March 23, 2006

Metal Gear Solid 3: Ineptitude

by psu

I picked up the new Metal Gear Solid 3 special edition because the promise of playing the game with a real third person camera intrigued me. You have to give Kojima credit. If nothing else, he has a sense of style, and he does not take himself too seriosuly. Things happen in the latest Metal Gear game that you just can't imagine happening in, say, Splinter Cell because the latter game puts up a pretense of being a serious take on the action/stealth genre.

In Metal Gear, you can kill snakes and frogs and alligators and eat them later to heal yourself. You can do field surgery on bullet wounds in the middle of a firefight without taking cover. You can hide in cardboard boxes. The main bad-ass hero looks sort of like a green monkey when he runs through the jungle with his gun and knife. All of these things, give the game its own unique feel and style. And that's sort of fun. It makes the Splinter Cell games seem stiff and pretentious.

The same can be said of the cut scenes. And oh boy do you get to watch cut scenes. Here's what happens at the end of one section of the game:

1. Short cut scene introducing a main character in the game.

2. You walk out the door.

3. Longer cut scene introducing major villan in game.

4. You walk down a hill.

5. Even longer cut scene establishing main plot conflict in the game.

6. A 5 minute radio tutorial on field surgery.

7. Another short cut scene.

8. The opening credits roll, James Bond style, and thus you find out that the level you just played was the tutorial.

9. Then, you start the first actual chapter of the game with another long cut scene.

In all, the gameplay content of this 45 minute segment of the game consisted of running across an empty field and using the surgery menu.

But, this isn't really the problem with Metal Gear Solid. The real problem with the game is that these cut scenes are more fun than the actual gameplay. I had forgotten that camera problems aside, the gameplay in Metal Gear Solid is just broken.

Here's how the introductory level played out for me.

1. Come into an area.

2. Look for enemies. Spot one over there.

3. Crawl around in the grass to get closer. Stand up, oops, didn't stand up enough so I start crawling again. Stand up again. Move a bit. As I pass by a tree, I turn 180 degrees around and stick my back to it. Get unstuck, turn around, make too much noise, alert the guard who starts shooting me with a rifle. Run up to the guard, stick to the tree again, taking dozens of rounds to my body. Unstick from the tree, grab the guard and cut his throat. Hide in the grass until the alert music stops. None of the other guards seems to take any notice of the bloody corpse of their comrade lying there in the mud.

Lather, rinse, repeat. The stealth gameplay is not only completely hopeless, it's also completely pointless. You don't really need to hide, because you can be shot hundreds of times without falling over, and your health regenerates automatically. This gives you plenty of time to knife everyone in an area and then heal up after your killing spree. I can't decide if this is by design. It would be in line with the style of the game to sort of wink and knod at "stealth", and then make it possible for you to get to the next cut scene any way you see fit.

Of course, combat is no better. The only effective third person attack you have is the grab-and-knife thing. Using ranged weapons is just as tedious as in the previous games. You must use the first person view to aim your gun, but every time you do this your view completely resets in some random direction.

Targeting grenades is equally futile as there is no easy way to control the distance the object is thrown. Burning yourself up with your own grenade is depressing.

It's true that the new re-make of the game at least fixes the third person camera to not be actively hateful. It's too bad they didn't modernize any of the other parts of the gameplay engine. Just imagine if the main character in the game could really aim his weapon quickly and fluidly like he does in the cut scenes.

In the end, I used this "run and knife" strategy to make my way all the way to the first big Boss in the game. Strangely, it was very similar to the first Boss fight on the boat in Metal Gear Solid 2. There was the Boss, over there, running back and forth in a simple pattern shooting me. There I was, on the other side of the screen in an endless search for a way to both stay behind cover and actually aim my weapon so I could hit the Boss.

Eventually, after following the pattern a few dozen times I'd have shot him enough to kill him. But there didn't seem to be much point. I would have been really bored by then. And all it would lead to is another cut scene. I turned the PS2 off and went and found my copy of Madden.

Posted by psu at March 23, 2006 08:06 PM | Bookmark This

This perfectly sums up why I feel suckered buying these games every time the parade shows up. And also why I wish they would simply release the "collected cutscenes" dvd at the same time as the game so I could just have a simple laugh while all the other gamers are giving it goty awards and handling Kojima's apparent genius across various gaming boards and magazines.

Put simply, thanks for the breakdown that gives me a minor sense of validation, because for some reason I can't have this critique with any other semi-serious gamer.

Posted by arlovegas at March 27, 2006 11:14 AM

yes, i see your point but you can't just give up on this game. i have already beaten this game, but you should really get into it. it proves to be a signifigantly good game. it will challenge you for a fun and serious game.

give it a chance, anonymus

Posted by terry at April 6, 2006 11:43 AM

I played the game through to the second Boss fight, and it was just more of the same. So I gave up. Maybe when it hits the bargain bins for $5 and I'm really bored I'll try again.

Posted by psu at April 6, 2006 12:18 PM

Trying playing on something other than easy. :P

Posted by Martin at April 14, 2006 05:44 AM

you are a fool. mgs3 was not only the best cutscene experience EVER, the gameplay is FANTASTIC!!! if you cant appreciate it, cut off your thumbs cause you dont deserve to game.

Posted by gary mcgolden at May 4, 2006 06:49 AM

Hey, Gary, try decaf.

Posted by peterb at May 4, 2006 07:14 AM

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