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Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

The success of the Metal Gear Solid franchise on the PS2 is unparallel in the genre of third-person action ’stealth’ games.  Aside from Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell series, nothing even comes close to providing the kind of immersive stories, richly detailed environments, and pulse-pounding action.  So naturally with the third installment of the franchise, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, many fans are curiously waiting to see what Konami has in store.

If you don’t already know, MSG 3 is not in the same vein as the previous two games.  Gone are the modern military complexes, oilrigs, and transport ships.  You better get ready to Run Through the Jungle, cause it will eat you alive if you’re not careful. 

MSG 3: Snake Eater is set decades before the first two MSG games.  It is a prequel of sorts.  Your character this time around is ’Naked Snake’, and he doesn’t have the same kinds of abilities as ’Solid Snake’ in the later series.  The biggest difference here is the gameplay. It’s almost entirely set in an outdoor jungle environment filled with trees, foliage, and brush.  In addition to many dangerous wild animals that inhabit the jungle, there’s your regular sprinkling of patrols and other human baddies.  One new feature given to Snake is the ability to climb trees.  You can work your way along the treetops and then jump down on unsuspecting opponents.  Or you can just hang off a branch and enjoy the jungle scenery.

There is an entirely new emphasis on maintaining your stamina through eating.  You’ll have to actively hunt animals in order to provide nourishment for Snake throughout the game.  Luckily this facet of the gameplay isn’t overbearing in any way.  In fact, it’s quite funny to sneak around knocking out frogs and crocodiles only to eat them later on.  You won’t have to do it too often, but you’ll know it’s on the agenda when you notice your stamina bar dropping.

The fighting arrangement has also been significantly changed.  A new close quarters combat system allows players to engage enemies up close and in short order.  You can choose between doing a quick throw-down knockout or a neck-hold that will paralyze your opponent and use him as a human shield.  Unfortunately, early playtests have revealed that it’s not so easy to sneak up on people and activate close quarters combat.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see if the release version makes it easier to do this.

A new damage model adds another layer of micromanagement that you may or may not like.  With each sustained ’hit’, you may receive a conditional wound that will affect your stats and maximum life.  Depending on where the bullet hits, for instance, you might not actually get a full-fledged bullet wound.  Now, you can either let the wounds heal themselves or you can do a bit of first-aid to speed things up.  Interestingly enough, first aid might involve using your knife to pry a bullet out, suturing it with a kit, disinfecting the wound, and then bandaging it.  Depending on your patience levels, this could either be the cool immersive feature you were looking for or a mere annoyance!

Of course, that’s also the gist of the entire game as a whole.  If you’re a fan of the previous MSG games, then MSG 3: Snake Eater could either be the fresh new adventure you were hoping to play, or it could be a terrible turn for the worse.  Perhaps you should rent it first to give it a shot before you plop down the big bucks for the game.