With Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain launching in September, as a long-time fan of the series it’s hard for me to contain my excitement.
Ever since vague announcements and typically obtuse statements from the creator back in 2012 – when Kojima briefly adopted the alias of Joakim Mogren – it’s been a rollercoaster ride of events over a three year period. From Kojima Productions trolling both gamers and the gaming press, to the now more controversial turn of events with Konami’s erasure of Kojima’s name from all marketing material, my emotions are a confused mess of hype, hope, bewilderment, and – most of all – sadness.
Knowing that this probably will be Kojima’s last Metal Gear Solid title (for real this time!), is heart breaking to say the least. Despite Konami’s intent to still keep the series running after he’s gone, the games won’t be same without Kojima’s input. His love of Hollywood movies, political issues and bizarre sense of humor are what make Metal Gear Solid what it is. To say that this series will still be running after Kojima is gone is like having your parents buy you a new puppy after your dog had just passed away. Yeah it’s nice and all; but it’s just not the same.
Having experienced the series since Metal Gear Solid on the first PlayStation, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the series undergo some of the most questionable and innovative changes over the past two decades. Regardless of what the future may have in store for Metal Gear Solid – or Hideo Kojima – it got me thinking about some of my favorite Metal Gear titles over the course of the series.
I’ve concluded that while every game holds a sense of uniqueness and pride and often differ from each other, none have managed to surpass my love and admiration for the classic 2004 PlayStation 2 release, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
Snake Eater – at least to my impression – marked the beginning of Metal Gear Solid’s change into not only MGS’s future mechanics, but also Kojima’s approach to stealth gameplay. Up to then, the first two MGS titles relied heavily on a field of vision-based system of alertness, with players needing to make good use of enemy blind-spots. But with Snake Eater, Kojima did that rarest of things for a franchise sequel – he didn’t simply iterate on existing mechanics, he implemented entirely new ones which forced you to re-learn everything you knew about playing a Metal Gear Solid game up to that point (and yes, that includes cartwheeling as a naked Raiden in Sons of Liberty).
With Snake Eater, the jungle setting and camouflage system changed all that, allowing you to remain hidden even when standing (or, more typically, crouching or lying prone) in plain sight. With a heavy emphasis on the environment and deep exploration into the effectiveness of camouflage, blending in with the terrain was essential in order remaining hidden. Face paint, different uniforms, and even some clever disguises: Snake Eater was a pioneering work in many ways, and few games since have even attempted to be
Of course though, that being said it wasn’t at all an easy title for every gamer to master properly. If you were a newcomer to the series, this process might’ve easily rubbed off as a little tedious. Having to switch in-between gears over every little environmental change did get repetitive sometimes, and for some, easily worn out its welcome quick.
But I suppose with that said, it’s all a matter of experience and familiarity. Like a predatory animal sneaking amongst the bushes (or if you really to make comparisons – a snake!), quick movements such as rolling out of enemy sight is another crucial aspect in surviving Snake Eater. Combine that with the hunting gameplay aspect of eating the native wildlife, and you’re in for one hell of a game.
Another thing that every Metal Gear Solid game prides itself on is its spectacular boss fights. With Snake Eater, Kojima pulled out all the stops and created a menagerie of freaks and memorable encounters that are still unsurpassed. Presenting one of the most intense boss fights found in any Metal Gear Solid game to date, “The End” was a boss fight that demanded patience and observation, as you needed to explore an open area to scout out and kill an old man with a sniper rifle. Players had to listen out for any footsteps, inspect areas to which he or his pet parrot might be hanging around in; and of course, be ever so mindful of their backs to make sure this sneaky old man doesn’t sneak up and snipe you from behind.
Or, in another typically Kojima-esque touch, you could fast-forward the system clock and he would have died of old age. Ah Kojima, never stop being such a crazy diamond.
If you’re even more clever though, this one fight could be easily avoided if you managed to act quickly. Earlier on in the game, players you’d be presented with The End further off in the distance, as Snake observed a meeting. If you were able to snipe the old bugger from his wheelchair, The End would be no more, and the old fart was replaced with some special ops soldiers who were easily dispatched via more traditional methods: camouflage, stealth, subdual, and hiding the bodies.
Ok, sure – it wasn’t as satisfying. But the fact that the game presented three completely different ways to tackle the situation (one of which was more an easter egg than anything else) was extremely rare at the time, displaying a forward-thinking approach to tackling a situation during a time when such an approach was incredibly rare outside of western PC RPGs.
There’s a reason as to why we’ve been seeing all these HD remasters and console ports over the past couple of years. Snake Eater has shown that it’s a game that can effectively stand the tests of time quite well, with the only thing needed being further hardware iterations and a few upscaled textures. After witnessing my mate get drawn into the series after I loaned him Snake Eater, to my impression, it still remains an effective game that is able to draw newcomers easily to the franchise.
Whether the Phantom Pain might be the only game in the series that a person would play, or if it manages to usher in new fans of the whole series, is something that we won’t know until it finally hits store shelves in September. But for those gamers who do decide to move on to previous games, or for people wanting to get in on the action before Snake’s latest adventure hits, Snake Eater comes highly recommended. For anyone eager to learn the origin of Big Boss, you should definitely pick it up via the HD Remaster on PlayStation 3, Vita or Xbox 360.