Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Game Review: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

The Metal Gear series began on the NES back in the late 80's it was a simplistic game of sneaking past enemys and uncovering a secret nuclear launch weapon and destroying it.A few years later a sequel was made Metal Gear: Snake, where you (Snake) are sent on a top secret covert ops mission to infiltrate Outter Heaven in South Africa and elliminate the leader of this rogue nation, Big Boss. Along the way Snake also must face Grey Fox (Frank Yaeger). In the end of the sequel Snake completes his mission, assasinates Big Boss, and destroys Outer Heaven and Metal Gear.The next instalment in the Metal Gear series arrived on the Playstation and it changed the way people viewed video games, Hideo Kojima turned this simple game into an interactive movie with believeable characters and a storyline that rivaled many hollywood feature length movies. With some backstory to Snake and the Metal Gear legacy, Hideo Kojima elavated and expanded the story by weaving actual people and events from history with ficticous characters. The characters Kojima created for Metal Gear Solid are still some of the most memorable in gaming history. The remnants of Fox-Hound a covert ops organization funded and founded by Big Boss now lead by Liquid Snake included Revolver Ocelot, Psycho Mantis, Sniper Wolf, and Vulcan Raven. These guys weren't your typical 1 dimentional boss characters that you just shoot enough times and they fall, the members of FoxHound were a clever bunch, reading your "mind" useing the environment to their advantage. Each battle was unique and fun and they each knew something about Snake that he didn't know about himself. Kojima knows what makes a good villan, and Liquid Snake was the epitomy of a great villan, he was intelligent yet maniacal, cunning and ruthless. And just when Snake thinks he's in control Liquid drops the truth in Snakes lap, The Les Infant Teribles project, the Human Genome project, Big Boss, Solid, Liquid and the secret 3rd son of Big Boss. Metal Gear Solid set a new benchmark in the video game industry for story telling, plot development and twists, character creation, and ingenuity (heart attack reenacted through your controller).Anticipation for the sequel grew to to a frenzy till finally we got our first glimpse of Snake in a demo disk packaged with ZOE. We see Snake walking on the George Washington bridge then break into a sprint and leap off the side and fall towards a cargo ship with his stealth camo he acquired in the first game. Rumor spread across the internet that Snake dies in MGS2 Sons of Liberty. A year later Sons of Liberty launched in the US and to the surpise of all it did appear that Solid Snake died within the first hour of the game! How could Kojima do this to us!? What did Snake discover on the cargo ship that forced him to sink it? Did Snake betray the US and cause a major ecological disaster? In an effort to discover the truth a new operative was sent to investigate the site where Snake disapeared, his code name Raiden. Kojima took a tremenous risk with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, but if you could get past the fact that you were not playing as Solid Snake and the insane plot twists, the story was actually very deep and intriging. Raiden soon discovers all is not as it seems and that terrorists, lead by none other than Solid Snake plan to destroy the hazmat plant constructed over the site where the cargo ship went down. Thru the guidance of Roy Cambel and his support team Raiden accepts the mission to stop Snake and Dead Cell from destroying the plant. Along the way Raiden meets a man who tells him Snake is not in charge of Dead Cell. Who do you trust, your commanding officer or a stranger?Eventually Raiden confronts Snake but then the man he ran into earlier arrives and reveals he is Solid Snake, being a new recruit Raiden is throughly confused and soon realizes he's waaaaay over his head. He has no knowledge of The Les Infant Teribles Project, The La Le Lu Li Lo, Outer Heaven, Big Boss, or The Patriots. With some reassurance from Roy Cambel and Rose (his girlfriend) Raiden cotinues on to stop Solidus Snake the ex President of the United States, the leader of Dead Cell and a member of secret government that Revolver Ocelot reports to. When Raiden and Solid Snake finally reach the core of the AG the mind fock trully begins! I won't spoil those who haven't played it yet but Solidus backstabs Dead Cell then Ocelot spills the beans that the secret government (AI) used Solidus and Raiden in a "live" experiment to re create the Big Boss vs Snake senario, then Solidus reteams with Dead Cell to stop Ocelot but is whooped, then suddenly we get a surprise cameo from a voice from the past. Ocelot escapes yet again and Solid Snake dives of the AG after him. And Sons of Liberty ends with a most anti-climatic fight between Solidus "Doc Ock" Snake and Raiden in liberty square.Sons of Liberty suffered from a few problems, first and foremost the publics anticipation was far to high, Gaming Mags and sites over hyped it to the point I expected Snake to be fighting clones in a galaxy far far away. Next the Dead Cell unit was absolutely lame compared to the members of Fox Hound...one dead cell member was a by-sexual male who sucked his victims blood and his name was Vamp . Another issue for many was the story had too many plot twists, and the biggest gripe I hear to this day is Raiden.But if you were able to set these grieviances aside you would find a great game that moved the Solid Snake saga forward.With Big Boss dead, Outer Heaven destroyed, Metal Gear Rex and Ray smashed to smithereens, Liquid defeated, Solidus sliced and diced, where does Kojima go from here? How about the 60's cold war era! Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater brings us back to time when deterance and information were the weapons of the day.After Sons of Liberty skeptisism loomed over the next instalment in the series, would Kojima pull another Raiden surprise? Would the characters be even less inspiring than SoL? What new additions to the game play would be incorporated?Why did Snake appear to be the same age in this game which takes place in the 60's as well as in the first MGS which took place in the 90's? Gaming mags and websites soon began dropping hints that yes Snake was the main character but not the Snake from MGS 1 & 2. Speculation arose that it was actually Big Boss! Soon after we began to get info on the cast of character's. There was good ol' Snake and Ocelot, sans the revolver and much younger. And that was it for the recognizable characters, new to the series was Col. Volgin, who was responsible for kidnapping Dr. Sokolov, who attempted to defect to the US and the designer of the Shagohod, a top secret weapon with the ability to lauch ICBM's from anywhere in the Soviet Union and reack the US. Kojima masterfully mixes real history with MGS fictional history to enrich the story of Snake Eater and make it that much more fantastic. The prologue of the events in Snake Eater is the Cuban Missle Crisis, and the real reason why the Soviets agreed to pull out of Cuba was a secret deal between Kruschev and the US government to give back Sokolov. Enter Jack, code name Naked Snake, Fox's operative who is sent to rescue Sokolov and bring him back to the US before he completes this secret weapon. In command of the Virtuous (not Virtual) mission is Major Tom, and your support team consists of Para Medic, a promising medical student who instructs Snake on how to survive and treat injuries during the mission. That is one of the first major additions to the MGS game, besides the stealth aspect which is the core gameplay feature now Snake MUST keep his health and stamina in check. Snake now carries a full assortment of medical supplies from stints for broken bones, disinfectant to clean wounds from gunshots and large gashes, stiptik to stop the bleeding, ace badages and stitching thread to close wounds. Another Fox member assisting Snake on the Virtuous mission is his mentor The Boss, a legendary American soldier, she has done an incredible number of patriotic missions for the United States of America, she also worked with Major Tom in the SAS during WWII. Without retelling the story the Virtous mission gets FUBAR'd when The Boss betrays Fox and defects to the Soviets, reunites with the Cobras (a legendary unit she lead during WWII) and sides with Col Volgin who is secretly working with Bresnin who is attempting to overthrow Kruschev with the Red Army backing him and the Shagohod as their trump card.The members of the Cobra unit are by far the coolest and most memorable boss's in the history of Metal Gear! I never thought the FoxHound unit of MGS1 could be toped but I stand corrected, each member of the Cobra unit is named after an emotion, The Pain, the Fear, the End, the Rage, The Sorrow, and the Joy. They are each unique in their back story, character profile, and enjoyable to fight. The rule of thumb for boss fights in an action game is the fight is in a specified area usually an enclosed room, the fight is over within 15 minutes and there is always an exploitable pattern. The fight against the End throws all those rules out the window, you fight with him takes place outside in a forest that consists of 3 zones. You must trully outsmart and outlast him. The battle can take over 2 hours, but is very rewarding when you discover ways to find and kill him.Another significant change in MGS 3 is the environment(s), 90% of the game is out doors, unlike the sterile environment of Sons of Liberty. The game shows off the power of the Playstation, every blade of grass every tree, bush, vine is highly detailed, the player will never get the feeling that corners were cut and parts of the environment were cut and paste in other sections. To compliment the impressive environments Metal Gear Solid 3 is teeming with an abundance of Flora and Fuana, from mushroom caps and fruit to crabs, birds, fish, scorpions (not tasty), spiders, and lets not forget snakes...hence the name. Eating plays a crucial role as well, since you won't find ration tins laying around the jungle you better stock up on food, but be careful, if you don't eat it right away it'll go bad. You can also capture wildlife and let it loose on your enemies.One of the most prominent new aspects Kojima added to the Metal Gear francise in Snake Eater is camoflauge, this adds new depth to the stealth aspect of the game. Throughout the game Snake can find new camo patterns, wear the right pattern and the camo index (represented by a percent) will increase, wear a brick camo pattern in a wel lit dedicious forest and your ass is toast. Wear the tree bark camo in a dimly lit area and press your self against a tree you might as well be wearing therm-optic camo!With all these new additions, camo management, eating to retain stamina and health and healing to mend wounds you'd think the actual time playing would be sacraficed, but they actually enhance the game.The one short comings of MGS1 was the actual length of the game, I finished it in under 10 hours including cut scenes, MGS 3 clocks in at just under 30 hours my first time thru.MGS3 takes everything that made the first a great game and builds on it, Amazing characters, top notch gameplay, tons of extras (Snake vs Monkey ) A story that makes hollywood action flicks seem infantile, and make you want to keep playing into the wee hours of the morning to find out what happens next. And an ending that will make new comers to the franchise fanatics and those who know the game regain faith in Kojima. All I can say is the last hour is a tour de force of non-stop action and a chase scene that rivals MGS1 AND the endor speeder chase in Return of the Jedi!If I could give this more stars I would! A MUST HAVE title!

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