Lights, Camera... Game?
There’s absolutely no doubt about it, Hideo Kojima should be given a directorial chair and be allowed to helm a movie. Looking at his character designs, the way he directs the cinematics in his games and the attention to detail he gives to just about every single facet of the game design, here is a man who deserves a career in the movies. I would not object at all if he helmed the next Bond flick, and as you play this game you will see why. All that aside, that’s not to say he’s the world’s greatest game designer though.
Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation 1, produced a brand new genre (the Stealth-’em-up) and arriving at a time when Goldeneye was the undisputed king of console games, Metal Gear Solid showed off the PS1’s hardware prowess and ability to almost produce a playable movie. A few years went by before we once again delved properly into the world of Snake with the arrival of the much anticipated PS2 title “Metal Gear Solid 2”. Preview screenshots and movies seemed to show a game unlike anything the PS2 had seen before. Gritty realistic graphics, fantastic cut-scenes and high production values made this top of most PS2 owners’ “Wanted” lists for quite some time. Strangely though, when it finally got released it became the equivalent of gaming Vegemite. You either loved it to bits or loathed it with a passion.
MGS3SE is set in the 60s at the height of the Cold War. The dust is settling on the near-apocalyptic Cuban Missile Crisis, and President Kennedy has been assassinated. There is still a great deal of unrest between East and West and Jack (Codename: Naked Snake) has been sent on a covert infiltration mission to recover a defecting Russian Scientist with a great deal of expertise in nuclear weapons design. As I said at the start of the review though, Hideo Kojima is definitely a frustrated movie director and you may well become a frustrated gamer as in the first few hours of gameplay you realise that you’ve sat through a whopping 40+ minutes of cut scenes with very little to do in between except admire the superb setting and the excellent art direction the game has to offer.
When you do finally get direct control of Snake though, a few things will be evident. Firstly, if you’ve played any of the Splinter Cell series (which were arguably directly inspired by the MGS games) you will miss having a fully-rotating and relatively free roaming camera. Substituting massive in-game detail for having a fixed view is a difficult trade-off to make and there are times when even the most die-hard MGS fan will find themselves cursing this game because they just cannot see an off-screen assailant or navigate a tricky part of the lushly detailed jungle because of the cameras. As with MGS2 there is a first-person view but annoyingly you cannot switch to this and move freely around. It may automatically switch on when you’re crawling through undergrowth or a tight crawlspace but this just adds to the camera frustration as most of the time you will end up just seeing a lot of foliage in front of your face.
This brings me neatly to some of the other interesting game dynamics. This time around Snake has to eat, not just to restore his energy bars but to ensure that he’s operating at peak efficiency. Go hungry and your stomach will complain (loudly!) and your aiming and dexterity will go to pot. Snake is a gourmand of many tastes and just about anything that crawls through the landscape can be captured and scoffed. Well, where else did you think the title “Snake Eater” came from? As you play the game and sustain injury you will notice that your stamina bar leaks a lot faster. A swift delve into Snake’s capacious backpack will allow you to perform a few medical procedures and operations on yourself to restore your health, some of which are played out in rather too much gory detail for the weak stomached.
Metal Gear Solid 3 is amongst the final few great games we may see on the Playstation 2. Seeing it in action will make a few people realise that the machine still has plenty to offer if someone who knows the hardware inside and out is let loose on it. You will fall in love with the 60s setting (even though when I first heard about it I had horrible visions of it being another Vietnam game) and you will love some of the many movie references woven into the game’s fabric. And if you don’t then you’ll at least have an appreciation for the technical side of things because it really is a drop-dead-gorgeous demonstration of what the PS2 is capable of when firing on all cylinders. Of course fans of the series may also have some of their questions answered too, not all though - I’ve got a feeling we certainly haven’t seen the last of the mulleted hero yet.