Developer: Kojima Productions
Release Date: March 14, 2006
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence is essentially two distinct games in one: Metal Gear Solid 3, the game we've all played and are all familiar with (hopefully), and Persistence, an online-only multiplayer mode. In light of this, this review will be split into two parts, simply for the sake of keeping MGS3 veterans from scrolling around haphazardly, looking for the Persistence information. To make things digestible, I will get right into Persistence – because seriously, you should've played MGS3 by now – and follow it with a full review of all extra content, and close this thing off with a full single-player review. Including all of the extras – Snake vs. Monkey, Metal Gear 1 and 2, and the aforementioned features, this package was like reviewing three or four full games in one, not that I'm complaining. To cover my sentiment right from the start, this is the best repackaging of a video game ever, and it's $20 less than the original was at release. If you're still on the fence, read on, but otherwise, I will grant you full permission to close your browser and get your hands on this game.
Getting online is, as with most PS2 online games, a snap. Plug in, find a game, and go (I can't say the same for Nintendo's DS online services, but that is another article). Servers are easy to start, easy to find, and the game rarely drops connections for no reason unless it is on the user end. My only complaint regarding the interface is that it is far too easy to kick people out of games, and it seems like players who are performing too well get the boot more often than not. That isn't how a shooter community should work, but here it is, in probably the best online shooter on the PS2, no less.
Most servers run Team Deathmatch games, and for good reason: The other modes, while fun diversions, simply aren't as richly layered in intricate techniques as a good team match, simple as the concept is. Each map simply seems designed for these types of conflicts. And as ludicrous as some of the items are – cardboard boxes, distracting pornographic magazines that stop enemies in their tracks – they are all extremely useful in their own rights. For a multiplayer game leaning back on nearly 20 years of some of the strongest single-player franchise design in action game history, each weapon and item seems perfectly balanced for online play, despite there being very few tweaks to the way they work.
The same goes for control. There aren't many differences between how the game plays in single-player and multiplayer. In fact, the only change I would have applied here would be the addition of a crouch-run mode. While the pace here is much slower than most tactical games given the many stealth maneuvers available, as well as the usefulness of CQC (close-quarters combat), the action moves much faster here, and it would be much more fun to be able to zip by a short wall (of which there are many in most stages), unseen by enemies on the opposite side. But, alas, perhaps such a technique would compete too heavily with the usefulness of CQC.
As for the rest of the "Persistence" disc: The boss rush mode from the European version (as well as the "European Extreme" difficulty mode for the original game) is included here for the first time on U.S. shores. It covers every "special" moment throughout the single-player mode, meaning that not only are the major one-on-one battles included, but the awesome Ocelot Squad encounter is also available, too. Snake is given limited equipment depending on the difficulty level, as well as varying time limits. Knowing that MGS3 takes about 12-16 hours to complete, it's nice to have something to go back to once it's done.
Snake vs. Monkey is exactly the same as in the first MGS2, but with a few new missions in the same vein tacked on. This amalgamation of two classic PlayStation franchises (Ape Escape being much bigger in Japan than elsewhere) has Snake – Solid Snake, strangely enough, not MGS3 lead Naked Snake – taking the monkey-catching reigns from series-frontman Spike, and aptly blends gameplay between the two. Stealth is more important than ever, and a tranquilizer gun does the trick instead of nets and various innovative tools. All events take place in normal mission locales, once again giving relief to those of us with too little time to drop another 15 hours on this game offline. While a simple little diversion, it is both surreal and unforgettable, and no less crazy plot-wise than the Metal Gear Acid storyline.
Metal Gear – the orignal, not the 1998 PlayStation release Metal Gear Solid – is somewhat of a mixed bag. For Metal Gear completists, myself included, this release is a godsend regardless of quality; it is the first time the true version of the original Metal Gear has been officially released in full English. It's simplistic, somewhat-broken English, as 8-bit games are apt to have, but English nonetheless, and I'm sure the source script wasn't captivating material to begin with. Either way, the game was extremely cutting-edge upon release; nothing like it had ever come out before. The sad thing is, being on the cutting-edge nearly two decades ago often meant marching forward with development with no proper forerunner to cull conceptual pieces from, and Metal Gear is somewhat hard to play because of this. Solid Snake moves slowly, as do most of his enemies, and the short- ranged bullets are usually worthless compared to a well-placed punch. Sneaking is harder than it should be at times, and the pass card system makes absolutely no sense: Doors are not marked, so players are forced to switch through every card in their inventory to proceed. Still, it's exciting to see how many series standbys had their roots in this first game: Big Boss, Gray Fox, claymore mines, remote missles, and Solid Snake himself.
