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Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D

Metal Gear

Betrayal. That’s what this mission is all about. The Boss, the greatest soldier of her time, defected from the United States in 1964. She allied with a Russian colonel in a bid to seize power from the existing government, branding herself as a traitor and war criminal. Thanks to her, the USSR has finally developed the technology to nuke their Western rivals into oblivion. As The Boss’s protege, Snake has been ordered to infiltrate the jungles of the Soviet Union and assassinate her. He’ll have to destroy the enemy’s new weapons program along the way; should he fail, the Cold War – and civilization – will end in a nuclear winter. With only days to spare, Snake must somehow bring himself to kill his mentor and save the world.

If you’ve played any of the previous versions of Metal Gear Solid 3, this should sound familiar. Snake’s growth from a soldier to a hero is one of the best stories in gaming, and Snake Eater 3D retains every last moment of it. The themes of loyalty, trust, and duty intertwine amongst the main characters, creating a surprisingly deep and philosophical tale. It examines the entire spectrum of those concepts, such as Volgin’s paranoia and sadism, EVA and Ocelot’s ambiguous scheming, and The Boss’s true motives. Everything builds up to an epic and poignant ending, the likes of which the Metal Gear series has yet to accomplish again. It’s not always serious, of course; Snake’s wacky support team, the funny radio conversations, and weird boss battles are still hilariously awesome. Few games have stories this entertaining, and nothing else on the 3DS comes close.

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Rather than going in heavily armed, Snake begins his quest with only a hunting knife and some camouflage. If he searches thoroughly, he’ll gradually build up an arsenal of pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, explosives, and a few other handy tools. That doesn’t mean he should charge in guns blazing; while it’s possible to do so, he’ll quickly be slaughtered by the countless guards that roam the area. Instead, he should focus on what his mission is all about: stealth. Snake can crawl along the jungle floor, ducking behind trees or into patches of grass to remain unseen. When he’s indoors, he can press up against walls, hide in lockers, and peek around corners. Changing camouflage allows him to further blend in with the surroundings. The newly-implemented crouch-walking mechanics are a godsend; unlike his predecessors, Snake can walk around while crouching, vastly improving the pacing of his infiltration while keeping him partially hidden. If he gets close enough to an enemy undetected,they can be knocked out, interrogated for information, or killed outright. The updated CQC controls make the process much easier than before; rather than inputting pressure-sensitive commands, you choose which tactic you want by following onscreen prompts. If Snake isn’t careful, the guards will spot him – the AI is pretty observant on the higher difficulty settings – and call in for backup as they sound the alarms.

Regardless of his approach, Snake still has limits. Every action he performs takes away a bit of his stamina. If he gets too exhausted, he won’t be able to move as quickly, aim accurately, or see things as well as he normally can. To keep from keeling over, he has to constantly hunt for food. A closer look into the screen reveals that nearly every area is host to some kind of animal or plant. Most of them have restorative properties, and the poisonous ones can be captured and unleashed upon unsuspecting foes. If you carry food around too long, it’ll spoil and end up hurting Snake even more. His health needs to be maintained as well. Gashes, burns, broken bones, and gunshot wounds all need to be treated immediately. If you’re not paying attention, he could die from anything from blood loss to bee stings. Food, medicine, and everything else involving equipment is handled via touch screen menus. While series veterans may have trouble adjusting, the new layout is remarkably streamlined; there are icon shortcuts for each function, and it only takes a few commands to organize items. Snake Eater 3D is one of the few games that utilizes the 3DS’s touch screen in a logical and effective way.

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That goes for the system’s camera as well. Any pictures taken can be converted into another set of camouflage; doing so grants Snake greater versatility than what his in-game outfits can offer. It provides a great example of how to use the 3DS’s functionality. The same can’t be said for the controls, though. The game retains the fully adjustable camera from Subsistence, but the commands are mapped to the four face buttons. Looking in a specific direction requires you to press two buttons at once, resulting in some awkward angles and missed shots. They’re nowhere near as responsive or accurate as the PS2’s analogs; while the 3DS’s stick provides superb aiming, you’ll occasionally struggle with the camera to keep up with the action. It doesn’t make the game unplayable – some practicing and changing a few options go a long way – it makes things needlessly tedious. The 3DS’s motion sensors are poorly utilized as well; rather than allowing for first-person aiming and immersion similar to Mario Kart 7 or Face Raiders, motion sensing is delegated to seldom-used tree climbing and revolver-twirling mechanics. Such a tacked-on concept is one of Snake Eater 3D’s few blatant oversights.

The lack of additional content also drags it down. Snake Eater 3D is an absolutely massive handheld game; the lengthy cut scenes, the voice acting, and the sheer amount of strategies and enemy reactions make for an impressive experience. As a remake of the original Metal Gear Solid 3, however, it lacks a lot of features from the other versions. There’s no Duel Mode, mini-games, online multiplayer, a replay theater, or any of the other extras that fans might look forward to. This is a missed opportunity for some 3DS-exclusive features. Instead, the replayability focuses on unlocking powerful weapons, collecting special camouflages, earning specific rankings depending on your performance, and uncovering the numerous Easter eggs and secrets sprinkled throughout the mission. It might take you multiple playthroughs and dozens of hours to see everything, but a few extras would have been nice.

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That doesn’t mean the game itself is bland. Far from it. The original Metal Gear Solid 3 demonstrated what the PS2 was capable of, and Snake Eater 3D does the same for the 3DS. Every area is absolutely dripping with detail; you can see the grass move as things crawl through it, hear the sloshing of nearby streams or the call of an unseen bird, and notice the rich variety of colors and textures of the jungle and buildings. One of the highest points in the mission involves you hunting down a well-hidden opponent, slowly crawling through the underbrush, looking for tracks and listening for his breath amidst the ambient noise. Each cutscene, from Snake’s introduction to the stunning ending, is just as beautifully animated and portrayed as before. The only drawback is the occasional frame rate slowdown when there’s a lot of activity onscreen; some battles and guard confrontations slow to a crawl at certain points. It’s nothing drastic, but it’s noticeable.

Snake Eater 3D is an amazing game. It retains all of the content and charm of its predecessor, and adds a few touches as well. Snake’s story is told in all of its emotional and epic style, providing one of the most memorable ensemble casts in recent memory. The stealth-based gameplay is still solid; the thrill of quietly sneaking up on unsuspecting guards never goes away. The revamped CQC and crouch-walking controls are an excellent improvement. The touch screen menus and photo-based camouflage make great use of the 3D’s functionality. It’s not perfect, though. The camera controls are terrible; navigating the mission is a frequently annoying experience. The lack of other additional features and gameplay modes doesn’t help, either. Despite its shortcomings, Snake Eater 3D is well worth playing. One of the best games ever made is back, and now it’s in the palm of your hand.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

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