Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (HD) for PlayStation 3 Review

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Playing through the Metal Gear games in release order has been an interesting ride so far. I’m enjoying seeing how the series evolves with each release. As for the gameplay, I would say each release has shown improvements but the controls get more cumbersome. The stories are pretty good with well developed characters and Metal Gear Solid 2 in particular touches on a lot of interesting themes. Metal Gear is definitely a unique franchise with some interesting ideas and concepts and fun stealth gameplay. I feel some aspects of the titles I’ve played so far have not aged all that well but for the most part, they hold up. I’ve been told my numerous players that Metal Gear Solid 3 is one of the best games in the series. A close friend of mine even told me it’s his favorite one so I have been looking forward to playing it.

Developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Japan and published by Konami, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was released for PlayStation 2 in November, 2004. An expanded edition titled Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence was released for PlayStation 2 in March, 2006. A remastered version of Subsistence was included in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for PlayStation 3, Vita, and Xbox 360 and a reworked version titled Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D was released for 3DS. I have been told that, if playing with the Circle Pad Pro, the 3DS game has the best controls but for this review, I played the remaster for PlayStation 3.

Metal Gear Solid 3 is a prequel set in 1964, during the Cold War, and follows Naked Snake who is a member of the CIA special forces unit known as FOX. The prologue centers on Snake’s mission to rescue a Soviet scientist who defected before the Russians forced the United States to return him. Upon his return, the scientist was put in charge of a secret military project to create a nuclear-equipped tank that could end the Cold War. After locating the scientist, Snake is attacked and left for dead by the leader of The Cobra Unit and his mentor simply known as the Boss who has defected. After The Cobra Unit recaptures the scientist and destroys the research facility, the Soviet Union blames the United States for the attack. The main game center’s on Snake’s mission to assist in proving the country’s innocence. He must stop the enemy faction, destroy the nuclear-equipped tank, and eliminate the Boss.

Metal Gear Solid 3 is yet another showcase for Hideo Kojima’s passion for cinema. It’s another game with long and well edited cut scenes, a lot of exposition dumps, and an interesting roster of characters. In fact, The Cobra Unit includes some of my favorite villains in the series so far just because of how ridiculous they are. Overall, I feel Metal Gear Solid 3 tells an interesting and compelling tale and as expected, some of the dialogue and emotional moments come across as cheesy and unintentionally humorous and silly.

Subsistence, the expanded edition of Metal Gear Solid 3, does come with some changes and new content. Unfortunately, VR and Alternative Missions are not present but it does come with the first two games in the franchise and a multiplayer component. For some reason, the HD edition omits some things that were included in both Snake Eater and Subsistence like the unlockable Secret Theater, Snake vs Monkey minigame, a Boss Rush mode, and multiplayer. In my opinion, Subsistence’s greatest addition is the fully user-controlled camera. You can rotate the camera around Snake to easily get a look at your surroundings. This means you can look almost anywhere without switching to the first-person perspective. It’s fucking fantastic. This made me so happy because much of the gameplay is similar to that of Metal Gear Solid 2 and I feel this new camera makes it much more enjoyable.

Despite the HD edition not having additional game modes, Metal Gear Solid 3 does give you incentives to return. As expected, there’s plenty to unlock including camouflage and weapons that can be utilized on subsequent playthroughs. There are multiple difficulty levels and you can always try for a better code name or rank. One thing I don’t care for is what I’ll call the starting options. Before jumping into the game, you must pick one of multiple starting options: “I’m playing the MGS series for the first time!”, “I like MGS1!”, “I like MGS2!”, and “I like MGS3!”. They result in different things and my problem with these are it’s not made clear what they do. I did look them up online beforehand and chose “I like MGS3!” because it results in more unlocks.

Metal Gear Solid 3 does feature some significant new stuff but the core gameplay should be familiar to series veterans. Close quarters combat has been expanded and you can not only grab enemies and use them as shields but also interrogate them for information which I thought was pretty cool. The controls are still cumbersome but I can’t say they are any worse than those of the previous games. Metal Gear Solid 3 does introduce survival mechanics if you want to call it that. You’ll have to “cure” Snake if he’s injured or ill and keep his stamina up by making him eat food. You can hunt animals and find food in the environments. Eating certain things can make Snake sick and dead animals can go bad. The amount of Stamina Snake has will determine how fast his health replenishes and how accurately he can aim.

For the most part, the stealth stuff remains the same as before. To remain undetected, you’ll want to stay quiet and out of sight, hide bodies when possible, and to achieve the best code name or rank, you’ll want to be as stealthy as possible. If enemies spot you, they enter Alert mode and you can try to kill anyone that comes after you or evade them. In my experience, at least on the Normal difficulty, the enemy AI seems to be more forgiving than in the prior games. For one thing, they often can’t shoot for shit. I do think the survival mechanics do add to the immersion of the gameplay as does the new camouflage mechanics. Snake can change into different camouflage at any time. Obviously, you should change into something that matches your environment so you can better blend in, making it more difficult for enemies to spot you. You can find additional camouflage in the environments and if you Stamina-kill bosses, they typically drop camouflage with special properties.

