Some days you feast on a tree frog...
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the game that changed everything for me. Its incredibly deep storyline, unexpected humour and survivalist stealth-action gameplay is the pinnacle of true happiness and my favourite instalment in the Metal Gear series so far. And yet, even though I’ve completed it countless times, I still get the urge to play it again and again.
But what makes this version of Metal Gear Solid so special? The beauty of MGS3 lies in the gradual character development of Big Boss and how it delves into the backstory of the previous games: the original Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty.
Anyone who knows Hideo Kojima understands his many inspirations from film and these are reflected deeply within his games. It’s easy for people to criticise the length of his cutscenes as overindulgent, but the fact is no one tells a story quite like Kojima. Not a single cutscene feels out of place; Snake Eater is more than a video game – it’s a unique piece of cinematic storytelling which lets you play out the role of its main lead.
The game takes place during the Cold War in 1964, 41 years before the first game takes place. You’re playing as ‘Naked Snake’, a CIA operative who will eventually become the legendary soldier ‘Big Boss’ having his ideologies forever altered because of the actions of world leaders and using soliders as mere pawns in their battle for power.
The Virtuous Mission begins deep in the depths of the thick jungles of the USSR. Your mission is simple: rescue a defecting Soviet scientist named Sokolov, who happens to be developing a nuclear equipped mega tank called the Shagohod. A twist in the plot occurs when Snake’s teacher and mentor ‘The Boss,’ renowned as the mother of the U.S. Special Forces, decides to defect to the Russians to help Volgin, a power hungry, warmonger Soviet Colonel who is hell bent on destroying the world.
Along the way you’ll be treated to romance, betrayal, revenge, lust for power and many more underlying themes.
Stealthy, Stealthy Snake
Alone in the deep jungle labyrinths of the USSR where the environment can literally kill you – especially those damn crocodiles – you had to adapt Snake’s surroundings and survive by blending in with your environment; this is a sneaking mission after all. Never in a video game did I feel so helpless and so grateful to have a backup team guiding me through each mission.
Building upon the gameplay from previous titles, Snake Eater saw the full debut of CQC combat, which allowed you to dispatch guards with ninja like abilities and hold them up at gunpoint for a good old shake down.
You also had the addition of camouflage. Snake could change his outfit to better suit his environment, and provide a tactical edge over his enemies. Each outfit gave a different reading on the camo index to show you how well hidden you were (or not!) to the enemy troops, and there were a number of different and unique camouflage combinations to collect throughout the game.
I fondly remember my two hour standoff with ‘The End’, a veteran geriatric sniper, whom you need to defeat using non-lethal means to obtain the Moss camo. This camo gave you 95% coverage in tall grass making you near invisible to enemy troops. Having to change outfits to suit your environment made you vulnerable at times and it forced you to re-think your approach for different locations and environments.
Nothing compares to the final battle; a simply beautiful stand-off between Snake and The Boss…
Throughout my intense stand-off with The End, I initially felt pinned down and unable to escape his line of sight. But after hours of trial and error, I managed to sneak up on him and, after holding him up and whispering the word ‘Freeze’ into his frail old ear, I felt an incredible amount of stealthy accomplishment.
This wasn’t the only moment when beating the enemy at their own game saved the day. Donning the Raikov mask, where you infiltrate a Soviet base as a Major in disguise was a particular highlight, partly because the mask is identical to the character Raiden, who to this day has an infamous love/hate relationship with Metal Gear fans from the previous game Sons of Liberty. This was Hideo Kojima basically giving those fans what they wanted, and for fans like me it was great to be part of the in-house humor, not to mention Kojima’s admirable ability to be tongue in cheek with his own divisive characters.
You Ejected the First Bullet by Hand, Didn’t You?
The End was great but there were many other interesting boss battles to face as you battled through the ranks of the Cobra Unit, an elite fighting force put together by The Boss. The Pain and The Fear were two other notable highlights, but nothing compares to the final battle; a simply beautiful stand-off between Snake and The Boss – I even shed a small tear near the end as the game takes you through a rather emotional epilogue.
I could also reminisce for hours about my love for Ocelot and his duels with Snake throughout the game; the gunplay and bravado between the two is simply captivating and he’s another character that shines throughout the game as his story unfolds alongside Snake’s.
Patch Yourself Up
What would a survival game be without self-medication? A poor one, that’s what. In MGS3, you had to use your supplies wisely to heal Snake should he receive a cut, broken bone or gunshot wound. This made Snake feel much more human and even though he’s a complete badass, you cared that he was fit for battle, as did the supporting members of the mission team.
The many interesting radio moments with Para-Medic describing what you had just caught were entertaining and often educational…
Another important aspect of Snake Eater was your need to keep your stamina bar fully replenished by eating food scavenged from the local fauna and flora. The many interesting radio moments with Para-Medic describing what you had just caught were entertaining and often educational. Learning in video games has never been this much fun, actually. These radio conversations have since spawned the ‘Crab Battle’ meme with Snake vs. The Kenyan Mangrove Crab. Big Boss wasn’t just a legendary soldier, he was video games’ Bear Grylls, and the survival element made the game even more enjoyable.
Let’s Get Froggy
Oh those frogs, those damn Kerotan frogs. Gotta shoot em’ all! You had to find and locate 64 little plastic frogs that were hidden in each level throughout the game. By shooting all of them you unlocked the Stealth camo.
On my 4th playthrough on the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection I finally managed to get them all! It was quite the achievement – you try hitting a frog from a few hundred yards away whilst moving on a motorbike with a Sniper rifle!
Give Your Life To Snake
Last, but by no means least, is the game’s wonderful soundtrack. When I first heard Cynthia Harrell’s vocals it literally gave me chills down my spine. Not only is it better than every James Bond theme ever written, it really made the overall game feel more like a grandiose spy movie. All the tracks in the game added to the overall atmosphere, and I particularly loved the alert music; it’s so tense and dramatic.
There are so many unforgettable moments in Snake Eater that it sits comfortably as one of the best espionage action stories ever told. Do yourself a favour and feast on a tree frog today.