Five reasons I can't believe Metal Gear Solid 3 is one my favorite games ever
There is a certain type of shame that exists reserved exclusively for those who have known what it is to purchase the same video game twice. It is a dull sort of feeling, lurking somewhere in your arm between your heart and your wallet. It will not crush you, but it will embarrass you in front of yourself, the harshest of your critics. Surely, you must have made some mistake to require such drastic measures. Perhaps you’ve lost your original copy, or broken it, or perhaps you lent it to a friend who moved away, and now you’re taking that unsavory walk back through the doors of your local video game store to spend more money on something you wouldn’t have had to if you weren’t such a LOSER.
Of course, there are exceptions. Games so important to you that whenever they are rereleased, you buy every last version you can get your desperate clammy hands on, practically vibrating at the prospect of having an excuse to play the exact same game again. These are the games you fight for whenever someone has something to say against them, the untouchables, the ones whose every last weird little drop you can’t help but let through your pores and into your blood. For me, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Hideo Kojima’s Playstation 2 opus, is one of these games. I love this game. It came out again last week for Nintendo 3DS, and I’m going to buy it for what is now probably the 4th time.
THIS kind of weird!
And yes yes yes. It’s a weird one. Maybe not as purposefully subversive as Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, a game that revels in giving you exactly what you never wanted (AND ALSO RULES), but the weirdest in another way; the way that like, a weird felt clown from your grandma’s house might make you never want to go back there again. A weirdness that makes you doubly afraid because you don’t quite know why you find it so odd. But NOT SO FAST YOU CHILL IDIOT. Don’t let this deter you. As is so often my thesis here in the GameZone, it is this very weirdness that brings home the bacon, if you will. (Will you? You should, if you’re gonna read this.)
Anyway, here are five of the weirdest things in Metal Gear Solid 3 that have not only failed to keep me away from the damn game, but have made me LOVE IT ALL THE MORE. (Hi. My name is Alex and I’m addicted to CAPS and parenthesis.)
(ALL: Hi, Alex.)
So, video games can’t get you high. You’re crazy if you thought that something like that was currently on the table. How would every news channel in the world not have picked up on that by now? Anyway, by the transitive property, it is also true that Metal Gear Solid 3 is not a whole bunch of weed. In my estimation, this likely provided a problem for Mr. Kojima when his kooky psychedelic masterpiece was getting bogged down by all the gravitas and drama that might come along with setting his mega-complex spy vs. spy vs. giant evil machine story during the Cold War, when the whole world was the closest it has every actually been to total annihilation.
Hideo Kojima at work.
"People will not giggle during this,” he probably thought as he stood pensively at his window looking out over Tokyo. “I must subvert the seriousness of my own story, but how?” I bet it went something like that. And if it didn’t, what other reason can you come up with for things like Snake sneakily smirking as he realizes he can drop a beehive down on the dumb enemy troops, or Eva being able to kick Snake in the nuts TO DEATH! Hilarious!
It's an unsettling smirk, to say the least.
So why is this a good thing when it sounds so stupid, Alex? Well, two reasons. One, it really does achieve what I strongly inferred Kojima wanted it to, which was make a serious game feel like it’s stoned, and two, it removes any sort of expectation we the player might have about what can and cannot happen in a game within this genre, which is extremely freeing, and encourages us to try everything we can think of.
2. Time paradoxes
Speaking of things that cannot happen, time paradoxes are usually pretty high up on a list of them, and are oftentimes mentioned alongside some discussion of the universe as we know it imploding around them. That being said, time paradoxes are a purely theoretical aspect of physics for the most part, and what the hell are they doing in my sneakin’ and shootin’ game?
Here’s the sneak surprise, ya goof: time paradoxes are a thing in most games already. Haven’t you ever been on an escort mission and had to restart a million times because the person you’re protecting keeps dying because of how stupid their A.I. is? That’s a time paradox, bros and brodettes. In fact, it’s why any game ends when you die. Metal Gear Solid 3, however, goes the extra mile and actually points it out to you when it happens, like a weird little disc-shaped Doc Brown.
It's your kids! Something's gotta be done about your kids!
So what gives? Why the pseudo-scientific gobbledygook? I think it’s because Kojima wanted you to feel like what you were making an impact on not just what happens in the story, but the entirety of the MGS universe. It expands the story beyond what you see on the screen, causing you to think metaphysically, and if that means making you feel like a cosmic wizard sitting atop a mountain made of pure time with a PS2 controller in your hands, so be it.
I’m just gonna come right out and say this first bit. In Metal Gear Solid 3 there’s a man with the face of Raiden from Metal Gear Solid 2, a somewhat unpopular character at the time, who in this game is a weird gay lover of the game’s main villain. That is some super odd sh*t. Metal Gear is a series of games that loves to talk about themselves, and Metal Gear Solid 3 is no exception. Throughout the game, you can see and hear things from other games in the series that shouldn’t really be in a game set in the sixties.
