Review by horror_spooky
Each console has its exclusive killer application. For the Wii, it was Wii Sports, which drew in not only gamers, but millions of non-gamers and started a brand new trend in gaming. For the Xbox 360, it was Gears of War, which revolutionized online multiplayer and spearheaded new gameplay mechanics being reused and recycled to this day. For the PlayStation 3, their killer app isn't a first-party title like the other two games mentioned. On the contrary, the PlayStation 3's must-have title is a third-party game developed by Konami and directed by Hideo Kojima exclusively for the PS3. The game I'm talking about is, of course, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
If anyone still questions whether video games are art or not, they should spend some time with MGS4. Metal Gear Solid 4 is truly amazing. It's a masterpiece. It manages to provide amazing entertainment throughout its entirety all the way to its shocking climax, while blurring the lines between toy and art. MGS4 is really special. Honestly, I would have given the game a perfect score if not for one major issue, and a couple of minor annoyances here and there to be detailed below.
The cut-scenes are far too long. I was annoyed at Metal Gear Solid 2 for having ridiculously long cut-scenes, but Metal Gear Solid 4 makes that game look like nothing in comparison. There are cut-scenes that seem to go on for hours and a lot of the cut-scenes feature nothing but chit-chat between characters. It can become rather boring. The majority of the game is cut-scene cinematics, which isn't how developers should go about balancing a video game properly. Granted there are a lot of absolutely amazing moments and jaw-dropping occurrences, but there definitely was fat that needed trimming.
Another annoyance I have with the game is the fact that it doesn't focus on stealth nearly as much. There are actually only a handful of moments in the game that really truly require stealth, as a lot of the game revolves around simply avoid enemies rather than sneaking past them. I blame the new radar system for this. This radar system is quite different from the radar present in previous games, and fails to show the line of sight for enemies, and instead just shoes red circles when enemies or any other life form is nearby. The result is slight confusion for players used to the older games, and an irritating gameplay mechanic for other people.
As the game rolled along, I eventually accepted that this new Metal Gear Solid wasn't quite as stealth-oriented as I had hoped. It was more of an action game with minor stealth elements mixed in. While the end result is still a fantastic game, I found myself missing the mechanics of yesteryear, as there was nothing wrong with them, and they could have easily been implemented in this game. This situation reminds me of Resident Evil 4. Sure, RE4 has heavy survival-horror elements sporadically placed throughout the game, but it's still primarily an action game. Similarly, MGS4 will polarize long-time fans' opinions.
Besides this spiffy new radar available to Snake, he also has quite a few other gadgets at his disposal. There is the Metal Gear Mk. II, a little robot that can be controlled to do recon patrols and as a distraction to guards. There is all the usual Metal Gear silly stuff, like a cardboard box to hide in, a barrel to hide in, Playboy magazines to lay on the ground to distract guards, and cigarettes to smoke to bring Snake's stress level down.
Ah, yes. Snake has a stress level this time around. The stress level has a profound effect on Snake's psychological state, as does other factors, like situations that happen in cut-scenes and by receiving damage in battle. When Snake's sanity is at an extremely low level, he throws up and will suffer even more damage than usual. I enjoyed this mechanic, as it added more urgency to every combat situation.
Since the game focuses on action more than any other game in the series, Snake's arsenal has significantly increased. This is because Snake can collect pretty much any weapon that his enemies use and then purchase them for use himself. The reason he just can't pick them up and shoot is because weapons are ID locked. This means that they only work for the specific person they are assigned for, thanks to the titular Patriots. Early on in the game, Snake meets a man named Drebin, who sort of works as a story-integrated weapons merchant.
By collecting Drebin points (by collecting weapons and destroying unmanned machines), Snake can purchase guns for use, buy new weapons, and customize the weapons he already has. Pistols and sub-machine guns can have suppressors added to them to make them far more efficient in combat and to make sure not too many guards come chasing after the legendary Solid Snake to cut his adventure short. I found myself rarely using this feature, strangely, but I know exactly how it could have been more useful. If only the shop sold ammo for weapons as well as upgrades and ID unlocking, then I would have spent much more time in the shop. Still, just because I didn't find it useful doesn't mean it wasn't a good idea, and other people may find it useful based on the differing play styles between everyone.
