Retro Monday: “Metal Gear Sold 3: Snake Eater”

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A cold open for a week of my childhood…
It’s been a busy week for my childhood. The fabled Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli, may be closing down, or just closing or shrinking its in house-animation. Either way, not nice for a studio that prides itself on taking its time to finish a film well rather than to a schedule. Then I saw this and my childhood/pre-teens exploded. Then there comes news that Sierra Entertainment may make a return. While I was a bit young for most of the “King’s Quests” and “Leisure Suit Larry” games, I had “S.W.A.T 2” for free when the family got the old 98 PC and I got “S.W.A.T Target Liberty” for the PSP many years later. I ended up playing a lot of point-and-click games (mainly because of this) so having one of the forefathers of the genre come back would be a big boost for a genre that grown to like and deserves a resurgence. Now, on to the regular scheduled programming…

Title: “Metal Gear Sold 3: Snake Eater

Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan

Publisher: Konami

Released: November 2004

Last week I talked about “Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow”, a stealth game that ended up being too easy. So this week I’m going to talk about a stealth game that is so insane and convoluted that it took me years of reading Wikipedia pages of all the plots from all the other games in the series to understand what the hell as going on. For example, there is an honest to god TRIPLE-CROSS! A twist, layered on a twist, that was already dry-humping another twist. It’s so damn confusing! There was no reason for the plot to be so convoluted. It seems like it was written by an auteur but in dire need of an editor. But, the confused twist on twist action has become a staple of the series. Just look at the much more recent “Metal Gear Sold 4: Guns of the Patriots”, a game that can be called the closest sequel, at how confused the plot ends up.

You play as Naked Snake, that’s before Liquid, Solidus and the cloning, during the 1960’s making this the first Metal Gear game chronologically. This means that this is the most logical place to enter the series but quite a lot of events are not explained and just call to events that will happen, i.e. the previous games. This just means that sections of the plot are for the fans or people who have stuck around. Like everything that involves Revolver Ocelot. He is a character who’s only design is call back previous games. He is also part of the triple-cross which only makes his character even more insane and narrative heavy.

For the two paragraphs of ragging that I’ve had on the plot, the bits that I could work where very good, although still in dire need of an editor. What is clued too is alluded too and then stated and repeated for those who weren’t paying attention. All in cut-scenes which makes the game feel like a movie that has a game instead of scene transitions. As confusing as the plot of the series gets, ‘Snake Eater‘ is probably the best place to enter the series. The game’s central mechanic is stealth and blending into your surroundings. You can run in and start shooting the place up with machine guns, but you just as easily stealth you way in with tranquilliser darts or not touch anyone. The openness lets you take on your own play style and play however you like. But there is only one way to play because when you finish the game you are graded. It’s not in the traditional SSS – A – D grade style but there are grades that are better than others because the unlockables are linked to them. The best grade is damn near impossible. No, I’m interested in how you got it and it’s “so easy” because you are a freak. I’m not going to play the same game over and over again because of a rank. The idea of replay-ability is replaying because it’s fun. Not because of an endless grind for the game to find me sufficient. I may be a trophy hunter but I draw the line and trying to please sprites. The game is not Caligula. Games that do it have a special space in digital hell for doing so. Ok, I feel better now.

Looking past the story and the cut-scenes, the game is very well put together. The stealth is multi-layered making there many different styles of stealth. There’s the Batman stealth method where you throw stuff at people and jump them with glomps of death. Then there is there is what I call the Hitman stealth method. It’s where I stick to the shadows and long grass but use the Smith and Weston revolver or whatever shotgun/long rifle I can get my mitts on and just explode my way to completion. As long as they don’t see me I consider it stealth. The disadvantage of a game built around stealth is when the poop hits the fan the action controls feels clunky. The controls work very well when you stealthed but feel muddled as soon as combat starts. The best thing you can hope for is to have a good firing position to retaliate from or you will find yourself weighed down with much internal lead by the time you find one.

The boss stand out when compared to other games. A few are standard boss fight affair, the first boss fight with The Pain (a bee wielding heavy type) is a prime example, but the fights with The End and The Sorrow are intense fights. The End fight comes down to a sniping match while the The Sorrow uses all those you’ve killed so far in the game against you. The first is nerve-racking while the second just punishes you. It’s awesome.

Most of this review is negative but I would wholly recommend the game. Not for its story, god no. Only try to understand the story if you’ve been through everything else up to this point. But as a gameplay experience and as a stealth game it is unmatched.

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