10) Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
While some will prefer the relatively straightforward nature of the original Metal Gear Solid – or even the extreme convolution of the sequel, Sons of Liberty – none can argue that Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is anything less than a worthy successor to each. Taking the best of both games and introducing plenty of new mechanics, MGS3 was a groundbreaking achievement when it was released and in many ways even manages to impress to this day.
Substituting the tight quarters of military facilities for a large and open jungle, Snake Eater managed to breath new life into the franchise even at the outset. Forcing the player to hunt for food, make proper use of camouflage and even to heal themselves after combat (often by having Snake dig bullets out with a knife), the game managed to introduce some fascinating new ideas, even if it occasionally meant crawling through one-too-many menus.
Snake Eater has razor-sharp pacing for most of its run time, complemented by – arguably – the best boss fights in a series known for incredible boss encounters. From a man who can shoot bees out of his mouth to a fist-fight with an electric giant, the battle that stands out for most is the sniper duel with the elderly “father of sniping”, appropriately named “The End”. Taking place in several areas – and sometimes even several hours – this boss battle is often considered the best in the series, if not in any game. The fact that you can turn off the game set your clock forward and return when the boss has died of old age is just icing on the cake.
Where Sons of Liberty spent far too long talking about abstract philosophical concepts in codec calls, MGS3 brings back a much simpler – and more interesting – narrative. Seeing a younger version of Big Boss battle his former mentor in order to prevent nuclear war is every bit as ridiculous and engaging as players have come to expect from the legendary series – the best of the lot, even. Now that creator Hideo Kojima has moved on, it’s likely that it’ll stay that way. A classic in every sense, MGS3 is worth revisiting frequently and definitely worth a look for those few who haven’t already played and loved it. (Rowan McDonald-Nyland)
9) The Last Of Us
The Last Of Us is a game that shows how far the medium has come, from the days of mascot characters (like a fox wearing sneakers) and tank controls to some of the most human and emotive storytelling placed into the palm of your hand. The Last Of Us is a showcase of what gaming can achieve, what makes interactive stories special and how it can stand apart from baseless comparisons to film.
A world built through visual cues and minute detail; every place, every character, and every spoken line serve a purpose. It’s one of the first, and still only, games that manages to convey emotion through a look, an expression rather than spouted lines of hackneyed quips and exposition. The characters ARE characters rather than caricatures, and while Joel and Ellie may be the heart of the game even the smaller roles are captivating. Games struggle to evoke more than a handful of emotions during their running time but Joel’s story is often haunting, depressing, funny and even disappointing – and not in a bad way.
The game’s mechanics service the plot, not the other way around. The weighty combat is often horrifying but the violence always has context. Like any game, it’s not perfect but a game isn’t defined by its failures, it’s defined by what an audience takes away from it – like any piece of art. It’s accomplishments stand true three years on, the only game that comes close to its success is a game by the same studio, it’s no accident that Uncharted 4 learned a lot from The Last Of Us. The impeccable pacing and structure make the game timeless, and whether the sequel will meaningfully add to these characters and to this world is yet to be determined, but either way, The Last Of Us is a name that will be quoted years from now. Not only is The Last Of Us about the journey, it’s about the relationships we build along the way and in the end; about human nature itself. Despite its name, it’s the first of many games that will follow in its path. (Oliver Rebbeck)
8) Shadow of the Colossus
The sacrifice of a maiden believed to have a cursed fate. A young man so determined to save her, he sets foot in the Forbidden Lands, a place where an evil entity is said to haunt. Such entity agrees to fulfill the man’s wish so long as he can vanquish the 16 colossi that dwell in those lands, each a walking representation of the idols present in the temple. With a sacred sword in hand and the company of a faithful horse, he walks down the temple steps determined to hunt the towering figures.
This simple yet heartening plot is what sets Shadow of the Colossus in motion. From the mind of Fumito Ueda, who this year graced patient fans with The Last Guardian, the game received critical acclaim for the first time in 2005 on the PlayStation 2, later being remastered for the PlayStation 3 in a bundle with its spiritual precursor and sequel, Ico (2001). With a beautiful soundtrack by Ko Otani, an abstract style of storytelling, and cinematic camera angles, the title manages to deliver simple mechanics more than enough to tackle the puzzles that rely solely on the player’s skills and intuition.
Shadow of the Colossus is one of the few games that managed to garner a large cult following which is constantly looking for the game’s secrets, be they in the form of assets that reveal story elements or playable challenges, like the mythic 17th colossus that has haunted such fans for over a decade. (Gabriel A. Cavalcanti)
7) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
In a sea of open-world games and epic, story-driven RPGs, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt arguably manages to rise above them all, a testament to the depth of character, storytelling prowess, and fascinating world design. (And you know what, the gameplay isn’t too shabby, either.)