One of the more interesting new features is Snake's ability to blend in with the environment. Using OctoCamo, Snake can blend in with the walls and the floor to be harder to spot by enemy soldiers. Again, I rarely found myself using this feature unless I was just messing around. I wish these feature had been more important in the game as it was a great idea, just underutilized in its execution.
While I have been a little down on the game for being a bit too heavy on the action side and a too light on the stealth side, there are absolutely spectacular action segments in the game. The bullets and blood will fly many times before the credits roll and the uber-long cut-scenes start to play. These segments, whether they be controlling a turret on a tank or shooting a SMG off the back of a motorcycle, help break up the gameplay and all the talking. They are placed strategically in the game and pop up just when you decide you're getting bored and want to quit.
While the stealth element has been downplayed for sure, it's not completely forgotten. Sure, regular guards aren't that necessary to avoid now since Snake is armed to the teeth, but there are new enemies introduced in this title that will scare the hell out of you. I am referring to these large, unmanned robotic opponents that stalk around the environment, looking for Snake. If they spot him, they will fire machineguns that do a ridiculous amount of damage to our hero, and can also leap into the air and land right on top of him. Avoiding these enemies is practically essential for survival, especially during the later stages of the game. These tense moments of crawling through snow, praying that these giant mechanical beasts that look like they were ripped straight out of a sci-fi film don't find the scared Snake and crush him underneath their weight. Stealth done right. I just wish there were more moments like these.
The boss fights in MGS4 are probably some of the game's most shining moments. Granted, this is the case in every game of the series, but still, it's worth mentioning. Each boss fight feels unique and exciting. I am afraid to go into too much detail and ruin anything, so I will just briefly discuss the attack patterns of the first major boss players encounter. This boss is known as Laughing Octopus, and she blends in perfectly with the walls and floors of the environment Snake battles her in. The fight consists of finding her location and then shooting her as much as possible before she releases a cloud of black ink and hides from Snake again. It's probably the most violent game of hide-and-seek ever, but it's awesome, and it's just a taste of what the rest of the game's boss battles provide.
The online multiplayer, referred to as Metal Gear Online, is actually quite awful in comparison to the rest of the game and in comparison to video games in general. It's the most anti-user friendly online multiplayer component ever conceived. Instead of just popping in the game and choosing to play online like basically every other video game that has online, players have to go to the Konami ID portal. This opens up a web browser on your system. After squinting at the text for a long time and creating a Konami ID, players then gave to go to their e-mail and use their Konami ID to sign up for a Game ID. Upon completing this task, players then have to download a patch that will take about two to three hours. I am not exaggerating, and trust me, it's not worth it. Following this, the game then installs the multiplayer onto your system, which takes another ten minutes.
Finally, it's go-time! Unfortunately, the multiplayer is just plain awful. The game informs players that they can only create ONE character. And in order to enjoy the multiplayer anymore by creating another character, they have to pay. Real money. Ugh. Moving on from that nonsense, the actual levels available packed-in with the game are bare-bones, awful, and while there is a variety of gameplay modes, there aren't very many people online. Finding a match takes hours. That's because the community is split. There are map packs and DLC content that the game prompts you to buy constantly, that many people use, and are thus playing on. I couldn't imagine myself wasting more money on the multiplayer for this game. Also, the lack of activity just goes on to prove that online multiplayer is NOTHING without an offline multiplayer component to complement it.
The gameplay is varied and never repetitive at all. Each Act will make players do something new and different, which is excellent, especially since all these new mechanics, features, and ideas blend together perfectly with the core foundation of the game. There are moments when Snake will have to track someone down by following and judging their footprints; there will be moments when Snake has to follow an individual throughout a large town without getting noticed; there will be moments when Snake is shooting down large unmanned war machines with a turret; and there will be plenty other unforgettable moments throughout the game. MGS4 does some truly amazing things that I really can't talk much about without feeling guilty about spoiling it for a potential player. Just trust me on this: the amount of originality and charm packed into this title definitely makes sitting through the bloated cut-scenes worth it. Definitely.
