History of Metal Gear: The Catalyst (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)

History of Metal Gear: The Catalyst (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater) - Article

by Taneli Palola , posted on 20 January 2018 / 2,707 Views

After Metal Gear Solid 2 pulled the famous and rather controversial bait and switch on the series' fanbase, expectations on what direction Hideo Kojima would decide to take the franchise in next were all over the place. He had clearly shown that he wasn't afraid of going against fan wishes when he essentially made Solid Snake a supporting character in Metal Gear Solid 2, and as a result fans where somewhat trepidatious about what he would do next.

Kojima was set on once again on trying to do something he had not done in the previous two Metal Gear Solid games, and with that goal in mind began to plan a game that would both look and feel drastically different from everything people had grown used to with the series. Of course, the visuals and the feel of the game weren't going to be the only changes; fans were once again going to be playing with a new protagonist.

 

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - Welcome to the Jungle

 Metal Gear Solid 3

The initial plan for Metal Gear Solid 3 was for it to be developed for the then-upcoming PlayStation 3 hardware, but due to the far longer than expected wait for the console's launch the game was instead moved back to the PlayStation 2. While this presented some notable problems in terms of the scope of what Kojima and the development team wanted to achieve with the game, the plans for it remained largely intact, despite their having to make do with the less powerful PS2 hardware.

One of these plans was the rather significant departure from the militaristic and industrial environments found in the previous two games, with Snake Eater favouring a more exotic jungle setting. Kojima specifically wanted to do this because this would be the second MGS game on the same console, so he felt the team needed to do something notably different as a result.

 The jungle setting created many new problems

However, this did present problems for the game's development, as creating a believable jungle setting with realistic landscape and wildlife would be very challenging on the PS2. Kojima himself stated in an interview that the previous games had remained largely indoors precisely because of hardware limitations. Seemingly simple things like uneven terrain meant that, for example, the collision engine the team had used in the previous game could not be used in Snake Eater.

The choice of the jungle setting was also influenced by Kojima's desire for realism. He wanted the player to have to work his or her way through to the enemy base, rather than simply starting in them at the beginning. Snake would begin missions far away from their target locations, and then travel to them using whatever means were available to him.

 The End

Another element that Kojima wanted to make significant changes to were the game's boss battles. His goal was to make them different from anything else in the series, or any other games in general for that matter. Battles like the gunfight with Revolver Ocelot, the duel with The Boss, and perhaps most notably the sniper battle with The End are clear examples of this desire to create something unique with the game's boss encounters.

Still, not every one of the planned features and elements made it into the final game. For example, the original script called for various characters to speak in fluent Russian in several scenes, but this was ultimately dropped and the dialogue was instead done entirely in either Japanese or English. Another example is the game's theme. Early in development Snake Eater had a space development theme, but this was eventually phased out as development progressed further. This change also had a small impact on the game's music.

 

The soundtrack was once again composed by Harry-Gregson Williams and Norihiko Hibino, with some additional help from a few other composers as well. Early on, when the space theme was still part of the game, Kojima actually wanted to use David Bowie's ´Space Oddity´ and ´Ashes to Ashes' as songs in the game, but when the space theme was dropped these songs no longer matched the game's storyline, and as a result a song called ´Way to Fall´ by Starsailor was used instead.

The score as a whole is excellent, with both Williams and Hibino creating some of their best video game work to date. The soundtrack also once again features a song composed by Rika Muranaka, marking the third time she had provided the main vocal theme for a Metal Gear Solid title. I must also mention the game's opening theme, ´Snake Eater´, which sounds like it came directly from a James Bond film, and manages to make some exceptionally silly lyrics work.

 Snake Eater gameplay

In regards to gameplay, Snake Eater is very similar to the previous games in the series, albeit with some important new elements introduced for the first time. Among these new additions were a stamina meter the player has to periodically fill by eating; a system where Naked Snake has to treat his wounds and injuries himself, instead of the game just having a simple life bar; and a new hand-to-hand combat system dubbed “close quarters combat” (CQC), which was vastly improved over the previous games' melee combat gameplay.