Following the grand events of Geralt’s first two adventures, The Witcher 3 ups the ante in every conceivable regard. The world is massive, with a staggering amount of side content to explore, and the story feels as though it’s risen to the same challenge, yet these increases never come at the expense of overall quality, never at the expense of little details. Environments feel grounded and are often breathtaking, sidequests come with narratives nearly as compelling as those of the main story, and character facial animations convey a staggering level of believable emotion. There’s even an in-game concert, the composition for which is astonishingly moving, and an in-world card game got so popular amongst players that it eventually became its own full-fledged product. World details abound, living in dialogues, books, and maps, contributing to all the rest to a foundational bedrock of believability that never falters.
If that weren’t enough to recommend it, The Witcher 3 also has two of the best-loved DLC expansion packs of this generation, each winning awards on their own merits, and they only further expand (in similarly beautiful detail) the grandeur of what the base game endeavored to build. Given Polish developer CD Projekt RED’s penchant for listening to player feedback and providing massive free updates, the state of the game is far stronger now than it was at launch, and remains as worth playing as ever; even more so if you’ve got saved games from the first two adventures still on your hard drive, since past choices will, in some ways, inform the ongoing narrative.
Fans of the genre that skipped The Witcher 3 should most definitely endeavor to rectify that, though almost anyone is encouraged to take a look. The story, characters, and the world shouldn’t be missed. This is and will be, beyond doubt, one of the gaming’s lasting masterpieces. (Michael Riser)
6) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Wind Waker is an enriched and enchanting experience. It peaks the standard not only found in Zelda games but games in general. It goes out of its way to take huge leaps of faith right off of the average Zelda formula.
The most obvious jump being Wind Waker’s visuals, which can only be described as whimsical. It uses a cel-shaded style to present a colorful world. One filled with interesting and varied areas, brilliant character designs, and an expansive sea. Link himself also joins in on the cartoony fun, becoming utterly bulbous and seriously adorable.
The aforementioned sea is another of Wind Waker’s unique qualities. Variable islands speckle it’s intimidatingly large surface and Link has the choice to explore every one of them. He can find some special items, rupees, and even some NPCs. These characters usually have some side quest for Link, or they just help deepen the already entrancing story, which might be the best of all Zelda stories.
Wind Waker is essentially a post-apocalyptic tale, with Hyrule being completely flooded and its legacy nearly lost. Despite its cartoony visuals and light-hearted characters, the game can get exceedingly dark. Link really has the odds stacked against him, especially considering that he’s the youngest Link of them all. The game is great at making the characters personable and likable, which adds to the story’s general charm. These characters’ likability also helps drive the player to save this world, because no one else can.
The combat is also a joy. New button commands and quick-time events make it one of the most rewarding systems in Zelda history. Link can also wield an enemy’s weapon, a mechanic being fully realized in the newest game: Breath of the Wild.
Wind Waker stands out as one of the greatest games of all time for various reasons, but its sheer singularity is what truly cements it into the gaming hall of fame. (Ricardo Rodriguez)
5) Portal 2
The original Portal introduced one of the most innovated gameplay ideas in gaming history; the portal gun. That device allowed the player to effectively create two doors; one to enter, and one to exit. That seemingly simple idea, however, was explored brilliantly by using its first-person perspective to create portals mostly anywhere, and by taking the laws of physics, as we understand them, and playing with them. It was a puzzle game with a large possibility space and it truly captured people’s imaginations. The fact that it also featured exceptionally witty writing, an inviting but unsettling location in the form of Aperture Laboratories and GLaDOS; one of the most memorable antagonists in all of gaming, was just icing on the cake [see what I did there?]
That said, it was too short, and just around the time the puzzles got truly devilish, the game was over. It felt like they had only scratched the surface on what was possible with this idea.
Thankfully, Portal 2 capitalized on the original’s potential in every way and created one of the best gaming experiences of the century. New mechanics, such as the light bridges, movement gels, and tractor beams, all expand on the portal gun’s capabilities and lead to some truly clever puzzles with equally clever solutions. The game even features a co-op campaign that doubles the number of portals possible to push this concept to the nth degree. If that weren’t enough, after launch, Valve released a level editor so players from across the globe could create their own puzzles and share them with the world.
