Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience is launching this week on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and it will include both The Phantom Pain and Ground Zeroes on a single disc for $50. $40 on the PC! I won't go into the argument of it not having the phantom Mission 51 and can't be considered definitive because of its absence. By today's standard practices, repackaging two games onto a single disc and selling it all over again is the bare minimum a bundle needs to be called "Definitive."
By the standards from a decade ago, it's downright pitiful, and we have Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence to thank for setting such a high bar.
For those who don't remember, after their success, former Metal Gear Solid producer Hideo Kojima went back and retooled both of his PlayStation 2 games for a much more complete package. Today, we're going to mostly talk about Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, but I just wanted to point out that he included a Tony Hawk Pro Skater inspired mini-game in Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance.
Anyone who complains about zombies and how they have no purpose in a Metal Gear game, I give you exhibit A.
Substance proved to be a good subtitle for this package because unlike modern Definitive Editions, this actually had it.
Likewise, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence is not merely a smattering of bonus material on top of an already excellent game, it's a complete retooling from head to toe about how to approach that game in a way that makes much more sense.
Released in 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was met with universal acclaim and is often seen as the high point of the legendary series. However, if anybody found something to gripe about, it was the confusing control scheme. I can't remember exactly how it worked since it's been so long since I last used it. I think it required a ridiculous combination of three buttons to properly aim the gun and rather than push a fourth one to pull the trigger, gamers had to release one of the buttons instead, no doubt leading to many unintended headshots.
Sorry about that man… ouch.
Another gripe many had was with the camera and how it hovered above Snake constantly and never allowed players to get down and feel like they were part of the game. Sentimentalists argued that this is what separated Metal Gear from the rest of the action crowd and that it should only be played this way since it channeled the experiences from the original MSX Metal Gear games. However, Kojima would prove each and every one of them wrong no less than two years later.
By 2005, third-person shooters were a much more involved experience. Dual-analog had been standardized, controlling shooters became much easier, and rather than let his masterpiece become a relic of the past, Kojima updated it to feel more modern than ever. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence's main contribution to the game was completely overhauling its control scheme, bringing a much more up-to-date feel to the experience and being far more accessible than ever before. Those accidental headshots became a thing of the past now that aiming was as simple as if Master Chief or Leon Kennedy were doing it.
The improvement provided enough clout to shut up the traditionalists about Metal Gear Solid being supposed to have complicated control schemes, and dual-analog has been with the series ever since. Some might argue that it makes Metal Gear Solid 3 easier and slightly repetitive since Snake only needs to look straight forward to properly sneak, making the game's excellent camouflage system much less important, but I disagree. Metal Gear Solid 3 only jumps up a few notches with the improved control scheme.
Can you imagine such an overhaul these days? If it did happen, the new controls would come through a major patch, and it would be involuntary so that everyone would be playing on an even keel. Half of the Internet would explode in protest. However, in the mid-2000s, we embraced the new control scheme so easily because, yes, it came alongside a full release that included many goodies.
First and foremost, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence finally brought good versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake to North America. They are not true ports of the games, but they are close enough in their authenticity to provide the closest experience. Before that, the only game we had in North America was the NES version of Metal Gear, which is a pretty horrible port. Some will swear by it since they have leftover nostalgia from the NES days, but there is no going back once you play the real deal.
And we never even got any version of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in North America, so this bundle granted it a North American debut for enthusiasts everywhere!
Let's not forget that the bundle didn't include just simple bonus missions, either. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence invented the idea of online gameplay with the very first version of Metal Gear Online! Imagine a third-person shooter launching nowadays with no multiplayer, and it only became it available as a bonus in a Definitive Edition a year or two after the game's release! That's insane, but for Metal Gear Solid 3, this didn't need to happen. It was just a nice gesture and an example of Kojima trying to keep up with the times.
And yes, again, if zombies are too much for you in the Metal Gear Solid universe, I present you with exhibit B… monkeys!
Who ever thought of an Ape Escape crossover with Metal Gear Solid was a sheer genius. It was probably Kojima after all, but still, this mini-game is now among the pinnacle of all mini-games, and other developers should be wracking their brains trying to match its creativity and excellence.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence also included a cutscene viewer in which players could rewatch their favorite scenes when they unlocked. It's a nice feature, but as always with Hideo Kojima, it had to go to some new places not found in the main game, like this classic example of his twisted sense of humor.
Man, this guy really wants that handshake.
Metal Gear Solid 3:Subsistence is still available today and better than ever thanks to an HD overhaul. You'll need to play it on the PlayStation 3, and I have full confidence in saying that if Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Edition wants to use the "D-word" in its title, it would have to include both Substance and Subsistence tucked away somewhere inside of it.
Why? Because that's exactly what Subsistence did with the original Metal Gear games.
I'm not disparaging Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Edition, though. It's a product of its time, and if you have yet to play the game, it's now the best way to do so. I realize that Hideo Kojima is no longer around to pour his soul into making it truly definitive, and I understand why Konami would like to crank this out quickly and wash their hands of the title once and for all.
However, given all that we've seen from Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, I can't help but feel a pang of disappointment that this couldn't be a bigger event. It's not often a remaster becomes the stuff of legends, but in its case, it truly was.