Speaking of these cut-scenes, it'd probably be wise to get into Metal Gear Solid 4's storyline, since the plot has also been a very important aspect of the series since its incarnation in the third generation. Solid Snake has grown much older since gamers last saw him in MGS2. He is having problems accepting his old age, but regardless, he is on a mission to find his psychotic brother, Liquid, and stop his terrorist plots. In true Metal Gear fashion, there are an insurmountable amount of twists throughout this story. There are startling revelations that fans of the series will enjoy, and small references to every single game in the Metal Gear timeline. Guns of the Patriots is part fan-service and part amazing plot, with unforgettable characters, and a whole lot of closure to storylines. However, I did have an issue with the way the game ends. There were a few points where MGS4 could have ended absolutely PERFECTLY, but it just kept going on and on and on. There were too many twists at this point, and some of these actually did more damage to the storyline than good. It's like Kojima couldn't decide how to end the game, so he just kept mixing all of his ideas together and tried to present them all at once. Despite the weak ending and the bloated dialogue, MGS4 is still a masterpiece when it comes to storytelling, and longtime Metal Gear fans will absolutely love it.
MGS4 has to install itself onto the PlayStation 3 harddrive repeatedly. I found this curious, as I have never experienced anything like this for any other game this generation. Is all this installing absolutely necessary? I doubt it. The game is gorgeous though, with very detailed character models and perfect, and I mean perfect, animation. The cut-scenes are beautifully directed and performed, and the environments are stunning as well. The framerate is perfect, and I never once encountered any kind of glitch or other game-breaking technical dilemma. With beautiful environments, neat graphical effects, and all-around jaw-dropping visuals, MGS4 is easily one of the best looking video games ever.
The audio is, as can be expected, even better than the visual presentation. The background music hits all the right notes at just the right times, and the orchestral score is breathtaking. The music in Metal Gear can really invoke emotions within players, and here the genius of the game's storytelling abilities truly shine. Likewise, the voice-acting is also art. It's pulled off better than most famous Hollywood actors pull off their lines in any blockbuster film. All the voice-actors are amazing, and there's not one single annoying guy in the bunch, unlike most games. Fans of the series will appreciate the continuity of having all the old voice actors reprise their roles, not to mention all the classic Metal Gear music that appears in this game. A neat feature I should mention is Snake can use his iPod to listen to various tunes that can be collected throughout the adventure. It's a strange feature, but also helps add to the flair and charm of MGS4. I also noticed that there are not only iPods in the game, but Otacon uses a Macbook as well. Is this a slant against Microsoft? Hmm.
Clocking in at roughly 15 hours, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is a fairly lengthy gameassuming you sit through all the cut-scenes. In terms of actual gameplay, I would say that the amount of hours is about eight. I am not exaggerating. As I said, there does seem to be a sort of unbalance between the gameplay and the storyline, keeping the two from working together to form one solid masterpiece. It's like Kojima created two different brilliant works of art and while they sometimes complement each other, they can't be fully cooperative without sacrificing some quality. Once the game is beaten once, there is still some things to do. There are harder difficulties to test out, and a New Game+ option, with items and camouflage and things of that nature carrying over into Snake's next adventure. On top of that, there is a sort of achievement system in place for MGS4. Guns of the Patriots does not support trophies as it came out long before the PS3 even had trophies, but these achievements perform the same basic function. Some of these are absolutely impossible to get, in my view, but I'm sure there are hardcore fans and gamers out there welcoming the challenge. There are also a lot of unlockable content and items to collect in the game. Oh, and there's the online multiplayer mode as well. While I wish that the multiplayer was also offline, the online multiplayer is surprisingly not dead and still somewhat fun. In short, with Metal Gear Solid 4, you're getting your money's worth.
I've been playing video games for a long, long time. I've been playing them actually since before I can even remember. There have been many games that I've wanted to give a perfect score, but there were just some glaring issues that prevented me from doing so. However, there has never been a game that I've wanted, but couldn't in good conscious, award a perfect 10 more so than Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Metal Gear Solid 4 proves that video games are an art. Does it have its issues? Yes. The storyline is bloated and the cut-scenes are way too long and frequent, there are gameplay issues that I had a problem with as well, but overall, this game is a freaking masterpiece. It will shock, dazzle, and amaze gamers with its pure genius. Anyone that owns a PS3 should own this game and savor it, because I doubt there will ever be another video game experience quite like Metal Gear Solid 4 in a long, long time.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/09/10
Game Release: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (US, 06/12/08)
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