The story itself is fleshed out more as well. The history of Aperture Laboratories is explored and leads to some of the game’s funniest and darkest moments. And despite only having 3 voiced characters in this game, they’re all acted perfectly and play off each other brilliantly. Stephen Merchant, in particular, deserves credit for making his character very likable and sympathetic at the onset, but as the plot develops, he credibly transitions from that to a more defiant and menacing role. The moment where that occurs is particularly gut-wrenching and one of the finest scenes in any game.
In short, Portal 2 is a sequel so good that there’s little point for another follow-up; it’s already as close to perfect as games can get… (Daniel Phillion)
4) Metroid Prime
The flagship Nintendo franchises have certainly been through their fair share of doubt when it comes to huge transitions. Metroid Prime is no exception to this trend, as it followed in the footsteps of Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time when it made the transition from 2D to 3D.
The doubts were wiped clean once Retro Studio’s masterpiece was finally released on the Nintendo Gamecube. All of the fundamentals of the Metroid series were alive and well in Prime, including the emphasis on exploration and isolation. Even with its shiny new first-person perspective, the focus was still firmly on the gameplay experience. Battling space pirates was just as exciting as exploring the unfamiliar areas, which is a balance that few games have been able to strike since.
Prime also succeeds in easing players into the new experience with a brilliant tutorial stage that culminates in an intense boss battle. The blueprint had been set for the perfect evolution of a franchise; improve upon the same staples that fans of the series were used to while also providing a unique enough experience to draw new players in. (Zack Rezak)
3) Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2 is a well made, exciting first-person shooter with incredible sound design and a fascinating sci-fi universe filled with destroyed beauty, fear, and hope. It is not the second coming of Michelangelo, nor is it an overrated, overly linear violence simulator (as some would have you believe).
Indeed, Half-Life 2 is just a game, although a very influential game that has stood the test of time. More advanced and experimental than Halo 2, and imitated more often than Resident Evil 4, Half-Life 2 set the stage for a brand new era of propulsive action: for better and worse. But as popular as its set-piece-oriented pacing, level structure, and physics puzzles would prove, many of the outstanding qualities of Half-Life 2 remain untouched.
Valve’s Nintendo-like willingness to leave the story in the background and instead focus on the world gives its designers the freedom to reinvent the gameplay at every turn. Like the original Half-Life, you hardly go through the same situation twice. However, instead of roaming the Doom-y corridors of Black Mesa, players barrel through the sewers of an Eastern European city, escape the relentless police by boat, explore an undead village, road trip along the ravaged coastline and lead an invasion of a converted prison – and all that is only the first half of the game.
This is all without mentioning the stand-out mechanic of Half-Life 2, the immortal Gravity Gun. As the best of several excellently-conceived weapons in the player’s arsenal, the Gravity Gun unlocks the world like the bomb or bow and arrow of The Legend of Zelda. Valve would continue to develop this interactivity in later episodes, but the receiving, learning, and mastering of the Gravity Gun in the original Half-Life 2 remains one of the best non-narrative arcs in gaming.
So really, what more can be said about Half-Life 2? The characters are well-drawn, the creature designs are haunting and one-of-a-kind and the apocalyptic atmosphere is comparable to great movies, not just great games. There are better action games than Half-Life 2, but its best parts are rarely topped – and as the sum of those parts, Half-Life 2 is a true classic. (Mitchell Akhurst)
2. Resident Evil 4
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Resident Evil 4 cracked our list given that the game has been released and remastered several times through several generations of consoles, and so just about everyone on our staff has had a chance to play it. That aside, there is no denying just how influential this game was and still is. With the fourth numbered entry in the franchise, creator Shinji Mikami reinvented the wheel by adding the over-the-shoulder third-person aiming system and set a standard for action games moving forward. There is a reason why this game is cited as one of the primary inspirations for many extremely successful shooters that followed. Resident Evil 4 did for the action-horror genre what Super Mario 64 did for 3D platformers. By combining horror with genuinely clever, exhilarating survival combat and an oppressive atmosphere, Capcom created a near-perfect game and arguably one of the finest video games ever made. Resident Evil 4 is a visionary punch that continues to resonate and inspire. It is a magnificent cabinet of grotesqueries, a peerless masterpiece of relentless suspense, and outright, nihilistic terror – with a healthy dose of camp. Easily, one of the decade’s great works. (Ricky D)
1) Dark Souls
When I first picked up Demon’s Souls it was via a chance encounter at the local electronics store. I could remember hearing a little rumbling about it, some this-and-that in a long ago EGM (this was still the time of print media, after all). I took a little roll of the dice on it after reading a couple of quick reviews on my phone, and as a PS3 “Greatest Hit”, it only set me back $20. When I think about the silly things I’ve spent $20 on in my life…bad meals, bad dates, bad movies, and on, and on, I can’t believe how lucky I was to pick this game up on a whim.
