Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Score: 8.5 / 10
Metal Gear Solid 4 represents a first for me. It was the first time while playing a video game that I actually dozed off. My slumber wasn't encouraged by the action, which can be very intense, but by the longest cutscenes I've ever seen. How long? Really long.
Because this is the "concluding" chapter of the Metal Gear franchise, at least with Snake as the main protagonist, it should be expected that all the loose ends - four games and many years worth - get tied up in a neat bow. As a result the exposition can be very lengthy.
I'm told Metal Gear Solid 4 actually does manage to tie everything up but being a neophyte when it comes to the exploits of the Patriots, Liquid, Vamp, Snake,
Raiden, Otacon, et al. I readily admit to being flummoxed by the story right up until the end and there are several bouts of obvious nostalgia and in-jokes that I'm only aware of because I've heard about things like the original fight with Psycho Mantis - having to switch control ports during the fight - that fill in some of the blanks. On top of that, I couldn't figure out if Kojima Productions was going for serious emotional drama with obvious
overtones involving government control, nanomachines, and the end of the
world or plain silliness. Really,
it's a seriously silly drama.
The cinemas are skippable but then you're even more in the dark as to what's going on but the trade-off is that the flow of the action remains a lot smoother. The latter part of the game has a lot of cutscenes and, though the movies can be an exciting thing to watch, I'd rather be playing.
much as I think the cutscenes are elaborately and expertly produced -
the production values across the board are excellent - they didn't hold
much of my interest unless it was a fight. (For a couple of areas, the
screen splits with a cinematic on side and action happening on the
other, which is ridiculous because you can't look at both at the same
time.) The battlefield is
much more interesting and positively brimming with all sorts of little
extras and Easter eggs all over the place. (So brimming in fact, that
during my first play through I
didn't even know Snake could acquire a camera; an item that can only be
fully realized if you have a second controller activated.
In a feature that Halo 3 really brought to the fore, pictures can
then be exported to the hard drive then transferred to a USB memory
stick and from there they can be unleashed on the Internet.)
Snake is inserted into the middle of a raging war, complete with moo cow Gekkos, and a stealthy approach is encouraged but it is not the only option. In fact, I spent most of the game running and gunning so much that when the plot forced me to use a stealth grab I had to flip open the in-game menu that explains all the moves because I hadn't actually used any stealth tactics. With the early introduction of Drebin, an arms "launderer", Snake is never without a constant stream of bullets, grenades, or gun mods, so I never felt the need to conserve ammo or use less lethal means of dropping enemies. Just start shooting and keep shooting, retreating only when necessary. This also tends to apply to the boss battles though you still need to figure out their patterns and weaknesses.
to the game and fighting through some great set pieces is the very good
cover system and you'll make use of it no matter how you're playing.
It's a simple matter of being next to something then pressing the
triangle button. (Stay that way for a couple of seconds and Snake's
Octocamo kicks in to neat effect.) This
ease of use is in contrast to preconceived notions I had going into the
game about the series' notoriously clumsy controls.
Everything connected to what Snake does is deftly handled.
good as the action is, possibly my favorite parts of the game were the
three vehicle sections spaced evenly throughout the game, which provided
thrilling, on-rails shooting experiences.
They all succeed in being fun but they're over too soon (which is
probably what Kojima Productions was aiming for - it leaves you wanting
some reason I felt it was important to play this "final"
chapter of the Metal Gear Solid series - mainly to see what all the fuss
was about - and I have to admit that I did have fun with the game even
without a background rooted in MGS lore.
There are still problems with Metal Gear Solid 4, like the
clumsy, ham-handed final boss fight (even if it makes sense within the
context of the game) and forever spawning enemies, but there's enough to
keep the scales weighed the other way that it's still worth adding to
your game library.
(July 4, 2008)
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