a review of Metal Gear Solid 3 : Snake Eater
a videogame developed by kojima productions
and published by konami
for the microsoft xbox 360, the nintendo 3ds, the sony playstation 2 computer entertainment system, the sony playstation 3 computer entertainment system and the sony playstation vita
text by Brandon Parker
If you’re the certain kind of person who will run around with a shotgun, acting like an absolute god damn mad man when it comes time for the sniper duel with The End, or the type to just let him die of old age or whatever, well, I hate to say we can’t become friends, never let having absolutely nothing in common get in the way of friendship I say, but it’s not looking good. Let me paint a picture for you.
As soon as the encounter begins I’m on the hunt with the Dragunov. Crawling through that god damn jungle, checking off the spots on the map where he’s not there. But I’m nervous and clumsy, I slip up. He’s getting shots in and I even get caught in a snare while he riddles my idiot, foolish self with tranquilzers. That crafty old bastard, he’s just playing with me. I get some hits in here and there but I’m feeling pretty damn foolish here now. This here is a master of his trade. And me, I’m just a left handed gorilla, I escaped the zoo and I’m wandering around the city. Not only is everything built by humans, but it’s also all built for right handed use. I’m out of my element, as you can imagine. This goes on for a while, and let me tell you I’m sick with a fever the whole time, no kidding, and it’s around the five hour mark that I think the auditory hallucinations have settled down and I’m getting a bit desperate. Yeah, it’s getting close here, I can feel it. But I’m dying here, room’s like a god damn sweat lodge. I’m on top a waterfall checking all over with the binoculars and direction mic, looking for some sign, some glint of light off the scope of his rifle and then I hear it. “This is the end.”
Camera pulls back where I can see the motherhecker’s standing right behind me just in time to get a rifle smashed into my skull for my trouble, he fires off a shot that sends the wild life running for miles and me hurtling over the edge of that god damn waterfall. I see a cutscene deal of him dragging my defeated ass back to a prison cell. I wake up in there, low on ammo, no food left. Exhausted. Beaten down.
If this were the film Predator, this would be the part at the end where Schwarzenegger rolls in the mud, builds a bow and some arrows, lights his torch and screams out into the jungle. I emerge from that prison cell like an infant crawling out the womb with a combat knife between it’s gums, feeling reborn and ready for war after having just preformed it’s own god damn caesarean section. That is what’s going on here. I head back out into the stuff. Batteries for the thermal goggles are out, or maybe I just don’t think it’s an honorable tool to use for this noble and pure conflict between two men, so I’m tracking his muddy foot prints with only the naked eye. My hair is soaked with sweat from this jungle heat. But I’m on his trail now. Eventually I run this bastard ragged enough, I wear him down and I catch him catching his breath on a path. Without hesitation I drill that sumbitch right in the chest with the .45 before he can move on me. Its taken 7 hours, about the same amount of the time the rest of the game ends up taking me all together, but it’s finished now.
He was just an old soldier, practically long dead already, only saving up his last bit of life for one final battle worth going out in. I’d be remiss not to grant an old man his last wish. If I could have used tranqs and just hauled him down to the jail like he did me, I’d probably still be there right now. It doesn’t work like that though. The eternal universal conflict, young and old, yin and yang, zero and one, off and on, that type of stuff. Eventually, one has to win out and take the other’s place. Like The Boss says, there is no victory or defeat, just an endless existence of conflict for the survivor.
Here at Action Button Dot Net, when it comes time to finally put that final bullet in The Boss, it’s always with our shirt off and a lit stogie clenched in our teeth. In-game and out. Right hand held over the square button, left delivering a salute. That’s just how it is, if you don’t understand I can’t explain it to you. But let me say there is a part in this game where after some The Fugitive type stuff goes down, you have a near death experience and are wading through the river styx, some mystical stuff like that. You see all the soldiers you’ve killed up to that point in the game, with the same injuries you inflicted on them. “Huh, lot of slit throats here, must have been where I figured out how CQC worked finally.” They’re all crying for their mothers and whatnot, and I think that’s a good summary of what it’s all about.
Unlike in METALGEARSOLIDL: Guns of the Patriots, there are messages to hear and lessons to learn, there’s a kind of meaning to it all. You’re on a trek through the jungle, on a mission, surviving and fighting and growing. Whereas MGSL, it’s a series of tourist traps your father keeps hauling you to on a miserable family facation. And in the end you find out your father is actually the ghost of Metal Gear past, created and controlled through nanomachines by Hideo Kojima. I always hated those. The MGS games are all about passing something on, whether it’s Memes or Genes or whathaveyou and the theme of MGSL is supposed to be Sense. The sense you’ve wasted too much time playing and thinking about this series, look how it all means nothing in the end? I don’t know. I’d like to think I just don’t get it, or I’m not seeing it yet. MGS3 says the world must be made whole again. MGSL instead says “to let the world be.” Now this is just me but I’d like to think think MGS3 was closer to the mark there.
Metal Gear Solid games are more like action films than action games. And yeah, you’re chuckling and nodding your head in agreement but no, actually we’re not buddies and I don’t agree with you. Let me just be clear about this and get this out of the way here, when I make a lot of comparisons or metaphors relating to movies when I talk about games, that’s just because I watch a stuff-ton of them, it doesn’t mean I think games need to be movies, or that just because I consider the MGS series as some sort of beacon of quality for others to follow that that should mean nonstop cutscene-a-thons all around, or have anything to do with interactivity or any of that horsestuff. I’m only talking about a level of GRAVITAS here that action videogames are sorely lacking.