Less than 2 years later, it’s spiritual successor, Dark Souls would be a game I would pre-order even at a time when I wasn’t terribly stable financially. To date, it’s hands-down my favorite game of all time and at a staggering 500+ hours of investment (curse you time logs) certainly the game I have gotten to know by and far the best.
I have since gone on to write countless articles on this series, but when I think back to my first time playing this game, I remember the 60 minutes of struggle it took me just to finish the tutorial section. I remember ringing the second bell at the 40-hour mark and thinking I must be close to the end of the game. Forgive me, I was but a boy in the world of Souls.
All these years later, the greatest and most memorable moments of Dark Souls still stir something absurdly powerful in my cortex. I recall the first time I saw the sign of the sun worshipers from poor, doomed Solaire of Astora. I remember being slaughtered mercilessly by the Four Kings of New Londo in the blackened abyss of Manus’ creeping stranglehold on the kingdom of Lordran. And, of course, I remember my first journey (by gargoyle?!?) to Anor Londo, and my many traumatic experiences there.
Even 5 years later, and with a spoiled time of Dark Souls and Dark Souls-likes in the interim, this game still holds an incredibly special place in my heart. A place so special, in fact, that it was able to supplant my nostalgia-laden childhood favorite, Super Metroid, as the best game I have ever had the pleasure of playing. It’s truly and patently ridiculous how happy I, a grown man, who is engaged, has a reasonably successful career, and is party to raising three children, am to see my favorite video game at the top of a list of other video games, but hey, here we are.
There are 100 reasons to play this game, and 100 more why it will stick with you should you put yourself through the rigors of its truly macabre sadism of design, but all I can tell you at this particular moment is why I love it: Dark Souls is truly one of a kind, and has marked a long and influential paradigm shift in the realm of gaming. If you haven’t played it, or any of its ilk, you’re depriving yourself in a very serious way. (Mike Worby)
‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming
Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.
In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.
It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.
Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.
And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.
It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.
No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more.
How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?
Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.
One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?
Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.
Real Friends Raid Together
Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.
After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.
If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.
After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.
Max Raid Battle Rundown
The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.
To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.
If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.
The Fruits of Victory
Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.
Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.
Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.
15 Years Later: ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ Is Kojima’s Espionage Love Letter
On November 17th, 2004, ‘Metal Gear Solid 3’ was released, marking the first entry in what would become a major part of the Metal Gear Saga.
“After the end of World War II, the world was split into two — East and West. This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.”
On November 17th, 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater released in North America and Japan marking the first entry in what would later become a line of prequel games within the Metal Gear Saga. Big Boss’s story would finally be expanded upon in the Hollywood action game that forever changed the course of video game storytelling.
The legendary mercenary’s journey began in Kojima’s espionage love letter to the ’60s that broke the primordial gaming standards of both interactive design and visual storytelling through immeasurable gameplay depth piled onto a mind-boggling top-notch origin story. Snake Eater was only the beginning of a tale of how one of gaming’s greatest heroes descended into a villain through what is not only arguably the most compact and well-executed Metal Gear story, but Kojima Productions story ever conjured up to date.
Taking the Narrative Back
Snake Eater ditched Solid Snake and Raiden’s current predicaments in a postmodern world to provide audiences with background knowledge and explanations for the previous chapters that came before it in what was intended to be Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game at the time. Cold War political fiction and espionage thrillers from the game’s time period such as the Sean Connery and Roger Moore James Bond 007 films became the foundation for this entry’s story and tone; a balance of both goofiness and seriousness that is simply unmatched when compared to the rest of the series.
Metal Gear Solid 3 marked the beginning of a prequel series of games that would later proceed to continue after Solid Snake’s story had concluded in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Snake Eater threw players back in time to tackle the story of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake villain Big Boss, who was formerly referred to as three different names being John, Jack, and of course the iconic codename Naked Snake — the first character to take on the reptilian infiltration name.
Whereas Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty questioned the fantasy aspects of the story, Snake Eater fully embraced the campiness that it provided. A gun-slinging, cat-growling GRU Major or a man who is able to manipulate bees are never questioned by the game’s characters. Nothing feels out of place due to how accepting everyone is of what is going on in their interpretation of history. The first fantasy aspect that players encounter is during the opening 5 minutes of the game when Naked Snake makes the HALO jump. The location the game takes place, Tselinoyarsk, is not the actual name of the location and isn’t an area of the world that has jungles.
