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Eating Snakes in Tajikistan: Looking back at Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

November 4th, 2012 by Dave Bowling Comments

One night, not so long ago, I was sat parked in front of the idiot tube (as is my wont) when the old PS2 that these days primarily serves as a DVD player seemed to beckon to me. In particular, it reminded me that certain bonus items in Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 continued to elude me after all these years.

I should probably mention at this point that I am 31 years old. I spent my undergraduate years playing what can only be described as a VAST amount of MGS 1 and 2, to the point that I still have a Metal Gear-related Hotmail address after 10 years. So the fact that bits of the two games remained outside of my grasp was annoying at best. So I dug out Snake Eater, loaded it up and proceeded to play the thing through seven times from scratch in order to grab all the extras I could.

Merciful Thor I fell in love all over again. To anyone who has never played the MGS series, the visceral thrill at popping out from behind a wall and potting an enemy soldier through the head with a Colt .45 will remain a mystery. But to those of us who wasted so many hours/days/weeks playing the original and the three sequels it remains an amazing experience.

So, for the uninitiated, MGS 3 is a prequel to the entire Metal Gear series. It takes place in August-September 1964 in the south-eastern Soviet Union (probably Tajikistan) against the backdrop of the Cold War. An American operative codenamed Naked Snake (because he has no support in the field and is essentially naked) is parachuted into the mountainous region of Tselinoyarsk and tasked with recovering a defecting Soviet weapons scientist. The mission quickly unravels, thanks to the efforts of a Red Army colonel named Volgin and his former mentor The Boss, who is defecting to the USSR. Snake barely escapes with his life but a week later he is sent into the area again as part of a joint KGB-CIA mission to bring Volgin to justice and hunt down The Boss.

Along the way, Snake has to fight off the former members of The Boss’s Second World War special forces unit, the Cobras. They include The Pain, who controls an army of hornets (no, seriously); The Fear, a specialist in ambush who can run through trees like a spider and has access to optic camouflage even a Predator would be jealous of; The End, an ancient sniper who will die of old age if you save the game during your battle and come back a few days later; and The Fury, a jetpack-wearing, flamethrower-wielding nutter who was apparently a former Cosmonaut. Rounding them off is the ghost of The Sorrow, a former Cobra who haunts the region and was voted one of the top 10 strangest boss battles in video game history by GameFAQs in 2009.

The game’s far from perfect. Yeah the names of the characters and their skills are kinda crap (I mean, the power to control hornets!?), the game’s riddled with anachronisms and could’ve benefited from a bit of extra research, and the cutscenes are usually too long. But then nothing is perfect and the usual MGS blend of stealth, humour and action is present in spades. The game’s available as part of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. Get it. That is all.

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Dave was born at an early age to parents of both sexes. He has been a self-confessed geek for as long as he can remember, having been raised through the 80s on a steady diet of Doctor Who, Star Trek, Red Dwarf and (sigh) Knight Rider. Throw the usual assortment of Saturday morning cartoons into the mix and we have something quite exceptional: someone with an encyclopaedic knowledge of utter tosh; a love of giant robots and spaceships fighting; and the strange desire to leap tall buildings in a single bound while wearing his underpants over his trousers. The death ray is currently in the works and one day you shall all bow to him, his giant space station and fleet of funky orange space shuttles...