I just recently got myself a shiny new Playstation Vita. The machine is a real looker, and I find myself just holding it in my hands and gawking at the device. Sony really got the look of the thing down really well. However, no gaming machine can get away with looking pretty if there are no games to play, and the Vita is no exception; I spent the first two weeks of owning the device just looking at it because there were just no interesting retail games to pick up. I started out with Katamari, and while that was a nice distraction, it seriously did no favors to prove that the Vita was any sort of a capable gaming machine. But then I remembered that they had released the Metal Gear Solid HD collection on the device.
Now, I’m a huge Metal Gear Solid fan. I’ve played through the entirety of the Solid series many times, and find myself completely enamored by how good almost every aspect of the games are. So thinking that I could own Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 to play in the palm of my hand made me very excited, and I picked the games up as soon as I could.
Like any self respecting gamer should, I started with the earlier game, Son’s of Liberty. I was in awe of how much fun I was having, even though I’ve beaten the game probably close to five times before. Maybe it was just the shock of playing this fantastic game on a portable device that had me so excited, but I played through the entire thing in about three nights.
Then it was time to move on to Snake Eater.
Before I start, a bit of back story. I was never a huge fan of Snake Eater. Yes, I did beat it back on my PS2, but I never really liked a lot of things about it. However, I was younger back then, a lot less wise than I am today, so I decided to go into the Vita version with completely blank expectations: I was going to give Snake Eater a completely new opinion.
The game, while a perfectly fine game in itself, is easily the worst of the Metal Gear Solid series, and I intend to, as fairly as I can, compare Snake Eater to Son’s of Liberty, Gun’s of the Patriots and the game that started it all, Metal Gear Solid.
Let’s start, shall we?
First off, the story in the Metal Gear Solid games have always been their biggest selling point. It would be hard to argue that MGS1 or 2 has “super great” gameplay, mostly due to the clunky controls. They weren’t bad, but not really a selling point. No, people love the Metal Gear Solid games because of the fantastic story they tell. Sure, they get a little convoluted and silly sometimes, but us fans of the series have grown to really love that about them. The stories in MGS 1, 2 and 4 are all very well done, with plot devices that keep the story moving along at a nice pace and never seems to get dull. Snake Eater, however, has a giant hole in the middle of the game where, literally, nothing happens. Your mission is to climb to the top of the hill, and it’s about 4 gameplay hours where you are literally just going from area to area trying to sneak or fight your way to the top of a mountain. You get a few codec calls (which are abysmal in themselves, but more on that later) and maybe one or two semi-important cut scenes, but overall, the story goes no where slowly, for a huge chunk of the game. This is pretty much unacceptable in a series that prides itself in a fantastic story, and I was constantly thinking to myself why I should even care about anything that was happening. The positive part out of that is that, for the people that enjoy gameplay, there certainly is a lot of it. And that is, indeed a good thing. But they shouldn’t have sacrificed the nature of the Metal Gear Solid games just to get some more action packed gameplay stuffed in there.
Next, I want to pick at the boss fights. Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid was a revolutionary boss fight, one that not only broke down the fourth wall, but one that also forced the player to rebuild it themselves. The world is still talking about how fantastic that boss fight is. And through MGS 1, 2 and 4, while a few were duds, overall, the bosses were fantastic. Laughing Octopus, Fat Man, Screaming Mantis, Crying Wolf, Solidus; the list just goes on and on. But when we start talking about MGS3, the list becomes much shorter. Overall, the bosses felt generic, very non-Hideo. Ocelot, The Pain, The Fear and The End were just target practice mini games, and The Fury was a dodging-target practice mini game. The Sorrow was the only boss that felt like it deserved to be in a Metal Gear Solid game, because it was incredibly creative; you got a similar feeling facing The Sorrow that you did when facing Psycho Mantis. The rest, however, felt bland and boring, something that should never happen in a Metal Gear Solid game. They were all just “Find a way to stop the bad guys from blocking your gun shots, then shoot them.”
The characters in MGS3 were also uninteresting in almost every way. Zero, your new “Colonel”, was a piece of cardboard with googly-eyes pasted on and a tape recorder hidden inside, only there to pop in once in a while and say things like “I see you’ve managed to climb this mountain. Good for you.” or “I see you’ve managed to get yourself captured. Hurry up and escape”. He didn’t matter to the story in the slightest (until later in the series, of course). The Boss had the potential to be an interesting character, but failed to live up to her potential, especially at the end of the game where it felt like she just gave up. Other side characters were pretty much in the same boat, including the “save state person” and the weapons expert, neither of which I can even remember the names of because they left such a little impact on me. It was nice to see Ocelot as a younger person, and Eva wasn’t a terrible character, but overall, I felt very little emotional attachment to any of the characters.
For a few final nitpicks, I found the whole “Hunting your own food” aspect to be incredibly gimmicky. I was able to kill three crocodiles at the very beginning of the game which kept me fed until the very end of the game, but by then I had found so many rations, I didn’t even need to hunt again. The camouflage system was actually quite well done, though it was very annoying to have to go into your menu every time you moved four feet from a grassy terrain to a stony one. I’m glad Metal Gear Solid 4 fixed that problem with the OctoCam. And finally, the Cure system was just boring and a waste of time. Oh look, I got a bullet wound. Better go press the button for bandage and disinfectant or I’ll keep losing blood. Done. That was exciting, wasn’t it?
No, it wasn’t.
Overall, I really can’t see the appeal in MGS3. I’ve played it twice now, once as a smaller kid and once more as an older adult, and neither times have I been able to say that I really actually enjoyed my time spent. There were a few diamonds in the rough patches scattered throughout the game, but overall, I was left disappointed and in desperate need to play a better Metal Gear Solid game; which I did, almost immediately afterwards. I can appreciate people liking it for the large amounts of gameplay that it provides, but for me, that’s not what Metal Gear Solid should be about. It should be all about becoming engrossed into a world, falling in love with the characters, and having a good time. I had none of those experiences with Snake Eater.