A disappointing aftertaste.
Historically, Solid Snake has successfully slithered onto the home consoles to much adoration and applaud. Incredible graphics, unique gameplay, a gripping plot; the answer to Metal Gear’s success seems obvious doesn’t it? But there was more to it than that; though we never quite realised it at the time. In fact, it’s only recently that we can truly suffice that when a Metal Gear Solid game abandons two certain features, a glaring problem arises. So what are these two critical features? Well, since the release of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater we’ve gradually discovered the obvious answer that has frequently alluded us. And the answer is: a television set and a controller.
You can label me a cynic, a dinosaur or perhaps even a harsher term (remember, I feel pain too), but there’s simply no equal when it comes to enjoying the full Metal Gear Solid experience then when played on a television screen with a dedicated controller. Without trying to state the blatantly obvious, television screens have always provided an ample viewpoint, something which can be the difference between a successful sneak or an alerted guard. The enlarged screen also provides near pixel-perfect-precision for aiming, something that, since Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty, has become more important due to the frequent boss battles.
Having a dedicated console controller greatly benefits the gameplay thanks to the grand selection of available buttons, each one essential to aiding the chances of a successful infiltration (well, not always, thanks to Metal Gear’s notoriously difficult control schemes). Heck, one could even argue that without the appropriate seating apparatus, perhaps your trusted couch which has conformed into the shape of your derriere after year’s of use, then it’s difficult to fully enjoy the on-screen action of Hideo’s wonderful creations. Let’s not forget, the Metal Gear Solid series uses the term “cutscene” loosely.
Personally, Metal Gear Solid is best enjoyed o the big screen with a controller in hand, your ass firmly planted on the couch, complemented by a selection of
snakes snacks and beverages. A place you can hunker down, enter the zone, and become one with nature.
Hideo And Seek
Now before you run screaming to the comments section in a fit of rage, let me explain why Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater comes close to bucking the trend, but predictably, suffers from the aforementioned problems. Problems which may seem fairly insignificant at first, but when in-game, severely hamper the experience.
Let’s start with the basics. For those of you who have been living under a cardboard box (see what I did there?), Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was originally released on the PlayStation 2 in 2004 to widespread acclaim. Many deemed Snake Eater to be Hideo’s greatest triumph due to the engrossing story, unrelenting longevity and incredible attention to detail throughout. However, at first, opinions were often divided. But why I hear you ask? Well, before the revamped Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Subsistence, players were forced to wrestle with a static, overhead camera. Yes, the thought of it now seems unthinkable but the Metal Gear Solid games used to provide a locked-viewpoint, fine for the more enclosed spaces of the previous Metal Gear games but practically broken for the open spaces of Snake Eater. Time after time you’d find yourself spotted by an off-screen guard or constricted by the game’s fixed viewpoint. Naturally, once Subsistence arrived with it’s all new moveable camera, even the naysayers embraced Kojima’s survivalist sim. So what of the Nintendo 3DS version? Well, 3DSowners will be happy to hear that Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater is the most complete version of the title to date with all the bells of whistles of the Subsistence packageincluding a couple of added extras. But is it the best version to date? Sadly, the answer is no.
Although Snake Eater 3D benefits from upgraded character models and is visually excellent, the resolution of the game is noticeably lower than 2004’s console version. The end result seriously damages the gameplay, confounded further by the smaller screen of the 3DS. Enemies already blended effectively into the background, however, now they’re masked by a veil of blur causing you to squint and saunter closer to the target than you ever wished to intend. And the consequence, as you can expect, is agonising frustration and a genuine feeling of foul play when you end up rousing a guard’s suspicions through no real fault of your own. You’ll often hear your enemy lurking in the distance as you attempt to determine their whereabouts, but usually, you’ll end up staring them straight in their alarm-ringing face before you truly had a chance to figure out where they were.
