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 Tactical Espionage Action
Score 10  Clock score of 10
Buy from Amazon

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the final chapter of the Metal Gear saga (kind of).  It seeks to wrap up the complicated plots from the previous three games, which up to this point seem to be fairly divergent.  It also seeks to perfect the gameplay and presentation for which Kojima-san and his Metal Gear Solid games have become famous.

It is also the first game in the series on the PlayStation 3, and it uses this hardware to be one of the best looking games ever.  The MGS series has always used the in-game graphics engine to render its cutscenes to prevent a jarring disconnect between graphic styles, and this is the first time it works perfectly.  The in-game character models look good enough that you can't complain a bit.  The facial animations and lip-syncing is increbible.  The game is, in a word, stunning.

So we know the game looks good, we can tell that from screenshots and trailers  Is it good?  Is it fun?  Is it worth buying?  For those of you with short attention spans, the answer is yes.  For everyone else, read on.

To start off, the controls have been streamlined (finally), so shooting your way out of an encounter is much more feasible.  In fact, the game could be played as a shooter almost as well as a stealth game.  Even so, I still chose to be sneaky, since my options were now so expanded.  There are several new additions to the gameplay that make it more fun and less frustrating.

The OctoCamo concept improves the camo system perfectly, so now you change camo simply by pressing up against a surface for a few seconds instead of going into a menu to change clothes.  The Psyche meter is a perfection of the stamina idea introduced in Metal Gear Solid 3, because you didn't have to worry about eating to fill it, and if you are in a safe place for long enough it will refill, rather than always going down like the stamina meter in Snake Eater.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Snake Readies HimselfThe Threat Ring also improved situational awareness to a level above any game I've ever played.  One major problem with video games is the lack of awareness of your surroundings.  In real life, you can see, hear, feel and even smell your environment, and even if you don't isolate the individual components, your brain combines them all to create a better picture of your surroundings.  A soldier like Solid Snake would have his senses honed (in fact they even talk about that in the game) to a degree where he is aware at all times of what was around him.  The Threat Ring represents this fact by showing in which direction and how close any potential threats might be.  It helps keep the player from feeling stupid by running into a guard that was just off the edge of the camera or what have you.  It only activates when Snake is not moving much, so it doesn't spoil everything.

Besides these new additions that make gameplay more fun and engaging, several annoyances from previous games have been done away with.  As I mentioned, the controls have been streamlined.  Unfortunately this means there are some things from previous games that you can't do, such as pull-ups while hanging from a ledge, or pressing your face up against the vent from inside a locker.  However, these are trivial compared to the benefit the streamlined controls give you.

One of the biggest things is the camera.  Where the previous three games used a top-down camera, (the special edition of MGS3 allowed you to switch to a standard third-person camera) this game uses a normal third-person-shooter camera, but gives you perhaps a bit more control over it so you can get a better feel of your surroundings.

You can now move while crouching, instead of having to go prone.  It never made sense to me in MGS3 why you could crouch or go prone, but if you moved either way he would crawl.  Now you can do a kind of crouch-run, which looks like it would get tiresome after a short while but can help keep you hidden while moving.  You can also now flip over while laying down and move on your back so you can aim better while on the ground.  Another new move is the scout crawl, which is an extremely slow and extremely awkward-looking crawl that doesn't lower you camo index at all.

You now press the action button to stick to a wall, which took some getting used to but makes more sense in the end, as it keeps you from accidently going back-to-wall.  Speaking of back-to-wall, in this game Snake actually goes front-to-wall.  It threw me off at first, but it makes more sense in the context of cover during a firefight, which comes into a play a lot more than it did in past games.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Snake With a Sniper RifleOne other streamlined feature is the codec conversations.  The previous three games had long portions of dialog that took place over Snake's radio.  These added a lot to the presentation of the games, but tended to drag on quite a bit.  In this game, Otacon can now talk to you as you play, instead of only in the codec screen.  This way he can give his tips and guidance without interrupting gameplay.  There are still some codec conversations, but now you get full video of the other person talking, instead of just a picture of them, so it's more engaging.  There are also only a couple of people that you can call whenever you like, where the previous games had a whole host of characters you could chat with.  I was a little sad about this at first, because one thing I liked about the MGS games was that if I got tired of sneaking I could just make a call and sit back for a minute and enjoy the often humorous conversations that ensued.  However, in MGS4 I never actually tired of the gameplay enough to want to do that.

