Review by Gixah

"A mature improvement on the last two games by far."

Metal Gear Solid was something in 1998. Its creator Hideo Kojima delivered a tale with the drama and action that one can find in a summer action movie. Players were introduced to the disillusioned and brooding Solid Snake they know and love, and we've met some morose characters that stuck with him for two more games, including this latest installment. The objective has slightly changed this time. In Metal Gear Solid we were asked to sneak around our enemies to get to the next area. This went on in 2001's Sons of Liberty and was emphasized in 2004's Snake Eater (the prequel and the first chapter in the series' tale) with the introduction of the camouflage index system. In this new chapter, Guns of the Patriots, the player has something of a choice whether to sneak around the enemy, or side with a group and war with them for an advantage.

The thing to consider in Metal Gear Solid 4 is that this is a game for the fans. Whether this is a good thing or not depends on your relationship with the series. I don't think anyone would watch The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King without having seen the first two films in the series, and so this game goes out of its way to answer all of the mysterious questions that have been raised ten years ago. Any person who wants to play this game not having played the other games (a lot or at all) would save themselves from severe headaches by doing a Google search or a YouTube search. Another thing to consider is to realize the heart's desire of Mr. Kojima to be a filmmaker. It's been seen since Metal Gear Solid, and exaggerated this time around. When you aren't sneaking around collecting weapons to sell (more on that later), you're watching 20-minute cutscene of exposition or characters doing cool, impractical poses, or both! That's what separates the lovers from the haters, I suppose. If you're like me and didn't like Metal Gear Solid 2, you either wrote off Metal Gear Solid 3 or, as I did, accepted that the story will be convoluted, loony, and ready to sit through a hundred cutscenes of watching our protagonist eat snakes and alligator. I went into Guns of the Patriots ready for it all, and by the end of the game, with a cutscene spanning an hour, I really loved it.

Playing as Solid Snake means sneaking around in that cool OctoCamo suit; although I was very frustrated with the beginning of the game, not having much to rely on and hearing that annoying Alert noise players have come to love or loathe. Whenever Snake is against a pattern, his suit will change color into that same pattern, increasing his camouflage index -- a definite improvement on Snake Eater's system. It helps sneaking around, along with the fact that you can skirt around areas to avoid any enemies detecting your presence. The game abandons the “weapons and equipment on-site procurement” nonsense and hands you a rifle from the beginning. You can collect the weapons of dead soldiers for more ammo, or later on, sell them for points to purchase better weapons, which can be modified in a very nice customization system. Should the player choose to be a more active soldier, the controlling is great. If you have played Resident Evil 4, you will feel right at home with its over-the-shoulder combat. It has a learning curve, and it never works against you. The techniques and options available to you mean you have a few ways to take down the inevitable bosses of Guns of the Patriots. There is one battle, in my opinion, that deserves an honor for most fun and bad-ass. My most major gripe with the game is one part that required me to take down a bunch of robots as they leapt all over the area. It's met with a split-screen with an actual cutscene and I thought it was a pretty poor choice of design. Did the designers expect me to glance at the cutscene while these things were stomping on Snake everywhere?

Metal Gear Solid 4 also has bonuses so that you don't stop playing once you've made it to the end. After finishing it the first time, I say with confidence that this is perhaps the best game of 2008 thus far -- visually, aurally with fantastic music and the best since Snake Eater, and playing it is more fun than its predecessors. It is undoubtedly an improvement on the other games, and it's nice to see a series mature and close out a story that has taken 21 years to tell. If you enjoyed the other games, you're bound to love this one; if not, well, I can't necessarily fault you for that as someone who'd lost confidence in the series after Sons of Liberty.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/19/08

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

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