Review: Metal Gear Solid 4
The number of reasons to own a PS3 just doubled.
â€œMetal Gear?â€. â€œSnaaaaaake!â€. â€œA Hind D?â€. Now that I’ve got that out of my system lets begin the review. This is surely one of the most hyped and eagerly anticipated games of all time â€“ firstly because it is a Metal Gear game and secondly the PS3 is in desperate need of a system seller. I must admit that, aside from wanting a Blu-Ray player, this was the main reason I recently bought a PS3. As a huge fan of the Metal Gear Solid series I can confidently say that my purchase was justified (despite the gut-bursting price tag!). This review contains some minor spoilers.
Set five years after the events of the second chapter of MGS2, you play as OAP Snake who is unfortunately suffering from premature aging due to the cloning process used to create him. You play as him â€“ and only him â€“ through his final mission to terminate Liquid Ocelot. Along the way you will encounter many faces (and sounds) from the past.
Gameplay-wise, there are many elements taken from MGS3: Subsistence. The same controllable 3D camera is used rather than the usual fixed perspective. When firing a weapon the camera can be switched between a Gears of War-style behind the shoulder or a first-person viewpoint, which unlike previous games allows you to freely move around. An array of CQC moves are available, ranging from disarming opponents to quite literally grabbing their balls to knock them out. The same camouflage system also returns where the HUD gives you the camouflage reliability as a percentage. However, rather than using different outfits Snake now has the Octocamo suit which changes colour to mimic the appearance of whatever surface he is pressed against.
The traditional radar that showed the enemies field of view is no more, it has been replaced by two alternatives. First of all is the â€œthreat ringâ€ which appears when you crouch or go prone. It is basically a single circular line that appears around Snake in which the enemies are represented as bumps, the higher the bump the closer and more dangerous the enemy.
The other method of detecting enemies is via the â€œSolid Eyeâ€ provided by the ever-trustworthy Otacon. It is basically a high-tech eye-patch that shows movement, as well as items, as different sized blobs in the corner of the screen. The Solid Eye also provides binocular vision, thermal vision and a normal vision mode where items/friendly soldiers etc. are highlighted. Another gadget from Otacon is the Metal Gear Mk.II, a miniature remote controlled scouting robot that allows you to stun guards and pick up items. Despite being pretty handy I only resorted to using this three or four times during the whole game but I can see it being pretty essential on the highest difficulties.
Taking its cue from games like Call of Duty 4, gun purchasing and customization plays a big part. This business is done via a gun launderer called Drebin, whose role is the same as that of the Merchant from Resident Evil 4. Whenever you pick up duplicates of a weapon or ammo it is converted into Drebin points, which are in turn used as currency at his store. On sale are silencers, laser sights, scopes etc. as well as unlockable guns. Drebin’s store can be accessed at any time from the pause menu.
Unlike previous MGS games this is split into five acts and takes you to various locations around the world, including the Middle East and South America. Each act introduces a different style of play. You have the action packed act one with the kind of gameplay you have been used to. Act two sees you tracking someone using the equipment at your disposal while searching for various visual clues and ends with an on-rails sequence that perhaps wouldn’t look out of place in Dawn of the Dead due to the zombie-like actions of enemy guards. Act three’s film noir-inspired visual style is a huge departure from the usual hi-tech imagery you have been associated with and your mission is to tail the member of a resistance group to locate its leader. This act culminates with an on-rails/interactive cut scene chase sequence that rivals anything seen in the Bourne trilogy. While I won’t spoil act 4 and the subsequent events, what I will say is that MGS4 contains one of the best finales you will ever see. It took me just under twenty hours to complete on normal difficulty, which is a good fifteen hours more than most games nowadays.
Visually, the MGS games have always pushed their respective consoles to the limits and this is no exception. The graphics are top-notch, as expected, and are certainly up there with the best looking games this generation. Everything from the largest buildings to the smallest bush is exquisitely detailed. The same can also be said for the excellent character models whose animation and choreography is some of the best you’ll see in any computer game.
First things first, if you haven’t followed the MGS series then you will hate this game. If however you have followed and enjoyed the other MGS games then you will find much to savour here. Gameplay improvements such as the new Octo Camo, an improved First Person aiming mode and the portable scout drone you’ve got all add greatly to the gameplay. But who am I kidding, people will play this for the story and the cutscenes.
This game is pure unadulterated fan service with bigger more involving cutscenes then any of the previous games, many of them clocking in at 20 minutes plus, some at 80 minutes plus. The new graphics engine is easily up to the challenge of portraying these new longer scenes, with the character models in particular being truly beautiful. There are however issues with the front end of the game with a whopping four gig install needed first time then a further two minute mini install needed for each chapter, the mini installs have to be repeated each time you want to replay a level which probably has more to do with the PS3 architecture than the game itself.
But regardless of this minor niggle, this is a stand out game and an essential purchase if you have any interest in the MGS series.
Secondary Score: 9/10
The cut scenes are one of the most memorable features of the MGS games and here they certainly don’t disappoint. In terms of storytelling using cut scenes Hideo Kojima has once again raised the bar. A lot has been made about one or two of them reaching the ninety minute mark but to tell you the truth I was too engrossed in them to care about the length. As impressive as the graphics – possibly more so – is the sound. Every gunshot and explosion rips and tears through your speakers as if it were there on the battlefield. If unlike me you have a Dolby 7.1 system to get the best out of it then I envy you. The voice acting is as good as ever (Otacon’s crying is still both hilarious and ridiculous) and all the previous actors return. Thankfully Liquid Ocelot speaks with Revolver Ocelot’s voice, rather than Liquid’s awful stereotypical evil British villain mess. Newcomers include former Catwoman, now old hag Lee Meriwether(you will die a peasant’s death for that, Matthew – Ed). Also, the soundtrack, like all the others, rivals that of most movies.
Included with the main game is Metal Gear Online, which expands and improves on the version that came with MGS3: Subsistence. First of all, it must be said that the sign-up process is a bit of a shambles. Rather than just using your PSN ID, you are required to create two separate usernames and passwords through the Konami website which are used to join the actual game. To add to this annoyance, you are only allocated one character slot and wanting another one will cost you. The gameplay elements of the single player transfer to the multiplayer better than I expected. All the usual multiplayer modes are here such as free-for-all and team death match. Drebin points are awarded on your performance allowing you to use more powerful weapons. Since I am used to Xbox Live I was pleased to find out it has an integrated friends list allowing you to invite or jump into their games.
So then, carrying so much expectations and promises, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is one of the few games I have ever played that manages to live up to the hype. I’d be hard pushed to think of any negatives but the only one that springs to mind is the required installs before each act and still need to be installed on subsequent playthroughs. Undoubtedly the last game to feature Solid Snake as the lead character, it provides the ultimate fan service. There are no cliff-hangers here since every plot point from the previous games is wrapped up rather nicely thanks to the wonderful cut scenes and the returning characters, some of which will have you grinning with delight (I know I was). This is by far the best game on the PS3. I’ll quite comfortably say it is one of the best games of this generation and, with a lot of replay value, looks well on its way to become one of my favourite games of all time.