Review by Nev
"A glorious final mission for Snake"
Metal Gear Solid 4
This game has so been eagerly anticipated, it is arguably the first true killer app/AAA game to be released exclusively on the PS3 - certainly this is the game that justified me buying a PS3 earlier this year, months before its release.
To put this review into some context, I have been playing the series since I was 16 and MGS came out for the PSOne. MGS2 was the first game I purchased with my PS2, MGPO the first I got with my PSP and MGS3 remained my favourite in the series, till now.
Gamers returning to the series will find the gameplay intuitive and responsive, new gamers may find it a bit steep to begin with, but the prompts via codec and the gameplay briefings make an good, working tutorial. As the game progresses there are several gameplay styles experimented with on top of the normal stealth espionage action, this all enhances the experience. I did not once find myself flustered or stuck when I reached a new gameplay element. Combat is worked better into this MGS4 than in any of the previous games, it is a joy to see how they have progressed on the series. Boss fights, though typically very long, are a rewarding experience. The new war economy and drebin points system are an excellent way to implement weapons procurement and gun customisation, rewarding thorough players. The later stages of the game could have done with a slightly greater gameplay to narrative ratio, a couple of extra areas to work your way through, but this is largely forgiven on a first playthrough because of the story being told.
To be blunt, if you were phased by the story in MGS2, you will struggle with this. You must have a lot of time and patience to coherently understand all the intricacies, but there is now the function to both skip and pause cutscenes alleviating those who grumbled about too much text. The voice acting is exceptional, the characters, their mannerisms and interactions are superbly presented. As previously stated, I have been following the series for quite some time, and I am truly happy with the way Kojima productions have concluded this. There are so many little nods to fans of the series throughout the game, all designed to provoke nostalgia. It is quite remarkable the way the story is wrapped up, no major loose ends, it leaves you satisfied. The epilogue in particular is presented so well, touches just the right chords, it will make you freak out, shock you, it leaves you with an experience you cannot find in any other title.
Playing at 720p high definition, this is the best looking game I have played on a console to date. Stylistically it is wonderful, brilliant presentation and artwork as you would expect from the series. Each unique environment wonderfully rendered in vast detail, all characters animated superbly, it creates such visceral impact it can be overwhelming at times. The OctoCamoeffect, allowing Snake to blend into his environment, takes the camo idea from MGS3 and runs with it into a brilliant visual concept. The visual effects in places, notably on some bosses, are mesmerising.
The sound and music is perfect, fitting the tone of each environment or scene in the game, enhancing the action, touching at your heart strings. It is used in places to install nostalgia to great effect, the game makes you think about when you played through MGS1/2/3 then starts to roll out music that makes this sensation work even more. The score could not be done better, sad, intense and uplifting, it is the culmination of Harry Gregson-Williams' work on the series.
I took 22.5 playtime hours to complete the game, enjoying myself and taking my time, I believe a normal playthrough should be ~15 hours playtime. The difficulty levels are very well balanced, Liquid Easy allowing new starters to get to grips, Solid Normal being perfect for returning gamers, Big Boss Hard/The Boss Extreme providing huge challenges. The ranking system actually seems to me to encourage you to replay and unlock the different ranks, as opposed to previous games which had a ridiculous amount of possible rankings the average gamer will not bother to unlock. I replayed MGS1, 2 and 3 earlier this year for the story, this game however I can well imagine replaying in years to come, more than the others.
There can be no doubt that fans of the series should get this game. Even if it they would not otherwise purchase a PS3, MGS fans should in order to play this through and get the closure they deserve on this wonderful series. It is true that new players may find this intimidating but If you give MGS4 your time you will be hard pressed to find an experience more immersive, enjoyable and fulfilling anywhere else.
Metal Gear Online
Anyone who MGS Portable Ops, Portable Ops + or MGS3: Subsistence Online may have a fair idea what to expect in the way this is presented. This format of online play has been done many times before, but with MGS4s controls and engine it feels great. Combat can be quite intense and until you are completely used to it you may find yourself fumbling between 3rd and 1st person to try and make headshots, but as you get used to it, there is nothing more rewarding than working with other players as a team, developing the skills on your character. The way that you can customise yourself is nice, the possibility for adding stuff to edit your appearance, extra weapons etc. via the Konami store could give the game a good life span.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/16/08
Game Release: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (EU, 06/12/08)
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