There will always be a big game or two that falls off the radar for people even though they desperately want to play it due to factors in life. One of those games for me was Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. It was just recently that I found time to get into a game that I’ve been meaning to play for a while now. You might be asking why I’m reviewing a year old game but I found Metal Gear Solid 4 to be such a fun experience that I had to share my thoughts on it even though it’s long overdue. It’s also because of that that I don’t have to get into too much depth in telling the story and so forth as most people should know that by now. With that I can get straight into the heart of the game and share my thoughts on one of the best PlayStation 3 titles I’ve played so far.
I’ve played Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty but didn’t manage to get through too much of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater before I had to move onto other things. So, I’m pretty familiar with how the gameplay worked. Controlling Snake was pretty easy and it was just like riding a bike for me; it didn’t take long for me to get comfortable with the control scheme. Snake had his usual moves of taking cover, crouching, and crawling his way through the environments. CQC is back as well and you’ll be shooting at things with a vast array of guns in both third and first person view.
Right off the bat you’re thrown into a battle between two sides. It’s here that makes this game a little different than the others in that there’s an actual war going on and you don’t really have to get involved if you don’t want to. Sure the PMC will shoot you on sight but you can also just as easily avoid conflict and let the two sides duke it out. I did like that taking down the PMC did give me some good will with the resistance and thought it was quite amusing to see little heart icons when I was liked by them. I don’t remember ever playing a Metal Gear game, and again I only played about a few hours of 3, where there were actual NPCs so it was a nice change to see that appear in Metal Gear Solid 4.
Stealth, as usual, plays a big factor in the game but it’s not too frustrating this time. There’s a threat circle that surrounds you showing what you have to watch out for and in which direction. The larger the deviation in a particular area of the circle, the bigger the threat is. It’s a great visual cue that helps the player see the danger around him.
One of the annoying things I found my short play of 3 was having to change my camo manually so that I had the best percentage of cover. Solid Snake has a great suit that automatically changes to a camo that helps him blend into his surroundings, much like a chameleon. All I need to do was stand or lay still for a few seconds and the suit will do its best to match the environment. This aspect really helped out a lot and I didn’t have to micromanage how my disguise looked. You can still do your camo manually but the auto-camo capability really helps ease the frustration of being stealthy and hiding.
The fact that you have easy access to purchase weapons, ammo, and items no matter where you are just by going into the menu system once you meet Drebin also helped lower the frustration factor of the game. I can’t tell you how many times I jumped into the menu in the middle of the fight to buy some more ammo for my primary gun but this gameplay mechanic really saved me a lot. Sure, it’s not realistic to be able to just dial up ammo and weapons with ease but Metal Gear’s never been realistic now has it?
If there’s one thing I never enjoyed about the Metal Gear series, it is the convoluted and confusing plot. With Metal Gear Solid 4, there’s plenty of plot. I mean you’ll sit through hours upon hours of cut scenes trying to make a cohesive story with plot twists left and right but the fact remains it’s just really hard to follow everything that’s going on. Yes, Metal Gear Solid 4 does a lot to tie the three previous games together and features elements from all of them. In that sense it’s pretty cool how Kojima worked a lot of the past into 4. On the other hand, he could’ve cut down a lot of the dialogue though and just made it a lot less confusing. I will say that you’ll be spending an hour after the final battle watching the end sequence and it suffers from an ending that should have ended 30 minutes into it. I’m sure if you’ve finished it you know which part I am talking about but Kojima had to keep on going and ruin what I thought would’ve been a perfect ending to the series and main hero. Alas, like Lord of the Rings: Return of the King or A.I., the ending to Metal Gear Solid 4 just went too long to make it impactful.
A very familiar cast of characters will make their appearances throughout the game. If you played the previous ones, you’ll be happy to see a lot of them make their return. Raiden makes up for what he did to us in Sons of Liberty and becomes a true bad-ass in this game. Others such as Meryl, the Colonel, Eva, Otacon, and Vamp comeback for another round just to name a few. And if you don’t remember, various flashback sequences in the same style as they appeared in the previous game will help jog your memory. You’ll even get to play a small sequence of Metal Gear Sold in the old PlayStation style graphics evoking some great memories. Kojima did well in throwing in many faces from the past into Solid Snake’s final (?) adventure.
Having played such graphical heavy hitters as Killzone 2, I have to say for a year old game Metal Gear Solid 4 still looked incredible. In fact, I think I liked the graphics of Metal Gear Solid 4 over Killzone 2. For one thing, it doesn’t suffer from a monotonous color and architecture pattern of environmental settings. You’ll be fighting through deserts, jungles, snow, and cities so it was great to see a variety of areas. The motion capture is top notch and features some really smooth animation. Some of the cut scenes are just incredible to watch such as the battle between Raiden and Vamp as well as the sequence with Johnny and Meryl taking their last stand at some of Liquid’s female troops. The textures are very detailed and the character models, especially the Beauty and the Beast corps, are incredibly well done. Each of the Beauties is unique and shows off some great design work by the Kojima team. While I know a lot of people say Killzone 2 is the best looking game out there, I think Metal Gear Solid 4 really ranks up there and gives the FPS a run for its money in some aspects.
There were a few things I did find annoying about the game. For starters, there’s an install process after each act and there are five acts. Yeah, you have to sit through a few minutes of installs each time you finish a part of the game. Why they didn’t just do a full install of everything on the first pass I don’t know but it is a tiny bit annoying. Some of the cut scenes are wicked long and you’ll actually get to points of the game where it’s cut scene after cut scene after cut scene. There were a few times where I wondered if I was going to be playing the game again but just expect to sit through a great deal of material. You can skip them though but first time players will probably want to watch the story unfold. You can do some controlling of some cut scenes and watching flashbacks when prompted will earn you a few Drebin bucks to buy things with. You’ll also fight the camera on a few occasions as you try and get the best view possible. That seems to be something in every third person game though and here it’s not any different. At least there was really only one boss battle this time where I had no idea on how to kill him. Vamp’s battle was the only one I really looked up on how to defeat him but I guess there were enough clues provided to let you know what you need to do now that I look back at it.
For added value, Metal Gear Online lets you play against up to 15 other people. Various gameplay options are available and Konami’s don’t a good job at putting out updates that enhance the game. The game has persistence stats so you can build up your character with added abilities and items. With the online component, you get some additional value with the game after finishing the story mode.
Out of the three I played, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was a blast (when I wasn’t sitting through a cut scene) and probably my most favorite. I know a lot of people liked 3 a lot so I’m going to make a point to try that out in the near future although I do know the “twist” after having finished 4. Also, the end battle was quite epic and one that I will remember for a long time. The game really plays well and it’s one of the games you’ll use to show off the power of the PlayStation 3. While Kojima announced that he’s going to continue to produce some new Metal Gear games, Metal Gear Solid 4 was a very solid title and one that I am very happy to have played since missing out on it when it was first released.
It's definitely one of the premier titles right now on the PlayStation 3. The story is confusing though but the game, when you do play, is fun. Metal Gear Solid 4 also looks really great and Kojima's done a good job at tying all the previous games together in this one.