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Game Review: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots
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Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The PatriotsMetal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots
Genre: Tactical Stealth Action
Platform: Playstation 3
Developer: Kojima Productions/Konami
Esrb Rating: M For Mature
Price: $59.99; $79.99 (Limited Edition)
Release Date: June 12, 2008

Unfortunately, I feel compelled to start off this review with a bit of a rant. I just finished playing Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for approximately 26 hours. Out of those 26 hours, I watched approximately eight hours of non-interactive cinemas”¦and being able to hit the “X” or “L1” buttons at certain times to trigger flashbacks or a first person “Snake” view does not count as “interactive” in my book — it’s just stupid. Sitting there with the controller resting limply in your hands for eight hours of “play” time is, simply put, JUST TOO FUCKING LONG!

There, I said it. The 800-pound gorilla taking a massive dump in the middle of your living room floor has been duly addressed.

That being said, I really enjoyed MGS 4 (the game) as a whole, which shows that Hideo Kojima and his team haven’t completely jumped the shark as of yet. To me, there is one chapter/act of this game that stands out and completely saves it from becoming the over-indulgent nonsense that MGS 2 devolved into in its last act:

** SPOILER ALERT!**

The brilliant return to Shadow Moses Island (the setting for Metal Gear Solid), where things are the same”¦and at the same time awesomely different. The whole fourth act (titled “Twin Suns”), from its dream sequence intro where you actually get to play the PS1 version of Metal Gear Solid for a short time, to its Metal Gear REX vs. Metal Gear RAY boss battle climax, is sheer gaming bliss. I’m pretty sure I had a raging boner during this whole section of the game. Yeah, I know. Too much information.

** END SPOILER**

The gameplay and controls in MGS 4, for the most part, are spot on. There’s a freedom and immersive quality (mostly due to the slick, new OctoCamo system, which allows Snake to replicate any surface he comes in contact with) to MGS 4 that you just won’t find in many other video games. Yeah, I’m looking directly at you Assassin’s Creed, which, in my book, strove to be a “medieval Metal Gear” and failed miserably. Try the Thief series of games if you want some cool, medieval stealth action.

A nice, new wrinkle to the MGS formula found in this game is the acquisition of Drebin (a weapons “launderer” you meet early on in the story) Points to unlock ID tagged guns and to purchase ammo and upgrades for your weapons. This element adds a surprising amount of depth (and fun!) to the proceedings.

Another element that the Metal Gear series is known for is its clever boss battles and, for the most part, MGS 4 delivers. The four members of the Beauty and the Beast Squad (Laughing Octopus, Raging Raven, Crying Wolf, and Screaming Mantis) are very cool in concept and overall design, but lack real punch when you actually fight them. The only one that’s any real challenge is Screaming Mantis and that’s only because a couple of the things you need to do to beat her are pretty fucking obscure. The others you can pretty much just blast the holy crap out of with your best gun to beat. Vamp (yes, you have to fight this preening, pirouetting asshat once again”¦) can also be a pain, but again, it’s only because you need to do something specific (and not immediately apparent) to take him down.

The graphics and sounds found in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots are, of course, second to none. This is area where Kojima and Co. never, ever fail to disappoint. You can say whatever you like about the gameplay and story issues found in the MGS series, but goddamn it these games are the bee’s knees visually and aurally — that fact is indisputable. For all intents and purposes, you are playing a CGI movie here. This game looks and sounds that good; the sheer power of the PS3 nicely attends to that. Also, Harry Gregson Williams‘ score is quite the auditory gem and evokes (even bests in places) the finest of what action movies and spaghetti westerns offer musically.

Now, we (finally) get to the narrative of MGS 4. I know I threw a hissy fit at the beginning of this review, and I purposely saved this section for last because of said hissy fit. This is where the wheels come off the MGS 4 cart. Sorry, it has to be said”¦and I don’t like being the one saying it, but so be it.

