Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: November 29, 2004
If there lingered any doubts as to where Metal Gear mastermind Hideo Kojima draws inspiration for his legendary game franchise, the third installment in the series should put them safely to rest. With a trippy intro video and references to James Bond movies throughout, Snake Eater is an unmistakable tribute to the classic cold war Connery films. Set in 1960′s Russia, and loaded with intricate new hunting, healing and camouflage systems, I, like many others, can only hope that it’s From Russia With Love for Kojima and the gang.
The big question on the collective minds of Metal Gear enthusiasts is just how the hero of a twenty-first century adventure can exist in 1960s Russia, looking roughly the same as he does (or should) four decades later. Is this Snake actually the Snake we know? Or is it Big Boss, the super soldier whose DNA was used to create Solid and Liquid Snake? The issue isn’t immediately resolved, either; players assume the role of Jack (aka Naked Snake) as he boldly ventures behind enemy lines in search of a defecting Soviet scientist. In true Metal Gear form, the twists come early and often. Alliances are forged and broken, and along the way, Snake is sure to meet up with a few old friends, or is that a few new friends?
The new jungle settings afford Snake tremendous flexibility in his actions, and provide plenty of quality hiding spots. With the mini-radar screen gone, the key to staying hidden from the Russians is proper utilization of the camouflage index. Represented numerically in the upper right corner of the screen, the index is a measure of Snake’s visibility and is affected by both clothing and movement. While the number is lower when moving as opposed to remaining still, lying rather than crouching, Snake’s attire has an equally pronounced effect. Both his outfit and face paint can be adjusted to match the surrounding environment. The tree bark uniform and accompanying paint, for instance, provide adequate cover when wandering through a thick wood. However, pressing Snake against a tree while wearing the same outfit makes him nearly invisible, which then allows him to get the drop on guards.
Seeing as Snake doesn’t have the resources (or the backup) necessary to launch a full-on assault, subtlety is key when neutralizing the enemy threat. Staying out of the guards’ line of sight is, of course, essential, but they aren’t deaf, either. Even the slightest ruffle of leaves or crack of a twig can draw their attention. The noise caused by Snake’s footsteps can be eliminated, however, by using the d-pad to move him along, albeit at a snail’s pace. Once our hero manages to sneak up behind one of his foes, he’s then able to perform a variety of actions. The most brutish maneuver has Snake driving the poor soldier’s head into the ground, knocking him out cold. He can also capture the enemy, and from there, grill him for information, use him as a human shield, cut his throat, or all of the above. Finally, Snake can simply pull out his .45 and execute an old fashioned stick up. While shaking the soldier down after he’s dead is easier and less risky, this is the only way to acquire the game’s rarer items.