Snake Eater 3D follows the relatively successful format of the control scheme found in Peace Walker. The camera is controlled using the face buttons, movement is assigned to the circle pad and actions are performed on the d-pad and shoulder buttons.
The same can be said when it comes to viewing down your gun’s sight. At a particular point in the game, Snake can cheekily shoot down a bee-hive to remove an enemy. After the cutscene ended, it literally took me a good two minutes to figure out where the hell it was due to the fact I could barely see the blasted thing. Now, imagine trying to pick off the perfect headshot with this conundrum and you’ll soon come to realise the impact of the low resolution. It should be noted that the game is far from broken due to this aspect, it works admirably in fairness, though there’s no denying that diehard fans or newcomers may be put off by the decrease in visual fidelity. Nonetheless, prepare to re-learn what you knew with Snake Eater 3D as it requires even more patience than ever before.
The next sticking point is the controls. Snake Eater 3D follows the relatively successful format of the control scheme found in Peace Walker. The camera is controlled using the face buttons, movement is assigned to the circle pad and actions are performed on the d-pad and shoulder buttons. The default controls work fine, but it will definitely feel awkward and clumsy for some, especially when lining up a shot with the face buttons. Graciously, for those who yearn a more traditional control set-up, Nintendo’s behemoth “circle pad pro” comes to the rescue – well, sort of. Once you’ve asked the game to recognise the add-on – a painstaking and cumbersome process – the circle pad pro greatly improves the playability of Snake Eater 3D. Frustratingly, the aiming isn’t as tight as it should be. Accurate, delicate movements are difficult to pull off, with the aim often feeling jerky and erratic. When you’re enthralled in one of the many boss battles, don’t be surprised if you end up missing shots you previously would have made.
Technically, Snake Eater 3D looks great. Rich colours, upgraded models and an impressive 3D effect make Snake Eater 3D one of the most visually appealing games for the system. But once again, there’s a problem. Yes, Snake Eater 3D’s frame rate can drop to crippling levels at times, resulting in another new addition to the game, a new slow-motion mode (only kidding, but it is that bad). Cutscenes have been rendered using the in-game engine which look superb in 3D, though when the frame rate plummets, it’s a disappointing spectacle to say the least. The majority of the game is relatively smooth, but unfortunately slow-mo Snake will rear his ugly head when you least desire it.
Before you completely dismiss Snake Eater 3D as a failure, there’s a lot to like about Konami’s portable port. For example, in Snake Eater 3D, players can now move while aiming and when crouched. There’s the option to use a first-person or third-person viewpoint as well as an auto-aim option. The touch-screen is used effectively, freeing up the top screen from the visual clutter of the HUD. There’s the ability to take pictures with the 3DS’ camera and transform them into in-game camouflage, though it’s isn’t as intuitive as it could have been. You can’t help but feel aggrieved when playing Snake Eater 3D because with all these additions, Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater is the most refined version to date, however, it’s continually scuppered by the aforementioned problems.
How good is the 3D effect? Once again, Snake Eater 3D quickly impresses and then annoyingly disappoints. The 3D effect is clean and effective, adding extra style to the flamboyant cutscenes and increases the immersion when your crawling through the environment. Sadly, when you switch to the first person gun viewpoint, the game’s viewpoint changes to 2D even with the 3D slider up, resulting in a horrible transition which strains the eyes. If there was ever a way to induce a headache, then flicking between the viewpoints in Snake Eater 3D is it. VERDICT: The choice is yours.
In essence, players are provided with one of the PlayStation 2’s finest games; ever. It’s also the most enjoyable game in the Metal Gear Solid series. Snake Eater’s story and gameplay mechanics are second to none and there’s plenty of fun to be had and for those who are desperate for Snake on the move or to those who’ve never experience Snake’s jungle antics before. If you can overlook its technical drawbacks, of which there are many, Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater is everything you remember from the fantastic original, shrunk down for the portable operative. Snake’s still everyone’s favourite stealth star, though perhaps he’s better left at home.