As of this moment, I have completed Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater three times; the first time on normal and twice on easy just doing quick run throughs. Of course, the first thing I thought of when I completed the game was how well it stacked up to Metal Gear Solid and MGS: Sons of Liberty. I can say without a doubt that MGS: Snake Eater is better than its predecessors in nearly every way imaginable, including the ending, which totally blew me away.
Hideo and co. have really elevated the series to all new heights by implementing gameplay mechanics not found in any other modern-day action/adventure title. What's even more incredible is that despite knowing about the new mechanics MGS3 would feature beforehand, I never expected them to flesh with the rest of the game so flawlessly. Knowing of them and actually experiencing them is a world of a difference and if you've yet to play the game, as you read this you will see for yourself.
I thought long and hard before handing a perfect score to the gameplay, but I felt as if it had to be done. It's been ages since I've completed a game more than once, but MGS3 is one game that I just kept on coming back to. For starters, its replay value is absolutely phenomenal. The first run through the game can take anywhere from 15 to 25 hours — depending on difficulty, how cautious you are, collecting secrets, and how you approach certain boss fights. MGS3 is as long as you want to be, to put it short. It's packed with secrets, such as hidden camouflage outfits, hidden weapons, hidden camouflage masks, hidden cut-scenes, alternate cut-scenes, hidden CODEC discussions, mini-games (a Devil May Cry-esque game called "Snake's Nightmare" and an Ape Escape game featuring Snake called "Snake vs. Monkey"), and much more. And yes, for those of you wondering, the game does have stealth camo that renders Snake practically invisible to the enemies.
The gameplay additions really are a product of genius and it's quite surprising that this is the first time things like camouflage and survival are used in the genre. The camouflage mechanics I'm sure most are familiar with; wearing a suit that blends in with the environment reduces your chances of getting spotted, allows you to hide and take out your opponents secretly and so on.
The survival mechanics come into play when Snake is getting hungry and needs food. Hunger will affect Snake's ability to aim a gun, his ability to swim for longer periods of time, and if you his hunger bar depletes, Snake's life bar will begin to drain. Now, feeding Snake isn't something to be worried about; there's an abundance of food scattered about throughout the game. You can eat pretty much anything that moves (snakes, rats, birds, insects, rabbits, frogs, fish, goats/markhor, and so forth). In addition to living creatures, the game also supplies you with regular food such as Russian rations, instant noodles, mushrooms, mangos, and calorie mates. Some of the food you eat can poison you, restore your whole stamina-bar, barely restore your stamina-bar, and some of the food you eat can even recharge your batteries. Food will even spoil if you don't play the game for a while. If you kill a python, take its meat, turn the game off and then play the game again two-days later, you will see flies displayed on the icon of your python meat — dispose of the meat, otherwise face food poisoning.
Moving along, if you do get poisoned, never fear because part of the game's survival mechanics include healing yourself both physically and internally. Part of what makes MGS3 such an engrossing experience is how the gamer interacts with Snake. If Snake is injured, he can be treated. If Snake is sick, he can be cured with his medicinal supplies. You will know that Snake is injured if you see that the end of his life-bar is red, and you will know that he is sick if you notice his life-bar or stamina-bar is depleting quicker than usual. Sicknesses are usually a form of poisoning, be it food or venom, but occasionally you will find yourself with a leech attached or a cold.
Injuries can range anywhere from lodged bullets, broken bones, lodged arrows, cuts, burns, and even to lodged hypodermic needles. There is a viewer that will display everything that's wrong with Snake; so don't worry, no guessing game is involved. That said, it should also be noted that curing supplies are also quite abundant in the game; so don't worry too much about running short — that is unless you're playing the game on a difficulty higher than Normal.
With the game's new features out of the way, it should be noted that MGS3 still retains nearly everything that has made the first two games so damn appealing and then some. MGS3 now features a new combat system called CQC that can be used as often as you'd like. While you never get to use CQC in its full-fledged form (as displayed in the game's cut scenes), you will be able to use parts of it when you're equipped with the right weapon. CQC can be executed by quietly sneaking up on an enemy (by using the digital pad and not the analogue stick) and pressing the O button. There are various CQC maneuvers in the game and they all depend on how hard you hit the O button. Of course, you can hold your enemies up by sneaking up to them and pointing a gun at their head or even better…their crotch. And hey, you can even interrogate them and they'll give you some pretty cool hints and even some info about Metal Gear Ac!d (the PSP card-based game).
