Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater E3 2004 Impressions

Finally, the story is revealed--and boy, is it convoluted. Herein we offer some impressions.

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Konami's pre-E3 press conference in LA this afternoon treated us to a lengthy new trailer for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, not to mention a hands-on demonstration of the game by series creator Hideo Kojima. The trailer finally revealed a few hints at the game's storyline, which has long been shrouded in secrecy, and the demo gave us a taste of what it will be like to survive in the wilderness as Solid Snake--or whoever he is.

Hideo Kojima demos Snake Eater's hunting mechanics at Konami's E3 2004 press conference.

As the trailer began, we saw Snake--or at least a character who referred to himself in voice-overs as Snake--aboard a military plane and preparing to parachute out. Over this scene was dialogue describing a defecting Soviet scientist named Sokolov, a new nuclear weapon, and a hotline call from Krushchev to President Johnson--presumably, Lyndon Johnson. Based on the dialogue here, it seems that at the outset, Snake's mission is to infiltrate the mountainous Tselinoyarsk region of the Soviet Union and escort this dissenting scientist back to safety.

Are these Snake's commanding officers during his mission in the Soviet Union? Signs point to yes.
Are these Snake's commanding officers during his mission in the Soviet Union? Signs point to yes.

Things get way more complicated from there. Snake soon runs into a young uniformed soldier with a penchant for spinning his pistol like a gunslinger and who speaks in metaphors about ocelots. Is there really any mistaking this character's identity? Though we don't yet know the young Revolver Ocelot's involvement in the game's storyline, there's little doubt as to who this is. At the end of the trailer, Snake confronts the soldier and comments that he twists his elbow to absorb recoil, which is "more of a revolver technique." We'll let you draw your own conclusions.

More new characters were revealed as the lengthy trailer rolled on. In addition to the scrawny, balding scientist Sokolov, we saw a white-suited blonde woman fighting with Snake whose comments about the value of loyalty to ones' country made us think she was a mercenary of some sort. And of course, there's the apparent subject of Sokolov's work--a new form of mobile nuclear launch vehicle tentatively referred to by characters in the trailer as "a metal gear." The plot thickens.

Finally, we saw shots of a hulking soldier with a heavily marked face referred to only as "the Colonel." Judging by the shots we saw of this man beating the hell out of Snake and dialogue referring to his plans for the world should he get his hands on Metal Gear, we have to imagine that this Colonel is the central villain of the game. This guy cut an extremely imposing figure, as he's a good head taller than Snake and really darn evil-looking.

Who is this mysterious woman dressed in a white suit? Her relationship to Snake is ambiguous in the trailer.
Who is this mysterious woman dressed in a white suit? Her relationship to Snake is ambiguous in the trailer.

As for the Snake character's real identity, which has been the topic of much debate this past year, the trailer lent even more evidence to the theory that "Snake" is in fact Big Boss, Solid Snake's father. A shot at the end of the trailer reveals the character saluting in uniform with a classic black eye patch covering his right eye. Another shot showed Ocelot spinning around and proclaiming, "So this is the legendary Boss?" We can't say for sure who he was talking to, though, since the other character was conveniently located out of the frame. No doubt the specifics of Snake Eater's twisting storyline will be the subject of speculation and scrutiny until the game is in our own hands.

The trailer also showed off a few new gameplay mechanics that we haven't seen in past games, primarily the use of stationary weapon emplacements. Snake uses a mounted machine gun to mow down enemy soldiers at one point, and in another scene, he takes control of an antiaircraft gun turret to battle an oncoming helicopter. Interestingly, during this sequence Snake also fights a number of soldiers riding on futuristic-looking hovering vehicles. But isn't this supposed to be the '60s? The plot thickens, again.

As for the hands-on demo, Kojima started off by telling us about things we've seen before, namely the new camouflage system that factors in your clothing, face paint, and movement. We also got to see how you'll have to hunt for food to survive in MGS3, as Kojima began to actually control Snake. You might wonder if the change in setting (from man-made, industrial environments to the jungle) has had a profound effect on the way you'll play this new Metal Gear, but no--fundamentally, it looks like the game we know and love. You can still switch to first-person view for precision aiming and so on. Kojima showed us that you can now use the right analog stick to slide the camera perspective in any direction and then lock it there, which gives you greater visible range when stalking your prey or creeping through a new area.

Luckily, Snake's got some new heavy weapons to throw at the bad guys in MGS3.
Luckily, Snake's got some new heavy weapons to throw at the bad guys in MGS3.

So, on to the hunt. You'll be able to get food lots of different ways in Snake Eater's environments. Kojima pointed out fruit hanging from a tree, a bees' nest, mushrooms, and a snake as just a few examples of possible food sources. The food will have different nutritional value and also a limited life span, depending on its method of capture. For instance, if you tranquilize a snake, you'll be able to carry it around live in a cage, and it'll last for a long time. If you kill the snake, though, it'll rot after a period of time and become useless to you. The "survival viewer" will show you a master list of all the food items you're carrying, the state they're in, and their restorative properties.

We also got to see Snake Eater's new radar in use, which indicates movement with little blips as you'd see on a sonar display. We're sure this thing will come in handy for tracking enemies, but we saw it was equally useful for finding small animals in the underbrush to eat. Snake also used a handheld directional microphone at one point to scope out a faraway bees' nest. It seems that the acquisition of food will be pretty free-form in the game--Kojima used grenades to kill a crocodile so he could harvest meat from it at one point.

In a Q&A session after the demo, Kojima revealed that Snake Eater will be the final game in the Metal Gear Solid trilogy as he's envisioned it. That doesn't mean there will be no more Metal Gear games; he said as long as fans wanted Metal Gear, it would continue, but another game would likely be radically different from what we're used to. In any event, Snake Eater will be playable on the E3 show floor tomorrow, and we'll bring you hands-on impressions of the game very soon. In the meantime, be sure to check out Kojima's demo of the new camouflage system from today's press conference on Snake Eater's media page.

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