Review by originalvoice

"Everything we wanted, just not at all in the way we expected"

War has changed...that's the tag line that Hideo Kojima has been using to plug Guns of the Patriots for years. But war is not the only thing that's changed. Snake has changed, the systems have changed, the entire nature of video games have changed. And, most importantly, the gamers have changed drastically.

Nine years ago I was a thirteen year old kid opening a present on my birthday and seeing the white packaging of a game that I'd never heard of called Metal Gear Solid. This was the year before Final Fantasy VII revolutionized the video game world and taught all of us what a cinematic game was meant to be. Metal Gear Solid was like nothing I had ever experienced in a video game. It was gritty, well-written, dripping with story and personality and all of these other wonderful things that I would appreciate when I got older. As a thirteen year old I just really appreciated that there was a splash of blood when I blasted a Genome Soldier in the head with my PSG1.

Fast-forward nine years. We've all gotten older, grown into a comfortable culture where video games are no longer an outsiders' pastime but a mainstream part of everyday life. Halo 3 snatched the record as the Number 1 entertainment release of All Time, and World of Warcraft has grown to over a million members. People are spending more and more time in a virtual world, and that virtual world is coming to reflect reality more and more closely. The line is becoming blurred between the two. Load up your no doubt well-worn copy of Sons of Liberty and listen to Ocelot's explanation of the S3 System to see just how prophetic Hideo Kojima turned out to be.

And along comes Guns of the Patriots. The culmination of a decade of passionate gaming enthusiasm and more. And my, oh my, how war has changed.

From the very first scene you will realize that this is likely the most beautiful looking game you have ever played. The Metal Gear franchise has always pushed the limits of a gaming system's graphics' capabilities, and the few times I saw the frame-rate lag during an action filled cutscene, I knew that Hideo Kojima had not pulled any punches for the PS3. From tears to sweat to masonry exploding from bullet impacts to the amazingly immersive soundtrack, Metal Gear Solid 4 delivers a wholly immersive experience that makes you completely believe in the war-torn world and the battle-weary soldier you are playing as.

But here is my one gripe, and it isn't with the game, but rather with the system. Why did I pay $500 for the most technologically advanced gaming system ever engineered just to spend what seemed like hours watching LOADING SCREENS. Honestly, Sony, do you think you might have been able to include a little bit more RAM somewhere between those 6 processors, Bluetooth, Blu-Ray player, and massive memory card reader? But that isn't the game's fault, and that is why Metal Gear Solid 4 can still receive a ten out of ten.

The thing is, the story seems strangely absent from the first two Acts of the game. As a gamer you're dropped into an almost post-apocalyptic world of constant, pointless battles and told to go to a certain point on a map without any explanation. But then you think about it, and here we are blindly following orders just like we did in MGS, Sons of Liberty, and Snake Eater, Except this time, the trick is pulled off with such stunning subtlety that you won't realize what you're doing until long after you've beaten the game for the first time. And that's when you understand that Hideo Kojima is not asking you to visit this world of Guns of the Patriots from time to time, he is forcing you to BECOME Solid Snake. This level of immersion is a masterstroke very, very few games can come anywhere close to achieving.

And then, after you defeat the second of the B&B Corps, the hammer comes down and the story takes off. With agonizing slowness we experience Snake sliding closer and closer to the brink while Liquid's victory over the Patriots and the entire world seems to become more and more inevitable. By the end, it feels like the gameplay has become an unfortunate burden to the continuity of the cutscenes. It's an amazing reversal from the endless sneaking of the first half of the game.

Enjoy it, savor it, play it again and again. Hideo Kojima has crafted a masterpiece in Guns of the Patriots. For more than a decade gamers have been stepping into the role of Solid Snake to save the world. Now, finally, is the ending every single one of us deserve. But, as it is with every story Kojima has ever presented the world with, it doesn't end at all how we expected...

Metal Gear Solid has changed...and who can deny that it has changed us gamers along the way?

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 06/19/08

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

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