I think the reason why MGS3 HD is my favorite linear MGS game is because, while it’s true all that stuff is mostly superfluous, at its core, what the game does have to offer in its more bare bones, to me, still plays phenomenally well.
The level design, even if you don’t use camouflage, which I never do, provides several cover spots and means to bypass guards. And most tend to have multiple routes to the next corridor. And key outpost areas are just designed to have save spots reserved for them, because they play like micro MGSV missions, where you can tackle them any number of ways and create these situations that are more hectic and entertaining than any jeep chase will ever be.
There’s just something so deeply gratifying about going full Rambo on an outpost, juggling from assault rifles, heavy machine guns, shotguns and rockets all at once. But the fact that you also have all these additional elements that you don’t have to go super far outta your way to utilize makes it even better. In a firefight, for instance, the amount of fuel drums present makes shooting them out to kill multiple guards at once a natural gameplay inclination.
The boss fights tended to give you a lot of immediate opportunities to get creative. But even when you ignore ‘em, the core of each fight just feels good, thanks to the boss’ attack patterns, the arenas, and your means to evade attacks and retaliate.
Ocelot’s fight is a great example of that. Like even if I don’t use the bee hives, shoot his favorite goat, his hat off, or hide in the bushes so I can attack Ocelot when he isn’t looking, just the act of rolling around and shooting at Ocelot himself feels fun. And his attacks do enough to keep me hopping around to evade his Deadshot trickery.
It is more of a “play it your way” sort of game, hence its immense open-endedness, and a lot of that can feel very superfluous when you got an Mk22 that’s got the range and stability of a sniper rifle. But for me, if the core gameplay loop is entertaining, I’m mostly set. My mindset has always been to go with what makes the game more fun than what makes it harder because I’m more likely to wanna replay the former than the latter. I just dunno how you make the game hard enough to really force the player to actually utilize its mechanics without making it feel as restrictive as a GTA game, y’know?