Review by tyran55

"One purely for the fanboys"

I'm afraid I'm going to have to buck the trend when it comes to reviews of MGS4: Guns of the Patriots – which according to everybody is the best game ever; I disagree

I agree with everybody that the graphics are great, the gameplay is great, and the overall quality that you come to expect from an MGS title is still there

So what's the problem? Well to tell you the truth it simply isn't long enough, the game is in five ‘acts', each with a bold artistic title that means bugger all. These five acts are all distinct and spread across the world and in different zones, namely desert, jungle, urban, arctic tundra and military (it's on a ship).

Now that's all well and good, my thinking is that if you don't particularly like the jungle set-up, you can get your kicks from the city level, or vice-versa. But I think this is actually Kojima's reasoning – the changes in surrounding feel very deliberate, and I think they are there to appease the fans out there by providing at least one situation they would like, to stop them whinging about the game's overall length.

To put this into context – my single-player play time was just over 20 hours, which isn't too bad, a bit short but MGS has always been about quality, focused more on good storytelling and replayability. But this game really takes the mick, let me put this into context: the overall time was over 20 hours, I actually timed the ending, not with a stopwatch or anything, but just noted the time on the clock – it was three and a half hours! This is probably the biggest single example, but it's a good demonstration of a game that is taking artistic license way too far, why else do you think I started timing after only half an hour of playing the final act on my first playthrough? – I simply knew that would be it. Now certain purists will say the actual final scenes only compromise around 90 minutes, but I believe they are not counting two barely interactive scenes which as far as I'm concerned are part of the ending as they require no skill but a bit of button-mashing, I include everything after the final boss fight as my controller was effectively down from that point.

This pretty much sums up this game – which features before every act (except Act 1) a tediously long ‘mission briefing' on a plane, in which if you get bored you can fiddle with the cameras, and then once you're in the act another load of cut-scenes will leave you longing to actually do something. The truth is each act is basically about getting from point A to B, then letting the story tell itself – but it's not only talking that's in the movies, truckloads of the action is only in movie form – something that I found disappointing right from Act One as all this crazy stuff started happening and all the fighting was limited to the cut-scenes, I kept thinking ‘surely I'll get to have a go myself in a minute' – but it never came. I think Kojima had a definite vision for what he wanted this story to be and obviously couldn't work all the complex features and scenes into a playable format, ensuring his ‘art' was as he wanted it, seems like a bit of a massive self-congratulatory jerking-off to me.

It's very frustrating because the gameplay, when you get to it, is as perfect as you would expect – it's fun to play, there's a great range of weapons, the surroundings are fully interactive, but once you're in there it quickly takes you out. Just as you're having fun sneaking around you reach the end of that chapter, it's very short – I remember all the silly fun you could have in MGS2 with lockers and crawling around, but this is very to the point – I guess being split into five pieces will make them individually shorter, but where's the patient trudge through an enemy infested base? In short you're always too near to the finish line with this game.

Of course some (most) will argue that you can replay those five levels again and again, and try to get the numerous trophies and achievements, trying different tactics each time, which is where the vast amount of weapons provides some variety – but to me providing five pretty small battlegrounds to play with does not constitute a full game, especially as the last is ridiculously short (it's about three rooms and a boss fight). Of course you can crank the difficulty up, as always with MGS, and make it stupidly hard, which may entertain you for longer (I played on the third setting) – but I still don't think that constitutes enough gameplay. Oh, and the codec is nowhere near as useful as in the past, it's limited to only two contacts during play and is mostly only a tool in the story, no more crouching behind boxes to make a call to see some funny antics, it's barely there.

I should mention the other aspects of the gameplay – i.e. the bosses, and the occasional action scenes – I can't really comment on the bosses difficulty as you can make it as hard or as easy as you like, but they are fairly annoying – there's little development put into them before you fight, but then there's a long-winded back story once you've dealt with them. There's a good sense of humour imbued in them tho, as sexy women who want to ‘hug' you, as there is throughout the game, as you would expect, but they don't really match up to the bosses in previous games, even if they are an homage to some of them. The action scenes do provide some fun and variety, particularly at the end of Act Four, but again these are pretty small features, and not really what I buy an MGS title for.

As for the story it's telling, which surely has to be a big issue considering the length it goes to to tell it – it's not all that really. It's trying to tie together all the loose ends from the already-confusing series, and I think in an attempt to not be as confusing as say, MGS2, and bring in as many cameos as possible, it's simplified the story a bit and in the end I think it's a bit of an anti-climax if you look at the tale it's trying to weave.

I don't want to spoil it for anyone but there are a few scenes that I was left wondering if they were meant to be serious emotional scenes, as per the epic nature of this game, or were typical examples of the silly humour you can expect from the MGS team – particularly the scenes of Otacon trying to hug a computer – it just looked daft, and seemed to be a little too serious to be tongue-in-cheek.

I think what annoys me so much is that I like this game, I like the series, but it's just not giving enough play, and I'm not a big fanboy myself so I can't appreciate the ridiculously long movie scenes.

I'm giving it a generous 7/10, but with a warning: I say it's worth playing, but play the older games before and be sure you like the series because this is not a ‘game' someone can just pick up and enjoy.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 07/08/09

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

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