However, easily the most impactful new element, and the one with the most emphasis placed on it, was the implementation of camouflage. Throughout Snake Eater the player must keep changing Snake's outfits and facepaint in order to minimize his visibility and blend into the environment. In addition, the environment itself plays a much larger role than before in respect to stealth, as the player can for example hide in trees and tall grass to avoid detection.

Metal Gear Solid 3 is a prequel to the rest of the franchise, taking place in 1964 during the cold war, over 40 years before the events of Metal Gear Solid and 30 before the events of the first Metal Gear, which up to this point had been the earliest setting in the series timeline. Because of this Snake Eater had a relatively large amount of freedom when it came to telling its story, as it didn't have to worry much about fitting into the already established storyline.

Naked Snake and The Boss

The game's plot centres around a CIA agent codenamed Naked Snake, who is initially sent into the jungles of Tselinoyarsk in the USSR to rescue a Soviet scientist named Sokolov, who is developing a highly advanced tank with nuclear capabilities called Shagohod, which is essentially a precursor to the Metal Gear tanks that would appear later in the series timeline. The mission itself goes well until Snake's mentor, called The Boss, appears on the scene and reveals that she's defecting to the USSR. The mission fails as a result and Snake is injured in a brief battle with The Boss. 

A nuclear missile is then detonated in the area, sending humanity to the brink of another world war, with the USSR blaming the United States for the nuclear attack. An agreement is then reached, whereupon the US agrees to dispose of the renegade Soviet faction, find and destroy the Shagohod, and kill The Boss. To this end, a week after the failure of the first mission Naked Snake is sent back into the Soviet Jungle.

In terms of characters, Metal Gear Solid 3 introduced a lot of new ones, and gave screen time to many already familiar ones, but from a completely new perspective. Naked Snake/Big Boss is shown for the first time as the main protagonist, having previously played various other roles in the preceding games and often simply being a background presence. Of course, we also get to see Revolver Ocelot from a completely new point of view during his younger days.

The Boss 

Some of the important new characters in the game include The Boss, Naked Snake's mentor and one of the most skilled soldiers in history, who also happens to serve as a catalyst for many of the events that take place in the rest of the series; and EVA, a KGB agent who has been sent to assist Snake but who also goes on to become his love interest. 

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was released November 17, 2004, in North America, and then a bit later in Japan and Europe. It was received very well by critics, and quickly became another big commercial success in the months following its release. However, it wasn't quite the massive hit that the previous game had been, selling a little over 4 million copies compared to Sons of Liberty's over 6 million.

Snake Eater has also been re-released several times since, first with the subtitle Subsistence in late 2005, with some added features such as a controllable camera and an online mode, and later as part of the HD Collection in 2011, which allowed the game to run at 60fps for the first time, compared to the previous 30fps. The 3DS also received a version called Snake Eater 3D in 2012.

 

Most Memorable Moment

Metal Gear Solid 3 is filled with iconic scenes and moments, such as Naked Snake's meeting with The Sorrow in the spiritual realm, where Snake faces all of the spirits of the people he has killed during the mission, the battle against The End, Snake and Eva talking in the cave, and many more. However, for me, there is really only one possible choice for the most memorable moment in Snake Eater.

The Final Confrontation

The final fight between Naked Snake and The Boss, and its immediate aftermath, is to me one of the greatest individual moments in any video game. Not only is the image of Snake standing above the body of his former mentor, pointing a gun at her, perhaps the most poignant image in the entire series, but the moment when the player realizes that in order to continue they actually have to pull the trigger themselves is exceptionally powerful.

It's also this encounter that causes Naked Snake to abandon his loyalty to the United States - to begin looking for alternate paths free from others' control - and ultimately sets in motion everything that happens in the rest of the series' storyline, all the way up to the end of Metal Gear Solid 4. That is why the fight against The Boss is the most memorable moment in Metal Gear Solid 3.