But it is Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake that brings more gameplay standbys to this series than even Metal Gear Solid, which, in retrospect, plays more like a massively updated version of this game.
Cameras move, guards are more open to being snuck up to and killed (which makes for more exhilarating gameplay), the inventory is streamlined to what must have been perfection at the time, and the coolest thing in a 2D game ever: crawling. That doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but considering other, similar games from the same time period, this one had to be the only one that anybody could call "realistic" in any way. For a 2D game, that is a massive achievement; the sense of space is just enthralling, considering the medium. The story, taking place in Outer Heaven, is constantly nodded back to during Metal Gear Solid, so for any series fans, this game must be played. Metal Gear could be seen as a novelty, better dealt with by reading a story synopsis, but Metal Gear 2 is must-play material.
The "other" set of non-interactive extras are the infamous re-edited MGS3 cut scenes, which range from smirk-worthy to completely hilarious. I won't say too much, but I can't resist this: Poor Raiden!
And now: The Single Player Mode.
What can be said that hasn't already been said about this game? It should have been to PS2 what Halo is to Xbox. It takes everything from every Metal Gear game so far and pulls out the comfort-blankets we've been used to, mainly the radar, which makes it exponentially more intense than any one of its predecessors. The story is clearer than MGS2 – not too many post-modern hijinks here, but just enough to keep MGS2 apologists like myself happy. Let go of your nostalgic feelings of playing Metal Gear Solid for the first time. This is the best Metal Gear yet.
Pacing stands as the only prominent issue I have with the game, and it isn't such a big problem in the first place. The new medical system means that players will have to pay close attention to Snake's well-being, but on lower difficulties, it seems like a useless addition, since Snake's health bar is barely impacted by his injuries. The same goes for food, which is so plentiful that hunting it down is a slight diversion, not the struggle that jungle survival should be. This leads many players ignore the Survival Viewer (where Snake's status and inventory are managed) in most cases, except when a situation is especially dire, which rarely happens – rarely, that is, except where any difficulty above normal is concerned. Here, the Survival Viewer becomes the most crucial feature. Stamina lowers quickly, and health becomes a precious commodity. Too many injuries and a lack of food physically affect Snake, so hunting down as many of the (fewer) animals as possible becomes a must. Essentially, this is a game made to be played on moderate to extreme difficulties, which is a shame for those who unknowningly selected Very Easy to Normal to begin with; they will not have the full experience Kojima Productions intended.
As for those of you hesitant to see the setting change so drastically in a single game (jungle settting instead of industrial espionage, Cold War-era instead of near-future dystopia), fret not. The gameplay has a slightly different logic to it, especially without the radar system as a crutch (the technology couldn't have existed then!), but the feel is essentially the same. The new free-controlled camera allows for even more careful maneuvers, making this the most tactical-minded Metal Gear so far. Maneuvering is, overall, a much more careful, realistic activity. This makes for a more visceral experience unlike any series before it, since technology plays a much smaller role than the near-James Bond levels of gadgetry in Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell.
Trying to wrap my brain around every aspect of this package has proven difficult because each feature has such a distinct offering that it almost needs to be reviewed separately. How does one review Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake and Snake vs. Monkey in the same package, and then take into account a SOCOM-like shooter with much more fun to be had? Kojima Productions has made my job easier; almost every aspect of this package is of the utmost quality, while its somewhat dubious moments (Metal Gear, some of the less-funny redone MGS3 cut scenes) are still welcome, because they are preserved relics, untouched because they really shouldn't be. Besides, until Metal Gear gets a much-needed remake, this is the definitive version of the game. This could have been a full-priced re-release, and I wouldn't have blinked an eye, but it's all here for 30 bucks. What could I do but give it the score below?
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