There will be a time when movies finally collide with video games, creating an invisible line between the two, clashing for survival. That fight has just started. “Metal Gear Solid 3″ will likely go down in history as one of the most exhilarating, well produced, intelligent, and flat out fun video games this industry will ever see. Director Hideo Kojima is nothing short of a genius.
Yet again, it’s all about stealth. Snake must infiltrate Russia almost immediately after what the history books say was the end of the Cold War. Massive forests provide great cover, but Snake is dropped with a limited amount of equipment and an even smaller amount of food. He must not only avoid contact with the enemy, but also kill to eat and survive.
Everything starts off right thanks to a beautiful introduction, voiced by a fabulous James Bond-ish theme song that fits right into the game. Even the title screen is perfect. This roughly 15-20 hour (some people have reported a nearly 30-hour play time) adventure not only sucks players into a flawlessly rendered forest, but inside various enemy compounds where stealth is at an utmost importance.
Enemy AI remains strong, though “MGS” veterans should play this on nothing less than normal. A new feature, camouflage, gives Snake the upper hand in most situations. Though the menu system is a bit clunky (you need to pause every time), changing camo is almost as important as staying out of sight. With the proper clothing and face paint, you can be free to take out enemies completely unnoticed.
If caught, it’s not just health you need to worry about. Stamina now plays a role and eating is the only way to get it back. The only way to eat is to give PETA members a heart attack: killing and eating wildlife. There are some rations strewn about the compound, but most of your daily meals will be of the raw variety. Be careful however. The food will become rotten if not eaten for a long time.
Should Snake become sick, players need to cure whatever ails him. The same goes for any injuries he may sustain. A new cure system is in place, one that requires players to use various medial items contained in Snake’s backpack. A bullet not only has to be extracted (usually using a field knife), but disinfected and bandaged as well.
Core gameplay generally remains the same. Sneaking is still the preferred mode of travel and taking things slow is the only way to succeed. Crawling can occasionally prove frustrating since Snake gets caught up on walls and other objects. Moving around to free him usually alerts a guard. Controls are otherwise precise and accurate. Removed almost entirely from the game is any sort of radar. Players have a few secondary devices that can track various enemy movements, but their power is limited by batteries and cannot be used extensively.
All of this climaxes in what is easily the most thrilling final two hours on the Playstation 2. Gone is the overly convoluted and diluted story from “MGS 2.” In its place comes a much more cohesive and deep storyline, arguably more involving than any Tom Clancy novel. Everything is fleshed out during outstanding cinemas, all perfectly directed by the team at Konami. One of the final moments, a clever chase sequence, is the closest we’ve ever come to a truly interactive movie.
Though the weakest of the three consoles, the Playstation 2 is blasted past its limits graphically in “MGS 3″ to catch up with the competition. Each tree is meticulously rendered down to each leaf while the character models actually put on a performance. Reading their faces is no problem. The most visually intensive and impressive scene happens late in the game, during a fight in a field of flowers. From a technical standpoint, this is easily the most graphically amazing sequence this generation has yet to offer.
Though bits and pieces of the classic “Metal Gear” music has been kept, almost the entire soundtrack is brand new. The “Snake Eater” theme mentioned earlier is great, setting the tone and mood the game is going for. It even kicks in during a few cinematics. Voice acting is once again perfect and the use of Dolby Pro-Logic II is the best yet. It can actually help you through the game.
When the final credits roll, “Metal Gear Solid 3″ ends up being one of the unforgettable video game experiences of your life. Not only does it break some new ground, it tells a great story while keeping the player completely captivated. Even without the epic qualities that this series usually brings to the table, the surprisingly open-ended gameplay is enough to carry this title to classic status. This is, almost without a doubt, the best game for the Playstation 2 to date.