Backloggin’ – Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

I seriously think just starting these things off is the most difficult part – I always feel like I have to have some witty shit to say. But I never do, so uh… hi. Wanna read about video games for a bit? This one I’m going to talk about right now has guns, cardboard boxes and snake eating – totally a non-sexual thing, by the way.

So you’re still here? Cool. I hope these numbers don’t scare you off.

Current statistics:

bl_1-16-2013

Last week’s statistics:

bl_1_10_2013

Changes:

  • Beat count up by one.

Beaten games since last update:

  • Metal Gear Solid 3 (PS3)

Click that “continue” button to hear about some metal gears.

BL_beaten

metal-gear-solid-hd

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS3)

Last year I crossed yet another “must play” title off my list, the first in a series I had always heard so much positive buzz for but had never actually checked out for myself – the iconic stealth-action game that is Metal Gear Solid. For such an old title, man was this game something special. It took me about an hour to adjust to the generational differences in controls and visual quality, but after that I was totally hooked. MGS was something magical right from the start, and I cherished every moment – even if I ended up dying a lot. I was so impressed by the self-aware and often clever gameplay design, the tight pacing, and most of all, the story. I’m a sucker for stories in games and stories in general that throw twist after twist at you until you’re left breathless – and here was Konami pulling that off flawlessly. I was surprised, bewildered, and totally engrossed by this title like few others I had played in my life – and yet, this was a game from over a decade ago.

Having finished the first, I knew I had to play the second. And while I found it somewhat less impressive overall, it still worked its magic into me all over again. While the environments and bosses weren’t as memorable as the first game, MGS2’s story is what really got me. It’s been criticized numerous times by players for being overly convoluted and just plain ol’ weird at times, but I loved it for that – even if I was left scratching my head towards the end. Like the first game, it carried another signature deep message about humanity – although this time, Konami really built it all up around the fact that this was, in fact, a video game. Seriously, check out this essay on the game’s story (SPOILERS, obviously) – it’s amazing stuff.

So naturally, having beaten the first two games, MGS3 was up next. I put off playing it for quite a while, however – I think the reason is because I’m used to playing action games and so when it comes to playing MGS, I have to get all settled in to how things work again – meaning, don’t run at enemies and hope for the best, which is my go-to strategy in games, by the way …yeah.

This strategy doesn't exactly apply to the Metal Gear Games.
This strategy doesn’t exactly apply to the Metal Gear Games.

But like the other MGS games, it only took a few hours for Snake Eater to really pull me in. Possibly the most defining quality of it is the jungle setting and survival-based mechanics they introduced. There’s a stamina gauge that constantly depletes, requiring you to hunt for food regularly as you make your way through enemy territory – and the whole system works really well, never feeling overly intrusive or obnoxious. Konami also decided to switch up the health system as well to compliment the survival-based design, meaning you’ll have to heal Snake’s dynamically occurring wounds yourself using different medical supplies. It’s a nice little innovation at first, but ends up really slowing things down during boss fights. I was constantly pausing the game to heal wounds all the time during the last fight of the game, and it totally killed the pacing. Ultimately, while the new health system feels appropriate here, I think the ration system will always work better. Which makes me wonder – how did they end up going about the health system in MGS4?

Oh, and there's camouflage, too. It... varies in terms of practical use, as demonstrated here.
Oh, and there’s camouflage, too. It… varies in terms of practical use, as demonstrated here.

I still feel that the controls here feel noticeably last-gen and rather unintuitive in places, but that being said, Snake Eater is still the best-playing MGS3 title of the bunch, thanks to some new close-quarters techniques. Snake can sneak up behind guards and kill them outright now instead of simply knocking them out – something that I did a lot of, admittedly. Aiming guns is still needlessly awkward and there’s still no crosshair anywhere to be seen, but hey – I didn’t expect any change there from MGS2, so no surprise, really.

As for the story- which is probably the main reason I love this series so much – it’s a lot more creatively grounded compared to the first two games, unfortunately. It’s not too crazy or over-the-top, mostly because it doesn’t carry the same number of plot twists and surprises. Actually, the first two games considered, it’s actually really simplistic considering we’re talking about Metal Gear Solid here. I also felt like in some places the story was so similar to the first in places that it ends up losing a lot of its steam, especially towards the end. Battling the obligatory giant mechanized enemy and the ensuing vehicle segment – we saw that in the first game, so why is it here again? The almost formulaic nature of the last few sequences was really quite underwhelming. It felt like I knew what was coming because I had played it before in a different MGS game, and throwback or not, it just came off as kind of lazy.

In fact, all things considered, I think I’m going to go against public tradition here and say it – I liked MGS2 better than Snake Eater.

mgs2_vs_mgs3

…Sorry?

Sure, Snake Eater has the stronger gameplay and environments, I agree there – and it really feels like more of a sequel to the first game since it upped the ante with new survival mechanics. But the story – especially coming from the first two games – just feels underwhelming. I kept waiting for a really crazy plot twist, for something truly unexpected to happen – but it never did. Around the halfway mark, I realized no, you know what? That’s not going to happen. Much like the James Bond movies it borrows from, the plot here is simple and straightforward for the most part. It still retains the crazy, almost comic-book realism of the other games, but it plays out mostly like you’d expect. And well, I guess I was expecting more.

The first two games pulled off the pacing so well because the narratives played out like mystery-action dramas. There was always this sense of the unknown, like you were about to turn a corner in the story and discover something incredible. Snake Eater never feels like that, though. You have your classic, devilishly simple objectives, and you carry them out. This is what I mean when I say the plot here feels “grounded” – it just never takes off or goes anywhere you wouldn’t expect it to.

Considering I really play these games for the story, It’s hard to declare Snake Eater as my favorite. Creatively, it just doesn’t compare, even though the story is good throughout, nicely paced as always, and features another selection of memorable characters and boss fights. Overall, it’s a really nice package – and man, that last boss fight? Classic. Playing through it feels awkward by today’s standards, but still – classic.

But you know what? Snake Eater goes up against some of the highest standards in video games, and it comes out on top. It’s an excellent prequel to the series – thrilling, suspenseful, and often downright brutal (torture sequence, anyone?) – and while it may not be my personal favorite MGS title, it’s a damn good game regardless.

With Metal Gear Rising out next month, Metal Gear Solid 4 is the last standing MGS title I have yet to play, and I’m pretty excited to check it out – I’ve heard things, man. I’ve heard it’s one of the best gaming finales ever. Also, cut-scenes galore, which I can dig.

Next time…

  • I seriously have no idea, stay tuned I guess

-rav4ge

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