After my earlier revisit of one of my favourite games from the PS1 era, Metal Gear Solid, I felt a compulsion to go back and play my favourite game in that series, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Metal Gear Solid has a fantastic story, with twists and turns that still felt like a sucker punch to the gut. As much as I loved it, though, it has aged very badly. There was just a grain of disappointment when I finally put the controller down. Would the same be true when I went to revisit the third in the series? Let’s dive in…
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater takes place in 1964, chronologically the earliest game in the series. You play as Naked Snake, who would later become the nefarious Big Boss. Early in the game he is betrayed and left for dead by his mentor and mother figure, The Boss. Later, you are redeployed to recover a cache of nuclear warheads which were stolen and to extract the scientist who is being forced to develop a spiritual forbearer of the titular Metal Gear weapon, the Shagohod. Like the first installment, it’s a fairly standard plot with the real attraction being the way the story is told and the characters involved. Being set in the 60s, MGS3 is a loving pastiche of cold-war era spy movies, complete with a James Bond-style introduction. In my view, the song which accompanies this intro sequence goes down as one of the best tracks that video games have to offer.
The characters are incredible this time around. The array of villains are much more developed than in the first game. After defeating each boss (with names like ‘The Pain’, ‘The Fury’, ‘The End’), I genuinely felt bad about killing them. Even though they don’t get much screen time, the characters are so well written that it doesn’t matter. The only exception to this is the character of Volgin — ostensibly the Dragon to The Boss’s mastermind — but he comes across as a bit 2‑dimensional compared to the other incredible villains. The character of Snake is as fantastic as ever. He’s much more analogous to Solid Snake than the monster he would become. This makes perfect sense since you find out exactly how Big Boss emerged from the man they call Naked Snake.
The two big drawbacks in my last review were the gameplay and graphics. They felt dated to a point where I couldn’t fully enjoy the experience. Metal Gear Solid 3 does not suffer from this in the slightest. Even being a low-poly-count game from the PS2 era doesn’t detract from the title for a second. It’s clear that even back in the day it was pushing the console for everything it had. The gameplay is amazing this time too. This game is how you do a third-person stealth action game right. Everything is spot on. The controls feel fluid, the shooting is nicely balanced, and it actually feels like your weapon has some weight to it. The camouflage system gives the stealth an extra dimension, making you think much more tactically about it than in the first game. The hunger system adds to this, making the experience much more like surviving in the wild than a simple matter of shooting bad guys in the head. You’re not only fighting enemy soldiers, you’re also fighting with every ounce of yourself to live in a harsh environment.
There’s a section of the game I feel like I have to highlight. About halfway through the game you’ve beaten two of The Boss’s unit, and you’re beginning to get a sense of just how deep the story goes when you go into the third boss battle. Prior to revisiting this game, the aforementioned fight occupied a lovely place in my brain as one of the really great moments in video game history. Upon this replay, I can tell you, the boss fight with The End should go down as the greatest moment in video gaming history. The idea of the fight is to echo the battle from MGS where you have a sniper battle with an opponent who is constantly moving. In the first game, this took place on a snowblown field with the enemy, Sniper Wolf, dodging your shots until she settled down to take aim. The MGS3 incarnation is a very similar scenario, where The End is roaming about the Jungle setting, waiting patiently for you to enter his crosshairs. There are numerous different areas you can enter, and it makes the experience feel much more like a hunt. You have to use every tool at your disposal to defeat this old bastard. You shoot, he moves. You track him, he shoots. You die. Repeat. It’s so well executed that I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire sequence. It’s nothing short of phenomenal.
This game. Just… wow. I am so glad I went back to play it. It’s rare that a game is actually better than you remember it on a second playthrough. I was a little worried that, after my experience with revisiting the first installment, I might find yet another game that fell short of my fond memories. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater blew them out of the water. With a self-contained story that is very well told, I recommend that everyone play this. Whether you’ve played this game or not, stop whatever you’re doing now and immerse yourself in it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.