Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater for the PS2 tells the story of one Solid Snake, CIA operative for only the secretest of secret missions and all around bad mamba-jamba. He’s para-thingied into the jungles of 1960’s USSR, where Soviet radicals are housing and developing those pesky weapons of mass destruction. His mission (with no choice but to accept it) is to gather intel and stop those shifty Russkies before it’s too late.
Once again, Hideo Kojima has created a game based more on not being noticed than blasting through levels, wreathed in the fires of your explosions (although explosions still abound). It would be absurd to try to kill everyone in this game, not to mention that once an alarm is tripped, you’ll face endless waves of heavily armed (and armored) patrol support troops with an intent to kill. And, in one of the game’s more inventive and awesome segments, there’s a moment of karmic retribution for all the troops Snake has killed. The troops in the game have also gotten a little extra training since Metal Gear Solid 2. It’s no longer a simple matter of going to the next section of the map to ditch them. The training wasn’t that extensive, though. They’ll still forget about you as long as you sit in a spot (such as an air duct or underneath a truck) long enough (even if they saw you go into the air duct or under the truck and know you haven’t come out yet). Snake’s training has also taken a few steroids. He’s learned an array of new Close-Quarters Combat (CQC) moves that make it that much more fun to silently incapacitate your enemies. The various moves are a little bothersome to learn, but once you do them a few times, they become pretty intuitive. And, let me tell you, body-slamming a Soviet is pretty fun. The controls overall are pretty smooth—definitely the smoothest yet in the series. The camera angles can be aggravating (but when are they not?).
The story is up to the Metal Gear standard. Friends become enemies, enemies make friends, and Snake has to sort it all out. There’s also a revelation in the resolution that brings the whole timeline discrepancy together (“Snake in the 60’s, wigga-wha?”). I haven’t played either of the other two Metal Gear Solid games in a couple of years and I was still familiar enough with the story to have a satisfying “Oh, snap!” moment, so don’t feel like you need to buy the Cliff’s Notes before you play the game. The cut scenes are as long as ever, though you don’t get the fifteen to twenty minute interludes until the end of the two episodes that make up the first and second halves of the game. It can seem like your watching a movie more than playing a video game at times (especially when there are moments in the cut scenes I would have had much more fun controlling, or at least having some input in ala Resident Evil 4) but it’s not as bad as I remember the end of Metal Gear Solid 2 being (good God, that was a long cut scene). And, naturally, be sure to stay till the end of the credits.
The gameplay in this game is nice. Though most of it takes place in the jungle, the setting changes enough keep you interested. The boss battles are challenging without being frustrating (barring the last one) and each one focuses on a different aspect of Snake’s training. The game is depressingly ninja-less, but with good reason (if there is a good reason) given the logic of the game’s timeline, and you do get to fight an assortment of other crazy villains. There’s a guy who uses bees as impenetrable body armor, another with Spiderman-like abilities, as well as the “Father of All Snipers” (just to name the first three). What I liked about the battles was that they actually engaged my problem-solving skills. I had to figure out how each of the boss’s strengths were also their weaknesses. My only gripe was the last boss. It wasn’t that the fight was necessarily hard. The game actually does a very good job of not getting ridiculously hard at the end like other games I could mention (I’m looking at you, Metroid Prime 2!). The problem was the ten minute time limit Kojima put on the battle. I know, it doesn’t seem that ridiculous, but it took me almost an hour to beat the final boss! And at ten minutes a try, I had to fight the same battle five times (swear words and the merit of certain people’s lineages (or the lack thereof) were involved). Nothing, nothing is more aggravating in a video game than wearing down a boss to just one more shot only to run out of time (except maybe when it happens twice).
Maddening camera angles and time limits aside, the game is a lot of fun. It leaves you wanting more (and not in that Halo 2 “Where the crap’s the rest of the game?!” way). I’m now eagerly awaiting Metal Gear Solid 4 and plan on running through 1 and 2 before then. Any fans of the Metal Gear series or any other stealth games would do well to rent, if not buy, this one. I will say this, however: Be sure to buy the recently released Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence in lieu of Snake Eater—included in Subsistence are different camera modes that do wonders for the shoddy angles of Snake Eater, the two original Metal Gear games developed by Kojima for the MSX 2 and only released in Japan (as opposed to the NES versions, which Kojima had little to no contact with), and online play (if you’re in to that sort of thing).
In the end, I give Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater a 4 out of 5.