How do you make one of 2004's best games better? For Hideo Kojima, that's an easy question to answer. Telling the origins of Big Boss, and effectively tying up a number of loose ends with the series, Metal Gear Solid 3 remains one of the best games released on the PlayStation 2, and like its predecessors, represents a level of quality and narrative that, to this day, is rarely seen in the industry. While that might be enough to satisfy some producers, apparently it wasn't enough for Kojima. With Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, Kojima has gone back to the drawing board, adding, to the cheers of many fans and critics, a brand new, fully functional camera system, heaps of extra features, a truly satisfying online experience, and MSX versions of the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2. Subsistence is brilliant, engaging, visually stunning, and truly one of the best titles to hit consoles in years.
By now, I can only hope that anyone reading this review is familiar with the original Snake Eater. For that reason, I'm going to save you from having to read through a dozen pages of text on what you already know. If you haven't played the game before, you can read our original review here. Instead, I'll focus on the new features Subsistence brings to the table.
If you're a Metal Gear fan, you're no doubt familiar with the series' signature camera system. Using a top-down perspective, most of the action has taken place from an overhead view, and while this perspective might have been functional in the first two games, largely because of their location, in MGS3, players must navigate Snake through sizeable, outdoor environments, and as a result, many objects and enemies appear off screen. With Subsistence, Kojima has redone the camera system to allow for 360 degrees of camera control. Like Splinter Cell, the camera can now be rotated around Snake and tilted to give players a much better view of the action, especially when outdoors. To the average reader, this might seem like an insignificant change, but for Metal Gear fans, it's a big one, and completely changes the way the game is played.
Subsistence also marks the first time a Metal Gear game has gone online. Aptly dubbed MGSO, the online mode allows for eight players to duke it out in three styles of play - capture, rescue, and sneaking - through 12 unique maps. As you would imagine, each type of mission offers a different online experience, and best of all, each mission comes equipped with plenty of options to tinker with and numerous statistics that track your performance.
The rescue missions, which appears to be the least popular of the three modes, have two teams vying for control of a hostage - that hostage being one of the duck-like GA-KO creatures which you might recall, appear on one of Snake's uniforms in the main game. Here, the red team is responsible for holding onto the prisoner until time runs out, while the blue team must gain possession of the GA-KO and return it to the team's goal. Sneaking missions, my personal favourite, pit Snake against, well, everyone else. The objective here is to sneak past your opponents using your optic camouflage (the same camouflage that's earned by beating the game without being seen), steal the same microfilm that you'll encounter in the story portion of the game, and return it to the goal. Finally, capture missions require players to separate into two teams, with the goal being to steal the other team's Kerotan frog and possess it for a set period of time to win the match.
While the juicy, lag-free online mode is enough to wet any Metal Gear fan's whistle, the inclusion of the perfect-ported MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (not the Americanized catastrophe known as Snake's revenge) are the icing on the Konami cake. Even with their visibly dated visuals, both games still hold their own, and give newcomers to the series a chance to see how it all began, while simultaneously treating veterans with two classic games, that even after all these years, still play as well as they did when they first hit store shelves almost two decades ago.
But wait Greg, there's more you say? You bet. As if a revamped camera system, online play and the original Metal Gears weren't enough to keep us up at night, Kojima has also included an excess of additional content for players. Six new difficulty levels inhabit Subsistence (unfortunately, you can't load up your save file from the original, so you'll have to play through the game again - as if that's a bad thing), new Snake Vs Monkey missions, and over a dozen new camouflage patterns to download onto your memory card, provided you have the steep 800 kb required to download each of them. I have to ask though, why is almost every country represented in Snake's expanded selection of face paints, except Canada? What about us Canucks? We invented Maple Syrup and the Blackberry for cryin' out loud - where's the love Konami?
Aside from the aforementioned features, Subsistence also contains the boss battle mode made famous in Substance (with some neat unlockable patterns once you've mastered both difficulty levels), and the demo theatre, where you can view and tweak a handful of hilarious cutscenes made by the Konami team. The 3-disc collection even includes re-cut cinematics from Snake Eater and the Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer shown at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show.
The original Snake Eater was a brilliant game on its own, but was also a game that had its fair share of problems too. With Subsistence, Konami has addressed just about every one of these issues, and then some. Buying Subsistence should be a no-brainer, even for those of you who have spent countless hours already mastering the original.