Political fiction often comes into play during the story by incorporating real figures and the game’s characters into events that actually happened during the height of the Cold War. For example, Eva and Ocelot are depicted as the two NSA codebreakers, Martin and Mitchell, who defected to the Soviet Union. Weapons and designs featured in the game such as the hybrid screw-propelled metal gear, the Shagohod, are based on real blueprints for military weapons of the time period. While the story incorporates science fiction and fantasy aspects, the story still remains grounded and has its own limits even in gameplay.
A Whole New Meaning to Survival
When Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa saw the 1987 movie Predator, one concept from the film that stuck with them was how the technologically advanced alien Predator used camouflage within the jungle setting to stealthily take out a military rescue team lead by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Camouflage became part of the foundation for Snake Eater‘s gameplay that delved into the realism and campy side of the series. Players could swap outfits and face paints at any given moment to adapt to their current surroundings. The top right-hand corner has a camouflage index that constantly keeps track of how well-hidden you are in the environment.
Just as gadgets are a critical part of James Bond’s arsenal of weapons, Snake Eater saw the Metal Gear Solid series expand on the variety and utilization of items. The number of different ways to tackle standard environmental obstacles and boss battles was exponentially increased due to how many ways one could actually use their equipment. Grenades, lethal firearms, night-vision goggles, cigarettes, and even cardboard boxes all inherited a multi-functional philosophy that most players would never even discover unless they had experimented during their playthrough or were told to do a specific action. Even food became a weapon of war that could be used to poison and distract guards if it had gone spoiled.
On the topic of food, alongside the standard health bar, Snake has a stamina meter that must be ministered to constantly by eating foods found on-site and administering proper medical treatment. Animals, fruit, medicinal items, and various packaged resources must be collected and watched over throughout the game. All food items ran on a real-time clock leaving food to go unsanitary and rotten after a matter of real-time days.
The Beginning of Product Placement
The Metal Gear Solid series kickstarted Hideo Kojima’s constant usage of product placements within his games that are still ongoing today. These products include but are certainly not limited to clothing, accessories, toys, household items, and of course, food. Snake Eater began a trend of future Kojima Production games featuring real-life items that are purchasable in many small scale and large retail stores throughout Japan through the brand of nutritional energy bars and gels, CalorieMate.
The chocolate-flavored CalorieMate Block appeared in the original version of Snake Eater, while the maple-flavored kind replaced it in the HD Collection due to it being the latest flavor release at the time. Advertisements for CalorieMate during the game’s release showed Naked Snake holding a chocolate-flavored Block saying “If you wanna survive in the jungle, your going to need one of these.”
When initiating a Codec call with Paramedic after eating a CalorieMate Block, the character will question the legitimacy of the food. In reality, CalorieMate first released in 1983, contradicting the 1960’s setting of the story, therefore, making its placement in the game an anachronism; an object or person that is displaced in time.
A Legacy Worthy of The Big Boss Rank
At the time of Snake Eater’s release, although the game garnered a completely positive reception from critics with a 91 Metacritic score, it was highly debated whether the sequel-prequel was superior to the entries that came before it. Critics commonly praised the graphics and cinematics the game had to offer but questioned whether the gameplay was too complex for its own good. Snake Eater also had to ride the coattails of unsatisfied audiences originating from the previous entry’s lack of Solid Snake being the protagonist which ultimately lead to sales of the game being significantly lower than the previous Solid entries.
Over time, Snake Eater became the fan-favorite entry of the series and would go on to receive the most re-releases out of all the Metal Gear games to date. Most notably, in 2006 Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence expanded upon the online mode in the game and added a completely new third-person controlled camera system that enhanced the overall experience and became the right analog stick standard for future entries. Buyers of this version were also treated with the original two MSX Metal Gear games found on the main menu- the first time the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had ever been localized outside of Japan.
2011 saw the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, a compilation title that included an updated version of Subsistence — arguably the best way to play Snake Eater today. In 2012 the game also saw a release on the Nintendo 3DS dubbed Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater which included a new real-life camera camouflage system and multiple gameplay changes inherited from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to accommodate the 3DS’s lack of dual analog sticks.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a true patriot that definitively holds its ground against the rest of the series today due to its creative liberties that the series never quite revisited in complete depth. Hideo Kojima and his team of masterminds behind Kojima Productions are well deserved of a salute for the tremendous efforts they put into creating a groundbreaking title that forever changed what it meant to be a cinematic video game. From its action-packed plot to its cinematic orchestra inspired-score, even after 15 years the pure indigenous nature of creativity from the studio never ceases to amaze audiences.
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