 

Does Metal Gear Solid 3 Still Hold Up?

 

Yes, no question about it. For me personally Metal Gear Solid 3 is the peak of the entire series, with the most interesting new gameplay elements, a great story, some of the best characters, and many of the most memorable and important moments in the entire series. It also has an excellent soundtrack and, at the time of its release, was visually stunning. Thanks to the subsequent remaster the game still looks great even today.

As far as I'm concerned, this is still the best written, most cohesive, and best put together story in the entire series, successfully laying the foundation for the events in games that came both before and after it. As great as MGS 2 was, its story was somewhat hampered by overly complex, lengthy philosophical discussions and numerous plot twists. Snake Eater feels much less scattered with its storytelling, and even while it tackles some fairly complex themes and issues, it never loses sight of the overarching plot.

 The Legacy of The Boss

The new additions to the gameplay were also well designed and interesting, giving the game some additional depth thanks to improved stealth and combat mechanics. Snake Eater also contains some of the best designed boss fights in the entire series, with the fights against The End and The Boss being particular standouts, both for very different reasons.

The only major negative the game originally had was not being able to control the in-game camera, which made some sections needlessly difficult. However, later versions of the title fixed that issue, removing what was essentially the only truly significant issue with the original version. The visual and framerate improvements in these re-releases have made the game even more enjoyable to play in general too.

 Big Boss

Metal Gear Solid 3 is, in my opinion, among the greatest games ever made, especially with the improvements made in the later versions of the game. The story is excellent and the characters are some of the most iconic in video game history, providing a number of genuinely impactful emotional moments. It also showed that Metal Gear Solid could be a lot more than just futuristic espionage and high tech gadgets.

With the best story in the series - one that gives us an intriguing look at the origin of one of the franchise's most important characters - a great score, fun and rewarding gameplay, and visuals that still hold up remarkably well today, Snake Eater is one of the best experiences I've ever had playing a video game. 

 

Fun Fact

Although the two David Bowie songs were ultimately not used as the game's themes, there are still several references to his music to be found within Metal Gear Solid 3, including one of the characters using the alias Major Tom at one point, and the outfit worn by The Fury and his final words are also a reference to Bowie's song Space Oddity.

Sources:
Hideo Kojima's Commentary on the game
Hideo Kojima's blog
Hideo Kojima Interview (Gamespy.com)
Hideo Kojima Interview (Gamepro.com)
Hideo Kojima Interview (IGN.com)


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9 Comments

Kerotan (on 22 January 2018)

Without this game there would be no Kerotan on vgchartz.


BraLoD (on 20 January 2018)

One of the best games I've ever played, a masterpiece all the way to the end.


KazumaKiryu (on 22 January 2018)

The biggest Masterpiece in the Videogames-History (with Persona 4/5 and The Last of Us). Cant wait of Hideo Kojima's new Maingame, "Death Stranding".


Valdney (on 20 January 2018)

Best MGS game by a long shot!!


Mystro-Sama (on 20 January 2018)

Easily.


  • +1
Oneeee-Chan!!! (on 20 January 2018)

1 is best MGS.


  • +1
Xen (on 22 January 2018)

The best MGS. Thanks for this article.


V-r0cK (on 21 January 2018)

The best MSG game ever!!!!


AlfredoTurkey (on 20 January 2018)

MGS 1 was mind-blowing. MGS 2 was a good game but the bait-and-switch pissed most of us off and left a bad taste in our mouths. MGS3, however, rectified that sin ten-fold. It's Kojima's magnum opus and the last great MGS imo.


Valdney (on 20 January 2018)

I am 100 percent with you. I played MGS4 but, the game was a let down for me and I haven't played any MGS game since.


  • 0
kazuyamishima (on 22 January 2018)

All the MGS made by Kojima are great, even MGSV with it incomplete last missions.


m0ney (on 21 January 2018)

I played it last year. let's just say I prefer Splinter Cell