Review by CrimsonGear80

"There's no need for a witty tagline on this one"

Metal Gear Solid was a gaming masterpiece. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty was an even bigger gaming masterpiece. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was an…do I even have to say it? Now, after three long years, Hideo Kojima, Kojima Productions, and Konami have given us the final chapter in legendary gaming hero Solid Snake's illustrious career. Make no mistake about it: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots is a gaming masterpiece, and is easily one of the greatest games I have ever played. Seeing the track record, I could probably just end this review right now as most people pretty much saw this coming, but I guess I should explain why you should be playing this game as soon as possible.

STORY IS SOLID

It's been six years since the Big Shell incident. The worlds economy is now dependent on one solitary thing: war. Legendary hero Solid Snake, now an old man due to rapid aging caused by his clone body, has been given one last mission as a favor from his friend Roy Campbell. He is to terminate Liquid Ocelot, Solid Snake's twin brother who died back in MGS1, and whose will and spirit has somehow possessed the body of a man once known as Revolver Ocelot. Failure to do so will cause Liquid to use the might of the PCM armies he has under his control to begin an insurrection against the Patriots for control of the free world (the Patriots, of course, are the organization who secretly control the USA and have influences in pretty much every other country on Earth). Once again supported by his friend Dr. Hal “Otacon” Emmerich, Snake goes out into battle one last time to quite possibly save the entire world. Of course, to talk anymore about the phenomenal story of MGS4 past this point would be blasphemy. All MGS fans need to know is that all your questions will be answered and your minds will be blown in what is possibly the greatest story ever told in a video game. However, if your not a fan of MGS and if this is your first time playing any game in the series, then a whole lot of story details may seem pretty convoluted and lost to you. If this is the case, then playing through the first three MGS games is probably a good idea. You can even download the MGS4 database free from the PSN that should be available by the time you read this. Still, if you've ever watched any of the Matrix films and if at any point during them you've said to yourself: “Well, that makes sense!”, then you should have minimal problems following MGS4.

GAMEPLAY IS SOLID

The best part of any MGS game is that your given the freedom to play them however you want. Do you go in guns blazing to clear yourself a path to your objective, or do you take the slower stealthy route and slip past your enemies to keep yourself out of harms way? Of course MGS4 features this gameplay freedom as well, and thanks to a good amount of new features, even more so than any other MGS game (or any other game for that matter) before it.

If you want to go in shooting, then MGS4 makes some dramatic improvements and enhancements to make going this route a whole lot of fun that's pretty much accessible to anyone. First and foremost, the camera system in MGS4 is pretty much the same awesome one that was introduced in MGS3: Subsistence. The camera is situated behind Snake and is freely manipulated with the right stick, which gives you a great view of the areas and battlefields you'll be visiting. Snake can equip himself with up to five weapons at a time, which can easily be chosen from the weapon inventory accessible from the pause menu and equipped during gameplay with the R2 trigger. He can also equip up to eight items, like rations, compresses, cardboard boxes, cigarettes, playboys, you know… the MGS essentials, which are used by choosing them with the L2 trigger. With a weapon equipped, you hold the L1 button to zoom the camera over Snake's shoulder which allows you to aim your weapon with the right analogue stick, pretty much just like Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. You can even switch which shoulder you want to aim over by clicking in the right stick and you can fire with the R1 button, and R2 if you have a secondary fire available on your weapon. You can also press triangle while aiming to go into first-person view for precise shots. As a matter of fact, Snake can now move while in first person view, so technically the whole game can be played this way. However, actually acquiring the weapons you'll need to survive the intense firefights you may encounter has been changed pretty dramatically. In past games, Snake secured all his equipment on-site, and technically that still applies in MGS4, but in this new world dependent on war, nanomachines in soldier's bodies keep guns ID-locked to that specific soldier. So although you can pick up any weapon dropped by the enemy, Snake is unable to use them. Thankfully, Snake meets a gun launderer early on in the game named Drebin, who is more than happy to help him out…for a price. That price is paid in the form of Drebin points, which Snake can earn by selling weapons he collects on the battlefield to Drebin. When Snake picks up a weapon that he already has, he sells the weapon to Drebin automatically, but keeps all the ammo that was in the weapon. Snake can also earn points in other ways throughout the game. Snake can then use the points he earns to have Drebin remove the ID-locks from the guns, allowing Snake to use them. Furthermore, a Drebin's shop option is added to the pause menu right after you meet Drebin which allows you to buy new guns and ammo from him at anytime. There are 69 guns available in MGS4, from assault rifles to sub-machine guns to shotguns to rocket launchers, all with their own different attributes for power, range, speed, etc. Drebin also sells various accessories for the guns as well, so you could take your favorite weapon and customize it with things like suppressors, laser sights, scopes, grenade launchers, and the list goes on. I personally enjoyed rocking it Solidus-style with my laser sight equipped P90. Of course, with all the customization abilities available, anyone can find something to like with this phenomenal addition that puts the gunplay in past MGS's to shame.

