Review by dkolb87

"Metal Gear Messup"

It had all of the money, all of the excitement, and hype, and the full power of a next generation console, but Metal Gear Solid 4 like none of the others before it, took the controller out of the player's hands and when it did that, it sacrificed gameplay for story. It turned off casual gamers to appease fanboys, and it pushed the ludicrousness of it's plot and characters passed the point of no return.

The graphics are top notch with great environments, detailed characters, weapons, and enemies. The game at times was stunning in its presentation. This is one of the best looking games I've ever seen. Effects like water and snow really stand out in terms of excellence and the gamer will appreciate the very methodical attention to detail that the designers took with the game. To give an example of the level of detail, I was amazed when in a snowing area I equipped a barrel and as time went by the barrel slowly started becoming covered in snow. That really stood out to me as a small but incredible graphical achievement. Another thing that struck me was the part of the barrel that got covered the fastest was where the wind and snow were blowing and part of the barrel would not be covered if that part was against the wall. The fact that the gamer didn't even need to use this item at all, but that much detail had been put there anyway was something that blew me away. Regardless of the games problems, it is amazing to look at.

Many new gameplay elements emerge in this installment and while some are good others completely detract from the overall gameplay experience.
Octocamo, which allows Old Snake to blend it with his surroundings, is a very graphically pleasing thing to see and was a neat twist on the camo in MGS3. Old Snake also moves very fluidly and very rarely shows his age in combat. In addition, Old Snake can use a wide variety of weapons and although he may only carry a few more they can be substituted at any time. Some of these weapons can be customized with all sorts of nifty gadgets and it is fun to collect all the different weapons and find the most effective one for your character.

Another addition is the Metal Gear Mk. II which can travel a short ways and scout out items and enemies. While the idea is very interesting, the situations for it to be useful are very few. One gameplay element that in my mind was an excellent addition was the Solid Eye. The Solid Eye works similar to the radar in previous games but also features night vision Binoculars and a handy digital read-out of weapons, items, enemies, and allies. This was just a great idea all around as it eliminated the need to switch between clunky binoculars and night vision goggles and implemented a lot of new features.

A huge disappointment is the codec feature which was one of my favorites in previous games. Codec wasn't just for funny banter or dialogue it could also do a great job of filling in parts of the story. As opposed to taking you away from the action, you could use codec or not use it at your leisure. For fans that wanted the maximum amount of information it gave it to them, for those who just wanted to play the game, it was fun to use every once in awhile regardless. Many of the cutscenes that were just characters talking, could have been codec calls and would have lengthened the game because it would have saved alot of wasted money. Instead the codec has only two people who repeat mostly the same things and aren't fun to talk to.

Although you can use both stealth and run and gun techniques the game seems to reward the latter through the use of Drebin points which are used to buy/unlock weapons, and buy ammo at any time. Although your able to use both strategies most gamers will just use the one that nets them the most exciting items and weapons. Drebin points I personally enjoyed, but I could see how they could upset some of the veteran gamers who would have to conserve ammo for the bosses because there was less of it (and therefore you kept more of it if you didn't engage enemies) like in previous games.

Another problem is, although in one of the acts Old Snake is in a pretty wide open area, often certain paths are inaccessible which doesn't allow for the player to have fun exploring different areas because they all have to go in a linear route. This contrasts alot with MGS3 where often the player had multiple routes to go much of the time. Product placement rears it's ugly head way too much in this game. The Apple/ Ipod wasn't even the worst instance with that honor going to Otacon who is bragging about the power of the Blu Ray disc or something during what I guess is a story sequence and the irony of course being that the game in fact was apparently too powerful for the medium otherwise the gamer wouldn't have to wait for long load times every time he wants to play an act. It would be like in the middle of Gear of War if the protagonist said "you know I really like the xbox 360 alot!"

Finally we come to the AI. And having played every MGS game I can say that the regular enemies traditionally are not very intelligent. But I would expect enemies to at least be as smart as they were in MGS3 but sadly the enemies (and allies) here aren't. The extent that they are not is sometimes downright embarrassing. You might chuckle at the beginning as Old Snake says, "War has changed", because as he says it the group he is with charges headfirst into an enemy machine gun nest and entire group of them are killed. War has changed indeed as soldiers are apparently more stupid. Many other instances of rebel fighters charging into enemy nests and getting mowed down is I guess supposed to be a poignant commentary on the horrors of war but due to poor gameplay design, a cheerful chirping sound effect plays as the soldiers die indicating that an item has spewed out of their corpse and is ready to be collected. Since Old Snake owes no allegiance to the rebels and there is no penalty for them dying, the player can find himself cheering for the enemy to slaughter respawning rebel forces so he can run around afterwards like a madman stealing items and weapons from the dead bodies all in an attempt to sell them for Drebin points which allow you to get even more weapons. In it's most idiotic state the war that the gamer is supposed to care about could be described as a spectator sport wherein as soon as the gunfire calms down an old man in a muscle suit listening to an iPod runs in and begins looting corpses with glee instantly selling their possessions to an arms dealer and his shaved monkey companion who is addicted to cola.

