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Electronic Gaming Monthly : Press Start : Let Them Eat Snake

egm_169_int_let_eat_snake.gif We interrogate Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater's creator about his game's jungle environments, online features, and what he thinks of Splinter Cell

Pity Hideo Kojima—not for the countless hours and endless personal sacrifices he and his team have endured in creating Metal Gear Solid or its sequels, day after day for over five years straight. No, pity him because every summer at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, instead of enjoying the public reaction as his latest labor of love is unveiled, he's sitting in a small, dark room just off the show floor, granting interviews to a long procession of pasty game journalists. Every half hour. For three days.

This year, that labor of love is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater for PlayStation 2, and the public reaction he wasn't around to enjoy was the sort usually reserved for rock stars—crowds gathered, fans cheered, fists were pumped, girls lifted their shirts (well, had there been any girls, they probably would have). Quite a high level of excitement for a game that's not even due until sometime late next year, but then, this is Metal Gear we're talking about. The intense interest surrounding each new title in the stealth-espionage series is matched only by the lengths that Kojima and his team go to keep everything secret until the last possible moment.

So yes, we pity Kojima, but not so much that we didn't arrive at his makeshift prison this year for our half hour, perk up our pasty ears, and take full advantage of a rare opportunity to talk with him about MGS3….

EGM: So why the jungle setting for Metal Gear Solid 3?

Hideo Kojima: I think what the [Metal Gear] fans really want to see is field combat, like a battle in the jungle. You've seen many games, like a lot of PC games, that have tried to portray the jungle. But [in those games] you always see routes—you never get to walk into the trees. There's always a couple paths. But we're not going to lay any paths in our game—you can go in any direction; you can take any route. There might be a vertical wall that you can't climb up, but then you can climb a tree and use the branches to go to the other side. You can go down a cliff. And if you take too high of a fall, you might break a leg bone and have to treat yourself. There are so many ways to get around instead of just seeing two paths.

EGM: You've mentioned that your enemies in the jungle will include more than just soldiers....

HK: In the jungle, there are small animals and poisonous animals that could be your enemy. If it starts raining, you could get really cold and start losing energy. So it's not just enemy soldiers who are after you, but another enemy—the natural environment.

Once you go into the enemy base—artificial buildings—then you'll experience what you've seen in previous Metal Gears. So you'll be using totally different strategies for the enemies [indoors and outdoors]. When you're in a building and a guard sees you, he'll use his radio and ask for backup, and they all come pouring out. This is what you've seen before in MGS2. But when a guy in the jungle spots you, even if he asks for help, they're not going to arrive for a few seconds. So that's why you'll see four guys working as a team [as was shown in the trailer], and they're not going to call for help. They're going to work together on the spot; they'll be scouting—they'll be following you, tracking your footprints. So it'll be a totally different experience because they work in different ways.

EGM: You went to New York to research MGS2—what have you done for MGS3?

HK: The biggest thing we did is [go] on a one-night trip with our military advisor into the mountains. He gave us training, like into the night—we wore camo gear, we did stalking, we practiced walking techniques. We had guards in front of our cottages, and we did exercises like team A attacks team B around midnight and such. We'll be doing this more often. There were three teams—my team survived, but the other ones got killed [laughs].

EGM: You practiced "stalking"?

HK: There's this thing [in MGS3] called the Stalking mode, where you walk very slowly in order not to make any noise. With the previous games, you could walk slowly, but this stalking is even slower.

EGM: So does MGS3 take place entirely in the jungle? Or are you going to pull another MGS2, where everyone thought the whole game was set on a tanker, and it ended up being only the first hour of the game?

HK: The basic structure of a Metal Gear game is there's a military structure or some base you infiltrate. Then you might have to destroy something to accomplish your mission and get out of the place. In MGS 1 and 2, very strangely and conveniently, you always start right near the base. That's really impossible. Normally, in a real sneaking mission, you'd usually land maybe a few hundred miles away from where you want to go, maybe in some other country, and you'd go across the ocean or a desert or the jungle or the mountains. And this sequence is what's critical in espionage—and what's really fun. So what you'll experience in MGS3 is this natural environment—the jungle, the mountains, maybe even caves—which leads to some artificial structure, maybe the enemy base. Then you get out of that place and go into the wilderness again and move on to another structure. It's not that simple of a sequence, but that's basically how it goes.

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