Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D Review
The Metal Gear Solid games are terribly difficult to get into if you’ve never played one before. It’s a series that has a well-established mythology and it can be difficult to know where to start. So when Konami decided it was time to bring Snake back to the Nintendo fold it was obvious which direction they were headed in. Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D may be the third game in the series in order of release but because it’s set in the early 60s and is thus the first chronologically. This gives you a clean slate to enjoy the franchise if you’re new to it. Long-time fans are also given the opportunity to experience the game not only on the go, but also in stereoscopic 3D.
Snake Eater is essentially split into two missions – the first of which, Virtuous Mission, is a prologue of sorts that sets the scene for a bigger and more important mission, Snake Eater. Taking place in the Russian countryside, the game is as cheerful as you would expect Russia to be around the early 1960s. With the Cuban Missile Crisis just having ended, there is still a bit of tension in the air between the US and Russia, and this forms the basis for one of the main conflicts in the game. Virtuous Mission’s objective is simple – CIA Agent Naked Snake must infiltrate a Russian base and “rescue” Sokolov, a nuclear physicist who has defected from the Soviet Union. Of course, as events play out, not everything is as it seems. We’ve purposely kept this quite detail light in order to allow players who haven’t played before a few surprises – that’s the best way to experience a Metal Gear Solid game, going in blind.
Snake Eater, like all Metal Gear games, pulls its inspiration from James Bond movies and other spy movies of the period. The title theme and titles are basically a James Bond theme and starting titles, however they never asked if you would snack on a tree frog in one of them. Like a James Bond movie the game contains a weird and wonderful cast on both the allies and villains side. From sexy ex-NSA turncoat Eva, to the strong leader of the Cobra Unit, The Boss and the rest of her merry and slightly geriatric Cobra Unit. Yes, Snake Eater takes the supernatural themes to the extreme but then what Metal Gear game doesn’t? Snake’s support team are also quite a merry bunch who you’ll enjoy interacting with. Major Zero, your boss, is a huge fan of James Bond films. Para-Medic provides support regarding the various foods that Snake can and can’t eat while in the Jungle and is also a fan of cinema (she’s also a doctor) while SIGINT is an expert on weapons and camouflage. Each serve their purpose and you’ll come to love them as the game progresses.
There’s a reason why it says tactical espionage action on the box. Snake Eater requires patience to fully enjoy; you won’t get far running in guns-a-blazing. If you’re like me and have little patience for anything, then Snake Eater’s story will make you become patient; you’ll want to take it slow so you can play through the story. There are multiple ways to get from point A to B, which means no matter how many times you play the game there are different ways to tackle each scenario thrown at you. You can go in with a fully automatic heavy machine gun, no weapons, melee weapons or CQC (a martial arts system of sorts invented by Snake and The Bosss). The choice with which you approach Metal Gear Solid 3 is yours. Even if you’ve played this to death on the PlayStation 2 you’ll find a new way to play it and that’s part of the fun.
The new element that got introduced in Snake Eater is the camouflage system. If you’re sneaking around in the dirt you’ll want to have the best outfit to match, but the same outfit won’t work in the grass, you’ll have to change things up again. Indoors, perhaps a simple olive drag will help you blend in better. Even at 90% camouflage though you’re not invisible and you’ll want to make sure your face is in the dirt to avoid being spotted. Sometimes though you just have to make a run for it, evading the enemy patrols makes them go through different phases. They’ll track you down for a while but after that they’ll get bored and move on, but if you’re not quiet and stealthy they’ll be back on your behind. Keeping Snake alive is also a challenge in the game for another reason. While there is the standard ’health bar’ that every other game has you’ll need to keep Snake fighting fit and fed while traversing the jungle. Bullet wounds, infections, broken bones and fractures will all need to be headed before Snake can regain full health. Food also keeps Snake’s stamina up, so what do you eat in the jungle? Wild animals of course, the titular snakes provide some of the games best nourishment.
When the time comes that you have to defend yourself you better hope you’re prepared. Shooting loudly and wildly will just attract more attention, taking out enemies one by one, avoiding confrontation and taking your time is key. The satisfaction of making it through an area without being spotted and having to use force brings a smile to your face.
The Boss Battles in the game bear mentioning they’re some of the greatest boss battles in any game you’ll ever play. The majority of them are against the Cobra Unit members. Each battle is unique not only to the game but all games, some boss battles may be over in a minute and others could drag out for an hour. You can even completely avoid one boss battle all together if you know what you’re doing. However I’d recommend against doing that, you’ll feel really rotten if you do.
