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Retro Review: ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Substistence’ For Playstation 2

Ok, you may be asking yourself, “Why review a game that came out four years ago on a last-gen system?” Well, there are two reasons. First of all, like the summer movie season, the summer game season has been pretty lackluster. Second, and more importantly, Metal Gear Solid 3:Subsistence (“MGS3:S”) is the first chapter in one of the most compelling video game series ever made. If you are looking for a game that combines superior gameplay with a story and experience that surpasses most movies, then it?s time to dust off your PS2. MGS3:S is the third game in the MGS series, but it?s actually the first chapter in the Metal Gear timeline. MGS3:S is essentially the “ultimate edition” of 2004?s Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

The game, set during the Cold War in the 1960s, opens with the protagonist, Snake, parachuting into the wilderness of the Soviet Union. Snake, a U.S. soldier, is tasked with rescuing a scientist from the Soviets before he can finish a nuclear weapon that could turn the tide in the Soviets? favor. I?m purposefully being vague in the details because the less said, the better. You really need to experience the story for yourself. If you?re dying for spoilers, check out some of the plot summaries available at www.gamefaqs.com. If you want background info, read a book on the Cuban Missile Crisis, which forms the political backdrop of the game.

After the opening briefing and cutscene, gameplay begins and you are introduced to the the basics of survival in the jungle. Survival is the theme of the game. Snake must hunt for food in order to maintain his stamina. There is a variety of flora and fauna that can be captured and consumed, from mushrooms to pythons. Snake must also keep an  eye out for enemy soldiers. As in all Metal Gear games, Snake is encouraged to use stealth to eliminate and/or sneak past enemies. If Snake is spotted, enemy soldiers willattack and radio for backup and Snake will either have to take out the enemies or take cover until the alert passes. Fortunately, Snake has a variety of camouflage patterns handy and acquires more as he progresses into enemy territory. Some will help him avoid detection by mimicking various environments and some are just goofy (i.e.,American Flag face paint, Stinky Fly camo).

Snake?s not helpless, though. Though Snake starts with little more than a tranquilizer gun and a combat knife, he will acquire a number of weapons and gadgets as he progresses (also a staple of the Metal Gear series). After a relatively brief introductory sequence to get you acclimated to the gameplay, Snake becomes injured and you are introduced to the second aspect of the survival mechanic – first aid. Snake will frequently have to treat injuries like gunshot wounds and cuts and treat illnesses like poisoning.

The gameplay is very good, with a few minor issues. As I said before, stealth is a staple of the Metal Gear series. MGS3:S is no exception. You are not limited to stealth, however. You can simply run and gun, although this becomes much more difficult to do on the higher difficulty levels. If the stealth/sneaking aspect turns you off, then you probably aren?t going to fully enjoy the Metal Gear games anyway. MGS3:S, more so than other Metal Gear games, tends to get a bit clunky when you try to run and gun. It?s difficult to see precisely where you?re aiming, despite the manual camera that was sorely missed in “Snake Eater.” It?s simple enough to enter the first-person mode and fire away, but it?s not particularly helpful when you?re fighting waves of enemies. It works well enough on the easy modes, but on the higher difficulty levels, you won?t survive very long trying to simply mow down your opposition. Even if you have a quick trigger finger, running and gunning tends to make the gameplay feel all-too-brief given the lengthy cutscenes. Rush through the game, and you will feel as if you are watching a movie that you periodically interact with. Sneaking and stalking your enemies is essential for getting maximum enjoyment from the game. Obviously, the longer you play the game, the more Snake needs to eat and the more you have to utilize the hunting and first aid mechanics, both of which are implemented very well. Just don?t keep dead food for too long; otherwise, it will spoil and Snake will get food poisoning. Stealth isn?t perfect, however. It can be hard to see exactly where your enemies are. In the 1960s, they didn?t have all the fancy technology that shows the location of your enemies and what direction they are facing, like in the other Metal Gear games. It definitely presents more of a challenge, which can be a good thing. I found the personnel sensor, which causes the controller to vibrate the closer you get to enemies, to be the most efficient means of locating enemies. If you pay attention to your environment, pan the camera around a little bit and don?t rush through each stage, you?ll do fine.

While I won?t spoil the story for you, it?s better than most anything you?ve seen at the movies lately. I will admit that it can be rather melodramatic and downright cheesy at times, but that?s the Metal Gear Solid series. It takes quite a while for the story to unfold and you really won?t understand everything until the final scene. It helps that the voice acting and music are both excellent, as they lend a bit of Hollywood credibility to the game. The theme song is reminiscent of the Connery-era Bond movies and just as cheesy (think “Goldfinger”), but that?s deliberate; MGS3:S owes much to the Connery Bond films with the espionage and political intrigue.

The graphics are as good as a last-gen game can be. They won?t blow you away because we have become conditioned to the high definition era of gaming, but they have held up well in the years since the game?s release.

If the stealth aspect appeals to you, then you need to go to your local Game Stop (or online at any number of used game retailers) and purchase Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. Given its age, I would be surprised if it costs more than $20. Even if the over-emphasis on stealth turns you off a little bit, the story, colorful characters and epic boss battles will suck you in. MGS3:S, like all other Metal Gear games, has several unique and memorable boss battles. Throw in the fact that the next two chapters in the Metal Gear saga (Metal Gear, which originally appeared on the Nintendo and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, never before available in the U.S.) are added as bonus features on the second disc, and you?ve got a great way to kill 20-plus hours in the air conditioning during the dog days of summer. — Pedro Moreno

Score: 4.5 Little Goombas (out of 5)