Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Review by aksolid
"The pinnacle of modern storytelling - 2 year anniversary review (spoilers - updated)"
It has been roughly 2 years since Metal Gear Solid 4 hit the streets and this review will attempt to sort out just how much older Old Snake has become over that time.
All games age, but their ultimate worth is based on their longevity and relevance as a game in the industry.
Is MGS4 worthy of such praise? Read on to find out.
Ever since the gaming public was introduced to Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation we have seen countless copy cats in terms of presentation. Hideo Kojima introduced us to the cinematic experience on a level we have never seen before. Sure games before it had wonderful presentational aspects, but none had the "coolness of Hollywood" implemented in such a masterful way.
Each iteration of Metal Gear Solid has only gotten better and Hideo Kojima keeps sharpening his skills as a story teller.
Metal Gear Solid 4's presentation to this day is unmatched in the industry. The camera is masterfully directed during the cut-scenes, shaking with every explosion, refocusing with every swing, and repositioning with every character action. It is clear that the cut-scenes are on par with many major big budget Hollywood efforts. In fact, much of the framing and camera work is reminiscent of great Hollywood directors of the past, including James Cameron and Sergio Leone. The camera work is a sight to be seen. Given Hideo Kojima's background and fascination with American Film techniques this presentation style isn't surprising.
What isn't expected though, is Kojima's mastery of the art of cinematography.
Many of these cut-scenes are transitioned directly into game-play which is both exhilarating and refreshing even to this day. Few games released in the last 2 years manage to incorporate the player into the cut-scenes like MGS4 does. I can think of one though - Uncharted 2, which is an amazing achievement in presentation and standout technical mastery as well.
The voice acting and narrative in Metal Gear Solid 4 is thorough and complex. All voice actors fit their part. The standout performance is of course David Hayter who plays Old Snake and has hit the nail on the head for his war torn voice. The script itself is pure Kojima - jokes, goofy situations, and world threatening events - it's all very engaging and exciting.
While there will no doubt be more and more games that look as good or better than MGS4 the only one that comes to mind is Uncharted 2.
MGS4's character models are still the best looking and best animated in the industry.
It is still a marvel to see the game in action to this day. However, overall Uncharted 2 has MGS4 beat in special effects and lighting but other than that MGS4 still looks amazing. It should be noted that Snake's move set, enemy A.I., amount of weapons, CQC moves available and their effects all impact the game engine. Even though MGS4 has been surpassed in terms a visual fidelity, there is much more going on in the background in terms of freedom and computing power to account for the possible ways you can encounter enemies. Because of all of the this, MGS4 is still an outstanding achievement visually and is still considered one of the best looking games of the generation. The attention to detail in the environment is unmatched. Leaves blowing in the wind, dirt settling on the camera, water ripples, bump mapping, HDR lighting and all the little unique objections the modelers took time to model is just amazing. All of it is eye candy and we are presented with a beautifully realized world.
When all is said and done, the game industry always evolves. And with that, so does the technology. The difference between something like MGS1 and MGS4 is that twenty years after they are made, while the industry's graphic standard will have increased 20-fold, only MGS1 will have problems representing a 3D environment. MGS4 will still represent a believable and visually pleasant 3D environment.
We all know by now that MGS4 has the best controls in the series but how does it compare to other games now?
To this day the control is amazing. Since the learning curve was relatively complex it took awhile before you could confidently pull off the kill you wanted. After a couple hours or a couple playthroughs, depending on your skill, you could look like a complete bad*** legendary hero. After 2 years of playing the game on and off, you will look like The Boss herself!!! There are so many ways to play and mastery of the controls opens up a whole new feeling of accomplishment. Disarm and hold up, disarm and kill, choke, drag, stun, etc.
Playing through something like Peace Walker, which is an amazing game, feels like a short hand MGS game, since you cannot perform even a quarter of the CQC moves present in MGS4. This is made up for in pure quantity of missions though, so I don't mean to knock Peace Walker - which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, I prefer the amount of freedom and control we have over Old Snake in MGS4 - we can do nearly anything a super spy could want.
Fast paced and finely tuned. 2 years later I am still having a blast playing through this game. Many complaints have been centered on the fact that there doesn't seem to be enough gameplay compared to other Metal Gear Solid games. I have played through all the previous game recently and I must conclusively say that the gameplay in all of the Metal Gear Solid entries are nearly identical, with MGS3 and MGS4 having the most time wise. MGS4 seems to have less but this is only because MGS3 stuffs a lot a gameplay at its conclusion but the gameplay is sparse before that. MGS4 on the other hand stuffs most of its gameplay in Acts 1-4 and falls off on Act 5. But compared to each other the gameplay length is nearly identical.
