Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence -- page 2

  • by Vicious Sid
  • March 14, 2006 00:00 AM PST

Do Me a Solid
Along with an enhanced version of the original single-player game, the Subsistence collection bundles in some eye-grabbing bonuses: an all-new online mode, new video content, mini-games, and full versions of the first two 8-bit Metal Gear titles.

First, a bit of history about the 8-bit translations of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, direct MSX ports which reside only in the Subsistence collection. In the late 1980s, budding game designer Hideo Kojima created both MG and MG2 for the Japanese-only MSX personal computer. Only the first game ever made it to North America, in the form of a pared-down but phenomenally popular NES title. But until now, Metal Gear's official sequel -- MG2: Solid Snake -- has never appeared State-side, making its inclusion in MGS3: Subsistence a sweet reward for series loyalists. On the flip side, completists will be disappointed by the absence of Snake's Revenge, an NES-only spin-off to Metal Gear that was made without the input of series creator Kojima. Snake's Revenge wasn't a great game, but this historical collection would've been even stronger with it.

Online Warfare
Game critics can be forgiven for initially dismissing Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence's online capabilities. Based on hands-on experiences with preliminary builds, the multiplayer modes in Subsistence seemed, well, less than solid. But the good news is that the developers worked in some interesting ways to apply the trademark Metal Gear stealth gameplay into a multiplayer environment.

Subsistence's online game offers several noteworthy modes outside of the standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch run-and-gun assaults. Sneaking puts one player in the role of Snake, who must evade other players and maneuver through a complex facility in pursuit of a piece of microfilm. This mode was the trickiest to play, but the closest to the offline, single-player version of Metal Gear Solid. Capture works much like a bizzarro version of standard Capture the Flag (only with the frog-like Kerotan figure) and relies heavily on teammate coordination. Rescue Mission is another team-versus-team battle much like Unreal Tournament's Assault mode; one team defends a small toy from the opposing team.

There's no doubt that the default MGS3 controls are not particularly well suited for a fast-action online shooter, and it shows in the online modes. Though the new third-person camera controls are an excellent improvement for online player, overall, the single-player-focused controls doesn't always appropriate for multiplayer action. When the action degenerates into a ferocious firefight, you'll wish the game gave you a more streamlined, intuitive targeting system. True, these online modes aren't trying to out-Halo Halo 2, but it still seems like Konami could have done more to refine the aiming and shooting mechanic while staying fairly consistent with the single-player game mechanics. The precise first-person firing mode, for instance, is great for surprise kills but is far too clunky for the vast majority of online encounters. In the end, spraying bullets around and leaning on the game's generous auto-aim is often the most effective tactic. Purists will surely not approve.

If you give the online modes the benefit of the doubt, however, you'll find plenty to appreciate. The game smartly balances trigger-happy action with slower, more considerate stealth moments. It's like Konami put Splinter Cell, SOCOM, and Quake 3 into a blender. Though the current Metal Gear framework doesn't allow for Splinter-Cell like acrobatics -- sorry, guys, no wall-splits here -- the gameplay foundation is still offers plenty of opportunities for sneakiness. And the impressive arsenal and stealt gadgetry adds a welcome dash of strategy: it's great fun to see how Konami found ways to work in all the pre-existing elements, from the cardboard box disguises to the porno magazine booby traps, into the online gameplay. There's no doubt about it -- this is definitely the online version of Metal Gear Solid 3, not some half-assed Unreal clone sporting face paint and a mullet.


The real question is, will enough people buy MGS 3: Subsistence to make the online modes truly shine? Our greatest fear is that only a small fraction of the most dedicated Metal Gear fans will endure the hassle of setting up the PS2 network adaptor and braving the obtuse matchmaker functions to bother playing with the online multiplayer. If that's the case, it's entirely possible that MGS3 Online's virtual arenas will be veritable ghost towns by Thanksgiving. But that's a risk that every online game faces and, ultimately, something that can't be helped.

MGS3 Online is Kojima and company's first stab at an online Metal Gear game. And for a freshman attempt, this game does just fine. Killzone fans will go on playing Killzone; SOCOM fans will go on playing SOCOM. But players who don't fall into one of those groups should hop online with Metal Gear Solid 3: Online and see what happens.

Rock-Solid Snake
All in all, the extra content is a nice perk, but unless you're a Metal Gear diehard there's little reason to shell out extra cash for Subsistence if you've already got Snake Eater. The extra content is compelling -- online warriors are sure to get some thrills from the free internet multiplayer modes -- but not enough so to warrant paying twice. That said, if you haven't yet played Snake Eater, Subsistence is a godsend. With a new budget price and gobs of bonus content, there's absolutely no excuse for missing what is arguably the best Metal Gear game ever created.

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