Then of course you have the gameplay foundation that MGS was built on: Stealth. Besides the special weaponry Snake can use to silently and non-lethally take down his foes, like a tranquilizer gun and V-ring shotgun shells, many new additions have been made to help Snake sneak to victory. The biggest being his new Octocamo suit, which acts as an evolved form of the camouflage system from MGS3. Lying flat on a surface or hugging a wall and waiting for a second or two will cause Snake's suit to mimic the texture of the surface, effectively making him invisible to enemies. The camo index in the upper-right corner of the screen will show a percentage based on how well Snake is hidden. The higher the percentage, the more likely enemies won't see Snake. You can also choose some preset camo patterns or save any other pattern you create for later use. Another new addition is the threat ring that surrounds Snake, that turns different colors based on enemy alert level and even points toward the nearest threat to Snake. Two new gadgets will also help out Snake in his mission, the first being the Solid Eye, which is basically an all-purpose goggle that gives Snake the ability to use a radar, binoculars, night vision, and see enemy and ally data all with one tool. The Solid Eye will even point out items out in the field, which is extremely useful. The second new gadget is the Metal Gear MK.II, an adorable little robot that can be used by Snake to scout areas. When used, you directly control the MK.II with the left analogue stick, and can activate it's stealth function with the X button. The MK.II can even pick up items for Snake and stun enemies with it's tentacle zapper. Snake also seems to have read up on his “father” Big Boss's exploits, as Snake can now perform CQC (close quarters combat) like a pro. With a CQC-enabled weapon equipped, you can use the R1 button to punch, kick, or grab your enemies. With a grabbed enemy, many options present themselves: you can slam him to the ground to knock him out, use him as a human shield, choke him out, or slit his throat. One thing they took out of the CQC arsenal is the ability to interrogate your enemies, which is kinda disappointing but something I'll get over since Kojima and team has added in so much more. Finally, Snake can perform all his other pre-requisite abilities, like crawling, crouching, climbing and shimmying across ledges, rolling, holding up enemies for items (which has the potential to end in crotch-grabbing action!!!), shaking bodies down for items and dragging bodies to hide them.

Whichever type of gameplay choice you choose (or choose to mix-up), You'll have to keep an eye on Snake's psyche gauge, which is a different version of the stamina gauge introduced in MGS3. Carrying around a lot of weight, getting into alert status, the current weather on the battlefield, among other things will cause Snake's stress to rise in percentage, which is shown during gameplay right below the health and psyche bars in the upper-left corner. The higher Snake's stress percentage is, the faster the psyche gauge depletes and the worse Snake will perform in combat. His weapon accuracy will be drastically lowered and some effects of his old body will start to show. Stress can be reduced and psyche replenished by using items or hanging out in a single spot for a while, however Snake can also hit a combat high now and again when his stress is maxed out. While in a combat high, Snake will stop losing psyche and take less damage, but when it ends his psyche will bottom out leaving him extremely vulnerable. It's a pretty cool system that makes players think twice about using sheer firepower in some situations to balance things out, but the gameplay choice is still very much up to the player.

