Header image source: www.vicioplanet.net
In the nether regions of 2004 (to wit: November), the latest iteration of the much-vaunted Metal Gear Solid series surfaced. It did so in a dramatic fashion, I’d wager; punching unwitting security personnel in the groin, stealthing about in a cardboard box like a big, stubbly-chinned girl and speaking in a ludicrous, gravellier than two sacks of gravel, I’m Batman voice.
It was the tale of fledgling miscreant Big Boss, in the days before he received that degree in Badassery from the University of I Kick Your Face In the Face. He is a CIA agent, propelled cranium-first into the Soviet Union of the Cold War era. It is incumbent upon him to liberate a Soviet scientist, Sokolov, who is being forced to aid in the development of the disconcertingly Metal Gear-esque Shagohod (a tank with nuclear/engine capacities rendering it more faster and more formidable than a marauding King Kong with its gonads on fire). This is the ‘Virtuous Mission,’ your objective in the opening stages of the game. Before the impending crapstorm ensues, and your goal becomes preposterously convoluted, as is the wont of Metal Gear Solid.
Snake Eater brought an unprecedented degree of innovation to the franchise. Most pertinently, its Sixties setting allowed frequent cameos from hippy troupes that had raised a contemptuous middle finger at person hygiene/shaving body hair. Except it didn’t. What you will find here is a contemporary arsenal of equipment. There’s a simple motion detector in lieu of that series stalwart, the soliton radar. Further, nothing with which you’ll shoot in the gonads/be shot in the gonads seems conspicuous in the 1964 setting. One can almost envisage Mike Myers striding nonchalantly into view, in his hideous Austin Powers wig.
The stealthtacular sensibilities of the games were also further refined here. Bolstering this concept is a camouflage index, with is displayed as a percentage pertaining to your level of… hidden-ness (nuts to you, spellcheck! Us renegades from the depths of the devil’s dangling bits can utilise any non-word we please!). An array of factors aid and abet you in this. Being concealed in foliage. Simply crouching. Laying prone, motionless as an unshaven stubbly chihuahua that’s been shot in the face. The right obscuring apparel (various outfits and face paints for any conceivable terrain can been unlocked and donned at will). All of these will reduce the chances of you being forced to spend a week gingerly extracting bullets from your buttocks for the next fortnight.
When you are beset by assorted bodily injuries, though, a new curative menu and slew of recovery items are at your disposal. In a quasi-realistic yet macabre addition, each injury is shown and described in gleefully unpleasant detail. Bullet wounds, as an exemplar, must be extracted from the body with a knife, sanitized and bandaged. It’s a deft manner of elucidating the obvious safety warning: cruising about, entirely alone, in a heavily guarded government institution is a hazardous business. Don’t try it at home, lest you end up bleeding copious bleeding-blood from every bodily orifice.
Stamina and hunger is the final pertinent addition to this third installment, and the one that garnered its moniker Snake Eater. Throughout your travails, wild animals and plants can be collected and eaten, so as to retain your stamina meter and hasten the regeneration of your health bar after curing injuries and ailments. Look, Ma! I just burned a leech off of my underpants-region with a lighter!
As I’ve often vehemently maintained, more video games need to afford us the opportunity to shoot and alligator in the ass and proceed to eat it.
In summation, I’d venture that Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a wonderful example of an effective sequel. An amalgamation of new ideas to enhance the ‘lone survival’ formula, which simultaneously retained those quintessential Metal Gear elements. Demented, impenetrable plotting (series lore is, at this juncture, as difficult to follow as that Bulgarian soap opera I once attempted to watch while drunk), the quirky humour of the kerotan hunt and some ludicrous bosses are supplied as standard. Huzzah!