Awkward controls are the name of the game.
Two things stood out to me while I guided Snake through the Virtuous Mission in Snake Eater 3D's demo today. First, this is clearly a port of the PS2 version of Subsistence. It has not been prettied up in any significant way, and the cut scenes still have the odd frame-skipping of those in the PS2 game. After soaking up the game in HD on my PlayStation 3 (which looks so good), it feels like a significant step back, but I can deal with it. MGS3 is my favorite entry in the series, with the most emotionally satisfying story (the graveyard scene makes me misty) and, arguably, the best stealth mechanics.
The demo gets right to the point, forgoing the fifteen-minute cut scene that opens the game proper and omitting most of the Codec chatter that drags out the Virtuous Mission, which is the opening section of the game—basically the training area. The game looks and sounds very impressive (especially with headphones). Everything seems to have been ported over flawlessly. You’d be forgiven for thinking the demo doesn’t support the Circle Pad Pro, but it does—you just have to dig through the options. I don’t have one yet, anyway, but I’m happy to report that the game works about as well as it can without a second analog stick. It basically feels like the PS2 game, except with the ABXY buttons acting as the right stick. You use down on the D-pad to kneel/crouch, up to perform context-sensitive actions, and left and right to open the item and weapon menus. Various buttons decorating the touch screen open other menus, like food, camo, the survival viewer (which is disabled in this demo), and backpack management.
Problems really only pop up while you’re targeting enemies: inspired by the PSP version of Peace Walker, Snake goes into “aim mode” when you hold down the L button and a shockingly unhelpful aiming reticule appears (it narrows as distance closes). I’ve played through MGS3 enough times on the PS2 that I’ve become a good judge of the aim, but newcomers might be frustrated. Luckily, there’s a nice (but loud) sniper rifle in the first enemy-populated area, just to the right of the entrance. Another, far more helpful Peace Walker inclusion is icons telling you what your options are when holding a dude in a CQC (the game’s close-quarters combat system) hold. I always struggled to remember what button did what on the PS2, so I never actually used CQC, but it’s much more practical here.
As demos go, this one is all right, showcasing the control scheme more than the plot. There’s no introduction, and there’s no real ending—it just suddenly says “thank you for playing” when a key cut scene would usually load up. The demo is quite short, especially once you become acclimated to the controls, but it certainly gives me hope that MGS3 will make a smooth transition to my favorite handheld. I do intend to get a Circle Pad Pro specifically for this game, though, as it will surely make little things like camera control and aiming much more intuitive. I can’t really imagine fighting The Fear (one of the bosses) with the default controls.