The really, truly massive addition to Subsistence also resides on the bonus disc - and that's Metal Gear Online, a selection of game modes using characters, weapons and environments adapted from MGS3 to create a number of online arenas. Now, before we start, let's be clear - this runs on the PS2 Online service, and as such it experiences many of the frustrations with the setup procedure and so on that all PS2 Online games do, for some users at least. However, we're reviewing MGS3 Subsistence here, not Sony's online efforts - so we're going to dispense with all mention of the time it took to get the online service set up, and so on, and just talk about the experience of playing Subsistence online.
That experience is worth talking about, too - because it's almost uniformly excellent. You may not expect it from a Japanese developer - and we have to confess that we didn't, really - but what Kojima Productions has created here is actually an extremely competent and well-balanced online shooter, which successfully combines the sneaking and manoeuvring of Metal Gear Solid with the kind of action that we've all come to expect from online shoot-'em-ups.
There are five core modes to the online game, each of which supports up to eight players. Deathmatch and team deathmatch are the two most basic modes, and by far the least interesting - they offer little opportunity to play around with the additional movement and sneaking abilities which Metal Gear offers over other shoot-'em-ups, and the action feels very random and disjointed due to the realistic levels of damage inflicted by weaponry. The other three modes are Capture Mission, Rescue Mission, and Sneaking Mission - each of which offers a very different style of gameplay and a very different challenge to players.
Capture Mission and Rescue Mission are both team-based games; the former sees each team trying to grab an objective item (a cute toy frog, actually) and drag it back to their base for as long as possible, while in the latter, one team is tasked with defending a rubber duck while the other team attempts to grab it and bring it back to their base. Although the two play modes sound quite similar, the tactics involved in each one are quite different - rescue mission is particularly interesting, because not only does it clearly define an attacking and a defending team, it also adopts the Counter-Strike mechanic of killing players permanently, so if you die, you sit out until the next round.
In each mode, you have a variety of very typically MGS moves available to you. The new camera (the third person one we talked about only a few brief paragraphs ago) is the default view, but you drop into first-person mode to aim and fire - an interesting mechanic which slows the game down appreciably and makes everything a bit more tactical than the frantic bullet-spray of something like Counter-Strike. You can also crawl around in the lush foliage which the game lifts from MGS3's various jungle stages, flatten yourself against walls to reduce your profile, camouflage yourself (which works surprisingly well against human adversaries, actually) and even hide in a cardboard box (which doesn't, because everyone just develops a psychotic habit of shooting the hell out of every cardboard box in sight) or drop porn mags to distract enemies (actually, this worked more than once, which is an unexpected bonus of the "my god, is everyone in this game a 14-year-old with ADHD and Tourettes?" online gaming syndrome).
The final mode in the online game is particularly interesting, because it pits one player against all of the others in a sneaking mission - where one player is "it", and plays Snake, while all of the others attempt to prevent him from grabbing a roll of microfilm and escaping with it before the timer runs out. Sounds a bit unbalanced, but actually, the odds are stacked quite evenly, because Snake is capable of camouflaging himself so effectively that he appears to be invisible when he's not holding either the film or a weapon. Obviously, you can all take turns at playing Snake in this scenario, and it's a particularly fun one to play if you can't get the numbers together for a decent team game of Capture or Rescue.
One crucial element of the multiplayer which Metal Gear Online gets very, very right is the wealth of options available to players, with the setup of your matches being incredibly customisable. If you're settling in to play with friends for a while, for example, a really useful option is the ability set up a playlist of scenarios which you work through - thus saving you from setting up a new game every time the old one finishes. The ability to see persistent statistics of your various accomplishments is also nice, and the game tracks everything in minute detail, giving reams of stats to look through when you're finished playing.
The final disc in the box is the least interesting - included as a bonus disc in the special edition of Subsistence in the USA, but available to everyone who buys it in Europe, it's a DVD with re-cut versions of the cut-scenes of the game, allowing you to effectively watch it as a somewhat disjointed movie. You also get the MGS4 footage from TGS 2005, which is nice - but then again, if you're a fan of the game you'll have seen that a dozen times already. Not terribly exciting, in other words, but a nice bonus disc to have.
The real question, then, is whether all of this justifies going out and buying Metal Gear Solid 3 again - to which the answer is "probably not". If the online modes appeal to you - and they really are very good fun, although obviously it helps if you have some friends to play against rather than hunting for pick-up games - then it's not a bad investment, and if you've never played MGS3 before it's a must-buy. That's what we've made our final judgement based on; while this may not be great value for someone who paid full price for the game previously, for collectors, online gaming fans or people who haven't played MGS3, this is absolutely the definitive version of one of the finest games on the PlayStation 2. If MGS3 scraped very close to a nine, then the addition of online modes and the vastly improved camera in Subsistence easily pushes it past that point in pure quality terms - but as a caveat to the dizzyingly high score, we would point out that the original game can, of course, be picked up cheaply now. Put it like this - if price is a big issue for you, then buying a two-year-old game with bonus content and a better camera for full price will probably sting. But if you simply want the best possible experience of one of the best games of the current generation, then this is the only option.
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