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Amy Hennig: The Brilliant Brain Behind Nathan Drake

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Amy Hennig

Amy Hennig never planned to enter the world of video games. In fact, her entry into the industry was simply a contracting job, means to finance her postgraduate studies in film. “1989 was when I started,” Hennig recalled. “It was completely one of those fluky situations that you just stumble into.”

28 years after accepting that first gig, Hennig has not only stayed in the industry, but attained a legendary status as one of the brains behind some of the most immaculate achievements in storytelling and character design in the history of gaming. Named one of the “10 Most Powerful Women in Gaming” by Fortune.com, she is applying her immense talent to Electronic Arts’ upcoming untitled Star Wars game, slated for release in 2018.

While it is almost painful to think of a world without the revolutionary titles in the Uncharted franchise, Hennig’s early aspirations had her walking a markedly different path than the one that would lead her to the halls of Electronic Arts, Crystal Dynamics, and Naughty Dog.

A Life Before Gaming

After spending her childhood writing short stories inspired by CS Lewis and Tolkien, Hennig had aspirations of becoming a writer. She earned her bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley, studying English literature, before pursuing film school at San Francisco State in 1989.

Despite her love for the art of filmmaking, Hennig’s first steps into the world of the silver screen changed her view of the industry dramatically, causing her to question whether film sets were her true home.

“I loved the idea of making Hollywood films,” she said in an interview with IGN. “But it was so clear, even from that little bit of film school I had, that [that] industry was so entrenched.”

“It was hard for women, too. I could tell, just as a student, that it was going to be an uphill climb, especially for the job I wanted.”

Still, Hennig continued her studies, performing side jobs to pay her tuition. One of these positions introduced her to the Atari 7800, changing the trajectory of her career forever.

“It was purely for pay,” Hennig said of her freelance artist days on the unreleased Atari game, ElectroCop. “But once I started, my wheels began to turn and I had a light bulb moment: that this was a more interesting and pioneering medium than film.”

This revelation was the final push for Hennig, convincing her to leave film school behind to commit herself to video games full-time. However, she carried one lesson with her from San Francisco State: the way to get her foot in the door was to meet the right people and work harder than anyone else in the room.

“It’s a meritocracy in the sense that if you’re a hard worker and people see you have an aptitude; you get a shot usually,” mused Hennig. “Then your fate is in your hands.”

Entering the Industry

This drive led her to Electronic Arts in 1993, and allowed her to rise to the role of lead designer on Super Nintendo’s Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City after the original lead designer quit the project. She then moved on to Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf, with both titles receiving a positive response upon release.

Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City

Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City was Hennig’s first video game release.

The upward momentum from these successes carried Hennig from Electronic Arts to Crystal Dynamics, where she left her mark as a design manager on the Legacy of Kain franchise, and as a writer for Soul Reaver. Continuing to grow and expand her skill sets, she was beginning to make a name for herself amongst other industry professionals.

While she was enjoying her time at Crystal, personnel changes and shifts in the company led Hennig to begin imagining life at another studio: Naughty Dog.

“Once my friends had gone there, my colleagues had gone there, it felt like there was an obvious pull,” Hennig recalled. “Creatively and technically and ambition-wise, there was this kindred spirit feeling.”

Naughty Dog had recently been sold to Sony, shifting its status from one of an independent company to a first party studio exclusively supporting PlayStation consoles. Coming from a background at EA and Crystal Dynamics – who develop games for a variety of systems – could easily have made the idea of being locked to one console seem suffocating.

For Hennig, the option of downsizing felt quite the opposite.

“I had been at Electronic Arts and deliberately left because it was becoming a big company. Then I went to Crystal Dynamics and it started to grow. I liked that garage shop mentality, and Naughty Dog still had it.”

Jak 3

Hennig worked on Jak 3 upon her arrival at Naughty Dog.

She went to work on Jak 3, but the heads of Naughty Dog wanted her to do something greater: to begin work on the IP that would mark the studio’s transition from the PlayStation 2 to the unmarked territory that was the PlayStation 3.