No two encounters will play out the same, and no two players will play the same way.  Metal Gear Solid games have always had an array of options available to the player with which to face any given situation, but this fourth entry takes that to an insane level.  Just the number of guns you can get in this game is enormous.  I ended the game with three different sniper rifles, each with different attributes, and there were two more I could have bought.  Different handguns and assault rifles had different firing speeds and damage dealt, and you could choose from your favorite.  Even then, you could costumize a number of the weapons by adding silencers, scopes, laser sites, grenade launchers, and more.  And that's just weapons.

Snake can now use CQC, just like dear old dad in MGS3 (wait, is that a spoiler?).  His showy punch-punch-kick combo from MGS1 and 2 is now much more subdued and realistic, and he can grab, throw, interrogate, knock out and kill guards all with his bare hands (and a knife).  Even better is how this comes into play later in the game, in traditional MGS style, with certain boss battles.

Most of the items from the previous games return, as well as some new ones, some of which are forgettable and others, un. One of the special items in particular made me giddy when I learned that it wasn't just part of the story, and that I could actually use it during gameplay.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Snake Pops Out to Take a ShotThe main item is the Solid Eye, a device that Snake wears like an eyepatch and helps him out in many situations.  It has three modes: binoculars, nightvision, and enemy sensor.  It runs on batteries, so you can't keep it on all the time, but it recharges as you move around so it's not too much of a problem.  The enemy sensor works like a cross between the motion detector and sonar from MGS3.  It shows a display in the corner of your surroundings and has dots where it detects movement and sound.  The bigger the dot, the more movement or sound is at that point.  And like all MGS games, this gets manipulated in interesting ways by the game itself.

The variety of environments also makes things interesting.  The first MGS game had you primarily in a military base, and the second didn't mix things up much.  The third had you sneaking through a jungle, which was a nice change of pace.  This fourth installment goes (without too many spoilers) from a warzone to a wooded area to city streets to a military base (*wink*) and beyond.  There are also new situations you are put in that put a new spin on sneaking.  Again, I can't say too much without getting into spoiler territory, but I think it's safe to say you'll be doing things you've never done before in Metal Gear Solid.

Speaking of boss fights (earlier in the review, remember?), the boss fights in this game, while maybe not as unconventional as the ones in MGS3, are still creative and interesting.  You have to use your items and weapons in creative ways to effectively take down the bosses, and there are usually little tricks you can use to get the upper hand.  You also obtain an item after each boss fight that is not necessary for gameplay, but makes it more fun and in some cases easier.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Cover Raiden and Slain GekkoKojima-san came through again with his innovative style.  I can't say too much for risk of spoilers, but fans of the series will not be disappointed.  Since MGS2, the games have been known for their over-the-top cutscenes, and at one point I remarked to a friend "This game just went over the top, if you consider 'the top' to be the other Metal Gear Solid games."  You will definitely be sitting watching cutscenes for longs periods of time, but there are little things you can do (mostly holdovers from MGS3) during the cutscenes to keep it from getting too passive.

The voice acting is superb, as we should expect from the returning veterans of the series.  The music is good, most of it is fitting but not too memorable, although there are a couple of great pieces that stick with you.  The sound effects as well are very nice; the gunfire is especially riveting.

The story of this game is as convoluted as ever, but it does manage to bring the stories of the previous games together in a compelling way.  It's particularly interesting how they manage to combine the story from MGS2 (which directly precedes 4 chronologically) with the story from MGS3 (which is a prequel to all the games).

Metal Gear Solid 4 Snake Fires a MortarMetal Gear Solid 4 is full of nostalgia.  One of the only missteps I think the game takes is relying a tad too much on nostalgia at times.  Obviously I can't go into too much detail here without spoiling everything, but since I did appreciate most of the nostalgia, I think it's more personal preference and I'm not going to dock it any points for going a little farther than I would have liked.

One last point I'd like to make is the great New Game Plus feature of this game, which not only gives you all the weapons and items you had at the end of the game, but also rewards you for certain achievements in your first game.

There's a lot more I could say about this game, but it's hard to talk about any of the games in the series without spoiling them.  If you own a PS3, you must play this game.  If you don't, find someone who does and play this game.  The question is not "is it worth buying?" but "is it worth buying a PlayStation 3 just to play this game?"

You may have noticed that I have given this game a 10/10.  I don't give out tens easily, as you will notice with my review of Spirit Tracks, which I enjoyed very much but only gave an 8.  I consider a 10 a perfect game, as in the game itself couldn't have been any better.  There could feasibly come a day when a better game is made, but this game couldn't have been any better for what it was.

Full disclosure:  Metal Gear Solid is one of my favorite series of video games.  Actually, it's one of my favorite series in any medium.  Unfortunately, I was not compensated in any way by Konami or anyone else to choose the score I did.