Metal Gear Solid 3 holds a special place in my heart. I first played it when it was called Snake Eater and found it rather frustrating, but upon trying out its special edition, Metal Gear Solid: Subsistence I was hooked. Slithering around in the forest, tranquilizing patrolling guards in the back of the head, and hunting animals to keep my ruggedly sexy avatar alive was as addictive and varied an adventure as I've played. Experimenting with different strategies gave it lots of depth to the point that I ended up playing it five times in a row consecutively. There aren't many games I can say that about.
Porting it to the 3DS seems like a sensible move. If James Cameron's Avatar has taught us anything, it's that fauna looks particularly engrossing in the third dimension. An extra screen to place the more cumbersome HUD elements is also a tasteful way to let the art direction really pop. And like many DS games, having the map and menus on the bottom screen reduces cumbersome pausing and switching.
More exciting, the 3DS's camera feature will allow players to snap a picture of the terrain and convert it to their very own camo. Unfortunately, this feature wasn't implemented in the demo.
It all sounds good on paper, but the reality is less than ideal. Simply put, the controls need some work. In the original game Snake couldn't move and shoot simultaneously. Players held down a trigger to go into first-person mode, and used the left analogue stick to aim from there. Since the 3DS only has one analogue stick, this should have been a simple conversion. Instead, Snake can now move and shoot at the same time ala MGS4, only there's no analogue stick, so aiming by using the face buttons as a d-pad never feels quite natural. Sure you're more agile, but it feels loose and awkward compared to Subsistence's slow, methodical tactical espionage action.
Aiming is now handled primarily in third-person unless you've gone prone in tall grass. This makes shooting less precise and if there's an option to go into first-person, I certainly couldn't find it. Other control quirks include not being able to switch between a knife and a gun without holding the touch screen button for what felt like a full second.
It does look gorgeous in 3D, but the complex scenery is sensitive to movement. More than most 3DS games, it felt like the illusion was shattered when your eyes got even the slightest bit off center. That being said, it did look brilliant when properly aligned.
It's possible that the final game will fix the control issues or add the option to play with Subsistence's one stick "stand still and shoot" setup, but based on my brief hands-on this is hardly the ideal way to play it.