Despite her role as the head of this new endeavor, which proved more challenging than any would have expected, Hennig refuses to take much of the credit. Instead, she gives it all to the team behind her.

“It’s a collective effort,” she said. “I would never call them my games.”

The Rise of Uncharted

The initial concept for Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – internally known as Project Big — morphed a number of times as Hennig and the team worked to craft a story and experience that would set Naughty Dog apart from the rest of the industry, which was focusing on “grim, gritty, gray, drab shooters.”

“We wanted something that felt like it was continuing the spirit of what we’d done as a studio, as far as color and charm and humor, but was taking advantage of the realism that we could accomplish on the hardware,” said Hennig.

Inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark, Buck Rogers, and the Doc Savage pulp novels, she found the spark to what would become one of the most successful video game franchises in history. Using what she’d learned at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, Hennig aimed at crafting a product that would combine the multidimensional characters, romantic intrigue, and intricate “set pieces” that she’s known for today.

Uncharted Drake's Fortune

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune stood out amongst the gritty shooters of the time.

“It was going to be an homage to pulp adventure cinema, but with the player in control as the hero,” Hennig recalled. “Obviously, that doesn’t seem very groundbreaking now, because a lot of people are doing that now, but the idea, at the time, of doing a character-centric story with the set pieces and all that stuff, and really trying to make it feel like you were in a movie playing it, was actually somewhat radical, strangely enough.”

After an arduous development cycle, Uncharted was released on Nov. 19, 2007, thrusting Naughty Dog and Hennig into the limelight. Nathan Drake, the game’s titular character, would become PlayStation’s mascot for the forseeable future.

As she began work on Uncharted 2, she was reminded of how far the industry had come. Her first game, ElectroCop, was headed by two people using a total of four colors for the entirety of the art. For Uncharted 2, Hennig organized a group that at times totaled 150 people, including artists, programmers, designers, and actors, using more sophisticated tools and technology to craft a realistic gaming experience.

“This is an industry in which you constantly have to relearn things and almost start over,” she mused when speaking to the LA Times. “If you can’t do that, you don’t last.”

Hennig’s ability to adapt while creating remarkable stories led to her holding directing roles in each of the first three Uncharted games.

A Bitter End

Despite her arguably being the force that made Uncharted into what it would become, Hennig would not see the franchise to its end. She parted ways with the studio in March 2014, just after her 10th anniversary, after months of working on writing and developing an Uncharted title for the PlayStation 4.

Amy Hennig

Hennig released three Uncharted titles before parting ways with Naughty Dog.

Sources claimed that Hennig was “forced out” by Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley of The Last of Us, but this was denied by Naughty Dog’s co-presidents and Sony representatives.

“Things change, and sometimes change involves very high profile individuals. That’s all that’s happened here,” Sony’s Scott Rohde told IGN. “There’s nothing else. There’s no more to dig at.”

After talk of the controversy died down, word surrounding Hennig died down considerably. She came back with a force in 2016 as news broke that she’d be the creative director at Visceral Games for the next Star Wars title from Electronic Arts.

Although this was enough to draw excitement and buzz from across the entire industry, it was another interview regarding her past with Naughty Dog that became the real news. Bringing a darker side of the industry to light, Hennig’s frank speech on the destructive nature of AAA development sparked conversation amongst journalists and studio heads alike as to how to address an industry that potentially asks too much of its artists.

“The whole time I was at Naughty Dog — ten-and-a-half years — I probably, on average, I don’t know if I ever worked less than 80 hours a week,” she stated. “I pretty much worked seven days a week, at least 12 hours a day.”

Noting that she was not alone on these weekends – much of the team stayed on during off days to continue work on their enormous projects – Hennig recalled some of the more challenging moments during her history with the company.

“[Uncharted] 3 was hard, because even though we had two years again, it was two years after two projects that were a crunch,” she said, in the candid interview with Soren Johnson. “And it was a time when we were also trying to grow the studio and split into two teams, and deal with all of the recruitment issues that went into that.”

Uncharted_3__Drake_s_Deception_12919191591849

Uncharted 3’s development was difficult on the entire team, Hennig included.