There’s video game magazines that open to pages about Metal Gear Solid 3. The radio plays music from Metal Gear Solid 2. Plus, the plot involves so many characters from other games in the series that practically everything they do is a reference to stuff they’re known for in other games. For example there’s a joke character named Johnny, who is a soldier in Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2, and even Metal Gear Solid 4. All he does is sh*t himself and cry and complain about how sick he is until Snake inevitably knocks him out. In Metal Gear Solid 3, we meet his grandfather, who is also named Johnny, and is also a very stupid guard who eventually gets knocked out. It’s like a Groundhogs Day of comic relief, except Bill Murray’s character is a commando who blends into the trees and sometimes wears a crocodile hat!
What in the heck's a crocodile ha...oh. Weird, dude.
So, huh? What does this all amount to? How does this make the game better? Easy. The amount of intertextuality between these games would be impossible in real life, so rather than imply that the games are anything close to real life, they thrive on the fact that they acknowledge that they’re games. If you’re a fan whose played all the games in the series, it enriches your experience, and if you haven’t it doesn’t take itself so seriously that you feel lost. You can just play it to play.
4. Naked Snake is a major weirdo
Before I talk about Naked Snake, let’s list a few other characters from blockbuster franchises and examine some of their common traits. Let’s say Link, Master Chief, Nathan Drake, and oh, I don’t know, Mario. They’re just like, super good dudes, and sure, Drake’s an Aladdin-esque criminal and Master Chief is a genetically engineered killing machine with a possibly crazy ghost-lady inside his brain, but in the end they’re all very safe, easy to watch characters who always do what’s right and are never...unsavory. Unsavory is a good word. Unsaaaayyyyyyyvoryyyyyyyy.
Naked Snake is unsavory. He’s a badass who hates nukes and tries to do right as best he can, but he also just straight up stares at tits if he wants. How weird would it be if Drake spent an extended amount of time talking about movies from the real world? He’s also addicted to cigars and is psychologically effected by his circumstances enough to have crazy nightmares where he fights zombie police officers with his two giant hook swords. (Right?)
This was great because it let us know that Snake was a human too, albeit a bit of a scalawag, and the acknowledgement of other fictional worlds within the game places the game culturally as well as stylistically. I also sort of feel like this is another way of making the game seem druggy, because it gives you this feeling of like, “Why is this in this game?” that you’ll remember forever. For example, that nightmare sequence is only accessible if you save and turn off your game at one specific point before reloading it. How many people completely finished the game without ever seeing it, and then were like, “What the? You’re crazy!” when someone else told them about it? Awesome, right?
5. Boss fights
And now, these. When Kojima made this game, he said he wanted to do something unlike anything else that had ever been in games before. The boss fights in Metal Gear Solid 3 are the perfect embodiment of this ideal, encapsulating each of the other things I’ve mentioned to create some truly memorable and unique experiences. Oh yeah, and the drugs. THEY MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE ON DRUGS.
Let’s talk specifically about two bosses, The Sorrow and The End. The Sorrow is crazy because he’s a ghost. An effing ghost. You walk down this ghostly river where you see all the ghosts of everyone you’ve killed up to that point. This is like, factually true. If you kill no regular enemies, you only see the ghosts of the other bosses. When you get to the end, he kills you, and then...you win? Huh?
Did I mention he's a floating GHOST in a rain slicker who cries BLOOD?
Weird? Yes. Metaphysical? Yes. Does it break the fourth wall? Yes. The Sorrow fight is like the anti-boss fight. You win by losing and you have to face how monstrous it is that you’ve killed everyone you have. Deep stuff.
The End is crazy, too. On the surface it’s just a super-tense sniper fight in the middle of the jungle with a wheelchair bound half-chameleon/half-man in a ghillie suit. It can last forever. But what if I told you that you could also just win by shutting off the game and pleasure yourself for a week? That’s right, The End is such an old fart that his squishy little heart just gives out and he dies during the week or so that the game is off. And then not only that! You know how sometimes you run into a boss like hours before you have to fight them and they’ll all “I’ll get you in few hours, bro”, and then they run away? In this game, they do something like that, but if you have a sniper rifle, you can just straight up kill that old lizard on the spot! Sure, this is odd, but you have options! And options are good! And think about what it seems to imply about games worlds being real. Super-exciting!
Not kidding about the half-chameleon bit. Ick, guys.
So, okay. I think we all get it by now. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is bizarre. It’s unlike any other game (except for the three or four other Metal Gear games that are supersimilar to it). But you know what? None of it is accidental. Kojima actually tries to say something complex and sophisticated in these games, and he succeeds. And also, they’re just super fun and entertaining! So yeah, I’ll buy it again for the 3DS. Shoot, I’ll buy it again for Vita when the HD collection comes out later this year, and by then I’ll have bought it 5 times. I don’t feel crappy at all.
Oh, nothing, just a DOPE PIC.
Alex Faciane is a freelance writer who loves video games about as much as you do, probably. He spends most of his time reading or writing about weird mysterious stuff or doing comedy in Los Angeles. If you love him or hate him, follow him on Twitter @facianea.