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ups: solid prequel with extra content, new mini games, online multiplayer
downs: long winded exposition, clunky controls

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Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistance review
gone gold
game: Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
four star
posted by: Jeremy Kauffman
publisher: Konami
developer: Kojima Productions
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ESRB rating: M (Mature)
date posted: 09:57 AM Fri Apr 14th, 2006
last revision: 05:28 PM Fri Apr 14th, 2006

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Click to read.Certainly, it was the popularity of the Metal Gear franchise that helmed the stealth action genre of video games. The fact that the Metal Gear series has never taken itself too seriously has allowed it to evolve into a strange animal indeed, never more bizarre than in the redux installments, such as MGS2: Substance and now MGS3: Subsistence, where the tension of treading undetected through treacherous battlefields can be cut with a quick mini-game in which Solid Snake chases a monkey. In this way, Metal Gear manages to be quaint and progressive, familiar and utterly unique, successful even if downright frustrating to play.

MGS3: Subsistence includes two discs. Disc one contains a \"Director\'s Cut\" of MGS3: Snake Eater. For those that did not play the original, Snake Eater is a prequel to the rest of the series that explains Solid Snake\'s origin in the FOXHOUND organization. The story begins with the first Soviet space launch, and delves into a revisionist history of the Cuban Missile Crisis in which the outcome actually involved Kennedy returning an evil scientist to the Soviet Union so that he may continue his experiments with a diabolical new weapon, et cetera and so on. The creators of this game went to great lengths to create an overly complicated plot that ultimately only serves as backdrop for what the fans really want-to find out how the relationship between Solid Snake and The Boss began. And find out you do.

The first thing you will notice upon starting the game is that, as with all things Metal Gear, plot begets cinema screens, which begets exposition, which begets action, which in turn begets exposition, and cinema screens, and more plot. This game, however, takes exposition to unimaginable lengths, so that even simple tasks like saving your game become a trial of endurance worthy of a Shaolin monk. I defy you to sit through the five plus minutes of misdirected posturing involved in getting your mission objectives. The dialogue in this game is more obtuse than even the most labored exchanges between characters on the television series \"Lost\". This is made even more frustrating by the realization that every second wasted discussing the finer points of Godzilla movies with the chick on the other end of your headset brings the world closer to the brink of the destruction. Not the best use of Snake\'s time, or ours for that matter.

MGS3: Subsistence retains the classic gameplay fans have come to expect. To this day, despite the growing sophistication of the game\'s presentation and interface, it is possible to see its 8-bit roots. The Metal Gear series as a whole has forgone the hard-edged action and realistic tone of the Splinter Cell series in favor of a more game-like experience. Exclamation points still adorn the heads of surprised enemies, Snake\'s movements are stilted and angular, he grunts and falls face-down when hit, and the game relishes its boss fights. At no point, even during its most involving moments, does the game try to convince you it is anything but that-a game. Even the control system seems a bit antiquated. It is certainly less intuitive than other games, lacking the on the fly responsiveness some have come to expect. The close-quarters combat system is clunky. There are no hot-buttons, only scrolling menus. And why hasn\'t Metal Gear adopted the concept of using the shoulder buttons as triggers, rather than the face buttons? However, those who were disappointed by the unforgiving camera system in Snake Eater will be happy to know that it has been completely retooled for Subsistence.

One of the best additions to the series with Snake Eater is the variety of camouflage and face paint patterns available to the player for any environment. Your ability to sneak around in any level is greatly affected by your choice of camo and paint, as represented by a meter on the in-game display. Subsistence adds to your choices, providing both utilitarian patterns and fancy flag face paint and additional disguises. Sometimes useful, sometimes just for fun, it\'s like getting a little Barbie mixed in with your G.I. Joe.

One of the most tedious aspects of Subsistence is the necessity for hunting and gathering food in order to maintain your stamina. Granted, it gives it that macho, Rambo quality (for those of you who were uncomfortable with the previous Barbie statement), but it is handled poorly. You gather roots and berries by attacking your surroundings, and it just feels off.

MGS: Subsistence contains additional story points that were lacking in Snake Eater as well, but I will leave that for you to discover.

The presentation in Subsistence is exactly the same as Snake Eater, which needed no improvement. This may be the first time that the graphical fidelity actually improves gameplay, as it enables you to better judge the compatibility of your camouflage with the surroundings. The sound effects and music are done well, although the performances by the actors can be a bit stiff at times.

The second disc contains various mini-games, multiplayer games, as well as full versions of the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (a title for the MSX computer system that was previously unreleased in the US), and extra non-interactive content. Packaging classic games in a series along with the new entries is always welcome, especially when one of those games was unavailable to a great deal of the audience until now.

The mini-games in Subsistence are a little more reserved than those of MGS2: Substance, which went all out with gigantic Godzilla-like battles and skateboard competitions. Here the most intriguing games are the reliable Snake vs. Monkey, and an all new duel mode in which you can replay the boss fights however you chose.

The online multiplayer is a significant source of added gameplay. It supports up to eight players and includes Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Stealth, Capture, and Rescue games. The Stealth missions pit one player against all others, as he or she attempts to steal microfilm. The Capture missions are basically Capture the Flag, only with an idol in place of the usual flag. Rescue missions involve teams holding the idol for a certain amount of time, ala King of the Hill. Players control their friends list, game parameters, rankings, et cetera. The online games function smoothly, and rarely freeze up or slow down.

The second disc also allows you to view any of the individual cinematics, or all at once as an extended movie. There are also interviews and candid moments with the developers.

In all, MGS3: Subsistence is an improvement to the original Snake Eater with its added features and extra content. As far as the series goes, however, this prequel provides minimal improvement over MGS2, and even manages to expound upon some of its more frustrating elements. The characters exposit for days without actually saying anything, and most interactions with your team are distracting, meaningless, and poorly executed. Thankfully, the triangle button allows you to skip it all rapidly. Also, there has to be a better control set up, as evidenced by other games in the genre. I am able to appreciate the Metal Gear series for its retro qualities as well as its cinematic brilliance, but as a fan of the stealth action games, I find the Splinter Cell series more involving, and less distracting. This doesn\'t make Metal Gear less of a game, just not my personal choice. For all those looking to continue their Meta Gear experience, or add another action title to their library, they could do worse than give Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence a try.

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