Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Cover
Platforms PlayStation 3
Genre Stealthy action movie
MtAMinutes to Action 25
Keep Playing? Ehh... no
Buy from Amazon

I’ve always enjoyed the crazy and convoluted stories of the Metal Gear Solid series, even when the controls seem to be fighting against me instead of cooperating. I’ve played the series on the PS1, PS2, GameCube, and Xbox, and with every release both the story and controls become more complex. So in some ways I’m very excited to finally be able to play Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, but at the same time I’m leery that it’s going to be a mess of bad aiming and Snake behaving badly.

Released over four years ago(!), Metal Gear Solid 4 puts us back in Solid Snake’s shoes in a war-torn future where armies for hire are the norm. It’s a disturbing vision, but if anyone can sell it, it’s Hideo Kojima and his team at Konami.

The game has sold very well and was a major critical darling. Heck, one of our very own writers gave it a 10/10 a few years back. Needless to say, this has been on my to-play list for many years. Here’s hoping the first hour lives up to my hype.

Minute by Minute

00 - I select New Game and the first hour of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots begins. I leave the difficulty at Solid Normal, which is the second hardest. A quick loading screen and then we’re off to... some game show?

01 - What the hell is this? It’s a live action game show like Who Wants to be a Millionaire? I’m really confused, it’s obviously some sort of Metal Gear Solid related thing, but seriously, what the hell?

02 - Well, our contestant gets a question wrong about private military companies and then the game moves on to something maybe weirder? Now it’s a bunch of models with guns being twirled around by a giant octopus.

03 - I think the game is actually starting now? An unattributed quote appears onscreen: “In the not too distant future. On a tired battlefield. War has become routine.” And then we get the opening credits while a war-torn desert town is shown.

04 - Some trucks with soldiers roll through and Snake’s voice comes on: “War has changed.” Sort of the opposite of Fallout’s “war never changes” slogan.

05 - Snake goes on to describe how things have changed: nanomachines, genetic control, ID’d guns, “everything is monitored, and kept under controlled.”

06 - After muttering “war has changed” a few more times, we see a bunch of soldiers in a huge firefight while Snake sort of slinks around. He throws his gun down after taking a few shots, and then more scenes of the battle are shown.

07 - The typical but complex looking user interface of the Metal Gear Solid series appears and I gain control. I run around trying to figure out where to go before Otacon comes on my comm to tell me to crawl. Another cutscene kicks off immediately.

09 - Snake rolls around like a little kid and I regain control, Otacon chimes in again to tell me how to select and shoot weapons. It’s as confusing as ever. I end up picking up a dead soldier instead of selecting my rifle.

“Don’t forget Snake, this is still a sneaking mission.” No idea why I’m sneaking through a battlefield like this, who am I hiding from?

10 - A cow moos and the battle stops, suddenly a bunch of two-legged mechs jump in crushing some soldiers and obliterating the rest. Guys are literally throwing down their guns they’re so afraid.

11 - Have control again, Otacon tells me to not run into any “Gekko”. I run 20 feet and another cutscene kicks off. Those Gekkos actually bleed red when shot, coupled with their weird mooing and I’m getting kind of suspicious.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Gekko

13 - Snake cape flies off as he runs from a Gekko, another one joins the chase and the game makes you think he’s going to hide in a cardboard box, but he instead uses some super camouflage to hide.

14 - The Gekko crush the red herring box, revealing a bunch of watermelon. They jump away leaving Snake to himself. “Metal Gear Solid 4” flashes onscreen.

16 - Snake spends a few minutes slowly checking out a gun to let the rest of the credits run, and then I save my game.

17 - A "three days earlier" flashback starts with Snake in a cemetery saluting a gravestone, not sure whose (someone from Metal Gear Solid 3?), but Otacon shows up in a helicopter to whisk him away. Snake asks about some test results, and gets a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. Snake thinks he has a year at best to live.

20 - Snake finally climbs in the helicopter and former colonel Roy Campbell is inside. Not sure if we’ve ever actually seen him in person? Either way, he says “we’ve found him, in the Middle East.” Must be Liquid Snake. Yep, Otacon confirms.

22 - New scene, some girl is cracking eggs over a skillet and mentions Solidus and then recites a bunch of numbers. So weird.

Act 1 - Liquid Sun.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Solid Snake Saluting Cemetery

23 - Back to the present, Otacon is calling on Snake’s codec. They discuss the Gekkos and how there are too many of them for what the situation calls for. The Mk.II is also introduced, some little robot thing that will help me out.

25 - Otacon says that with my camo I shouldn’t need to get into a fight, yeah, let’s see how that goes. I crawl through the battlefield trying to figure out who I should be hiding from, apparently anyone and everyone as I’m spotted.

