Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is an action-adventure stealth video game directed by Hideo Kojima. Snake Eater was developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Japan and published by Konami for the PlayStation 2, and was released on November 17, 2004, in North America; December 16, 2004, in Japan; and in March 2005 in Europe and Australia. The game, which serves as a prequel to the entire Metal Gear series, was followed by four direct sequels titled Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Set in the Cold War-era Soviet Union in 1964, the story centers on FOX operative Naked Snake as he attempts to rescue a weapons designer, sabotage an experimental superweapon, and assassinate ### d######d f####r ####. While previous games were set in a primarily urban environment, Snake Eater adopts a 1960s Soviet jungle setting, with the high tech, near-future trappings of previous Metal Gear Solid games being replaced with the wilderness. While the setting has changed, the game's focus remains on stealth and infiltration, while retaining the series' self-referential, fourth wall-breaking sense of humor. The story of Snake Eater is told through numerous cut scenes and radio conversations.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was critically acclaimed, and sold 3.6 million copies worldwide by August 2005. It is now widely considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time.
Metal Gear Solid 3 is set before the events of first Metal Gear during the Cold War in 1964, where a CIA agent, codenamed "Naked Snake", is sent to the jungles of Tselinoyarsk, in the USSR. Aided over radio by Major Zero, Para-Medic, and his former mentor The Boss, his mission is to rescue a defecting Soviet scientist named Sokolov who is secretly developing an advanced nuclear-equipped tank called the "Shagohod". The mission goes smoothly until...
Having detected the U.S. aircraft which deployed Snake flying over Soviet soil, the Soviet Union declares the United States responsible for the nuclear attack, tipping both nations to the edge of a nuclear war. In a secret conference between U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, a deal is hatched to prove the U.S.'s innocence and restore peace.
The protagonist of Snake Eater, Naked Snake (David Hayter/Akio Ōtsuka), known as Big Boss in subsequent games, is a young former Green Beret assigned to the CIA unit FOX. During his mission, Snake is assisted by fellow FOX members over his radio:
- Major Zero (Jim Piddock/Banjō Ginga), commander of FOX and a former member of the British Special Air Service, who provides Snake with mission advice and battle tactics
- Para-Medic (Heather Halley/Houko Kuwashima), who provides medical information, as well as advice on flora and fauna
- and Sigint (James C. Mathis III/Keiji Fujiwara), who provides weapon and equipment information
The two primary antagonists of the game are Colonel Volgin (Neil Ross/Kenji Utsumi), an electricity-controlling GRU colonel and member of the extreme Brezhnev faction, who are attempting to overthrow Nikita Khrushchev to seize power for Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin, and ####### (Lori Alan/Kikuko Inoue). The Cobra Unit, a Special Forces unit led by #######, is composed of:
- The End (J. Grant Albrecht/Osamu Saka), a venerable expert sniper credited as the "father of modern sniping"
- The Fear (Michael Bell/Kazumi Tanaka), who has supernatural flexibility and agility
- The Fury (Richard Doyle/Masato Hirano), a disfigured former cosmonaut armed with a flamethrower and a jetpack
- The Pain (Gregg Berger/Hisao Egawa), who can control hornets to both defend himself and attack his enemies
- and The Sorrow (David Thomas/Yukitoshi Hori), the spirit of a deceased medium
Other characters include Dr. Sokolov (Brian Cummings/Naoki Tatsuta), a rocket scientist whom Snake must rescue; EVA (Suzetta Miñet/Misa Watanabe), Snake's love interest, American defector, and KGB agent sent to assist him, and a young Ocelot (Josh Keaton/Takumi Yamazaki), commander of the elite Ocelot Unit within Volgin's GRU.
The gameplay of Snake Eater is similar to that of previous games in the Metal Gear Solid series. Snake, controlled by the player, must move undetected through a hostile, enemy-filled environment. Although Snake acquires various weapons (ranging from handguns to rocket propelled grenades), the emphasis is on using stealth to avoid confrontations. A number of objects and gadgets can be found along the way to aid in this, including motion detectors to track hostile soldiers, and the Metal Gear series' trademark cardboard box, which Snake can hide under to avoid visual detection.
Despite the fundamental similarities, Snake Eater introduces many new aspects of gameplay not present in previous Metal Gear games, including camouflage, a new hand-to-hand combat system called "close quarters combat" or "CQC", a stamina gauge, and an injury-and-treatment system.
Approximately two-thirds of the game is set outdoors in a Soviet Union rainforest, and using this varied environment to its fullest potential is often the key to success. Of the new features, particular emphasis is placed on camouflage and using the jungle environment itself (for example, climbing trees or hiding in tall grass) to avoid being seen by the enemy. The advanced radar from previous games has been removed in favor of a simple motion detector and sonar system more suitable for the game's time period.
A percentage value called the "camouflage index" gauges Snake's exposure, on a scale from negative values (highly visible and attracting attention) up to 100% (completely invisible to the enemy). In order to minimize visibility, the player must switch between different camouflage uniforms and face paints to blend in with the environment; for example, wearing a bark-patterned uniform while leaning against a tree, or wearing striped face paint while hiding in tall grass. Other devices for camouflage, such as a fake gavial head to decrease chances of being detected in water, are also available.
The basic close combat from previous installments has been heavily refined and expanded into the CQC system. When unarmed or using a one-handed weapon, Snake can grab opponents and put them in a chokehold, at which point a variety of actions can be performed, such as choking the enemy unconscious, slitting the enemy's throat, or interrogating them at knifepoint to obtain information. The context, pressure applied to the button, and movement of the analog stick determine the action performed.
While previous games used only a simple life bar, Snake Eater also keeps track of injuries over the entire body. For example, a long fall could fracture Snake's leg, slowing him down until the injury is properly treated with a splint and bandage. Unless these injuries are treated, Snake will not be able to fully recover his health for some time.
The location brings in the need to rely upon native flora and fauna to survive. This is manifested in a stamina gauge, which constantly depletes during gameplay. Failure to restore the gauge by eating has detrimental effects on gameplay, such as decreasing Snake's ability to aim his weapon and being heard by the enemy due to Snake's loud stomach grumbles. Food can be stored in the backpack until it is needed. However, some types of food rot over time, and consuming rotten foods may result in Snake developing a stomach ache, causing the stamina gauge to deplete faster.
The PlayStation 2 versions of Snake Eater include a minigame called Snake vs. Monkey, in which Snake has to catch Ape Escape-style monkeys. In addition to containing tongue-in-cheek humor, bonus items usable in the main game can be unlocked by progressing through various stages.