Having directorial roles on Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 gave her no time to rest between projects, saying that she was still performing post-release work on Uncharted 2 while other members of her team were returning from vacations, ready to embark on another adventure.

She doesn’t regret going through those years of toil, as she’s incredibly proud of the Uncharted franchise and what it became. However, when asked if AAA development is really worth the sacrifice, Hennig’s answer was clear.

“I don’t think so. There’s people who never go home and see their families. They have children who are growing up without seeing them,” she said. “And there were people who, y’know, collapsed, or had to go and check themselves in somewhere when one of these games were done. Or they got divorced. That’s not okay, any of that. None of this is worth that.”

Hennig’s remarks are still the topic of many discussions surrounding AAA titles today, though it is difficult to tell if this has caused a change in any studio’s policies.

Star Wars and Visceral Games: What Lies Ahead for Hennig?

After being under that level of stress for such an extended period of time, she was wary of returning to the industry when she received EA’s initial offer on Star Wars. It took convincing from Steve Papoutsis, the GM of Visceral Games, before she decided to join the project.

Hennig has made it very clear that this will not be “Star Wars Uncharted,” although the game will bear a spiritual resemblance. The ensemble cast that creates the universe of Star Wars makes it a markedly different world from that of Uncharted, where the player is always following the hero, Nathan Drake.

She still finds her inspirations from similar sources, transforming her offices into reference libraries used to drive her through any sort of writer’s block.

“I’ve been lugging my library from job to job since the ’90s,” she says. “If you just look at something else, or even another medium, you’ll solve problems a lot easier than just staring at them.”

Many may ask what’s next for Hennig, and why she doesn’t aspire to be a manager. For her, though, the way is clear.

“I don’t know why I’d want to be promoted out of doing the thing that I love,” she said in an interview with Glixel. “Like so many people, I have favorite books, movies and games that shaped me as a person, and that were a refuge in difficult times. They inspired me, sparked my imagination, exposed me to ideas, and transported me to worlds that I would otherwise never have experienced. That I, in my career, have the privilege of crafting similar experiences for other people…it’s humbling.”

As far as retirement plans go, fans of Hennig’s work have no need to fear. She has no plans of going anywhere anytime soon.

“I want to keep making games and telling stories until I’m too old to do it anymore.”

Sara Winegardner is a lifelong gamer and aspiring journalist currently based in Washington, DC. Being fed a steady diet of Pokemon, Final Fantasy, and MMORPGs since she can remember, Sara will play just about anything, even if it means grinding for hours on end. Her childhood dream is to walk the E3 floor at least once.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. GeekGI

    February 7, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Sara, this was an awesome read! Thanks for this article. I have been a huge Amy Hennig fan ever since The Legacy of Kain/ Soul Reaver series. Amy is such a wonderful person and a true video game pioneer. I cannot wait until EA finally showcases Amy’s new Star Wars game. With E3 around the corner we might finally get a taste, fingers crossed!

    • Sara Winegardner

      February 8, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      Thank you so much, GeekGI! I really appreciate it! I have an immense respect for her as one of the best in the industry, and I’m hoping that this upcoming Star Wars title will be a continuation of her impressive legacy. I’m hoping for a reveal right alongside you!

  2. John Cal McCormick

    February 7, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I’m a big fan of her work, although to be fair, Uncharted 4 is easily the best written game in that series and she wasn’t involved, so make of that what you will.

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‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming

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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.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

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.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

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.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

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. 

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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.

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max raid battles

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.

max raid battles

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.

max raid battles

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.

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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.

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Metal Gear Solid 3

“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

Metal Gear Solid 3
“Snake, try and remember some of the basics of CQC.”

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 PatriotsSnake 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.

Revolver Ocelot’s gun-slinging pre-boss cutscene was completely animated through motion capture footage.

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

Fun Fact: Kojima has gone on record saying that Naked Snake’s favorite CalorieMate Block is the chocolate-flavored line (rightfully for promotional reasons!).

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.

Snake Eater 3D Limited Edition Bundle included a ‘Snake Skin’ themed standard 3DS (only released in Japan).

2011 saw the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collectiona 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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