Normally, I’d start at the first game in a series when I start a retrospective. But with Metal Gear, I decided to do something a little bit different. Rather than going in release order, I’m going to try doing them in chronological order. Because I’m curious: will doing it in order make the story any more clear? Or will it still be a convoluted mess?
Totally not because I wanted to skip right to Snake Eater. Nope. Absolutely not. It’s definitely not because I wanted to go straight into one of my favorite games of all time.
I would hope I don’t need to explain that I’m lying.
Of all the Metal Gear games, MGS3 is easily my favorite of the lot. I’d also argue it’s the one that’s aged the best. Even by today’s standards, this game is incredible! It’s more unique, creative, and fun than most modern releases!
In the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, Russian scientist Sokolov is being forced to create a potentially cataclysmic nuclear weapon. To prevent this, secret agent Naked Snake is sent in to rescue him on the Virtuous Mission. While on this mission, Snake’s mentor, the Boss, and her Cobra Unit defect, joining Colonel Volgin and Ocelot. After recovering from the beatdown given to him by his former mother figure, Snake returns to commence Operation Snake Eater. His objectives: destroy the nuclear weapon, the Shagohad, and kill the Boss.
On its own, this is an incredibly solid action espionage thriller. Its got a wildly varied cast of characters, from the goofy to the sadistic to the femme fatal. Twists and turns and revelations are a nigh constant. It perfectly balances a dramatic, heavy tone with light additions of comedy. Few video game stories are as engaging as this one.
When put into the timeline of the rest of the series, it’s a bit of a mess. Mainly because the events of this one are so stand-alone that trying to connect it with the games that come later in the timeline is kinda just… unnecessary.
Cough cough, Metal Gear Solid 4.
All of it is wrapped up perfectly with its ending. There, we’re given one of the most effectively shocking and heartbreaking twists I’ve ever experienced in a video game. One that only gets better on subsequent playthroughs. I can’t help but salute and cry every single time.
Not to say that the story is perfect. The Cobras, a good half of the cast, serve an excellent purpose as boss fights for the gameplay. But for the narrative itself, they add very little. This was definitely a point where Kojima thought, “Well, it’s a video game, so I gotta add some characters for the player to fight.”
Is that a bad thing? No. It’s a video game, after all, not a movie. I just wish the Cobras had a bit more than just being cool boss fights.
On top of that, the game can get very exposition heavy. This is a very common thing in this series. Characters will talk and talk and talk, explaining the science or their schemes to you in grueling detail. Hell, the Boss dumps a three cutscene long info dump on you right before her boss fight! It can be pretty easy to zone out when the exposition train gets rolling. The information is fairly interesting most of the time, but it can get old having to just sit there and listen for profuse periods of time.
Although part of this is alleviated by the fact that you can press R1 in most cutscenes to look through Snake’s eyes. Which you need to do. And no, not just because you get to stare at EVA’s cleavage or butt half the time. You also get to see The Sorrow being a goofy dickhead ghost that helps you out from time to time! Be warned, though; the game won’t always tell you when an R1 prompt is present.
But we’re getting into the gameplay now. First, we need to talk about how the game looks.
For a PS2 game, Snake Eater still holds up decently well. Not flawlessly, mind you. Some textures look a bit muddy, some character models a bit blocky. And not every animation looks all that convincing; when Snake and Ocelot face-off at the very end, the wind on their clothing just looks like a three-frame loop that is more distracting than convincing.
On top of that, I suffered from more than a few frame dips throughout the game. Sometimes it was a minor drop, other times it got chunkier than peanut butter. Particularly whenever Volgin used his lightning. Odd for the frames to dip during a cutscene, but that’s how it went down.
The music, on the other hand, hasn’t aged a god damn day. This game is chock full of sweeping orchestral tracks that just get the blood pumping! But better than those is the main theme, simply titled: ‘Snake Eater’. Whenever this song plays, the game immediately becomes a thousand times better. It legit turns climbing a really tall ladder into an unforgettable moment! And when it kicks in during the fight with the Boss at the end of the game? No use of music in video games has ever been better, change my fucking mind.
Okay, we can talk about the game now.
As you can probably guess, Metal Gear Solid 3 is, in fact, a stealth game. You’ve got to sneak your way through various areas, avoiding the guards in order to reach your next objective. Break that up with the occasional boss fight and lengthy cinematic. Rinse and repeat until you beat the game.
Does that sound simple? That’s because, at its core, it is. But when you add on the many layers of complex mechanics and freedom in gameplay, you get one of the most addictive and satisfying stealth games ever made.
While the core loop of sneaking and fighting isn’t complex, the number of mechanics on top of that. Snake has limited stamina, meaning you’ve got to eat in order to keep his strength up. In order to feed yourself, you’ve got to hunt animals or just collect rations. On top of that, what you’re wearing may make sneaking easier or harder; if you’re in grassy terrain, change into green camouflage. Sneaking around a mountainside? Find something a bit more brown. Get hurt? You’ll need to perform field surgery on yourself. From burns to gunshots to broken bones and food poisoning, each one requires different treatment and medicine.
Does that all sound complicated? Don’t worry. While it may seem daunting, it’s actually really easy to learn. And once you do, it can be immensely satisfying and enjoyable! It’s like navigating a menu in an RPG.
The core gameplay may be simple, but you have a ton of freedom in how you go about it. For example: you don’t actually have to kill anybody! You can go through the entire game using the tranquilizer gun, not killing a single person and sneaking around like a ghost. Or you could just go wild with an AK-47 and slaughter everyone who dares get in your way. Who needs stealth when you’ve got a big ass gun?!
And that’s just scratching the surface. You can hold people hostage with combat, slit their throats with a knife, distract them with porno magazines, and of course: hide in a cardboard box. Whatever approach you want to take, you can!
Will it work? Probably not. At least, if you suck. Like I do.
In terms of boss fights, this game is a mixed bag. Some of them are incredibly memorable; the sniper duel with The End (which you can win by leaving the game for a week and letting him die of old age) and the final battle against The Boss are easily some of the most memorable battles in video game history, perfectly combining stealth and combat. Others are more repetitive and frustrating than fun. Fitting that the boss named The Fury made me rage like a motherfucker. Regardless of which you like and which you hate, it’s safe to say that all of them are extremely memorable.
My biggest gripe would definitely be the controls. Aiming in first-person is extremely slow and can be quite frustrating. Holding down X to sneak can be a pain and it can often feel unresponsive. Using the action button to climb frequently resulting in nothing, which lead to Snake just lean on a wall while I yell in rage. Not to mention how the sneaking can be a bit clunky at times, especially when Snake decides to just stand up on his own and you have to deal with the damn X button again. It doesn’t control like complete ass, but it’s definitely an area where the game shows its age.
And with that, I believe we’re done. I could go on and on, talking about all the goofy fun stuff or all the stuff that made me cry or rage, but at that point, I’d just be nitpicking. At this point, you should see the broad picture.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is easily one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. With an insane narrative balanced with action, drama, and humor, and gameplay that is insanely open-ended and enjoyable, it’s a true masterpiece. Sure, the controls and the graphics have aged a bit. But I’ll enjoy playing this game for many decades to come.
Before replaying this for the review, I would strongly argue that this game should be remade using the FOX engine. But after replaying it again, I’ve realized that a remake isn’t necessary. This game still holds up and shouldn’t be touched.
Also, I don’t want Konami to ruin this game like it’s ruined everything else.