Cold War super agent video game stylish and cinematic
Friday, January 7, 2005
Don't let a funny title like "Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater" fool you -- this latest PlayStation 2 offering from Japanese video game guru Hideo Kojima is serious fun.
Whether I was wading through the squishy muck of an alligator-infested swamp or breathlessly lunging through a forest to dodge arrows from an invisible enemy, "Snake Eater" is a varied, addictive game that's equal parts Rambo action and James Bond gadgetry.
Set in the 1960s during the height of the Cold War, you play as an American super agent with various codenames, such as Naked Snake and, later, Snake Eater.
Your task: Infiltrate the Soviet Union and rescue a top scientist from the clutches of a clan of rebels bent on creating a next generation of nuclear tank that could tip the scales of war in Mother Russia's favor.
There's plenty of opportunity for all-out action during a series of escalating battles with "bosses." These top evildoers put up quite a fight in innovative ways. One boss, for example, leaps from tree to tree, shooting you with a crossbow. Worse, special camouflage makes him invisible most of the time.
You'll spend as much time watching "Snake Eater" as you will playing it.
The M-rated game from Konami Digital Entertainment-America has hours of involving cinematics between missions that drive the twisted plot forward. Some might complain that these filmic interludes get in the way (this is a video game, not a movie, after all), but they're used effectively, dispensing key details in a well-crafted story.
The action can be frenetic, but overall success hinges on not being spotted by the myriad security patrols and sniffer dogs.
Ducking in the shadows and crawling in the tall grass is certainly one way, but wearing the right camouflage is important, too. You'll always know how hidden you are with the convenient "camo index" showing how well Snake blends into the surroundings.
Survival skills also come into play. "Snake Eater" takes a more realistic approach to health and vitality than many games, where health packs often magically appear.
You have to hunt and forage for sustenance, gathering nature's bounty, which includes crabs, pythons and mushrooms. Be careful: Raw meat eventually rots, and some things you find may be poisonous.
If you forget to eat and drain your stamina, your groaning stomach should serve as a nagging reminder that you've got the munchies. Staying full not only keeps your gut quiet: You can aim weapons better.
Stamina isn't the only factor. You have a health meter that shortens with every incoming bullet or snake bite. Again, though, there are no magic cure-alls. You'll have to manually patch wounds like broken bones or burns using ointments, bandages and sutures.
Better yet, save the game, turn off your PS2 and do something else for a while. When you return, you'll find Snake is well-rested and patched up.
There are many other excellent games in the so-called action-stealth genre, including "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell." Few, however can match the likeable characters, interesting story and unique style of "Snake Eater."