So how about that whole ’It’s on the Nintendo 3DS’ factor. Not going to lie, this game was made for home consoles. It has long form gameplay, long cutscenes and codec conversations. Nothing like the half hour epics seen in Metal Gear Solid 4 (bar the ending) but still not the best for 5 minute spurts on the train. Grab a pair of headphones and settle in for the long haul, the games amazing soundtrack and voice acting come to the 3DS intact. Harry Gregson-Williams’ score is amazing and further builds upon the ’spy movie’ motive with similar themes to what you see in other action movies. The 3D effect also supports this theory; it’s terrific in this game. It gives you a depth you obviously can’t get anywhere. You feel as if you’re in a jungle, sneaking around and the heart rate just goes up when you have everything perfect. There’s no ghosting on the 3D, it doesn’t affect the frame rate and makes sneaking that much easier. The 3D also switches off in first person aiming mode something that could be adapted in more games in the future, especially ones that switch from 3rd Person to first person so quickly.
Unfortunately the frame rate whether the 3D is on or off can be anywhere from acceptable to terrible, you don’t get the silky smooth frame rate the game has on the PS2 or the HD versions and it’s very distracting. The games cinematic rely on a lot of fast cuts between the actions, however with the low frame rate it can appear to be a slideshow at times and frames get skipped. Slow down out of game happens but it’s not as bad, the insane boss battles are the only time where it dips into problem territory. Sadly that’s when you need it the most.
The other problem with it being on the low-resolution screen is that it definitely feels smaller; the jungle just doesn’t feel the same as when you’re playing it on a huge TV. This also means it’s harder to hit targets as those annoying soldiers’ heads are so much smaller. However thanks to the two screens that the 3DS has it does mean most of the HUD is off the main screen and on the touch screen and yes that means you can use touch to access all of the menus in the game. There are a lot of them too. The codec, bag, camo and all the inventory controls are all in easy reach on the touch screen. You can still access these menus and the inventory with buttons as well. If they could have got the game looking like it is, running at a stable frame rate coupled with the 3D effect they do have it could have been the definitive looking version of the game.
So the controls, arguably the second biggest talking point about the game pre-release apart from the graphics. Let’s put it simply, did you play Peace Walker on the PSP? Did you enjoy those controls? If you answered yes then you don’t need the Circle Pad Pro. That sounds pretty bad for those without a Circle Pad Pro right? Well they’re not terrible, it works but you’ll find yourself fighting the controls in a game that requires you to be precise.
The controls though with the Circle Pad Pro though however are a joy because not only do you get the extra Circle Pad but also another set of triggers for shooting, actions and aiming. It makes the game work just it has on the PlayStation for years and because you’ll be playing be playing for a while it’s ultra-comfortable. Swapping between the two control methods though will only work against you as all of the controls and action buttons are remapped. The addition of crouch walking, introduced in the PSP games, is welcome to the game as well. The Nintendo 3DS’ gyroscope is used sparingly in the game for use with balancing in some parts of the game, however it’s not used for aiming which would have helped for people without the Circle Pad Pro. Gyroscope aiming on the 3DS and even the Vita are great additions to handhelds and since the 3D turns off in first person view it makes it a weird omission.
Some neat additions to the game that don’t really affect the mechanics in any meaningful way are in the inclusion of Photo Camo. You can take a photo of anything you have to be slapped onto Snakes sneaking suit. While it is cool to have anything you want in the game as camouflage it’s rather useless unless you take a photo of something brown. Littered around the game too are Yoshi’s to spot, they don’t actually do anything apart from scare the crap out of you when you actually grenade one and can hear his cries. Sorry poor Yoshi. Sadly there is also only one save file on the card, very annoying for those who might share or want to play through the game differently.
The only question now comes down to the value of the package. For only little more money you can get both Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 in HD in a package, eventually that bundle are coming to the PS Vita as well. It’s tough to try and sell this as a stand-alone game, and Konami has themselves to blame for that. With those two you won’t have to buy a Circle Pad Pro either. It’s a tough decision and best left to personal preference. You’re not missing anything with the 3DS version.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D is an amazing experience from start to finish as a game, the experience on the Nintendo 3DS is great apart from a couple of technical problems. The addition of 3D graphics should not be underestimated as it adds a level of immersion to the game that you couldn’t get before.
If you’re new to the Metal Gear franchise it’s a great way to get started and if you’re a long time Metal Gear fan it’s another great way to experience the game again.