As for the enemy itself, although the enemies are genetically enhanced they are still as clueless as ever. In one instance in the Middle East my character was hiding in a dumpster and this causes Old Snake to smell bad. This is a neat and novel idea for a video game. However the enemy somehow distinguished my character as a separate entity from the dumpster itself, and spent a long time asking itself and another guard casually about what smelled so bad as if the genetically altered guards with heavy weapons (and masks over their face/nose!) were paid to sit around and sniff the air like bloodhounds for intruders! Another instance Old Snake was lying on a green couch trying to heal after a gun fight and there was still an alert and several guards casually walk right bye me and then run outside and demand where the intruder is even though I wasn't camouflaged and I was literally right under their nose. The enemy troops are perhaps at their most confounding during cut scenes where they become extremely kind caring and sweet. For example during a fierce battle, an elite unit of soldiers carrying high powered machine guns politely allow their enemies to literally propose to each other before the pair begin killing them again. Often enemies allow characters to talk as much as they want. In another scene Old Snake and Raiden are surrounded by many enemies who slowly circle around them patiently waiting for them to stop talking to each other before attacking them slowly one at a time. Old Snake unfortunately, is not better in this regard having many opportunities to shoot the main villain and save thousands of innocent lives, but instead opting to engage him in Close Quarters Combat. Overall, although it has some serious problems, the gameplay can sometimes be very fun and sometimes dare I say awesome. The problem is it is WAY TOO SHORT!

And the reason it is way too short is because of the story. The story starts out with a bunch of different TV shows that you can turn to and watch. I guess you could call it artistic license but I call it an amazing waste of money. Most of the shows don't mean anything or are silly and some are admittedly cool but they are just eye fluff and the resources they used to make them could have lengthened the game by 2+ hours. It is like Kojima wants to forcibly show the gamer something cool, without the gamer actually having to play the game. The problem with MGS4, is everything is so over the top and so completely unrealistic, but you can tell it tries to be taken as seriously as possible with its impressive production costs, insidious bad guys, blood and gore, existentialism, exposition, genetic engineering, and convoluted plot. It wants to be a serious military/spy intrigue but it also wants to be a cutesy anime.

The mystery of the Patriots is a big focal point in this game. The Patriots are this underground organization that have been controlling the United States of America behind the scenes, bending it to their will. I'm not going to spoil the game other than say that the truth behind this mystery is a letdown and Kojima who I thought was capable of telling a story but letting us play a fun game in this last installment does a poor job of both.
The gamer is almost viewed as hindrance to the plot where in reality the plot is a hindrance to the gamer. Just like Snake in previous games is fooled into going along with the enemies plan, the gamer is fooled into thinking he is part of an interactive experience when this is only somewhat true.

The game is divided up into acts and the intermissions between them.
The intermissions are often the Sunny show with Sunny being an annoying squeaky voiced girl (around 6-7) who possesses the brain of a million supercomputers but yet cannot cook eggs! This girl will usually interrupt the mission briefing chastising Old Snake for smoking or serve him burned eggs. Sunny is not even close to being the worst character in the game and she is the only female character that manages to dress appropriately.

When it comes to other characters like the otaku Otacon, the cutesy Mei Ling, the robotic tentacle vixen Laughing Octopus, or the cyber ninja Raiden who uses his foot to spin around and throw gigantic building sized robots at vampires you can begin to see a definite anime influence. Bosses unlike in other games from this series really have nothing to do with the plot, and while one form of them is a challenging battle, the other form could be described as strange fights with murderous but pretty women in cat suits while the screen is fuzzy. When you defeat them Drebin calls you to tell you a unbelievable story about each that attempts to make a large mechanical screeching wolf with a rail gun into a sympathetic character.

As someone who loved MGS, MGS2,(yes believe it or not), and MGS3, I had high expectations for this game. But in the end it wasn't war that changed it was Metal Gear Solid.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 07/21/08

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

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