Review by Mad_Ogre

"Heaps of wasted potential, but still fantastic."

The Metal Gear Solid series has been noted for its bold decisions, dramatic stories, unique gameplay and over the top boss fights. The series has endured great success, and has shown, with each generation of consoles, that the basic principles behind the gameplay are immensely popular. Arguably, the best thing about the series is its storyline, and indeed this game brings the series to a fine conclusion. There is no doubt, if you've followed the series all the way through, then you absolutely must buy this game to see how it ends for yourself.

Previous Metal Gear games have been criticised for their poor controls, often forcing the player to tame the clunky controls to access the forbidden fruits of gameplay locked within. This time, things are different. The controls in this game are, without doubt, the best in the series, and since that really isn't saying much, I'd go on to say that the controls now actually make the game a lot more playable and enjoyable as an experience. The entire series deserves to be remade with these controls. There is now a dynamic camera, Snake can move in 3 stances, and there is over-the-shoulder aiming whenever you need it. This is what we've always needed.

The real annoyance is that the level design in the game does little to show off the fantastic controls. The potential for absolutely fantastic gameplay is there, but it is rarely fully explored. There are 5 acts within the game, and after the first two acts the gameplay really goes downhill. Act 4 is an excellent act – and if you played Metal Gear Solid back in the day, it is almost worth buying this game just for act 4 - but only about half of it (and it is very short) actually contains the fantastic gameplay we've come to expect from the Metal Gear Solid Series. The beginning of Act 5 has an excellent section, where the controls and gameplay dynamics are put to full use, yet this section lasts no more than about 10 minutes... then all the sneaking is over. Act 3 contains practically no sneaking whatsoever. This also means there is rarely any need to fully use your huge arsenal of gadgets or sneaking techniques, because often the easiest solution doesn't involve using them, though if you wish to beat the game with no alerts/kills/healing items this will change – which is somewhat of a refreshment. There is still absolutely no excusing this... the game is, quite simply, too short with not enough close quarters sneaking involved. This is highly infuriating considering the potential that the controls give the game – just when they perfected the controls, they ruin the gameplay, and what is the point in good controls without good gameplay and level design in which to utilise them? A real waste.

As I've said, there are areas in the game which do capitalise on the controls to bring us a fantastic Metal Gear experience, but these sections are both too short, and too infrequent. The rest of the game is filled with story and special sequences such as shooting people from atop a tank or a motorbike chase through a city. These are all good things, but it seems as though they are too much the focus of the game, rather than just being there as an extra.

Another disappointment is the boss fights in the game – previous Metal Gears, particularly MGS3 and MGS, had extremely entertaining , epic and moving boss fights. The boss fights in this game are a supreme let down. Other than about 3 boss fights in the game, there really is nothing worth shouting about here. In previous instalments, there was always something fresh about the bosses – from the fights with Sniper Wolf or The End, to the battles with Revolver Ocelot or Psychomantis – there was always something fresh to keep us entertained and challenged. The boss fights in Guns of The Patriots really pale in comparison to the high standards set by this series.

Another, small, annoyance I had with this game was the lack of any real support team. There is only 2 characters you can Codec-call for the duration of the game, while previous Metal Gears had a larger support crew than this. This is only a minor annoyance, but it still detracts from the classic Metal Gear experience we all know and love.

As with all previous games, this game is high on cutscenes, with the ending lasting an entire 90 minutes. If you're someone who hates games being ‘more a movie than a game' then this really isn't for you – even less so if you haven't completed any of the previous games in the series. I personally love most of the cutscenes in the game, though a few of them drag on for unnecessary amounts of time, and a few of them seem to be cranked in there with all the subtlety of a gunshot purely for the purpose of tying up loose ends within the series or explaining away characters' (e.g Vamp) abilities, when there was, in my opinion, no need to do so.

The graphics in the game are absolutely superb, there are never any graphical hitches or complaints, the game runs very smoothly the entire time – and so it should, considering that the game needs to be installed, and – not only this – but the game needs to reinstall every new act... which takes 3 minutes or so. Personally, this isn't a complaint that bothers me, I simply do something else for that 3 minute duration, and I can't see this being a legitimate reason for anyone not to buy the game.

The online portion of the game is good, but nothing too special – and certainly not worth buying the game for the sole purpose of playing it, unless there is some pressing need to do so. It is basically the same controls as in the single player game, except they are taken to the multiplayer battleground. It is more than worth playing once you have bought the game, and it is extremely good fun while it lasts, but if you're looking for an online game I would recommend Call of Duty 4 for that department.

In all, the game is more than worth playing through, and becomes practically essential if you've played and enjoyed other Metal Gear Solid games. The only trouble is that certain aspects of the game do not quite live up to the great expectation and reputation the series has built for itself, but this does not stop the game being awesome in its own right. If anything, I haven't given the game enough praise throughout the rest of the review, the story is truly spectacular and the areas of potential fulfilling gameplay may be short lived, but they are truly awesome and worthy of the Metal Gear franchise. The Metal Gear Solid series will go down in videogaming history as the franchise which proved it had the X factor with each new generation of hardware, and the epic tale of Solid Snake, and the other characters from the Metal Gear universe, is something which may well live in our hearts forever – and there are few other franchises I could genuinely say that about.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/10/08

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

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