Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Retrospective

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ is perhaps the most beloved of all the Metal Gear games, and why not? It is a very personal story about one man’s incredibly difficult journey to maturity, achieved by eating everything he could get his hands on.

In another character switch, we now play as Naked Snake; the man who would go on to become Big Boss, the final… boss of the first two Metal Gear games. We would experience the mission that would transform him into one of the greatest soldiers in the world, a mission where everyone gets to beat him up in a cut scene, except Ocelot.

Snake Eater’ changed the style of play a great deal. Gone was the limit to enemy guards vision, now the distance at which Snake was spotted was determined by the players camouflage index, the higher the camouflage index, the better hidden Snake was, and the closer a guard would have to be to notice him. It was a good system, especially as it was balanced to fit as close as possible how hidden Snake really looked within the game. It was just a shame that having to get into the right fatigues meant endlessly jumping in and out of the survival menu to check that what you had on was the best for this situation.

This is sadly what hampered the ‘Snake Eater’ experience. The moments of hiding in cover constructed by your own careful camouflage before sneaking up on enemies, that now saw farther and would hear you if you ran too fast, were some of the best experiences that a Metal Gear game had offered. But with every change of environment or change in situation you had to go into the survival menu and change your clothes and equipment to the most useful configuration so you could experience these fantastic moments.

Despite having to change your trousers with every new room it was easily worth it to experience some of the most impressive environments in any Metal Gear game. While the big shell of the previous game felt far too sterile both the jungle and the buildings in ‘Snake Eater’ feel much rougher and far more like a real battlefield.

Snake Eater’ also had the most impressive final act compared to any of the games before it. Before, it had just been different combinations of: fight a group of regular enemies, fight a Metal Gear, fight the last boss, and escape. ‘Snake Eater’ turned that last segment from a checklist of things that had to be done to end the game into the most memorable part of the game. When the ending to a game coincides with its most entertaining moments, people will remember your game fondly.

All this comes to a fine point with the final confrontation with the last boss… The Boss. Considering that The Boss’ only appearance in a Metal Gear game is ‘Snake Eater’ it is a testament to the character that she is remembered as the best antagonist of the series and one of its best characters. Especially when her relationship with Snake, and indeed with most of the other characters, is really just told to us directly by them rather than shown to us. Go back and replay ‘Snake Eater’ if you don’t believe me, we mostly just hear Snake and EVA talk about how much The Boss means to them and we don’t really see anything.

Why is The Boss such an enduring character then?  This is only my explanation, but while we never see The Boss have any deep interaction with any other character, except perhaps the Sorrow, The Boss still does something fantastically cool in every scene she is in like she is reaching for a one to one cool action ratio for the game. Everyone respects what she has to say and knows how skilled she is. In a very macho game, with a lot of big egos smashing into each other (Volgen, Ocelot, Snake…), The Boss moves like a ghost completely ignoring such posturing.

The end result is that we, that is the player, end up falling in love with The Boss as well. So when Snake talks about how much The Boss taught him we are jealous; when EVA talks about how cool and intimidating The Boss is we agree, and when Snake (and us) have to fight The Boss we don’t want to, yet have to as much as Snake in that moment.

Never before has a final boss in a game been so personal that it can make you briefly forget The Boss can parry rockets away with her ridiculous prototype machine pistol.