If you compare Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence and the most recent entry to the series, dubbed Ground Zeroes, it’s easy to see why Subsistence is so phenomenal. It’s an eight year old game that has managed to endure two console generations and still surpasses the quality of new game releases. Subsistence achieves this by focusing on the only thing which matters; the gameplay.
Metal Gear Solid 3 has an undeniably memorable story with some phenomenal moments, but the narrative is overall unintentionally comedic, despite the sincerity of some of the topics it wishes to discuss. The seriousness of the Cold War setting contrasts with the absurdity of the game’s characters. While this makes the game feel disjointed, it manages to prevail simply because of the depth of its gameplay.
Unlike most games, Subsistence doesn’t reveal much of its gameplay mechanics to the user. Instead, it reveals the basics and asks you to devote enough time to discover all of its mechanics. If you don’t devote the time, though, you’ll be less likely to survive.
The depth of Subsistence’s gameplay is the key to its charm. You can’t aim your weapons while moving and every time you’re shot you have to treat the wound, making almost every action have a potential consequence. There’s a constant element of risk surrounding every second of the game, making it incredibly rewarding when you succeed on executing your plans effectively.
The gameplay combines with the intelligence of the enemy AI to make Subsistence feel like a new experience each time you return. Enemies react to their environment; investigating dead bodies, and looking at tactically placed distractions. This, combined with the complexity of the gameplay, allows for endless possible strategies when attempting to eliminate your foe.
I’ve never returned to Subsistence and found myself bored. While its narrative may have aged, the gameplay seems to have only strengthened. It’s shocking how well the experience has managed to remain preserved in the eight years since being released.
Available on PC, PS2, PS3, PS Vita, and XBOX 360