Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D

I recently argued on Pocket Gamer that the original Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a strong candidate for the best entry in the series. Unfortunately, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D is a port that doesn't do its source material justice.

If you're new to Kojima's blend of stealth action, here's a quick rundown. Playing as the highly trained operative Snake, you set out on a sneaking mission in the Russian jungle, surviving in the wilderness by consuming the wildlife, using nature to conceal your location as soldiers patrol past you.

You enter this environment naked - as it were - procuring most of your weapons and supplies on-site. The more items you obtain, the better your chances of making through situations unscathed.

The game sees you utilising thermal goggles to pick out hidden enemies, grabbing new types of camouflage to decrease your visibility, picking off GRU forces at a distance with the sniper rifle, and so on.

Should you be spotted, your Russian foes go on high alert and begin actively searching for you, at which point it's best to stay hidden. If you're outnumbered in a gunfight, you're dead meat.

Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D is closer to the original Snake Eater than to the expanded follow-up Subsistence, though the freely moving third-person camera from the latter is thankfully included over the restricted movement type from the first.

Spotted snake

But that's pretty much all. If you're hoping for an expansive package, you'll be disappointed. There are titles to collect, based on your performance on the battlefield, but once you've romped through the admittedly substantial 18-hour campaign there's not much left to do.

There are a few trivial additions specific to this release. You use your device's gyroscope to balance on narrow walkways, and instead of Kerotans to find throughout areas you'll find Yoshis. The inventory is quicker to load than the home console release, but it's cluttered and over-complicated.

And there's a decent trick with the 3D about two-thirds through the story, but it's hardly worth the price of admission for long time fans.

The 3DS optimisation is less than perfect. The frame-rate is fine 80 per cent of the time, but the game chugs if things get hectic during combat and there are moments during cut-scenes that appear as interconnected stills rather than animation. The PlayStation 2 struggled to keep up with MGS3 at times, but this is 2012 and the game is eight years old.

The Circle Pad works well for moving Snake about, and the aiming and firing through the Shoulder buttons are good too, but the camera control in first-person mode is imprecise without the Circle Pad Pro slapped into place.

When using the face buttons you spend too much time lining up simple shots, and in moments when time is of the essence this becomes a serious issue.

Ducking and crawling is assigned to the 'down' button, while Action - used to climb over obstacles and interact with objects - is on the 'up' button. Both break the flow of play as you move your thumb from the Circle Pad.

You can overcome the control issues with practice, but compensating for the digital input of buttons over analogue sticks goes a long way to yanking you out of the main story. Snake is meant to be a nimble, highly trained field operative, yet when you fire past a guard's head for the umpteenth time, alerting an army to your presence, all sense of connection to him evaporates.

The core game is still smart, but it's also showing its age.

Old snake

Important information like where you should be going next isn't expressly clear at times and the game can be unforgiving, bringing progress to a halt. One escort mission is particularly abrasive, forcing you to keep a dim-witted NPC character safe from harm as you lead her to safety, feeding her rations every two minutes to keep her moving.

Thankfully, outwitting the AI by laying traps takes just as much thought and ingenuity as it always did, and it remains satisfying to work out how the elements around you can cause chaos and distract enemies as you sneak past them.

When the tables are turned the tension soars as the guards act on sophisticated search and destroy routines, attempting to oust you from your hiding space. It's nerve-wracking to see specialist forces slowly track you down as you watch from a cubby hole just out of view, your heart beating with anticipation.

Boss fights are the best the series has seen, and they continue to impress here. The sniper battle with The End across a gigantic stretch of jungle is rammed full of ideas that lesser creative teams are yet to contemplate. Even the most menial of these encounters puts most modern boss battles to shame.

And as the story wraps up with perhaps the most conclusive Metal Gear ending, the emotional impact of Snake's journey doesn't fail to pull at the heartstrings. Our hero's journey has informed the rest of the MGS pantheon, unwrapping another layer of the puzzle that is Kojima's masterpiece.

It's just a shame that to reach this point you have to grapple with fiddly controls and a dodgy frame-rate.

If you've never played Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and there's no prospect of your playing it on another system then pick this version up. Despite the problems with this port, it's better to have experienced MGS3 - as a piece of fiction and as a historically significant game - than not.

Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D

When you strip Snake Eater 3D down to its individual mechanics, it's still a strong, if aged, video game. But this stingy re-release features a dodgy camera and an occasionally unstable engine, making for a package that doesn't do justice to the original release