Action-packed and visually stunning are just a few of any compatible editorial buzzwords that could be used to describe Snake Eater. Simply put, it's the tactical espionage game we've been waiting for. In retrospect, Sons of Liberty left us all scratching our heads, but fans can rest easy - Hideo Kojima has put the series back on the path and you'd be wise not to pass up the sting of his newest digital adventure.
The setting takes place in the 60's during the Cold War. Snake is dispatched to rescue a weapons specialist whose held hostage and forced to complete a potential nuclear menace – the Metal Gear prototype “Shagohad”. However, Snake's priorities ultimately become more complicated when his former mentor, The Boss, defects to Russia and partners with the Cobra Unit, a savage military posse.
From a structural perspective, much of the game's elements remain the same, save for a few exceptions. The open-ended atmosphere is an welcome change, splendidly depicted by some of the best visuals to come out of the PS2 to date, albeit at the expense of a slower frame rate. Snake Eater embodies a more realistic stealth/survival engine, as evidenced by the new camo, hunting and first-aid systems. While this inarguably is a nice touch, switching between the on-screen action to a menu screen for either of the said systems proves to be a jarring process.
Despite the greater emphasis on stealth, players may feel inclined to take the run-and-gun approach which may prove to be just as exhilarating then tip-toeing throughout the jungle. However, doing so means you'll lose out on the opportunity to take advantage of the new close-quarters combat (CQC) techniques. Successfully sneaking behind an opponent offers a variety of options such as interrogating them for info, slamming them into the ground, or cutting their jugular. It takes some practice, especially since your actions correspond to how hard you tap or hold the button. In the beginning, I kept slitting throats when all I wanted was directions for the next jungle tour bus to Shagohad.
I have to give a quick mention to the exceptionally cool bosses in the game, notably The End, who's ignited a phenomenal spark of discussion throughout the net. Suffice it to say, the experience will test your endurance, nerves, and marksmanship in a intense mano-a-mano melee that undoubtedly was the longest, dynamic boss battle I've ever experienced. I'd hate to give any spoilers away, but let's just say that patience is a virtue, (and relying on Snake's available gadgets wouldn't hurt either). Overall, the Cobra Unit are an intriguing group, but it's unfortunate that the game offers very little background details of their psychotic, murderous nature until you make first contact. A burst of rage before and after battle doesn't exactly strike me as memorable, but that doesn't take away from their quality as being the most unique bosses I've had the pleasure of fighting against in any recent action game to date.
My only complaint with MGS3 – the camera angle doesn't suit the engine, given the omission of the soliton radar system. While I've grown accustomed to its absence, I'd have to concur with Shane Bettenhausen from EGM who expressed the need to adopt a Splinter Cell-style perspective. Beyond that, fans and newcomers alike can enjoy one of the most epic, polished editions in the franchise to date. And I can't forget to give a nod to the whimsical Snake vs. Monkey mini-game, featuring the mischievous monkeys from Ubisoft's Ape Escape series, which easily shines as one of game's most enjoyable bonuses.
Still hiding under a cardboard box waiting for some action? Get to your local retailer and dig into the one of the best PS2 games of the year.