Genre: Action-Adventure, Stealth
Year: 2004
Developed by: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan
Published by: Konami
Platforms: PS2
Feeling Like: Ouroboros

My first reaction to preparing for this entry is appreciation for the incredible the box art. Metal Gear Solids are a feast of visuals, set-pieces and magic realism. I often felt confused playing Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but that’s totally normal. Am I supposed to take this entirely seriously? Hideo Kojima doesn’t actually think that’s what people talk like, does he?

Irrelevant. One glance at the box art and I’m welcomed with nothing but positive, enjoyable thoughts about how sly, sleek and silly the experience was. Kojima, with his usual brilliant stamp on video game lore, is ever present here; deadpan exposition about the cold war is then followed by ghosts of dead soldiers and an electricity-controlling Russian trying to overthrow his own government. Huh.

Snake Eater is the most focused of the series. Everything from the political climate, to the color palette, to the characters, to the Vietnam feel mesh extremely well. While the locations may not vary much, that was never a priority for the franchise. Confrontations are tense, camera angles are dynamic and there’s enough shadows and green to satiate any appetite wanting to role play as a CIA agent/ninja wanting to engulf themselves in a Cold War fantasy anime. It may be bonkers, but it’s the right kind of bonkers.

I can’t do the entire game justice, as the minutia of the stealth mechanics and plot are lost on me. However, there are three moments that should be unforgettable to those who have played through the entirety of Naked Snake’s journey.

First up, the sniper battle with an old man and a parrot.

Well of course! In Metal Gear Solid, you’ll find people with supposed superpowers in all shapes, sexes and forms. “The End” is an old man, who is credited with inventing modern sniping. Sure. I’ll buy it. The fight is tense, and true to form, incredibly unique.

It’s not as easy as trying to just shoot him. He’ll almost certainly snipe you first, so you really have to pay attention to your surroundings and use the landscape to your advantage. Beyond that, the game really goes down a rabbit hole – you can kill The End instantly if you manage to get a perfect shot off prior to the fight even commencing. If you wait a week in between playthroughs, The End will die of old age. An enemy will DIE OF OLD AGE in a video game. I’ve got to give Kojima credit – I’ll never forget that, nor will I likely see any other game take advantage of a time mechanic in this manner (though Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean had their own fresh take on this). Even if you lose the fight, The End won’t kill you. Naked Snake will end up in a jail as The End will only tranquilize you. Because of all these fresh takes on a tired trope, The End becomes highlight in a lifetime of video game experiences. Ask anybody about Metal Gear Solid 3 and they’ll inevitably mention this battle.

Moment number 2 – Naked Snake climbs a ladder.

This sounds inane. And dull. Climbing a ladder?

It’s one of those “you had to be there” kind of sections, but trust me; this will also come up in any discussion about the game and launches Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater above other stealth genre titles. If you didn’t feel like you were in a Japanese Bond movie before, you will after you reach the top. As you ascend the impossibly long ladder, a song begins. Not just any song.

This song.

It’s melodramatic, unnecessary, over the top and absolutely fantastic. It’s one of those times where you begrudgingly admit that Kojima knows what he’s doing. It makes the progression through a vertical hallway fascinating. You don’t mind that it takes forever. You don’t mind that it’s not really essential to the game. It works because the franchise often takes risks like this and succeeds. Most games won’t even try something akin, but a Metal Gear Solid always will. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, you get a song that could easily be at home in any James Bond movie’s intro or end credits. It’s one of the all-time greats that belongs in any museum that houses video game auditory magnificence.

The pièce de résistance is the ending, and it’s a doozy. It epitomizes what’s great about video games; by giving players control, it heightens their emotional connection. Games are at a disadvantage in that, because of this control, creators can’t entirely define a story’s pacing. Writing is, with a few exceptions, poor compared to novels, television, plays or movies. But, in the rare instance when a developer can tie gameplay to the story, it’s absolute sorcery. I won’t go into too much spoiler territory here, but the final cutscene with “The Boss”, Naked Snake’s former mentor (pictured above) is superb. It’s tragic, it’s unexpected and the game doesn’t pull any punches. Shooting a gun, all of a sudden, feels like a big ask.

This is one of those times when I am nearing completion of an entry and my immediate thought is “uh….maybe this game should be higher on the 500?” Very few titles have three extremely memorable moments, or get me as excited discussing them. I think the game is dragged down by the moment to moment gameplay; it’s not appealing to me. I don’t like stealth, I didn’t like the convoluted way to maneuver through the jungle and the controls didn’t feel right.

Still, I’d like to focus on the good and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has the goods. It’s not quite my favorite Metal Gear game, but if you combined the story in this one with the gameplay of Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain, you’d have a near perfect stealth game, even for a guy like me.

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