There's no longer a permanently present radar, because remember, you're playing in the 1960s. You now have to manually activate a motion-detector that works on battery power (which also depletes and recharges quickly when not in use). Every electronic item in the game consumes the batteries that Snake is equipped with, but you can pick up additional packs in certain places, so running out shouldn't be too much of a problem.
There's a plethora of weapons to use, including: a knife, RPG-7 (rocket propelled grenade launcher), AK-47 assault rifle, M37 12-gauge shotgun, SVD (Dragunov Sniper Rifle), M1911A1 (.45), MK22 tranq gun, Single Action Army revolver, Scorpion, (sub-compact machine gun), Grenade, White Phosphorous Grenade, TNT and many, many more. In total, MGS3 features over 20 damage-inflicting items. Likewise, MGS3 features more than a handful of items including: Binoculars, Thermal Goggles, Night Vision Goggles, three different cardboard boxes (woo!), Active Sonar, Mine Detector, Anti-Personnel Sensor (vibrates when life forms are nearby), Motion Detector (activates radar screen), Fake Death Pills, Revival Pill and etc. To say that Metal Gear Solid 3 is chock full of gadgets would be an understatement.
But of course we all know that the meat and potatoes of the MGS franchise has always been the fantastic stories. I will not discuss MGS3's story in any depth and will only say that it is by far the best in the series. Not since ICO has a game been this touching and so full of heart and passion. In addition, MGS3's story may very well be one of the five greatest ever told.
Visually, I can't say any other game in the genre looks better than Snake Eater. Konami has really pushed the envelope in terms of developing the smoothest looking PS2 game out there. You would be incredibly hard-pressed to find a single issue with the game's aliasing. Nearly every little line and corner runs smooth and doesn't show any sign of breakage. The character detail is second to none. Snake, in addition to his supporting cast, feature some of the most life-like facial detail seen in a videogame to date. The two primary female roles in particular have facial detail so remarkably incredible that during certain instances they look almost too human.
The game's environments are nothing to scoff at, as MGS3 employs some really complex geometry and breath taking backgrounds. You will come across certain parts of the game that are too beautiful for words; they feature some of the most dazzling visuals found on any PS2 game…or any game this generation. With the jungle as your primary battleground, you will come across superbly detailed streams and waterfalls that'll surely leave you in awe. There are cases when the game's framerate takes dips and some screen tearing is present, but I found that to be present only in one segment of the game and very briefly too. Minor frame rate issues aside, Metal Gear Solid 3 is no slouch in the visuals department, as it is arguably one of the best looking games on the PS2.
To wrap up this whole package of near flawlessness, Snake Eater makes incredible use of Dolby Pro Logic 2. Playing the game with a 5.1 setup is the one thing I recommend everyone do. The sensation you get from playing the game with surround sound is unrivaled by any other title I've ever played. You'd be hard pressed to find a game that immerses you as much as MGS3 when a 5.1 system is present. I looked back through my whole collection of games, PC, Xbox and GameCube included, and I just couldn't come up with a game that rivals it. I'd say that the next best sounding game of the pack was Star Wars: Rogue Leader for GameCube.
As usual, Konami manages to employ the finest voice actors in the gaming industry. X-Men and X2 writer David Hayter makes his 3rd return to the franchise (4th if you include GameCube's The Twin Snakes remake) and he sounds as sharp as he ever did. The whole aural presentation is freakin' awesome, though the theme song will probably take some time to grow on you; I found it awfully cheesy initially and I still do.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a game that proudly succeeds its predecessor. It exceeds the foundation Sons of Liberty left behind and immerses the gamer into a side of the series you'd never think you'd witness. Everything about Metal Gear Solid 3's development is practically flawless; every little detail is intricately laid out and paid attention to. The character development…oh, man…the character development is unbelievable. Seeing such fantastic depth in these characters completely blew me away; some of them feel so life-like it's quite frightening. The fright is only proof that Hideo Kojima and the rest of the staff at KCEJ are without a doubt the best at what they do. They (along with Polyphony Digital) were the first to push the PlayStation 2 to the limits and they will be the last.
Pay your respects to Snake Eater. You'd be a fool not to.