When many gamers experienced a bad aftertaste because of playing METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY, the value of a third sequel significantly dropped. This third title had been overlooked even though it was one of the highest name-awareness titles being released this Christmas period. In addition to this, Sam Fischer has carved his own splinter of the market, and a large one at that. Going into METAL GEAR SOLID 3, it's almost as if Kojima-san and company at Konami knew SPLINTER CELL had redefined indoor espionage and that something new would have to happen.
Throw all your preconceptions about METAL GEAR out the door (except the long-drawn out cut scenes and sometimes convoluted story). Snake isn't in a strange military facility this time around instead, he's been sent to the Russian jungle at the height of the Cold War to rescue a scientist named Sokolov who is developing a mobile nuclear missile launcher.
What goes with being in the jungle is fun stuff like stamina, camouflage, food, and having to patch yourself up from injuries. In addition to that, there is also close-quarter combat which allows you to wield a knife and a gun at the same time. Grabbing a guard as a human shield has never been so easy. Finally, the radar that has been present in every MGS game is gone completely.
The stamina bar is the first and perhaps one of the most important features in the game. As you move through the game your stamina will slowly disappear. It will more rapidly disappear based on some injuries you might have such as leeches or bleeding from a cut. The stamina bar determines things like how long Snake can hold his breath underwater and how fast his health regenerates while crouching. Stamina can be restored by eating food which can be found and killed.
While you're crawling through caves and grass, snakes, rabbits, and bats are all available for Snake to kill and eat. Some he'll like more than others and that determines the amount of stamina recovered. Food can go rotten over time, which will require you to heal with some medicine (and can also be used against one of the bosses as a trap).
The healing process involves checking an injury and then taking the appropriate medicine or action to heal Snake. None of this is terribly difficult, but it's a fun element that adds to being in the jungle and if you run low on medical supplies, it can be a significant hurdle to overcome.
Camouflage is also critical. Throughout the game you'll find more face paints and patterns for your suit, but what you're wearing directly effects how easy it is to see you. Movement and light is also important, but sitting still in tall grass with the right camo makes you almost impossible to spot.
One noticeable difference with this MGS game is that it seems not too hard to blast your way through areas and run on. With cut scenes being so frequent throughout the game the alerts you caused do get cancelled fairly often if you get off of the screen. Many times a quick-ditch effort of me using my AK-47 to get out of most situations worked. It was a little odd for me to blast my way through parts of a MGS game, it worked in the situations and I didn't really have too much of a problem with fighting my way through the bad situations.
You might be surprised that this game isn't an Xbox game when you first see it on the TV. It looks great and while it does have some telltale signs of being a PS2 game, it's still absolutely gorgeous. I was really happy with the jungle in the game as well as the cut scenes and animation. Good stuff.
The music is excellent as always with a great score. The voice acting seems a little overdone at times and there is some weird audio skipping on some of the radio tracks. Outside of those minor details, the sound effects are excellent as well and the Pro Logic II sounds great.
METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER is a tasty snack that has arrived after all of the other big releases (sans KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II) and should provide hours of jungle crawling fun. It might just be the best SOLID game yet.