71st game played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami

We’ve played a Metal Gear Solid game some time ago, and we saw it as a good stealth game… though with its flaws. Now we get to the third part (we’ll do number 2 another time), and this time it’s a prequel to the series – back to Snake’s first mission. And this time it’s in a Soviet jungle (apparently they do exist), where you need to rescue a scientist – that’s what you need to do to them.

Does it make for a good game? I must admit I’m writing this while Peter is playing, and it does look pretty. That’s one pro…

Our Thoughts

Was that you labelling me the superior gamer? I’m flattered. In the sort of games that don’t feature auto-pause, turn based combat or ‘shoot everything in sight’, possibly. Either that or I just prefer staring at the graphics.

This game is certainly prettier than the first game in the series we played a few months ago. Since the setting of the game has shifted from a tundra/urban environment to one filled with lush rainforest it makes sense that there would be a greater scope for an aesthetically pleasing game. When you then take into account the leaps in gaming technology that occurred in six years then it makes sense that this would look a lot better. This in no way down-plays how much more impressive Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is compared to the first one. I would argue that there is no facet that this has not made a marked improvement on. We still need to play the second instalment to get a proper chain of improvement. Possibly length of cut scenes exempted.

When you are not into games which try to be like a long immersive film the cut-scenes can be pretty tiresome (especially since the same information is pretty much repeated four times before the end of the clips). In some ways, however, these in depth cut scenes are a great boon for the series. It aids in the creation of a cinematic experience when it comes to gaming, something which few other franchises can boast. The use of cut scenes is never gratuitous; it is just one of the many ways that they further the plot and introduce new enemies and gameplay mechanics.

Also they help to add heaps of contemporary detail such as a play-by-play of the Cuban Missile Crisis and plot summaries of top films of the era such as The Great Escape and Forbidden Planet. Very true, even if you’ve forgotten the instructions they give at the start by the time the cut scene ends… we forgot where to find the backpack we needed to get after the 15 minutes cut scene conversation that intervened.

One thing here that doesn’t help is that these ‘cut scenes’ are voice only – using the radio you have with you. In the mean time, aside from a few pictures that stay the same for the length of the cut scene, you can just read subtitles, which you don’t need with the sound quality. So instead of listening, I found myself drifting back to my laptop to do other things while I waited for the cut scene to end. It’s a nice way of adding detail… it’s just that spreading it out a bit more would have helped, instead of the bulk of information that gets overwhelming or boring. Except for the FMVs starring the bonkers boss characters which are pretty entertaining and action packed.

The interesting thing about the bosses, and their battles, is the combination of the supernatural with military prowess. This is a regular feature in the series but this is far more at the forefront in this instalment. The fact that you have to battle people who can command electricity and swarms of hornets feels a tad overkill but it’s done surprisingly well. This doesn’t even mention the infamous villain simply known as “The End”. A friend of mine once regaled me with the story of how many hours it took for him to complete this boss battle… now that’s intense! Thank god you can save at any time. And learn about old sci-fi movies at the same time.

Now, the gameplay has received what seems to be a few interesting additions. First and most important is that you don’t just have a health bar, you also have stamina to consider. As you’ll be stuck in the jungle for quite some time, you have to forage for food yourself, so you can increase your stamina and keep going. This is partially gathering berries and other fruit, but to get the better options you’ll need to hunt – apparently snakes are quite tasty, if this game is to be believed. They can also be trapped in cages and released to scare off enemy soldiers. Just don’t try this with the crocodiles… I was never fast enough to get past them before they woke up from the tranquilizer and started to attack me. You have little other choice beyond killing them if you want to taste them. I have in real life and it tastes okay. Our survival expert.

Another element of this stealth game is, of course, camouflage. When you are so used to titles like Fallout 3 where stealth is more or less optional games like this take a while to get used to. A plasma rifle would have helped in the jungle, but alas twas not to be. Plasma rifles make everything better. It’s strange; however, that face paint of the Italian Flag is seen as decent camouflage in the jungle. Apparently red and green work well as a disguise. In a similar fashion the Japanese flag works when sneaking around buildings – there is no accounting for taste. And it appears the UK flag just gets people even angrier at you… that might just be my imagination though. Well it does resemble a frowny face with angry eyebrows. That could well be actually, it would explain it.

Well, two down and four more entries in the Metal Gear Solid saga to go. Let’s hope they’ll work out as addictive when we get into them.

Final Thoughts

This game needs your time. Not just for the long cutscenes, but also to get into it. The first half hour of actual gameplay is dreadful. Then it speeds up a bit, you need to start sneaking to avoid your enemies, life gets tense and you enjoy your companions. The game gets going and gets good. From the interactions with your characters to the overall objective and big mission, everything slots in and starts working well together.

The game looks and sounds great, a good plus, helped by a far different and interesting setting, that by nature looks more interesting.

Even more interesting is the attention of detail in the game. You get the feeling someone has actually tasted these animals, and the movie knowledge can only come from a real fan. It’s cute and funny and adds to the realism. And it made me want to see some of these movies. Even if we’ve probably seen some on MST3k before.

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