Snake Eater: anyone been playing it?

On the one hand, between GTA San Andreas, Half-Life 2 and Halo 2 there’s probably never been a point in my life at which I am less in need of another game right now. On the other hand, if there’s one must-buy game of 2004 left, it’s probably this one*.

Gamespot gave it a piddly 8.7. I thoroughly enojyed the second game, even though it became a bit wacky for my tastes as it wore on.

  • Oh, and KOTOR II.

Is this out too? Damn. Where does everyone find the time?

I think this will end up being a better “Bond” experience than the new EA game. (Just wait until you all witness the ‘Snake Eater’ themed musical number.)

Played several hours of it last night and while the song remains the same, the lyrics have been tweaked. The most radical changes to the formula are the stamina gauge and the CQC(close quarters combat) features.

Everything now runs off stamina; your health recovery, your battery power, your aim precision, your oxygen and grapple levels, everything. This is most beneficial in the same way the Halo-shield is such a tactile tool, during those various “evasion” moments when you are sitting under a log watching those numbers tick down to the point the guards turn stupid again, you are also effectively recharging your health and battery power(required for radar-esque spy gadgets) so you enter the next silent assault fully charged and ready. In turn, all the game asks of you is to occasionnally hunt down and eat a few animals that prowl about, the only method to recharge your stamina. Thankfully, a quick and simple task that doesn’t bog down the pacing.

CQC essentially is the new grapple revision which overhauls the “sneak-and-choke” function in earlier games that never felt as fluid as it should have. Sneaking on unsuspecting grunts is as simple as hitting circle within their general vicinity, and fromt here you can do all sorts of stuff including the classic choke/neck-snap, a throat slit, an interrogation, or a physical push to the ground that instantly knowcks out a soldier but generates much noise. This CQC stuff is so easy to manage that even in the most dire situations, it creates an effective way to bypass a couple guards that are drilling lead into you at point blank without having to switch to first person gun-aiming while all those alarms and chatter is frantically telling you give up homeboy.

The other new additions are the camo and cure modes. Camo is really most helpful to the most dedicated MGS buff. The guy that really tries to capitalize on not ever being seen or heard. It’s painless to switch in and out of different rags and paint to become a chameleon to your surroundings, but staying hidden from sight is really what the game still comes down to. For that, the game offers a few selections that have general “all-purpose” camo colors that may not reach the level of invisibility that specializing can offer, but they at least cover a decent range that doesn’t have you pause switching constantly to blend into that tree your are behind, or that brick wall you are pressed against.

Cure mode, is basically a solution to the occasional chance that Snake has accrued so much combat damage that his health is actually given a limit cap until you fix his wounds. You perform surgery by using various tools on snake’s wounds via a pause screen, but it doesn’t really factor into play that often so far(though the x-ray imagery is a stunning visual effect).

What else? No radar this time, but the battery powered gadgets all offer help to percieve your surroundings, R-stick panning too. It’s more work than just watching the little green overlay, but you can deal. Sonar works best at providing accurate info, but each ping you unleash makes a bit of noise; motion detector is weak and hard to read; AP sensor uses vibration to let you know if danger is off screen.

Anything else specifically?

How much time is spent listening to the game happening vs playing it? Are cutscenes etc skippable? Is there anything like Substance or the Dog Tags of 2 that’s worthwhile (ie that ape escape thing sounds amusing).

In the beginning there is a -lot- of exposition. All skippable, but all pretty focused on providing meaningful background on the mission. There is none of that “Emma doesn’t like to swim and let’s take a trip back to 1983 for the reason why!” or… “Let’s argue morals and procedure over codec during a gunfight!” None of that junk…yet

Even better, the game rarely if ever pulls you out of gameplay into required codec meetings. (Unlike the two-step rings you hear in MGS2) In the first couple areas it happens once or twice just to familiarize yourself with the controls, but from then on the codec is either attached to actual cutscenes or optional. That “CALL! Push Select!” insignia has been toned down dramatically.

Some of the action stunts are hilariously awesome. I compared this to a bond film for a reason. :)

Oh, and the forest areas are pretty large. Lots to explore and play around with. Hidden weapon caches and items to experiment with too if you take the time. Unfortunately no dogtag hunting though, which was my favorite part of MGS2, it gave the stealth purpose…in a collect-a-thon sorta way. Now you can interrogate guards by edging up silently, and some say some quirky things, but it isn’t the same.

Oh and did I mention the graphics and music are phenomenal? Cuz they are…

Nice to see Kojima had a sense of humor about MGS2 with the beginning of this game (which has been changed from the demo).