Reviewed: April 28, 2006
Released: March 14, 2006
As much as I go on about Sam Fisher, when it comes to truly identifying with a video game character it would have to be Solid Snake, especially after last yearís adventure in Snake Eater. I got my first taste of ďSnakeĒ in Sons of Liberty back in 2001, which immediately prompted me to rush out and find a used copy of Metal Gear Solid.
The Metal Gear games keep getting better and better but they have been lacking in one key element, and anyone who knows my affinity for Rainbow Six titles can probably guess, that element is multiplayer. Hideo Kojima must have been reading my mind. His latest masterpiece, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence not only includes a flawlessly executed multiplayer component, it also enhances the story and gameplay of last yearís Snake Eater game as well as bringing a few previous Snake adventures to US shores for the first time ever.
Subsistence comes in two versions, the normal two-disc game and a Limited Edition that features a third disc with a 200+ minute Snake Eater movie. My review copy was the two-disc version so I cannot comment on the movie at this time. The first disc comes with a ďdirectorís cutĒ of the Snake Eater game, telling the complete story. There is also a Demo Theater that allows you to watch all of Snake Eaterís cutscenes outside the normal gameplay.
Disc two, labeled Persistence, is packed with bonus contest that will keep Snake fans glued to their PS2 for months to come. We start off with the Duel Mode that allows you to relive all of the boss fights from the main game in either Normal mode (as seen in the game) or a Special mode that imposes certain rules or limitations on the battles.
Snake vs. Monkey is the unlikely, yet humorous pairing of the Metal Gear and Ape Escape franchises. The end result is a bit odd but enjoyable, at least when you are ready for something without an edge. For those looking to take a trip into Snakeís origins, the full versions of the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 are included on this disc, so now you can play all of Snakeís adventures that lead up to his PlayStation debut in Metal Gear Solid.
This is the first time these games have been available in North America and these MSX original feature all-new English translations and (from what Iím told) perfect visual recreations on the PS2. Sure, the 2D graphics look dated, but weíre talking about a game that debuted in 1987 with the follow-up sequel in 1990.
But the best is yet to come. The second disc also provides your connection to the online world of Solid Snake with Metal Gear Online. Online modes like Death Match, Team Death Match, Sneaking Mission, Capture Mission, and Rescue Mission are all flawlessly executed with classic gameplay elements, stealth, close-quarters combat, and headset support for voice chat and teamwork.
Special guest characters like Ocelot and Major Raikov and unique weapons make these online modes even more exciting. Youíll want to look for a few characters that make the leap from other Konami franchises like the sexy Reiko from Rumble Roses.
There is so much content that I havenít even gotten around to the actual gameplay. Rather than rehash what GCM has already provided in the original Snake Eater review, Iíll stick with whatís new or changed. The first thing youíre likely to notice is the six difficulty modes that are available from the onset including the European Extreme mode that basically ends the game if you are spotted by a guard. This is too much, even for me, but itís there for those who are truly hardcore.
For those of you who made it halfway through Snake Eater and want to finish up on Subsistence Ė sorry. Youíll need to play the entire adventure over again since your save games are not recognized by this new version. But thatís not entirely bad news since you will most likely want to replay the game anyway using the fantastic new 3D camera mode. Previously, the game was played from fixed camera positions, despite the game world being rendered in 3D.
Now you have a fully controllable 3D camera than you can tilt, pan, and zoom around basically giving Metal Gear an entirely new look and feel. And if for some reason you donít like it, a quick button press will get you back to the classic camera mode. For me, this new camera is what really sells the Subsistence package. This was the way Metal Gear was meant to be played.
Hardcore Snake fans will be delighted with all of the bonus content that is available right from the beginning of the game. Some of the material like facial camouflage and more than 20 new uniforms are more window dressing than gameplay features, but itís fun to play around with nonetheless. And if you look hard enough you might find some moments in the game that will benefit from these new features.
The face paint and clothing is probably best explored in the Demo Theater, which not only allows you to watch all of the cutscenes from the movie, but actually allows you to change the appearance of Snake in those scenes. Obviously, these arenít pre-rendered. Youíll also want to check out the Secret Theater that hold a few surprising movies and humorous clips as well as the E3 trailer for MGS4.
While Snake Eater gives you true next-gen gaming with all-new camera angles, the second disc takes you on a retro journey into Solid Snakes past in his first two adventures. Itís a stark contrast going from PS2 quality to 8-bit gaming almost 20 years old, but the proof is in the gameplay. I dabbled with these two games just to get a feel for what it might have been like if I had been playing games in the late 80ís, but Iíll stick with 21st century gaming, thank you.
