lengthy cutscenes sprinkled throughout.
But as with past entries, MGS3 ups the ante with some added elements and a change of style.
The most noticeable difference is that it mostly takes place in the outdoors jungle. This goes beyond a change of scenery, as it completely alters the gameplay.
Stealth is no longer limited to simply hiding behind walls and under boxes. With few walls in sight and soldiers having decent vision for once, concealing yourself within the forest and using it to your advantage is an absolute must. If you want to stay hidden, you’re going to have to stay low to the ground and take advantage of the camouflage system.
At any given moment you can switch your uniform and face to a wide variety of camo patterns that you can find throughout the game. The better it blends with the background, the higher your stealth percentage becomes and the harder it is for the enemies to find you.
While this sounds great in theory and does have its positives, it is a bit of a pain-in-the-ass. It’s 10% strategy and 90% having to go into the menu and change your uniform every five minutes. Though it does give a variety of costumes for Snake and the joy of worthwhile collecting, it lacks the ease of the camo system in METAL GEAR SOLID 4: GUNS OF THE PATRIOTS or the strategy of having to pick the best uniform for the mission in METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN.
There’s also food for Snake to eat this time around, from rations to tree frogs to even Calorie Mates. Keeping your stamina at the top is a must in order to have a better aim and healing. Which isn’t too hard, given how abundant fauna, plants, and rations can be found throughout the game. And an even greater mechanic is the fact that you can blow up the enemy storage shed and make them go hungry, causing them to lose concentration and get distracted by any food you tempt them with.
I’d have to write an entire book if I wanted to go over all of the additions to the gameplay, from the fancy new gadgets, arsenal of guns, to even being able to capture and throws venomous animals at your enemies. Point is that like a lot of best games of all time, there’s several unique ways to get from point A to point B. It’s one of those games I wouldn’t mind replaying instantly again to see what I could do differently. And speaking of replaying, make sure to get the “Substance” edition of the game. If not for METAL GEAR and METAL GEAR 2: SOLID SNAKE included in it, then at least for the vastly improved camera system.
In some ways, it’s both the easiest and hardest METAL GEAR game. Easy, because under hard or easier levels, Snake is built like a tank and you’ve got enough weapons and ammo to Rambo your way out of any sticky situation. Hard, because of the forest, graphics/colors that sometimes seem to meld together, and the plain fact that enemies can finally see past five feet. Not to mention that the enemies are very relentless in their pursuit.
It would be great just by gameplay alone but fortunately, the story shines just as bright.
On the surface the story’s very simple. Jack/Naked Snake must infiltrate a Russian base in the jungle in order to rescue a scientist developing a nuclear carrying tank. But Snake’s double crossed by his former mentor, The Boss, who defects to GRU Colonel Volgin. To make matters worse, Volgin unleashes a nuclear strike on the base with a hijacked American weapon.
With the US being held responsible for the strike and a possible retaliation, Snake must prove America’s innocence to Russia by rescuing Sokolov, destroying the Shagohod, stopping Volgin from starting a coup, and eliminating his former mentor and mother like figure.
Shedding off a good deal of the meta, philosophical waxings, and
double triple quadruple crossings in MGS2 gives MGS3 a chance to showcase more of its characters and themes.
The METAL GEAR SOLID series (at least the first three) have always been exemplary for well written characters and MGS3 is no exception. While METAL GEAR SOLID had more memorable boss moments, MGS3 continues the tradition of eccentric bosses, from their personalities to their battles. Rather than showcasing some wham, bam action, the majority MGS3 boss battles are a test of wit, patience, and ingenuity (the battle with The End in particular).
MGS3 makes me wish there were more female characters throughout the series. Not out of any ideological stance and certainly not out of any poor writing. Rather, when I think back to some of my favorite moments throughout the series, from Sniper Wolf’s final moments to even Holly White’s conversations, it seems like the ladies bring the best out of the stories. And MGS3 is no exception. Naked Snake and Eve have the best chemistry since Solid Snake and Meryl, and if there’s a character that deserves a spinoff, The Boss should definitely have her own WWII based game.
As always, the voice acting is stellar from the whole cast, though having Kiefer Sutherland as Big Boss later on in MGSV throws a wrench in things. It would’ve made sense to have David Hayter do all of the games or have Big Boss be a different actor from the start. Still, Hayter pulls it off as the “original” Snake, being Solid’s predecessor while giving enough minute subtleties to have a clear distinction.
Is METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER the best METAL GEAR game? Hard to say. It might be. However, while it’s a close second for story, METAL GEAR SOLID still takes the gold in that department. And when it comes to gameplay, METAL GEAR SOLID V blows everything else out of the water. Nevertheless, MGS3 is one of the best games on the PS2 and is easily in the top three METAL GEAR games.
I know it’s almost becoming a running gag for the marathon, but MGS3 is one of the best games of all time. And although I’ve said that for pretty much each game thus far, there’s a good reason. It’s a true testament to Kojima and company that every entry seems to raise the bar. Rather than simply taking the same formula and slapping a fresh coat of paint on it, each METAL GEAR game makes the most of its technology, takes chances with its stealth action gameplay, and tries a different twist to the never ending struggle against the war economy and giant, nuclear carrying mechas. And METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER is a prime example of this.
RELEASE DATE: November 17th, 2004
DEVELOPER: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan
ESRB: M (Mature)