Review by Dave521

"Takes you for a roller coaster ride, and leaves you begging for more"

I have a confession.

Up until about three years ago, I had never even touched a Metal Gear Solid game. Not one. It's not that I didn't have a Playstation, because I did. I also had a Gamecube, but I missed out on Twin Snakes. Eventually, I got my hands on Metal Gear Solid 3, and I played and enjoyed it. After obtaining my Playstation 3, I thought about buying Metal Gear Solid 4. In order to prepare myself for it, I played through the other two games via the Essential Collection, also enjoying them (and wanting to slap myself for not playing them earlier). I did this, obviously, so that I could play Guns of the Patriots and not stare at the screen trying to figure out what's going on every five seconds.

Smart move. Both playing the other games and playing this installment.

Guns of the Patriots is brilliant. It's an incredible adventure from start to finish that never fails to deliver a satisfying experience to the Metal Gear Solid fanbase. The game seems to have been gone over with a fine comb in every category: graphics, story, gameplay, everything is fine tuned. What results is one of the most amazing experiences you will ever encounter in a video game.

The story takes place five years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 2, but for Snake, it seems like close to fifty years due to a disease that accelerates his aging. He is called up by his old friend Colonel Campbell, who sends him on a mission to destroy Liquid once and for all. Liquid, now having taken over Revolver Ocelot's body, is in control of many Private Military Companies, or PMC's and is looking to declare an insurrection against the United States, and it's up to our old hero to save the world once again.

If you think the story is that simple, you haven't been paying attention to Metal Gear Solid. While the basic premise stays the same for most of the game, there are plot twists up the wazoo. Just when you start to think something is straight, the game will throw a wrench to mess up your thinking. The story is also told through sharp cutscenes, and very few Codec scenes (those were boring to me), and the game paces itself pretty well. It builds up constantly until the finale, which, without spoiling it, is guaranteed to throw many players for a loop. For newer players, however, it can seem like the story is crammed down your throat, and without having played all three games, you're sure to get confused.

If you're a fan of this series, then Metal Gear Solid 4 gives you practically everything you asked for and maybe even a bit more. The game is divided up into five acts, unlike the previous games, and each act places you in a different location with a different objective, so sadly, you can't backtrack. The game is also pretty linear as well; for most of the game, you'll be attempting to go from point A to point B, usually without alerting the guards in the area.What sets Guns of the Patriots apart from the other three installments is the contrast. One minute you're in an intense firefight, the next you're infiltrating a jungle in hostile territory. You'll rarely be doing the same thing for long, and with 15-20 hours of play, along with plenty of replay value with unlockables, it's definitely worth the money.

The gameplay in Metal Gear Solid 4 is much improved as well, specifically in gunplay. Weapons are procured on site, but you can collect weapons from enemy soldiers and sell them, then use the points to buy new equipment and upgrades via a mysterious weapons launderer. The system isn't totally deep, but it allows you to play the way you want. The game also has a nice over the shoulder view when you ready your weapon, and you can go to first person if you so desire. One thing that bugged me a bit was the loss of tactical reload, but I guess that made things too easy.

For those of you that prefer to sneak instead of blasting anything that moves, MGS4 gives you control of the OctoCamo. It operates similarly to the camo in MGS3, but it changes automatically when you lean on a wall or lie on the floor, so you don't have to keep going into the menu to change it. It works pretty well, but if you're just lying in the middle of nowhere, don't be surprised if a solider catches you. It's nice that the game takes care of this for you though.

Throughout the game, you'll have three meters to keep track of: health, psyche, and stress. Health is obvious. Psyche is Snake's willingness, and is pretty similar to the stamina from MGS3. Stress is just that, and it affects how fast the psyche bar depletes. While it may seem daunting, you rarely have to worry about them, only paying attention when something goes to a dangerous level, so you won't be constantly micromanaging.

So what makes the MGS4 experience so great? The freedom. You literally can play however you want to play it (although sometimes trying to blast through a whole army isn't exactly smart). The game doesn't punish you too much for trying new things, and with the intuitive control setup, it's accessible for practically everyone. Couple in a ton of unlockables, and you'll have plenty of reasons to keep playing.

The first three games had some memorable boss fights, and MGS4 definitely delivers here as well. While the bosses are a tad on the easy side, they are innovative boss fights that are more than just "hit until dead". A boss at the end of the fourth act, for example, is an incredibly fun boss fight that fulfills the dream of 99% of the nerd community.

And do I really need to say anything about the game's look? I shouldn't have to, it's beautiful. You literally have to comb the screen to find issues with the visual presentation. The music is just as brilliant with themes fitting in almost flawlessly into the main core of the game. The voice acting is also pretty good, despite some people hamming it up a bit. The production values for this game were incredibly high, and not only does it show, it doesn't go to waste.

The only major problem I had with this game is the install times. In between acts, there's a three minute install time. It's a bit annoying, to be honest, even though the game tries to entertain you a bit by letting you watch Snake smoke cigarettes.

But considering that those times lead to the amazing sequences in the game, it's forgivable. Guns of the Patriots offers up a wonderful package, taking gamers on a ride that few games have. It's another one of those games that will be making top ten lists all over the industry, and for good reason. If you're a PS3 owner that was worried about the console's lineup, worry no longer. Its best title has arrived, and it deserves a purchase and a salute.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 06/17/08

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

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