When Nintendo’s newest handheld made its world debut at E3 2010, a certain demo helped to showcase the machine’s headlining feature. Granted, this demo was restricted by very limited user input, resulting in it being more of a presentation video than anything else, as well as being more or less a port of a game more than half a decade old. However, the 3D effect in the Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D demo was still an eye-catcher for a large number of spectators. Now nearly 2 years after the original announcement, all regions can download a fully playable demo for the starting section of the full game. Does it strike a critical Close Quarters Combat blow for the final product due next month, or camouflage the classic PS2 game too well?
Snake Eater takes place during the Cold War in 1964, telling the story of the first Snake who would later become the franchise’s chief antagonist Big Boss. At this time he is merely Naked Snake, assigned to a ‘Virtuous Mission’ to rescue a Soviet scientist from the clutches of the USSR. This being a Metal Gear Solid game, you can expect this mission not to go smoothly, and Snake Eater certainly serves its purpose as an origins story for the series. The demo takes place during the time between Snake’s arrival in the jungle, and the approach to the captive scientist’s holding room.
Starting up the demo quickly points out two major things about this rendition of Snake Eater. First, the 3D effect is excellent, providing a depth to the jungle that few other 3DS games can compare to, though those used to having the slider up to full effect might want to tone things down here as it is very strong in this game in particular. Whilst the visuals are still undoubtedly PlayStation 2-esque, they have never looked better with this new perspective. Secondly, the reports on countless impressions pieces for previous playable builds of the game are accurate, in that the frame rate here is functional at best. The 3D is best appreciated with a stationary Snake as opposed to a moving one, and in cut-scenes in particular it feels very choppy.
After a brief clip showing Snake beginning his mission, you can get a feel for the controls and, seeing as how the original game had two analogue sticks and extra triggers to utilise, this mapping does a respectable job of emulating that. The shoulder triggers and D-Pad take charge of primary actions like aiming your currently equipped weapon, Close Quarters Fighting, ducking and crawling, climbing, and other context-sensitive actions. The Circle Pad controls movement and the face buttons act as a second Analogue Pad, with limited but serviceable success. The layout will take players a while to get used to, particularly with the D-Pad housing so many functions that it may require the infamous ‘Claw Grip’ that PSP Monster Hunters know so well.
Slap on a Circle Pad Pro accessory however, and you have the original control scheme in your hands. The second Circle Pad takes over for the camera leaving the face buttons to primary functions, and the extra shoulder triggers make weapon and item switching a doddle. Those without a Pro will find the default method passable, but this is one time a chunky add-on is the best way to go.
Although this version of Snake Eater won’t make use of the Touch Screen for aiming purposes, what it does do is provide quick and easy access to major menus of the game, such as the camouflage screen that lets you disguise yourself better to fit in with the surroundings (the full game will make use of the 3DS camera to adapt photos into your smokescreen) and the food menu which restores your health depending on what you’ve caught. The full game will also provide quick buttons to Codec communications and the Cure menu that lets you fix wounds. The screen even keeps track of all important details for Snake’s welfare like health and radar, keeping the entire top screen free of any HUD-like information. Touch screen selection is nothing new for DS and 3DS games, but for Snake Eater it improves the pacing of the game considerably.
This edition of Snake Eater showcases the addition of tilt control for balancing sections, namely on tree branches and bridges. This can be rather touch and go in regards to sensitivity, and certainly hinders the 3D angle for when they do show up, although these sections tend to force a temporary switch back to 2D mode when they do occur.