Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater PS2 Review

Hideo Kojima is a genius that is beyond compare in the videogames industry. He is the visionary that came up with the idea involving sneaking around enemy territory and avoiding rather than engaging. Kojima also assures that the stories that his games tell have a deep meaning, beyond the giant robot waffle that has become synonymous with the series. MGS3 takes all the conventional stuff from previous games and lands you in a jungle during the 1960’s.

Minor spoilers ahead: Obviously those familiar with the series will be aware that Solid Snake didn’t even exist in the 1960’s. Snake is indeed present, but he’s not the character from the previous two games, instead you take control of Solid’s father Naked Snake (or Big Boss). Chronicling the story of such a major past character of the series is an interesting new perspective to the MGS mythos and will especially hit the spot for returning fans of the series. We even get to meet a young and cocky gunslinger known as Ocelot (something for the fans again) as well as Naked Snake’s female mentor, The Boss. The plot is truly captivating stuff and is delivered with a panache that matches that out of a mega budget Hollywood movie.

For MGS3, the traditional urban environments of the series are a thing of the past for a large portion of the game. It largely takes place in a lush Russian jungle instead and introduces brand new survival elements to the sneaky formula. This jungle is quite simply one of the best playing environments we’ve ever seen in a game, it looks truly alive and only when you view some of the textures up close does it show up the rather aging PS2 hardware and shatter the illusion.

Traversing the jungle isn’t quite as simple as keeping your eye fixed on your radar, as the device included here runs on batteries and is rather vague at the same time, no longer does it display the enemy cone of vision or help in any great way. Thankfully the use of radar is no longer as much of a necessity, as you can now camouflage yourself from the prying eyes of enemy soldiers. The only thing you need to keep tabs on is the percentage count displayed on the screen, which indicates how well Snake is actually hidden. Swapping between camouflages will obviously provide different results depending on where you are currently situated in the environment. It’s a nice and simple system that takes stealth gaming in a fresh new direction.

The old camera system may not be practical, but it does manage to make the game even tenser. There is some minimal control, which allows you to pull the camera in different directions to see what awaits you and then there’s always the first person mode to survey your surroundings. True the lack of a radar does slow the pace of the game down somewhat, but never did we feel that we needed to be as cautious during any of the previous MGS titles as we did here. A major coup not only for MGS, but also any other stealthy-based title.

Another new element is dealing with Snake’s stamina meter. This will slowly run down during the game, but particularly active actions such as running and rolling will unsurprisingly consume more than walking and crawling will. Low stamina can be quite a detriment to your mission, resulting in shaky hands, which affects your aiming as well as the bane that is your wounds taking increasingly longer to heal. It would have been nice however if low stamina had further affected Snake’s physical abilities, for instance causing him to move far slower than usual or even resulting in him tripping over and falling due to exhaustion.

You share the jungle not only with hostile soldiers, but also with various animals and plants that you are able to eat. You read that correctly, Snake sometimes needs a snack to keep his stamina topped up. To do this you must catch or kill inhabiting animals (they rot after time if you kill them) or find proper food like instant noodles (no time for Sunday roast sadly). It’s strangely compelling to listen to Snake’s reaction after eating the various foods, if he loves something he’ll earn a lot of stamina and if he despises it, well it doesn’t do a lot for him.

Continuing the survivalist theme, Snake’s injuries often must be tended to. He can suffer everything from gunshot wounds to burns, which you can treat with various medicinal supplies by going into the cure menu. To be honest, we found this feature to be nothing more than an intrusion, especially in the more action intensive sections and boss fights.

The gunfights are still amazingly great for a game that is predominantly about sneaking around and not being seen. Aside from that Snake now has an ability known as Close Quarters Combat for up, close and personal situations. It’s a mixture of guns, knives, interrogations and judo, and works a treat in many events.

MGS3 isn’t without its problems, namely in the over abundance of menus that sometimes slow the pace down. But when MGS3 is good, it’s really quite an exceptional and memorable title. There has never been a better example of a flawed masterpiece than Kojima’s latest gem.