Well the bad news about Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is evident in the release. Hideo Kojima is out of his goddamn mind. The good news? Hideo Kojima is out of his goddamn mind. Of course, anybody who has played the first two MGS games already knew this, so this comes as no surprise. Fans of the series will find everything they love about the previous game and more, while newcomers (where the hell have you been?) might just find a few things about the third installment that they will enjoy.
The demo opens with what is one of the best beginnings to a game that Iíve ever seen. Everything is so masterfully done; it makes one wonder if the rumored movie might work as a CGI animated film. Much has been said about the HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) jump from the trailers, and the scene does not disappoint.
Once the game begins you are made to sit through what is sure to be one of many lengthy conversations with your support team. Since the game takes place in the 60ís, there is no more Codec, and so all communications happen with a radio. You then are allowed to walk around a bit, and experiment with the various weapons and tools you are given for the demo only. The complete version of the game will only start you off with a knife until you retrieve your backpack that was lost in the HALO landing. I recommend playing through the demo with the basic equipment first, just to get an idea of what you are in for.
The mechanics of the game have changed slightly, with Snake being able to do a few things he couldnít before. The camouflage is the main change from the previous games, and it works extremely well in execution. From the game start you only are dressed in olive drabs, making you fairly well hidden in dark green areas. In the demo you are allowed to play with a few different patterns, from leaf to the barely useful brick pattern. There is a percentage in the top right hand side of the screen, telling you how well you are hidden. Different camo patterns raise or lower this index, depending on the area youíre in. Walking lowers this index, and running removes it completely. By crouching against trees or bushes, you also become harder to see, though the best method is to find the patches of tall grass and lie down. With the right camo, this can increase your index to 95%, making you all but invisible. In the demo you can stand up after a guard passes you and very quietly slit his throat without him ever knowing you were there.
Most of the demo revolves around the camo index, as the stealth aspect of the franchise has become even more integral to the game. Being discovered in the jungle means you cannot just run away from your enemies as easily. Enemy AI is much smarter too, as being discovered means quick death, if you decide to stick to the beginning weapons. If you want to cheat and use the machine guns, thatís your business.
The other major part of the game is the method by which you get rations. All around you animals slither, crawl and fly about, seemingly part of a static background. In fact, every animal from crocodile to bird can be shot and turned into storable food. When you kill an animal, it turns into rations; the number of portions depends on the size of the creature. When you want to use a ration to replenish your health, you now have to hit start and go to a separate screen to use them. Even if you have rations, you can now die, at least as far as the demo goes. No more magical crackers for you.
The graphics are simply amazing, easily surpassing what the PS2 usually provides. Grass blades move independently, bloodstains clothing, and cloth folds are all distinguishable. You pay for these improved graphics with slightly longer load times between areas, but not enough that the game is interrupted. The jungle is not as open as I had hoped, with just a few variations of pathways that you can take. It really is just a grass-covered corridor, but with enough atmospheres that most gamers wonít even care.
Now, the bad part is, if the demo is to believed, Snake Eater is going to be full of the same self-important dialogue that plagued the second game. In fact, half the demo time was taken up by so much heavy-handed rhetoric that my desire to pay $50 for this game has gone down slightly. Not that the game isnít full of the same charm and humor that made the first two so much fun, but Iím really not interested in sitting around watching one persons insane thoughts on nuclear war. Mr. Kojima might want to seriously consider making a movie soon, because any film with this much nonsense in it will eat up the Oscars like Michael Moore at a BBQ.
Long story short, if you are a fan of the previous games, the demo is a perfect way to tide you over to the final release of MGS3. If you are wary about purchasing another video thesis disguised as a game, then you might want to try out the demo anyways. Either way, for ten dollars you can pick it up in the latest issue of Playstation Magazine.
M. Shawn Darnell
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