Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Hands-On

We tried to sneak our way through the E3 demo of MGS3, but we couldn't resist blasting our way through instead.

One of the most hotly anticipated games on display at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, which is being shown in playable form for the first time. Konami has already revealed a variety of new features about this next installment in the series, such as how it apparently takes place in the 1960s instead of in the near future like previous games and how it puts an even greater emphasis on stealth, requiring you to camouflage yourself to remain invisible from your heavily armed opponents. We finally had the chance to put the game through its paces, and we came away very excited indeed for how this game will hopefully shape up.

The E3 demo allows you to play as Snake through a series of jungle environments teeming with armed guards wielding AK-47s. Snake is on a mission from his colonel to rescue a man named Sokolov, who's being held in an apparently abandoned outpost behind enemy lines.

We immediately noticed the similarities between old and new Metal Gear Solid games. Snake's inventory contains many familiar items, such as night vision and thermal goggles and a motion detector, though these are old-fashioned looking rather than modern. Also, interestingly, rather than carrying a pack of cigarettes, Snake carries around a cigar in Metal Gear Solid 3. Speculation has already run rampant about whether or not this truly is the Solid Snake from the other Metal Gear games, and as if to add more fuel to the fire, we noticed that this Snake looks a bit different in the face from the character from Metal Gear Solid and its sequel. Some fans noticed how, in some of Konami's trailers for the game, Snake had apparently lost an eye, leading to suspicions that this was really the character called Big Boss, who's essentially Snake's father. At any rate, Snake definitely had both his eyes intact in this demo.

Anyway! We were quick to notice that Metal Gear Solid 3 apparently packs more of a challenge than its predecessors. Snake doesn't have a handy radar by default to tip him off to enemy patrols and instead must use his senses to figure out where the danger is. As well, Snake can't just run right up behind a foe without alerting him; you'll need to stealthily creep up, instead. A handy camouflage index, represented by a percentage in the upper-right corner of the screen, revealed to us just how hidden we were. Actions like crouching and going prone, or standing in shadows, raised the index, meaning that we stood less of a chance of being detected. Altogether, the stealth mechanics felt a lot more realistic here than in previous games.

The shooting portion of the game is similar to MGS2, only with old-school weapons like shotguns, M16 rifles, and Dragunov sniper rifles. The game is quite gory, and we noticed some interesting, new AI tendencies like how wounded foes will rush to find cover. The artificial intelligence, though we didn't get to see a lot of it in action, seemed quite impressive and definitely at least different from that of MGS2.

In one rather terrifying sequence, we rushed across a suspension bridge but got caught in a crossfire and nearly fell. We had to climb hand over hand across to barely make it out alive. We noticed that Snake gradually regenerates his health (even when he's not about to die) when he crouches down, though maybe this was for the purposes of the demo. At any rate, the gameplay here already seemed quite good, and it was refreshing to get to play a demo that focused on the mechanics rather than on the plot. We didn't get to see much of the plot in the demo (though we did finish the demo when we got to Sokolov), but apparently, there's some drama between Snake's colonel and the character he's trying to rescue.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater obviously is going to have a lot of features that we didn't get to try out in this demo--just check out the trailers. So stay tuned for more information on the game. We can't wait to see more of MGS3 ourselves.

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