To me, the first Metal Gear Solid, while a bit too short, was a near flawless blend of great story and gameplay. That same solid gameplay was present for Metal Gear Solid 2, but was spoiled by a horrendous story, terrible pacing, and a character I wanted to punch in the face. Well, in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2), Snake is back and the story is better, but the pacing is even worse, and now the gameplay is busted, too. Thanks, Konami!
WHEN DEVELOPERS STOP BEING POLITE…AND START GETTING REAL
The most noticeable change in Snake Eater over previous titles is that it no longer has the “radar” that would show you the position of nearby sentries relative to yourself. While this might make for a more realistic and challenging experience, it ultimately doesn’t work because the overhead camera is not very conducive to sneaking. No matter how stealthy you are, it is hard to avoid enemies you aren’t aware of, and the camera angle is far too limited to show you where they are. You can switch to a first person view, but aren’t allowed to do anything in this view except aim your weapons. There are various gadgets to help you detect enemies such as a directional mic and a motion detector, but they have limited uses and severe limitations, making them only slightly useful.
There are still ways to succeed at this game, but they aren’t much fun. Not being seen generally requires a few moments of surveillance with the binoculars, and then slowly crawling to a safe hiding spot, where you will do more of the same. The new camouflage system is effective, but only when you are hiding. There isn’t any camo in the world that’s going to hide you from a guard that you just walked into. Switching camos (which you have to do a lot) is inefficient, requiring you to go to the pause menu.
Cut-scenes and radio conversations are far too frequent and generally go on for way too long. For example, completing an early mission resulted in a short cut-scene, which was followed by a radio conversation, which was then followed by a very long scene in which we were introduced to Ocelot — all before I could play again. The whole thing took about 7 minutes and when it was over, I got to run across two deserted screens before I was treated to another 10 minutes of cut-scenes, a brief tutorial on healing wounds, and then the lengthy intro to the “real” game. It wasn’t long before I began skipping all of them. Look, I’m all for a few nice cinematics in a game, but if I wanted to watch a movie…well, my PS2 plays DVDs.
I was really hoping to see this franchise restored to its former glory, but instead, Konami has left us a big, stinking turd. And nothing leaves a bad taste in my mouth like a big, stinking turd.