Review by D E E G S
"The only possible thing that could keep you from enjoying this game is if you have an intolerance for the frequent cutscenes."
Disclaimer: Although the score is a ten, keep in mind while reading this review that this game may not be for everyone. In Metal Gear Solid 4 there is almost a 50/50 split between gameplay and cutscenes (depending on difficulty and play style) and while the experience is unforgettable some may not be akin to this type of balance.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is Hideo Kojima's (and Solid Snake's) last Metal Gear game; after over 20 years and a series spanning seven games (more if you count Ac!d and Ghost of Babel), Snake's tail is finally coming to an end. I must say I have enjoyed this series quite a bit over the decades but never have I enjoyed myself more than when I experienced this game. Metal Gear Solid 4 is a one of a kind experience that really should not be missed by any fan of the series or fan of videogames for that matter.
Wow, this is a tough thing to talk about because I do not want to give away too much. MGS4's story takes place in the year 2014 in an era where war is the basis of the global economy, where PMCs (Private Military Corporations) are as large and powerful as the US military. Amidst this is the final confrontation between Solid Snake and his brother Liquid Snake who has possessed Revolver Ocelot through his arm which was graphed onto Ocelot's body. Snake, however, is no longer the super soldier he once was and is now old and slowly degenerating. Those new to the series may feel a bit lost as MGS4's story wraps up every question that has been mounting since MGS2 and possibly even earlier. Though it does do a good job of trying to keep noobies to the series informed you may be a tad lost in spots if you jump right into MGS4 without playing at least MGS 1, 2, and 3 first as characters and plot elements from previous titles are referred to quite often.
While on the subject of the characters let me just say that the characters in this game are as well rounded as you can get, all of them have something about them that you can't take from face value; they all have personality. These characters surpass anything in gaming and even those in most movies and books, they are that good. You care about these characters and are concerned when one of them dies or may die; you really start to feel a connection with these characters because Kojima and company have written such a memorable script for them to participate in.
MGS4's story really is a roller coaster ride of thrills, action, drama, and excitement as it has a cinematic presentation and flair not seen before in games. The plot is complex and has good pacing as you always feel that motivation to keep playing, if for nothing else, to see where the story twists and turns next. Sometimes the game's cutscenes do get a bit wordy though, which may turn some people off who just want to play a game and not endure a cutscene heavy story. Still the story in MGS4 is easily one of the best in gaming and an extremely strong point for this game, I wish I could go into more detail but I'd be treading into spoiler territory if I did.
Single Player (gameplay)
The single player portion of this game is the main focus of MGS4, the experience lasts roughly 16-20 hours depending on difficulty. There is plenty to do, see, and experience as well as quite a few unlockables and hidden items that are really worth your time and effort to unlock and find. There are at first four difficulties with a fifth available after you complete the game once, these range from embarrassingly easy to excruciatingly hard and really allow for players to find their sweet spot for this game and allow them to play more to their style of play.
While some may not think of the Metal Gear games having strong gameplay, Kojima and company have crafted an extremely strong and varied gameplay experience to compliment the well thought out story.
Gameplay-wise, MGS4 is incredibly varied with each Act (a total of 5 in all) having multiple gameplay elements. In most Acts you won't be completely shackled to stealth gameplay the whole time as there are short segments that make appearance in between the primary stealth gameplay portions to keep things fresh and interesting. Even during the stealth segments you are allowed to choose your own play style as you could help out a specific faction of PMC discretely to break through the lines of the enemy or you could go completely solo stealth and sneak past both of the warring sides unseen or you could go in guns blazing and kill off both sides and move on, the choice is really up to you. MGS4 gives you all of the tools to play anyway you want, whether you want to live by the gun or by the shadow you won't feel like you are being cheated.
If you choose to go the stealth route you will be making use of the Octocamo which allows you to take the surface texture and coloring of anything you are standing next to or lying on; enemies will literally run right past you if you use this device properly. This opens up whole new opportunities for stealth kills and CQC (Close Quarters Combat) moves, for example, you take the pattern of the wallpaper in a room right before an enemy walks in, he walks past you and you're able to grab him and slit his throat using CQC. That is not to say enemies are powerless to defend against the Octocamo as there is a thing in the game called the threat ring which is the area of detection around you that enemies will notice you, in other words if they walk right on top of you they will see you and shoot at you. On top of that enemy AI isn't brain dead and if you are spotted you better find a darn good hiding place as the enemy will likely find you otherwise. Still when used properly the Octocamo is an amazing gameplay device that opens up worlds of possibilities in tangent with the game's CQC system. As awesome as this sounds that only scratches the surface as there are other methods for stealth as well including the Metal Gear Mk. II, which you acquire early on, that acts as an advanced scout. The trademark cardboard box also returns as well as a new variation, a drum barrel, for times when the Octocamo just won't cut it.
