Deja Review: Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D

We're of the firm opinion that your time is too precious, too valuable to be spent reading a full review for a game that was already reviewed many, many years ago. What's the point of applying a score to a game that's old enough to be enrolled in the sixth grade? That's why we invented Deja Review: A quick look at the new features and relative agelessness of remade, revived and re-released games.

After a really shaky E3 demo, I was worried about how Konami's 3DS remake of Metal Gear Solid 3 was going to turn out. I'm entirely willing to replay this game -- one of my favorite games ever -- on every platform Konami will sell it to me on, so I was hoping to at least have a good experience when dutifully playing it on the handheld.

To my relief, Metal Gear Solid 3D is a real, playable, enjoyable version of the game, and it's on a handheld. Even without the crutch of a Circle Pad Pro attachment, the controls work fine! There are some compromises thanks to the small format -- but there are also a few things that the 3DS version does better.

What's new this time around? Naturally, the original PS2 version didn't display in 3D, nor was it portable. Well, maybe if you're Ben Heckendorn or if you had one of those flip-up LCD screens for your PS2 ... it was never easily portable, anyway. That's the macro stuff.

In less blindingly obvious changes: you can now take a picture with the 3DS camera, or load an image onto the SD card, and convert it into camouflage. This "Photo-Camo" system uses 256x256 or 125x125 segments from your photos, and analyzes the color composition to determine how useful it is in various environments. This is both helpful, allowing you to generate new camo patterns on the fly -- and hilarious, as the most useful camo I made was a picture of my cat's face. A Coke Zero can came in handy, as did ... a picture of the Metal Gear Solid 3D box.

As for the stuff that only MGS fans will notice: you can totally walk while crouched now! You can also see little indicators of whether you're stunning, damaging, or tranquilizing a guard when you attack them. It's the little circular indicator from Peace Walker, and it's enormously useful.

Other minimal changes include the ability to aim in first-person or third-person (changeable on the fly on the touch screen) and context-sensitive icons that pop up during especially complex maneuvers.

How's it hold up? So, those context-sensitive icons? Brilliant. The tweaked controls, along with the live instruction, allowed me to do things I've never been able to do. I interrogated a guard within ten minutes of picking up the game. In other versions, trying to do that results in inadvertent throat-cutting, and that's an awkward situation.

Even outside of these thoughtful alterations, the controls are totally workable. Using the face buttons as camera controls seems weird, but I got used to it in Peace Walker, and quickly got used to it here. In any case, here you have the alternative of mapping camera controls to an actual analog stick if you want to spend $20 on the accessory. The touchscreen also works just fine for navigating things like weapon and food selection.

The big question, however, is does it look OK? Metal Gear Solid 3 is a beautiful game, full of lush, detailed jungle environments, but the full answer to that is a bit more complicated. The graphics are, for the most part, quite good, with two unfortunate issues. First, the cutscenes all appear to be in-engine rather than pre-rendered. There's even a little more bloom here than on the PS2 game, which looks lovely. This insistence on real-time visuals is an admirable effort that, unfortunately, results in an atrocious framerate. I wondered at some points whether someone who hadn't seen these scenes before would even know what was going on.

The other, more substantive graphical issue is that since the 3DS resolution is so low, enemies are absolutely tiny at even a moderate distance. I found myself much less able to score headshots, due to the small, ill-defined masses of apparent enemy I was trying to target. Boss fights are notably harder because of this, as well, especially if you're trying to use the tranquilizer gun.

But even with the adjustment required by display restrictions, the game works, and it's still one of the most entertaining, well-written games I've ever played. If you never had a PS2 or just want to start with a portable version, you will absolutely have a representative MGS3 experience in this port. The bite-sized Snake Eater makes for just as satisfying a meal.

This Deja Review is based on a retail copy of Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D, provided by Konami.