MGS4 is split up into five acts, with each act taking place in a different part of the world. Getting through each area is still linear, with only one way Snake can go to get to his objective. However, the scope, design, and size of the areas have been increased dramatically, allow multiple paths and options for Snake to utilize. It's also necessary since Snake will be walking onto battlefields that sometimes rival a Call Of Duty game. Enemy AI is also some of the deadliest Snake has ever faced. While in their non-alert phase, enemies will walk a few pre-determined paths, usually stopping to talk to one another or to investigate something they've seen or heard. If they enter the caution phase, then they will start sweeping the whole area looking for Snake, and when I mean sweep the area I mean they sweep the whole damn area! One time I hid in a locker without anyone seeing me, hoping that they would ignore my hiding space just like previous soldiers did in MGS 2 and 3, but alas, a couple soldiers came over and started to actively search every locker in my vicinity. Needless to say, I was found and the alert phase was started, and a battalion of troops was on my old ass in a matter of seconds. These guys will flank Snake, flush him out of cover with grenades, call in reinforcements, and basically unleash hell on you. Your best bet if your going for no kills is to run away and blend into somewhere with the Octocamo and hope they don't find you. Most of the time though you'll have to cap some heads if you want to survive. Still, helping out local forces by fighting the enemy PCMs in some of the more intense battles of the game proves beneficial to Snake, as local forces will take a liking to him and assist him in later areas. Then again, you can choose to totally ignore this and go at it lone wolf style, once again proving the freedom that MGS4 gives you. Of course, the games not all big battles and war-torn areas, but to reveal all the other phenomenal gameplay experiences you'll get in MGS4 is like revealing the ending of every movie you've yet to see. I will say though that the boss fights, which are usually against Liquid's creepy Beauty and the Beast corps, are just as awesome and memorable as any other boss fight in the series. However, I still feel that the best boss fights in the series (and of all time) belong to The End and The Boss from MGS3. MGS4's final boss fight, however, is definitely the best boss fight of all time in terms of pure EPICNESS! As a matter of fact, “Epicness” pretty much sums up MGS4.

But wait, there's more! Packed in with MGS4 is the “starter pack” for the all-new Metal Gear online! After you log in and create your character from a decent list of customizable options, your ready for sixteen player tactical action. MGO uses the same control scheme from MGS4, so over-the-shoulder aiming, CQC, and all that jazz is ready to go. MGO also utilizes the exclusive SOP system, which allows everyone on your team to link up with a press of the triangle button to share info like locations, status, and lines of sight with the whole team. You can also choose to enable Drebin points in matches, which allows players to earn points to customize and use better weapons by performing well. Players can also set four different skills to use and upgrade during gameplay. For example, leveling up the “blades” skill by performing knife kills will give you the ability to cut throats in CQC, or using the “quarterback“ skill to increase the distance in which you throw grenades. There is even a skill that let's you jack into the other team's SOP system and use it against them. However, leveling up a skill will also cause it to take up an extra skill space (ie. level 2 skills take up two of the four spaces), so players will have to think about the skills they truly want to use. Players can duke it out in five different and nicely designed maps, from Ambush Ally with it's bombed out buildings and rubble to the now deserted Groznyj Grad facility from MGS3. Modes include deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture mission, and a few others that should be familiar to online gaming vets. However, the jewel of MGO is the sneaking mission, which is a basic team deathmatch with one major exception: one player is randomly chosen to play as Solid Snake himself! Snake's goal is to collect dog tags from any three members of the opposing teams without dying, by knocking them out and taking the tags from their bodies. Snake gets the full use of his Octocamo, and one other player may even be chosen to play as the MK.II and support Snake. If Snake fails in his mission by either running out of time or getting killed too many times, then the team with the most kills wins and the player who last killed Snake is chosen to play as him in the next round. Fun times all around. Matches are also fully customizable, with the host able to change play time, lives, respawning, etc. MGO also supports clans (although you have to earn this right by leveling up your character), voice chat, friend lists, messaging, and leaderboards. Those who prefer faster-paced online shooters may not get into MGO that much, but others who prefer tactical stuff like Rainbow Six or Team Fortress 2 will feel right at home.