26 - The exclamation point goes off and reinforcements are sent in. I try to crawl back into a tunnel but they know I’m there and toss grenades in after me. My stress level is rising (in game and real life).

28 - Just running around like crazy now, guns blazing. The anti-Metal Gear Solid.

30 - After almost ending the Alert sequence, more bad guys find my position, back to shooting.

32 - My camo totally just fooled a guy five feet away, nice. Until I try to sneak behind him and he notices me. I’ve now reached some sort of dead end, can’t figure out where to go, Alert is still going off. I check my map but it doesn’t really help me. More waiting out the Alert and Caution phase now.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Snake pop out Shot

34 - Eight minutes later and I’m finally free to explore again without having the tense chase music playing. Still haven’t figured out where to go yet, though.

36 - Finally find a ladder that triggers a cutscene of Snake meeting the Metal Gear Mk.II robot. (Metal Gear?!) What classifies a robot as a Metal Gear at this point?

38 - The Mk.II is fully loaded with guns and gadgets, including the Solid Eye, which gives Snake night vision and other optic bonuses.

40 - I now have proper radar at my disposal, and the battle around me is at full force again.

41 - Just failed at who I was hiding from. I started shooting at what everyone else around me was shooting at and the people next to me noticed me and started chasing me! What the heck? I run away and the game starts loading something... looks like I’ve escaped.

43 - Inside some dark structure now, using the Solid Eye’s night vision to see. Time for some sneaking. I’m really sucking at this whole kill people from behind without them noticing.

Metal Gear Solid 4 old Snake gun Knife

46 - Ouch! Snake dies after being spotted and being shot in the head. Otacon: “Snake, you can’t die! SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!” I lose a few minutes of progress but it should go quicker.

51 - Caught up to where I died, but now my Solid Eye has run out of battery, lame. More of me failing to properly sneak follows.

55 - I finally finish running around the complex and a cutscene kicks off with Snake finding some monkey wearing underwear and drinking soda. Odd.

56 - Some guy who looks like Dennis Rodman introduces himself as Drebin, a weapons wholesaler. His weapons don’t have ID matching so anyone can use them.

58 - Snake fawns over a gun, but can’t use it because his nanomachines are so last generation.

60 - Drebin and Snake are still talking, and then Otacon chimes in that Drebin is legit.

Oh man, the first hour of Metal Gear Solid 4 ends right when Snake mentions the Patriots.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Snake Sniper Rifle

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 25

Bias: I love this series but I knew this wasn’t going to go well. I’ve actually played pretty much the exact amount of content about four years ago when the game was released on my brother-in-law’s PlayStation 3, got bored during the Drebin conversation and moved on to something else.

Would I Keep Playing? No... if I wasn’t such a fan of the games. Metal Gear Solid 4 probably features the worst first five minutes of any video game I’ve ever played, I still have no idea what I watched. It honestly surprised and confused me so much I felt a little disgusted when the actual well-made and relevant cutscenes began. I’m actually a little torn right now because I don’t know if I want to sit through another cutscene heavy game right now.

The game commits a lot of first hour sins: it’s extremely cutscene heavy, doesn’t let you actually do anything interesting for 25 whole minutes, tells you in vague voiceovers how to do things (“press the action button!”), and is just downright confusing sometimes on where to go and who to hide from. Most of it left a bland taste in my mouth.

I generally come away satisfied with games that either deliver a powerful first few minutes or have a great action set-piece near the end of the first hour. Metal Gear Solid 4 delivered neither and suffered. But hey, it did open with a bizarre and irrelevant game show and end with a guy talking about nanomachines and the war economy.

Comments

It gets better

This is a rare example of a game that is completely betrayed by its first hour. The story doesn't really get interesting until Act II, once they're done with the setup. The later parts of the game are just as cutscene-heavy (the final cutscene is two hours), but the cutscenes are better, the level design is better, and the gameplay chunks between cutscenes are longer... no more crawling for ten seconds only to immediately go back to the unplayable.

That being said, this game really isn't for everybody. The story is extremely complicated and requires a pretty thorough knowledge of the previous three games to fully understand it, new gameplay features frequently make it too easy, and it's easily the most cutscene-intensive game I've ever played. It kinda suffers from Kingdom Hearts 2 syndrome.

I can also shed a little light on what was with that weird gameshow thing: it was hiding another install screen. They put a bunch of weird videos in (you can flip through a few different "channels" at this point in the game and watch a few different things, including a truly bizarre interview with David Hayter), just so the user would have SOMETHING to do to make the ridiculous install times less grating. I think they were trying to give an impression of what TV is like in the future, but it's just too strange to really work.

Will play on someday

Thanks, I'll probably return to the game in a few months once I've waded through the rest of my PS3 backlog. I'd really love to know how the series plays out.

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