Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Submitted by: Retro Gamer
One main factor would determine the jungle setting of Metal Gear Solid 3: series creator Hideo Kojima felt like he could accomplish such an environment on PS2 where he couldn’t before. Kojima and his team visited rainforests to research this backdrop; composer Harry Gregson-Williams was pleased, since during interviews for MGS2 he jokingly mentioned he’d return to the series if it was set in the jungle – by coincidence, Kojima already had the setting in mind.
Kojima would bring Snake back in MGS3 after a lot of players complained about Raiden in its predecessor, while the director also noted criticisms of the length of Sons Of Liberty in making MGS3. It was only later revealed that this Snake would in fact be Big Boss, villain from the first Metal Gear and the character cloned to create Solid Snake, in an instalment set many years before the other games.
The camera was a tricky issue for Kojima – at first he wanted consistency across the three titles, so he opted for the classic top-down view in MGS3’s original release. However, when the time came to make MGS3: Subsistence, a 2006 enhanced version of Snake Eater, he included a new third-person camera that was the final stretch towards making it a timeless experience. Subsistence would also add a multiplayer mode that found a limited audience.
If a sequel ever felt like a reaction to the reception of its predecessor, it’s Metal Gear Solid 3. Metal Gear Solid 2 was accused of being philosophically bloated, overburdened with baffling cut-scenes and for misfiring completely by replacing its iconic main character with a whiny rookie, the much-maligned blonde child soldier mess Raiden. Metal Gear Solid 3’s jungle setting is the purest iteration of Kojima’s experiments with stealth-based gameplay, allowing players to daub Snake in camouflage and creep through raw, wild scenery, while having to maintain Snake’s well-being by keeping his body injury free and his stomach full of anything they can scrounge around the world.
MGS3’s range of ideas is an extraordinary contrast to the five hours of bomb freezing in MGS2 – set pieces in abundance, a number of astonishing boss fights and a genuinely engaging story colour an intelligently crafted 15+ hour journey.
Boss fights, as ever, form the crux of the way that narrative plays out. Of the members of Cobra Unit, individually created around a single emotion, the best three encounters are with The End, The Sorrow and The Boss. The End is a breathtakingly tense sniper fight with a dying old soldier that can last anywhere between five minutes and many hours – lose track of him and Snake can even be taken hostage by The End and wake up in prison. The Sorrow is a passive encounter where players have to walk down a river populated by the ghosts of every soldier Snake has killed up until that point, an ingenious pacing turn that shines a rare morality on the player’s actions.
Then there’s Volgin, armed with electric powers, a nuclear-powered tank called the Shagohod and aggressive sexual tendencies, who more or less fulfils the traditional role of a main MGS villain, with a terrific three-part fight that incorporates a brilliant on-rails chase sequence as well.
Yet it’s the inevitable battle with The Boss, Snake’s mentor who betrays him and defects early in the story, that defies the traditional role of a boss fight and therefore is the most interesting part of Snake Eater, both in characterisation and the way the fight is presented. The Boss is portrayed as an enemy throughout MGS3, though not unambiguously, a soldier with conviction in her actions that a conflicted Snake knows he must kill.
Ultimately, the demise of The Boss, who understands the politics of war far better than Snake does, is part of the gut-wrenching twist finale of MGS3 that turns the entire story on its head, a climax that is easily among the very best ever created for a videogame. Snake’s notions of loyalty and patriotism are soured forever by the events and revelations that occur – and you too, as a player, leave MGS3 with a feeling of heartbreak, as Kojima cleverly ties together a tale that’s far sharper than we’re used to from the director.
And there’s the jungle. The sound of animals in the distance, leaves rustling with nearby snakes and the future Big Boss lying in a pit of mud, trying to avoid detection. These tense encounters, in a distinctive world ambitiously realised by Konami, are the foundation of the eccentric magic in MGS3.
Why It’s A Future Classic
Kojima does make it very easy for people to criticise his storytelling. His games tend to have an over-reliance on cut-scenes, the lengths of which are at times self-indulgent, while his skill with characterisation is often buried within concepts that nobody cares about, the likes of which spoiled MGS2 and MGS4. Snake Eater, however, illustrates that Kojima is a better storyteller than anyone else in his field when everything lines up, merging narrative and game design in ways that can have powerful emotional effects on the player.
Metal Gear Solid 3 stands clear of the rest of Kojima’s bonkers saga, and it’s quite obviously better for it. No burden to continue the story down the line (though he has), no encroaching mythology from previous games – a self-contained, intelligently-created summation of everything Kojima excels at as a designer and a storyteller.