The biggest complaint about MGO is that Konami decided not to use the PSN to host their game and instead set up their own system and servers to run the game. What this means is that MGO won't use your PSN name and you'll have to sign up for a Konami game ID from the main MGO menu in order to play the game, which is a huge pain in the ass to do especially if you don't have a keyboard. Thankfully I participated in the MGO beta, so I already had a ID ready, but that doesn't exclude the fact that Konami choose to go with a needlessly complicated process in order to play online. Also, while most games do run lag-free and smooth, I have ran into a laggy game from time to time.

GRAPHICS ARE SOLID

Kojima Productions have delved deep into the power of the Playstation 3 to deliver one of the best looking games ever made. Environments are absolutely beautiful and brimming with detail, from bombed out buildings and underground safehouses in the Middle East to the jungles and villages of South America and everywhere in-between and afterwards. Character models are phenomenal, special effects are top-notch, and animations blown pretty much every other game out of the water. Everyone's major complaint about MGS4, the cut scenes (where have you people been the last ten years?) ,are simply put, the greatest ever made for a video game and easily put most Hollywood movies to shame with incredible action, drama, and suspense. Sorry Heavenly Sword, but you've been destroyed. Cut scenes are also almost fully interactive, whether it be zooming in on them by pressing up on the d-pad and panning them with the right analogue stick, to pressing X or L1 when prompted to view flashbacks or look through Snake's eyes. This is especially true with the mission briefings that happen in-between acts. The little things you may notice, like dirt or blood covering the camera, or Snake holding his back after crouching for too long, may just bring a smile to your face. The game seems to run at a solid 30fps at most times, but it also stepped up to 60fps from a time to time. The only time there was any type of frame drop was when lots of explosions took place on screen. The game has an initial install time of 8 minutes and additional installs in-between acts take about 2-3 minutes, and if that annoys you and you think it's a waste of time, then quite wasting your time playing video games. MGS4 will also run up to 1080p, and all this graphical praise goes with MGO as well. Besides some shadows that show some jaggy edges, this is easily the best looking game I have ever seen.

SOUND IS SOLID

All the praise I have poured on MGS4's graphics can easily be poured on it's sound as well. Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound makes this game literally come to life. Bullets whizzing by you, explosions going off, just…everything sounds crystal clear and phenomenal. Voice acting is some of the best I have ever heard, with David Hayter returning as Solid Snake leading a wonderful cast of actors who bring their characters to life. Harry-Gregson-Willams, whose fantastic music is the only thing good about Michael Bay “movies”, gives us yet another powerful and moving MGS score. A neat little idea that Kojima Productions had was to give Snake his own Ipod, which can play tracks from previous Metal Gear and Kojima Production games that you can find during gameplay. The sounds of MGS4 easily reach the impressive heights of it's sights.

COURAGE IS SOLID…YEAH, NO ****!

A 15-25 hour single player mode. Five different difficulty settings. TONS of unlockables and easter eggs to find. A virtual shooting range. MGO with inevitable downloadable content. Yeah, you couldn't be forced NOT to replay MGS4 over and over again.

Now, most of you are probably saying to yourself after reading this :”Well, he's an MGS fanboy, so of course he's gonna blah blah blah…” You know what, go right ahead and think that. In the mean time, I'll be playing what is easily the best MGS game and one of the greatest games of all time. Period. End of discussion.

You've earned your rest Solid Snake. I salute and thank you.

KEWL
+Pretty much everything

LAME
-MGO has a needlessly complicated sign-up process
-Fans of faster-paced online games may not get into MGO
-It's sad that some people can't, or choose not to, play this masterpiece


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/19/08

Game Release: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (US, 06/12/08)


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