Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D: Hands-on

I bought Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater the day it came out back in 2004.  After enjoying my first playthrough, it sat on my game shelf for eight years awaiting the day it would make its way back into my PS2 for another run.  It took the release of the game on 3DS to get me to try it again, and now that a playable demo has hit the 3DS eShop I sat down with both versions of the game to see how it handled the transition from cutting edge console game to 3DS portable title.

The PS2 version was not only a blockbuster that represented the height of what the system could offer technologically, but it was also a prequel to one of the biggest franchises on the system.  It was riddled with insider jokes for long-time fans, and even had references for players who didn’t care for the previous installment in the franchise.   The intricate Cold War spy scenario replaced the science fiction themes, and offered a good entry point for gamers new to the series back in 2004.  But how will a new generation of gamers take to it?

The demo doesn’t show off the opening cutscenes, or spend much time introducing players to the world of Metal Gear.  It starts once the protagonist, Snake, has hit the ground for his mission in a jungle.  This is the first mission of the game, and players are left to figure out much of the gameplay for themselves. While older gamers will easily recall the genre-defining stealth gameplay of the Metal Gear Series, newcomers are likely to find the demo very confusing.

To a long time Metal Gear player such as myself, it proved to be a quick adjustment.  I remembered fairly easily how to get around and deal with the varied mechanics, like stealth, shooting, and Close Quarters Combat.  Newbies to the franchise are likely to be frustrated, but demo will be rewarding for players who put in the time to learn the ropes.

The controls are different from the PS2 version, obviously, and this is a big problem for the game.  I’m fortunate enough to own the Circle Pad Pro accessory, but players without this extra circle pad are going to have a difficult time with Snake Eater because camera control is mapped to the four buttons by the right thumb. There might be some differences between this demo and the full game, but it looks like the Circle Pad Pro is going to be a must-buy if you’re getting this game.

With the circle pad, the game actually controls even better than the original.  It’s more like a modern third-person shooter and allows Snake to move and shoot at the same time with a familiar interface.  The use of the touchscreen to manage inventory is a big help too, and there’s a motion sensor feature as well.  The game has been very well configured to the 3DS (Assuming you have the Circle Pad Pro).

The 3D effects look wonderful; the original cutscenes are very well-suited to the addition of 3D effects.  Snake’s long-barreled pistol juts out of the screen, the grass appears to loom in the foreground as Snake creeps through the jungle.  There are also icons that help guide players with the controls, and these really do seem to pop out of the screen.

The demo only provides a few minutes of actual gameplay, but there’s a good deal of replay value, and it definitely shows off how well Snake Eater has been adapted to the hardware of the 3DS.  It’s also a good way to get a little use out of that Circle Pad if you bought one just for Resident Evil last week.

The demo is available as a free download right now.  The full version of Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D hits retail on Tuesday February 21st.  Check back with Explosion.com for more once the game launches.