Personally I’m sick of killing henchman # I-don’t-even-know-I’ve-lost-count-and-good-lord-this-is-only-the-2nd-level. Killing, I mean it’s like a naked woman. That’s nice and all but you wouldn’t want to just look at her like that all the time. Hell no. That’d get boring. No, sometimes you’ve got to shake it up a bit, leave the clothes on, you know what I’m talking about. Let’s have a game about a single killing, that the whole game leads up to and tries to make me feel as sick about it as possible, with just a garbage collector for the protagonist or something. I’m sure it’s coming, but hurry up already. I want to wrestle around on the ground with some guy, both of us fighting for our hecking lives, him trying to free that knife out of my hand, me pounding away on that god damn X button. I want to plunge that killing instrument in him and twist it until I hear his heart strings sing, then watch the light go out in his eyes and feel the vibration of the controller come to a slow stop. I want to look at his lifeless corpse and think about how he could have been an AI controlled buddy in another lifetime. We weren’t so different, just two guys, neither looking to die tonight. He had me dead to rights even, just slipped up and I got lucky in my desperation was all. After I shut the console off I want to feel like I have to take a cold shower to scrub the guilt off before brooding in the dark, naked.
I mean if you’re going to go the highly trained military route, at least let me feel something here. Let’s have it mean something. Enough of this clean civilian free portrayal of war already. Right now most of these action games are like comic books, and the characters are just action movie caricatures. Now, comic books are fine, and there is some silly stuff that just works in comic books that wouldn’t work anywhere else, and the same is true for games or anything really. But videogames, and this is one reason why I excitedly find myself waking up suddenly in the middle of night, screaming into the darkness about the thick smell of asphalt and so forth, I think they can kind of have it both ways and maybe even some completely new ways I can’t even think of. But a lot of the time it seems they only take the weak man’s road, they take the Commando road instead of First Blood. Do they even know the other road is there? Did a tree limb fall and block the path or the sign get switched around? Because they’re just taking the easy way, let’s have some variety to balance things out a little at least. Commando is the weak man’s path. Don’t take the weak man’s path.
Not too long ago my brother came up here, kicked in my door, and started raving like a mad rabid dog about sorry about your door but that Jason Bourne game: He said when it got to the part where the tough mysterious protagonist was to develop a sudden and awkward relationship with the female love interest, well I guess the programmers and designers just stood there in silence for a few minutes until some guy spoke up: “Let’s just bypass the stuff that gives meaning to all that other stuff, I mean, they’ve seen the hecking movie, cut to a flashback level where you blow the heck out of an airport or something.” Whew, problem solved, obstacle overcome, challenge achieved, etc. That really killed him, and I empathize with the man.
Did you play that latest Rainbow Six game? Maybe I missed something but I think at the end it turns out the “final boss,” he was a government agent who went rogue or some such thing, it was because you, captain dude, “covered up for his mistakes” when he was just a young rook, thereby insulting his manhood or some stuff. Somehow he thought that was a great reason to quit the Consequence Free Terrorist Killing Team to join up with the Never See Legal Counsel or Light of Day Ever Again Team. This is the stuff that I have to look forward to. If that’s the best you can do, instead of wasting time on any “story”, just go the Lethal Enforcers route, market yourself as a terrorist killing training aid or something, I don’t know.
We all secretly know the real reason they bother with any kind of story at all, is if they didn’t, some review somewhere would mention that game’s lack of “story,” and some guy flipping through that paper magazine in the walmart check-out line, he’ll read that review and think, “oh that’s no good, you gotta have a story!” then go put the game back on the shelf. Whereas before, he wouldn’t have even noticed or cared for the direct-to-video action film level of storytelling, because that’s more acceptable than no story at all. Mediocrity has become routine on the battlefield and it’s consumption of life has become a well oiled machine, etcetera, you know what I mean?
In a Metal Gear Solid, you don’t feel like you’re just controlling some Terminator-like killing machine, only capable of shooting, reloading, crouching, and taking cover. Hell no, this is no FPS, this is MGS, where you’re manipulating a man, possibly with a moustache and/or mullet, capable of shooting, reloading, crouching, taking cover and vomiting. Feeling a little inadequate now aren’t we Mr. Bourne? I would be too if I just had this scriptural piledriver delivered to my non-Matt Damon textured 3d skull. Doctors tell me you likely won’t recover completely either. Yeah, feel it!
So we’ve got the first, or one of the first, “modern” videogames with MGS1, first auteur game with MGS2, and first war game with MGS3. Even first soulless big budget Michael Bay-type blockbuster with MGSL I guess, or maybe it’s more like a Heaven’s Gate type thing. I really don’t know what the heck is going on with that one. Hard to compare it to anything, say what you will about it there isn’t anything else out there like it at least. Anyway, point is we’re not doing too good here guys not named Hideo Kojima. Somebody explain to me how these crazy Japanese guys with their giant robots and vampires are stuffting all over us in the serious, meaningful violent action game category. Not that I’m shocked foreigner’s can produce something of quality, but America is the place where Die Hard was created. You ever hear of a guy named Clint Eastwood? Somebody here at some point had to give birth to the man, yeah that was us. Now some Japanese man’s interactive interpretation of all those classic cinematic experiences, which he probably received through stuffty dubbing or cheap and ugly subtitles, is more genuinely in tune to the spirit of things badass than almost anything we’ve got.
Hopefully my fiery rhetoric just inspired some kind of action game cold war between East and West.