Review by bruno_fmenedes

"A remarkable combination of deep gameplay, captivating narrative, memorable bosses and prime audio-visual presentation."

OVERALL SCORE: ((( 9.5 )))

GAMEPLAY = = = = = = = = = ( 9 )
GRAPHICS = = = = = = = = = = ( 10 )
SOUND = = = = = = = = = = ( 10 )
VALUE = = = = = = = = = ( 9 )

The gameplay is vastly improved from previous games in the series, particularly the camera positioning, the control of Snake's movement and actions, which are more intuitive and tight, and the camouflage, because he now wears the OctoCamo (a suit that changes its camouflage pattern automatically when he leans against a certain surface). This allows the player to spend less time and attention on figuring out which button to press or where are the enemies and more on figuring out the best strategy and approach to overcome each situation. On top of that, Snake receives 2 new gadgets that add more depth to the gameplay, the Solid Eye and the Mk. II. But there are still a few things that were left untouched from previous games in the series, like the awkward jump forward.

The idea of having zones where there is a battle being fought between the rebels and the soldiers, is the only new one the game brings to the genre in terms of level designs, but it's not overused and provides more tension, because the soldiers are always moving and ready to shoot. Other welcome departures from the series standards are the action sequences, which force you to forget about stealth and play the game as if it was a shooter. These sequences are fun, varied and fast paced, but not very innovative or challenging. On the whole, the campaign strikes a perfect balance between stealth and action gameplay, because some levels are big and intricate enough to make either approach possible, giving you the freedom to choose how to overcome each situation, while others are focused on stealth and finding the right path, which are compensated by the action focused sequences.

When the game shines the most is during the boss battles. Inventive, exciting and memorable, they really test the player's 3D space orientation and eye-finger coordination, and also stimulate some creative thinking. But there's a small gameplay imperfection that, although it doesn't affect the rest of the game much, certainly makes the bosses less threatening than what they could've been: it's too easy to accumulate a big number of Drebin points, which can be used to unlock weapons the player finds or buy new weapons or customize weapons or, more importantly, buy more ammo for any of those weapons.

The cut scenes are skillfully realized and rarely fail to be engaging to watch. On the other hand, they are as frequent and indulgent as before and most of them are longer than necessary, which hurts the pace of the game. Great writing, although often dogmatic, excellent voice acting, first-class camera work and intense action sequences, all fit together very well.

Overall, the storytelling is superiorly presented than in previous Metal Gear Solid games. This is largely because the narrative is more captivating and interconnected with the playable sequences. The transition between the cut scenes and the gameplay action is seamless, with both being rendered in real time with the game engine. It also helps that the main character, Solid Snake, is better developed and interpreted (outstanding voice work by David Hayter). The psyche gauge, although it doesn't have a meaningful influence on gameplay, makes Snake's character feel a little more human, and the accelerated aging of his body is believable enough to attach some weight to his role.

Unfortunately, if you're not familiar with the previous games' storyline, unless you spend a few hours of your time doing a boring research on them (or, if you have a tremendous amount of time to kill, watching all the cut scenes of those games on YouTube), you'll most likely find MGS4's story to be confusing and forgettable. This is mainly due to fact that the entire plot is too complex and bizarre for its own good, with many implausible twists and loads of important characters and sub-plots.

All this together with the fact that the cut scenes are very long, would've been a significant flaw if the game didn't allow the player to skip those said cut scenes. But it does, it's easy, it's quick and works at any point in time. So if you're playing the game for the first time, you already can skip all the cut scenes and just play the game, which is still a very fun experience if you don't mind not understanding the context of what's going on. Although an option to do fast forward, like there is for the radio communications, would've been a useful addition for those who want skip only certain parts of the cut scenes (but you can always use youtube).

The gameplay and the cut scenes wouldn't work so well if it wasn't for the extraordinary sound design and the technical masterpiece that is the game engine. Stable frame-rate, extremely detailed environments, wonderful lighting, terrific smoke and particle effects, great textures and exceptional body and face animations, all come together in harmony with unprecedented results. And the sound quality is amazing on all fronts, with mind-blowing sound effects, the already mentioned excellent voice acting and a superbly implemented soundtrack.

It will take the average player about 20-25 hours to reach the end of the campaign, including all the cut scenes, which is a great length for an action game. In addition, it has more replay value than most games of similar genres, because the quality of both the level designs and the gameplay engineering combined makes it possible to have a significantly different experience the second time you go through the campaign, especially if you play it on a harder difficulty. But it's very likely that you'll skip the cut scenes when replaying the campaign, and if you add that to the fact that you already know what to do and where to go, it probably won't take you more than 10 hours to beat the game a second time on Hard (assuming you played on Normal the first time).

If you have the patience to go through the painstaking process that is the creation of an online account (particularly if you don't have a keyboard), the online multi-player can be fun to play, after you adjust to it's unique pace, and has a nice variety of customization options and modes. But certain gameplay mechanics aren't as useful online as they are in the campaign, and the lack of an option to split the screen in two, which would allow another player in the room to join you, makes it less replayable than it could've been. Resuming, the online multi-player can be fun for a few hours, but doesn't add a significant amount of lasting appeal to the game.

Guns of the Patriots is not only the best, most accessible and captivating game in the series but also probably the best and most memorable Modern Action Adventure game ever made. It literally leaves you anxious to know what the game will ask you to do next, or who will be the following boss, or what will be the fate of Snake and his companions, until it finally ends... and then you'll want to beat it again... and again...

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/19/10, Updated 06/01/10

Game Release: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (Platinum) (EU, 03/13/09)

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