Snake vs. Monkey is another mode that I dabbled with but just didnít seem to fit with the spirit of Solid Snake. Perhaps Iím just too ďseriousĒ or maybe you have to have played Ape Escape to enjoy the premise. Iím sure there are plenty of people out there who will enjoy this diversionary mode.
One mode I did enjoy was the Duel Mode that puts you up against the bosses from Snake Eater in a competitive mode that scores you based on time and the amount of ammo it takes to finish off a boss. This is not only a great way to practice the various boss fights, but itís a great way to relive some of the best moments of the game without trudging through the story all over again.
Even before finishing the revised Snake Eater portion of the game I had to check out the online modes that support up to eight players using the Snake Eater engine. All of the popular multiplayer modes are available and they are set in 12 maps redressed from the main game and tweaked for multiplayer tactics. The sneaking and capture missions offer the most challenging aspects of gameplay.
Sneaking challenges one player to infiltrate enemy territory and recover some microfilm. The player can use a special cloak to sneak past guards but once you equip a weapon or take possession of the microfilm the cloak is useless. This is definitely a challenge.
For those who like a team challenge the Capture missions will have teams trying to steal a frog statue and return it to their base where they must hold it for a certain duration. Itís basically CTF with a small twist. There is even a Rescue mission where one team must protect an idol while the other team tries to steal it and return it to their base in the shortest time.
These multiplayer modes along with a great tracking system for stats, buddy lists, and voice chat throughout make Subsistence one of the better PS2 multiplayer games out there. Itís certainly a fresh outlook on the Solid Snake franchise, and one that is long overdue.
Snake Eater was nearly perfect in its gritty portrayal of outdoor survival and tactical warfare. Subsistence only improves upon that presentation with a new 3D camera that gives you the freedom to view the world around you in a whole new light. This new camera will allow you to appreciate all of the subtle details, textures, and animations that have always been there but simply unseen due to the previous static camera.
The cutscenes are amazing in quality, especially when you realize they are being generated in real-time using the game engine. You can really appreciate them in the Demo Theater mode. Make sure to check out the realistic facial expressions and detailed animations.
The environments are meticulously detailed down to the last branch, vine, and blade of grass. You really get the feeling that you are sneaking through a lush jungle. There are more moments of sheer wonder that will have you saying ďwowĒ than I can count. There is also a full array of special visual effects including lighting and some realistic alternate vision modes. The thermal vision is probably the most realistic of any game to date.
Snake Eater opens with a contemporary theme song that sound a bit like James Bond. That theme is revisited over the course of the game but most of the time youíll only be hearing the subtle sounds of natures soundtrack until some scripted moment cues up a music track.
There is a great Dolby surround mix that recreates a rich jungle experience. Youíll hear all sorts of wildlife and environmental noises plus various levels of your own noise as you walk, run, or crawl through the foliage.
The voice-acting talent in Metal Gear Solid 3 is superb. David Hayter returns as the gruff-voiced Snake, infusing the game with a mix of seriousness and dry humor. Supporting characters also do an excellent job of portraying emotion in the game, without being too melodramatic or cheesy.
I wonít comment too much on the sound of the two retro games. Iím sure they are both realistic to their source material but it would be unfair to score or compare them to the wonderful audio presentation of the main game.
Iím sure people who already purchased Snake Eater will be complaining that Konami is trying to milk them for another $30 (or $40 if you want the Limited Edition), but truth be told, this is the game that Snake Eater should have been. Even without the two retro games, just having the new camera system and the online game modes makes this game worth every last cent.
But if having the remastered Snake Eater isnít enough, Subsistence also comes with two theaters, two retro games, a boss fight mode, online gameplay, and you can even jack this game into your PSP and a copy of Metal Gear Acid 2 and share content between those two games. The sheer wealth of content in this package is unparalleled in the PS2 library.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence is survival gaming at its very best. This new take on what is arguably one of the best games of 2004 is a rare treat. The new camera basically makes Snake Eater a whole new experience, and for those looking to explore Snakeís 8-bit history, youíll lose yourself for days in the original two Metal Gear games as they make their North American debut.
There is just so much to see and do, and the online modes will keep you coming back for months of exciting and challenging multiplayer matches. You really canít ask for anything moreÖexcept maybe for an Xbox version.