If you’re wondering if the survival mechanics become annoying, I honestly feel they do not. Much of the game is set in outdoor environments and animals can be found everywhere. Plus, food items are not hard to come by if you take the time to look around every so often and it’s not like Snake has to eat every five seconds to maintain stamina. What is annoying, though, is the whole Survival Viewer thing. The Survival Viewer is just a menu where you can access the backpack, food, and cure or heal Snake. Snake has a backpack that will store whatever he finds and that’s good. But he can only carry so many items and weapons at a time on his person or in his inventory. That means you’ll have to enter the Survival Viewer to add and remove items from his backpack and inventory. To change your camouflage, you have to enter the Survival Viewer and if the lighting conditions or color of your surroundings change, you may find yourself entering the Survival Viewer multiple times. If Snake is poisoned or sick or wounded, you have to enter the Survival Viewer and heal him. If you can’t tell what’s annoying about this already, it’s the constant need to pause the gameplay to enter the Survival Viewer to do whatever you need to do.

The controls are very similar to those in Metal Gear Solid 2 and I did find myself fumbling around the controller here and there, especially in the beginning, which led to negative results but I did expect this going in. Metal Gear Solid 3 does come with some cool firepower and I felt the gunplay is some of the best in the series so far. While stealth was always my priority, detection typically resulted in me shooting my way out of situations and I enjoyed doing so a lot more here, primarily because of the improved camera. But many weapons actually feel good to fire and there is something about blowing up helicopters with an RPG in this game that I find mesmerizing. The explosions look cool and seeing the parts come raining down is extremely satisfying. You once again have the option to kill or put enemies to sleep with weapons that fire tranquilizer rounds. Several weapons do support suppressors which can now be attached and removed at will but they do degrade over time so it’s always wise to be on the lookout for more. That is if you prefer to drop foes rather than outright evade them.

I did enjoy most of the boss battles in the game. Most of them are creative and fun. You can kill or Stamina-kill bosses, the latter of which typically rewards you with special camouflage and sometimes other things. Some bosses can be defeated in multiple ways, some of which are not obvious. Once again, Snake can contact people via a radio and they will provide tips and information on how to proceed and defeat bosses. In my experience, the bosses here are easier than those in the previous games. The only one that gave me a hard time was The Fury. The Sorrow is probably the easiest boss if you actually want to call him that because it’s not really a fight. You can walk through a river populated with spirits and how many spirits you have to evade depends on how many soldiers you’ve killed which I thought was a nice touch. Although, this sequence is slow-paced and can go on and on for quite some time if you’ve killed a lot of soldiers.

One big difference in Metal Gear Solid 3 compared to the previous games is a bigger focus on outdoor environments. Much of the gameplay is set in jungle-like areas with a lot of foliage. This is a linear game and you can reference a map to see exactly where you need to go. Areas are connected by load points and despite the linearity, there’s often multiple ways to approach situations and you can utilize equipment to help you navigate and detect traps and hazards. Camouflage and disguises can be a big help in preventing detection as is moving slow and being aware of your surroundings. While most of the environments are set outdoors, you will navigate through some buildings and around a base. You can hold up enemies but dog tags do not make a return. Kerotan Frogs are the new collectible and if you manage to find and shoot them all, you will be rewarded.

Visually, I feel Metal Gear Solid 3 is a big improvement over its predecessor and that applies to these HD versions as well. The character models in particular look noticeably better. The game does showcase a washed out presentation and you’ll see a lot of grays and browns and just like the HD version of Metal Gear Solid 2, this is only a decent remaster at best. As for the audio, the sound work is good and the action is accompanied by a great soundtrack with some memorable and catchy tunes. The songs range from dramatic to intense and fit what’s happening on screen nicely and also add to the cinematic style the game is aiming for. On the technical side, I noticed the frame rate dip on several occasions, usually during cut scenes. Other than that, I encountered no major issues.

I had a great time with Metal Gear Solid 3 and I think it’s the best game in the series up to this point. One reason is because of the new camera introduced in Subsistence. I love being able to see my surroundings from any angle and it works well. Another reason is because it features a lot of the stuff introduced in Metal Gear Solid 2 and then some. The new CQC stuff is cool, I like being able to interrogate foes, and I thought the survival stuff was interesting. I don’t think the story touches on as many interesting things as that of the last game but I do think Metal Gear Solid 3 has a more colorful roster of characters. I also enjoyed the gunplay and shooting a lot more here but despite having the option to shoot your way through the game, the way the controls are and how certain things work, I don’t think it would work that well as a straight up shooter. But with stealth as the priority, I found shooting when necessary to be fun and it just felt better than that of the previous games.

As for the stealth, I think Metal Gear Solid 3 expands upon it in a great way. I think the camouflage stuff is an awesome addition and adds a whole new layer to the gameplay. However, changing camouflage can become tedious as is almost anything related to the Survival Viewer. I feel this is something that has probably only gotten worse with age. It’s not that huge of a deal but having to pause the gameplay to heal yourself, change camouflage, and swap items between the backpack and inventory becomes annoying. This can also depend on your playstyle. If you get into a lot of firefights and frequently get shot, you’ll have to enter the Survival Viewer more often to heal Snake. But overall, Metal Gear Solid 3 feels like a refined and improved gameplay experience while also retaining the series charm. Unique and interesting items and equipment. Check. Fourth wall breaks. Check. The series brand of humor. Check.

I would absolutely recommend Metal Gear Solid 3. Personally, I feel it comes with the best gameplay in the series up to this point and the new camera introduced in Subsistence is one of the greatest additions to the series. There are multiple ways to play this game now but it should be noted that Subsistence for PS2 does come with the most content. Regardless, the HD version is still a good choice and I thought it was a lot of fun. Since I am playing through these games in release order, I still have more to go, but I’m happy to say that Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence is my favorite game in the series so far. Definitely check it out.

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