For those that would prefer the more guns blazing route you are given more than just a knife and a hand gun to accomplish this feat. Unlike in previous Metal Gear games you are not restricted to procure on site weapons as early on in the game you are able to purchase guns and ammo at any point in time using a system of currency called Drebin points which are acquired whenever you pick up an enemy's weapon after knocking him out or killing him. While some long time fans of the series may object to this new gameplay element it really adds something to know that you aren't out of ammo and out of luck during a gun or boss fight.
Speaking of bosses, they are all as memorable and fun as they get which each being unique and different. Overall the collection of bosses in MGS4 is one of the strongest this generation and I can really only knock on one of them and that is only because it is outshined by the others. They all have personality though like the rest of the characters in this game and they all have a back story that makes you think about what war can do to people mentally. While I may be able to come up with a few individual bosses that are better than those in MGS4 there isn't a game out there that I have played that has a better overall collection of bosses.
I am pleased to say that after years and years of trying to achieve the fabled Toy Story graphics, Metal Gear Solid 4 has delivered in spades. Characters are amazingly detailed with facial expressions unlike anything I have seen before hand. The game transitions from cutscene to gameplay so seamlessly that only the change in camera angle will tell you that you are back to playing the game again and sometimes even that may fool you as there are moments in the game where you are still playing but the camera is at an extremely cinematic angle. There is no CG in this game it is all the in-game engine being rendered in real time and it is a real credit to what the Playstation 3 is capable of; it almost makes it seem as if Sony wasn't lying back at E3 2005 with all of the target render videos (almost). Still while most of Metal Gear Solid 4's graphics are stunning you will notice a few bad textures here and there with some looking just plain flat; even so if you are looking for a game that you want to get to show off your PS3 this is it hands down.
Like just about everything else in Metal Gear Solid 4 the sound in this game is amazing. The music in the game was produced by Harry Gregson-Williams (who has worked on movies including The Rock and Shrek), Nobuko Toda, and Ennio Morricone among others. The audio in this game is completely uncompressed and in 5.1 Dolby Digital for an experience like any other, there are small minute sound effects for just about everything imaginable from footsteps to just knocking over a bottle during gameplay which could alert enemies. Voice work is quality too with every voice actor for every returning character coming back; even the new characters are extremely well acted. Just like in the gameplay, story, and graphics the sound is top notch in every area. I highly recommend playing this game with at least a pair of headphones as the sound quality shows through.
Metal Gear Online
To tell you the truth I debated pulling this section from the review and making it into a quick review for the Metal Gear Online section of this site but decided against it as Metal Gear Online is included in the retail package. With that said Metal Gear Online is a puzzling thing as it requires you to sign up for two additional account names and passwords (a Konami ID and a Gamer ID) and on top of that you still have to name your one and only character for online (if you want more characters you must pay for extra character slots). This is a rather frustrating thing as Sony already has the PSN for this sort of thing and it really only adds an unneeded hassle to what should be an easy jump in and play online component for MGS4.
Once you get past these early frustrations, however, you will find that Metal Gear Online is pretty deep as it has a ton of customizable options for your character from different faces to voices to clothing and accessories; you are even able to pick four special skills for your character which can each be leveled up for better performance. Metal Gear Online has its own friends list and it even allows for clans to be formed as well which is a nice touch. Gameplay-wise Metal Gear Online plays much like the single player portion of MGS4, all the CQC moves are there as well as most of the weapons. You are allowed to pick a primary weapon, a side arm, and a grenade-type each time you spawn and you are also equipped with the patented cardboard box, a camera, and binoculars.
Gametypes range from your basic Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch to some more original ones like Sneaking Mission in which two teams duke it out while a single player plays as Snake in the mist of the fight. Snake's job in this game type is to survive while it is the job of the two teams to kill Snake (and each other). For the most part though all the game types are fun and the simple yet complex game formula for MGO is addictive. I just wish that there was more maps to play on as there is only about five maps currently with more planned to be released as downloadable content. Overall MGO is a nice compliment to MGS4 but it is a bit sparse in some areas while being really deep in others.
Metal Gear Solid 4 and Metal Gear Online combine to form what is, in my opinion, the closest that is feasibly possible to a perfect game. There are a few puzzling issues with MGO and a few bad textures in MGS4 but these are very minor qualms and past that the only possible thing that could keep you from enjoying this game is if you have an intolerance for the frequent cutscenes. MGS4 is a legendary game and easily one worth justifying the purchase of a PS3; this is one incredible game.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 07/01/08
Game Release: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (US, 06/12/08)
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