Basically, it’s five years after the “Big Shell Incident” depicted in MGS 2 (2014 for those of you who suck at math”¦) and MGS 4 shows us a world where the limitation of military intrusion in foreign countries has been laxed, driving the need for PMC’s (private military companies) to fight proxy wars to bolster the “war economy.” Nanotechnology has become prevalent, both to enhance the abilities and impose loyalty in the solider/mercenaries of the PMC’s. The nanomachine system that PMC’s have implemented is called “Sons of the Patriots” or “SOP.” The five largest of these PMC’s (Praying Mantis, Otselotovaya Khvatka, Werewolf, Pieuvre Armement, and Raven Sword) are held by a single, parent company named Outer Haven, which is owned and operated by none other than Liquid Ocelot. Liquid has amassed an army whose manpower rivals that of the U.S. and is preparing to launch an armed insurrection by taking control of SOP. With the world in turmoil once again, an old, battered and tired Solid Snake is unleashed on an unknown locale in the Middle Eastern by Roy Campbell with one purpose: to take down Liquid Ocelot.

In my mind, the only part that saves the story from being a total disaster is the aforementioned return to Shadow Moses Island, which rocks. But, for every spine-tingling moment I can think of in the story (and, to be fair, there are some), I can think of three or four cringe-worthy, “logic drop” moments that make me forget those cool moments of storytelling goodness. My two main issues with overall narrative stem from the ending(s). First and foremost, the ending(s) completely cop out, going for the happy ending(s), rather than the gritty, hardcore ending that is more fitting to Solid Snake’s story arc as a whole. Secondly, as I’ve alluded to with my (s’s) the story has like five endings overall. I honestly thought I was trapped in some weird time-warp for a moment, watching LOTR: Return of the King again, and I found myself fighting the very strong urge to scream, “Can we just end this fucking thing already!?” at my HDTV screen, whilst hurling my brand spanking new DualShock 3 (bought specifically to play MGS 4 with”¦) through said screen.

Obviously, Kojima-san wanted this lame narrative to be everything to everyone, to tie up as many loose ends as humanly possible and wussed out on putting a definitive stamp on the MGS saga. He and his co-writer, Shuyo Murata, could have most easily and effectively done this but, in the end, did not. What can I say? This fact really pisses me off”¦as a writer and a gamer.

So, is this game the perfect “10” that at least 25 other magazines and Web sites have said it is? No. No way. And the main reason for that is that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots completely forgets that it is a video game for about a quarter of its running time and the story that it spins is ineffective at best. Yes, the cinematic presentation of the original Metal Gear Solid is what set that game apart from other games of that generation and has made it an unforgettable classic in the hearts and minds of legions of gamers, including my own, as a clearly stated in my MGS retrospective that ran here on Geeks of Doom a couple weeks ago. But, like many artistic auteurs (George Lucas, Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, Prince, et al.) once a certain, lofty level of notoriety is attained people are genuinely afraid to edit them, to call them on their self-indulgent bullshit. Hideo Kojima has fallen into that realm, I’m afraid. He’s nowhere near as bad as Lucas (who has clearly lost his goddamn mind and I swear is on a Holy Crusade to annihilate all that I hold dear from my childhood”¦), but he desperately needs someone to kick him in the ass and remind the man that he’s making interactive entertainment, not eight hour long movies, for fuck’s sake.

And finally, I actually bought and reviewed the “Limited Edition” of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and if you have the scratch (and can still find one) I highly recommend picking up that version of the game. Not only does it come with the original soundtrack, which is damn good stuff as I mentioned previously, but it also comes with a Blu-ray bonus disc, which contains a nice profile piece on Hideo Kojima, an extensive “Making Of” MGS 4 documentary and the truly “out there” opening cinematics. This is all good stuff, as well, especially the “Making Of” documentary, which is produced and narrated by Victor Lucas, who some of you may know as the host of TV’s Electric Playground, which, in this country, is shown sporadically on the G4 channel.

1 Comment »

  1. There will always bee a better game than the perceived next, but this is an impressive game. If you like awsome graphics, smooth game play and good story telling, this would be a good pic in my estimation.

    I hyped Metal Gear 4 on Everhype.com and gave it 89% which I think is fairly accurate.

    http://www.everhype.com/hyper/thebitch?X=G503

    If you get on there rate me a 5 and request friendship.

    Comment by musichyper — January 4, 2009 @ 11:53 pm

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