It should be noted that as of today, Peace Walker wins when it comes to quantity of gameplay. No MGS before or since has matched the amount of missions of gameplay time Peace Walker does. However, as much as I liked Peace Walker, as I stated above, it doesn't have the depth in gameplay that MGS4 does. While MGS4 is very story focused, the gameplay and move set is deep and layered. That said, I do wish MGS4 was longer - the changes made to the control system in MGS4 deserve to be utilized more. While it seems that we won't get anymore content when it comes to MGS4 - one can hope. MGS4 provides us with the ultimate freedom and gameplay experience when controlling Old Snake.
Since this game is set in a warzone (most of the time) the overall feel has changed as well. The game feels more action oriented. However, nothing stops you from sneaking through the game. In fact there are more ways to play this game than any other MGS game including Peace Walker, which will ultimately give it more longevity.
I feel like this was a good decision since when we play as Solid Snake in MGS1 and MGS2 the games seem to be more action oriented anyway, and when we were introduced to Big Boss in MGS3, Portable Ops, and Peace Walker the gameplay was more jungle stealth oriented. The difference being that MGS4 gameplay mechanics and controls allow you to play either way without frustration because the control scheme is so well realized and fine-tuned.
Not much to say here except that every single thing you see was given an appropriate sound, and I mean everything. Hollywood quality. The soundtrack is masterfully composed by Harry Gregson-Williams.
Also you should get 5.1 surround sound system, if that is too much, at least purchase a 5.1 headphone system. You won't be disappointed. This game has NOT been matched in the audio department yet. Every sound wave that hits your ears makes you believe you are there with Old Snake.
Metal Gear Solid games have always been known for their easter eggs and rewards for multiple playthroughs. MGS4 is no different. What is different is that the gameplay is so enjoyable and so finely tuned that replaying the game never feels like a chore. I love MGS3 and I rank it as one of my all time favorite games. However, I didn't playthrough it that many times specifically because the gameplay wasn't as smooth as I was hoping. This is one of MGS4's greatest strengths. MGS4 lets you play however you want without compromise in control - which might actually turn some people off to the experience of MGS4. People have a hard time with decisions - for example, Gears of War is a great game that provides mindless fun. You don't have many options when it comes to killing enemies, you just do it, and you love it.
If you want something more than mindless fun, MGS4 might be for you. In fact, you can play MGS4 like a mindless shooter and get just as much out of it as other shooters - if you can handle a complex story :) Even then you can skip cut-scenes.
Everyone has their preferences, and I play many games regularly. However, MGS4 is a game I always can come back to because of its gameplay advancements within the series. There is so much freedom when tackling an obstacle.
Everyone will have their opinion when it comes to how MGS4 was told and here is mine. MGS4 is told in the only way it can be - over the top, over blown, exposition abound, and I loved every second of it.
There is really no other way for Kojima to wrap up his beloved series. He has to have dialogue that goes on and on, he has to have crazy shootouts and unbelieveable plot twists, but it's all very entertaining and that's what we pay for. There is no denying that the writing this time around is much better - you might enjoy other MGS's stories better, but play them, and you will hear much more awkward conversations among the characters.
You can whine all you want about the BB Corps and their lack of back stories, but you can't deny that they have the most thematic significance to the overarching MGS Series story. War is bad, it kills, it rapes, it devours, it creates beasts and the BB Corps embodied those themes better than any other bosses in the series.
Some think Snake should of killed himself. I disagree. Snake must live, he has much to atone for and can by contemplating his death, which is much more powerful than just ending his life.
It takes a humble man who possesses a empathetic soul to put off death and see off his sins.
Furthermore, snake is the only beast that has a chance to fine salvation and peace. He must live to avenge all those he killed throughout the series. He was a tool, a puppet of the Patriot AI's and by living out his life he avenges Solidus', Liquids', and Big Boss' causes.
During his last days Solid Snake will contemplate his death and die with the peace of mind that, even though he was used as a tool of war, his determination and shear will to see the job through helped free the world from the elitist Patriot control. That will, that determination, that spirit, that sense that Snake unflinchingly exudes is the will of The Boss. And those virtues deserve to exist in the new world Snake finds himself in - however short it may be
Games don't get much better than this. Everyone will have their own opinion on how they think the game should of been told, but that fact remains that game was told the way Konami and Kojima wanted. And we have a better game for it. The are no wrong moves in the gameplay department and the story is as satisfying and masterful and joyous as you allow it. Anything and Everything can be scrutinized, it just depends on how much of a pessimist you are.
20 years from now MGS4 will be looked upon as a game that pushed the boundaries of interactive entertainment. A game and vision so sharply and loudly crafted by Kojima that gamers and creators alike will still be discovering new genius within.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/17/09, Updated 07/19/10
Game Release: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (US, 06/12/08)
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