Review by xDarksidegohanx
"An Unmissable Story, An Unmissable Game"
Metal Gear Solid 4 has long been hailed the savior of the Playstation 3, it would be the game that would become of the face of this generation. With the fourth and final chapter in the Solid Snake saga, Hideo Kojima manages to deliver on all of these expectations, and in many ways exceed them.
MGS4 is a graphical and artistic masterpiece in almost every way. The game runs smoothly, with only the slightest hint of slowdown when things become very chaotic on-screen. The environments Snake travels through are highly varied, making each act a fresh graphical experience. Character models are some of the best seen on a console, they are both highly detailed and have excellent animations. The only minor graphical quip would be the rough edges on human shadows. While these aren't even noticeable during gameplay, during the cutscenes (of which there is an estimated 8 to 9 hours of), the rough shadows can be slightly distracting, especially when every other graphical aspect is so finely polished.
Metal Gear Solid 4 does everything it has to in terms of sound, and does it well. Voice-acting, in particular, is top-notch. The soundtrack is as good as ever, with the music fitting the gameplay and story very well, adding that little extra emotional push, whether it be the melancholy sounds of the "Old Snake" theme, or the adrenaline pumping theme for the boss fights. The other sound effects are all done well too, gunshots are very satisfying, ambient sounds like animals and other things add to the depth and detail, and, of course, Metal Gear Solid's trademark alert noise is as good as ever.
MGS4 is probably the easiest Metal Gear Solid game to pick up and play. A lot of that has to do with the control system that the game has. The game effectively uses the limited amount of buttons on the controller to perform a large variety of moves. This is partly thanks to the context sensitive triangle button that has more than a handful of uses, whether it be sticking to the wall for cover, leaping over a short wall, or slitting someone's throat. Besides that addition, everything else, control-wise, is mostly an evolution of previous Metal Gear Solid games. Snake has three primary states of being, he's either standing, crouching, or prone, each state has its advantages and disadvantages that the player will have to balance as they work their way through the game.
One of the new features of Guns of the Patriots is the "Octocamo." This is basically an evolution of the camo system from MGS3 except with the eliminated hassle of having to go into the menu to switch camo every time the environment switched. Instead the Octocamo changes to best blend in with the environment in real-time. Those familiar with Metal Gear Solid 3, will also be familiar with the "Camo Index" that appears on the upper right corner of the screen. The Camo index is basically a measure of how well you are hidden from the enemy. For example, if Snake is running through a main street in broad daylight, his camo index will probably be a negative percentage because he is so likely to be spotted, on the other hand, if you are in the shadows, and the Octocamo has taken effect (which usually only takes a second or two), then Snake's camo index can be as high as 99%, meaning he is basically invisible unless the enemy walks on top of him. The system works great and adds a bit of flair to the camo system from the previous game.
The other major addition to MGS4 is the stress gauge and the evolution of the stamina gauge of MGS3 to the Psyche gauge of MGS4. The general idea is that as Snake enters high stress situations (firefights, feeling exposed, explosions, etc.) his stress will increase. Once his stress increases to a certain level his psyche will begin to decrease (the psyche gauge also decreases for other reasons as well), finally once the Psyche gauge begins to lower, the player will notice Snake's aiming becomes less steady, and that he gets knocked down much easier. Thankfully, on the lower difficulties, the stress and psyche gauges are almost non-factors, but on the two highest difficulties the two gauges will encourage the player strategize more to avoid those stressful situations and the detrimental effects associated with them. It really adds an extra-dimension to the otherwise standard health bar.
The main part of Metal Gear Solid 4 (at least for inexperienced players) will be shooting, and thankfully, Konami has succeeded in creating a unique and polished shooting and weapons system that works. Players can hold all of the guns in the game at one time, but they must assign only a few out of the 60+ guns to the quick select that they access by holding R2 during gameplay. Once a weapon is equipped the player can go to 3rd person, over the shoulder view by holding L1, and then enter a first person, down the barrel view by tapping triangle. Aiming is smooth but still challenging enough when you get into firefights and when you are aiming for headshots.
However, another thing that makes the game so easy to pick up is the fact that the player really has a choice of how they want to play it. One person can pick up the game and go at it "Gears of War" style with guns blazing, and they'll have a completely different experience then the person who picks up the game and tries to go through with no "alerts" (an alert is basically a period of heightened aggressiveness by the enemies when they have spotted you and are actively seeking you out, this eventually drops to the "Evasion" phase, and finally to the "Caution" phase before all enemies return to their normal routes or are dead). Both methods are both viable options, and both options produce a fun game to play. Other minor choices players have include choosing to help a Rebel army battle the PMC's, or choosing to use only non-lethal anesthetic rounds instead of lethal bullets to clear a path for Snake to reach his objective.
Metal Gear Solid and Hideo Kojima are known for their twisted (and sometimes borderline chaotic) but deep (intellectually and emotionally) stories, and the large amount of cutscenes that goes with it. Guns of the Patriots is no different, as said before, there is over 8 hours of cutscenes and codec conversations. While this could be a turn off to some, the fact that 99% of the scenes and codec conversations are skippable and that the gameplay is so perfectly crafted means that the large amount of cutscenes is not a reason to miss out on this game. Besides that, without spoiling anything, the story certainly caters to those familiar with the other games of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, many familiar faces are brought back and no storyline is left unresolved. However, even those unfamiliar with the other games will find an emotionally captivating story that they will want to experience again and again. One scene in particular towards the end of the game is so powerful it had me on the verge of tears. This truly is a story that one can't be told about, but that one must experience.
If the story and the pure fun the gameplay provides is not reason enough for multiple playthroughs, the game offers various rewards for doing certain things such as playing through the game with no alerts or no kills. The game also provides almost a collectible type emblem ranking system. At the end of each playthrough, the player is given an emblem based on their actions throughout the game. There are over 40 of these emblems and collectors and perfectionists will probably not stop until they get them all, which will take many playthroughs.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots delivers in every way possible. It weaves an epic story with some of the best gameplay available. It's fun, it's exciting, and it's one of the greatest experiences, if not the best, available on the PS3 and the other consoles.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/24/08
Game Release: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (US, 06/12/08)
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