Although nowadays I’m a bit fed up with them, there was a point in time when I loved prequels. Being a geek, I always wanted to know as much as possible about the characters and worlds that I cared about. Being a history buff also made me take to prequels since they allowed me to see where stories and characters originated from.
You can imagine how pleased I was when I found out that Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater would be a prequel. By this point in time I was a HUGE Metal Gear Solid fan. The original MGS managed to thoroughly destroy my mind when it was released and I even loved the insanity that was MGS2. The news of a new MGS alone would be enough to make me want to bulldoze right through a wall because of sheer excitement but one set in the 1960s during the Cold War? Sign me up!
I have to admit though that reading previews of MGS3 made me a bit nervous. The fact that the majority of the game took place outdoors and that things like soliton radar wouldn’t be included led to this feeling. The survival aspect of it where you had to hunt and eat animals as well as having to perform your own surgery were a kind of intimidating too. Still, this was Metal Gear and I was psyched. I knew the game would be amazing but I wasn’t fully prepared for the awesomeness that awaited me.
Like Metal Gear Solid before it, what initially blew me away about Snake Eater was how the intro was handled. I was surprised that all I saw after booting up the disk was a simple “Press Start” menu. I hit start and was treated to an amazing cinema of Snake making a halo jump into a Russian forest. I sneaked around and got a feel for the new controls which were (admittedly) pretty complicated.
I was introduced to new characters as I traveled to my destination to rescue a Soviet scientist. After finding the target, everything went pear shaped. The bad guys steal a nuke, I’m betrayed by my mentor and thrown off a bridge and ended up having to mend a broken arm. After all of this happens, the screen fades to black and THEN the proper intro starts with that classic Snake Eater song we’ve all come to know and love. After that moment, Snake Eater sank its fangs into me and never let go.
The fact that this game took place in the past was to its benefit. MGS2 had made the story needlessly complicated so it was nice to have an MGS game go back to basics in terms of plot. Metal Gear Solid works as a self contained story and so does MGS3. Couple that with the game’s highly cinematic style and Snake Eater instantly became “the best movie I’ve ever played”. That’s something I said about the game just an hour into it and it continued to feel like that all the way to the end. MGS4 was very cinematic too but given that it was dependent on the other games for the story to make sense, it never felt like a proper movie. Snake Eater was the first game I could actually imagine being on the big screen. It was essentially the James Bond movie I’ve always wanted to see.
The boss fights were all highlights but to me, the most fun one was the encounter with The End. The End was a sniper who was over 100 years old. The battle with him was basically an expanded version of the Sniper Wolf battle from MGS. You both tracked each other down while trying to stay hidden within a huge forest area.
One time, I was waiting in a specific spot because I thought I saw The End’s sniper scope shining off in the distance. After a few minutes of waiting, I got up to go to a different area. As soon as I did, I heard a startled, high pitched “Ah!” which scared the crap out of me in real life. The End was behind me the entire time! I popped him in the butt with some tranquilizers as he ran off.
There were other ways to defeat him too. You could set the clock forward on your PlayStation 2 by a week and let The End die from natural causes or you could even skip the entire encounter altogether by shooting him in the head while he slept in his wheelchair. How crazy is that? Oh, and let me not forget to mention that you can kill his parrot and eat it to get him angry. I actually created (and still have) a save file that allowed me to replay this boss battle all I wanted. THAT’S how much I loved it.
Now, I can’t speak about MGS3 without talking about the main reason this game is so fantastic: The Boss. She is easily one of the most fully realized and complex video game characters ever. I could easily write an entire editorial on how important she is to this game. She was Snake’s mentor and the fact that she is your primary target in this game made it all seem more personal.
The final battle where you faced her and the subsequent reveal of what was really happening made for one of the most emotional moments that I’d ever experience in a game. I remember standing over her, holding a gun to her head and not pulling the trigger for a few minutes. My heart sank when I eventually pressed the action button and ended her life. That is a moment which will forever be seared into my soul.
While the story was the first fully realized cinematic gaming experience I had, the game wouldn’t have been that great if it’s gameplay wasn’t equally as impressive. What I loved best was the freedom it gave me to make the guard’s lives a living hell. I would always find their weapon and food caches and blow them up as soon as I got into a new area. This would lead to guards coming after me with knives and who I easily knocked out with one hit due to them being hungry. I almost felt bad for these guys. Almost.
Aside from the big stuff, there were a lot of little things that made the game so great for me. Most of these are due to the man behind the curtain, Hideo Kojima. Kojima-san is a eccentric individual and he made sure to litter this game with a special brand of “quirk.” From random posters of Japanese models, long monologues about James Bond and Godzilla and the ability to zoom in on a woman’s cleavage during cutscenes, the game is filled with many “Kojima moments”. The craziest thing this game has in it is a part where Snake has a nightmare which then puts you in the middle of a hack-and-slash game. The game demands to be replayed many times due to all of the little things Kojima threw into it. And replay it endlessly I did.
Truth be told, this editorial doesn’t even cover 1/10th of what makes Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater such a spectacular title. The game is STILL my favorite title of all time and my fondness for it just grows with each year. It is THE Metal Gear Solid game and the one by which I judge all others in the series by. It really is a work of art as far as I’m concerned.