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Game Review

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Developed by Kojima Production (2007)
Reviewed by Ronin, added on Jul 31 2008

They say a good soldier never dies, they just fade away. But some never die. They transcend into something more, the stuff that legends are made of. To quote Solid Snake, “Some legends must die”. And so it is with Metal Gear Solid 4, the farewell ‘sung song’ to Solid Snake and the Metal Gear Solid series. But this isn’t some pussy wimp send off. It’s an explosive epic undertaking, a bar-shattering moving experience. This will surely become known as one of the best games ever made.

Six years after the events of the ‘Big Shell,’ the world is a much darker place than we could imagine it today. War is no longer about nations, ideology, or ethnicity. It has become an endless series, better known as proxy battles, waged by Private Military Companies (PMCs). In this bleak world, war is a business transaction, the pillar on which the global economy sits upon. Because of this, the entire planet has been consumed by the wild fire of war. This is the hellish world that has brought Solid Snake out of hiding for one final mission; assassinate Liquid Ocelot. Unlike in previous Metal Gear games which saw fit you keep you in one place, (Shadow Moses, Big Shell, the woodlands of Russia) MGS4 sends you to various places across the globe to accomplish this mission.

War has changed and because of this Snake, has acquired some new tricks to adapt to the constantly changing environment. The CQC system set up in MGS3 has returned and has been drastically improved. There are several new techniques added, such as disarming, submission chokeholds, and rifle CQC moves. The gunplay has also been upgraded. The camera now swings into a behind the shoulder angle much like a typical third person shooter. Also new is the weapon upgrade system. Many of the weapons have upgradable parts to them, such as grenade launchers, fore grips, and suppressors. This opens up the game play immensely. Yet another in the long line of improvements is the OctoCamo, an evolution of the camouflage system in MGS 3. Previously, you’d have to constantly switch between ‘Tiger Stripe’ camo and ‘Grassland’ camo just because you’ve crawled out of the grass on to bare dirt or whatever slight difference in terrain you find. Now all you’d have to do is simply let your OctoCamo mimic the background for you. Because of the ease at which Snake can now blend into his environment, being stealthy has never been easier.

OctoCamo in action.

It goes without saying that this is one of the best looking games in video game history, outdoing the best that the PC and Xbox 360 have to offer. There’s an overwhelming amount of detail put into every texture you’ll come across. Though on occasion the frame rate will dip a frame or two, at least for me this always happened during a massive explosion, and was brief. The character models shine with an impressive amount of detail and you hardly ever noticed when the game has loaded out of a cut scene and back into the game play. Details like dust and dirt blown on the camera and trails of water beading down your lens add to the immersive experience and massive scope of the game.

New CQC techniques

It can be said that MGS4 does have a few chinks in its armor. Boss battles in Metal Gear have always been one of their true highlights. Psycho Mantis and The End are still two of the best boss encounters in the history of video games. MGS4 bosses, that is to say, the B&B corps (Beauty and the Beast Corps) just do not have the same appeal that the Cobra Unit or Fox Hound had. The B&B corps don’t even feel needed. It was almost as if they said, ‘Oh shit! We need a boss battle here!’ and just tossed them into the fray. But even this flail has an upside. One of them, anyway. I’ll just say it brings back some old memories of a previous Metal Gear boss. Snake’s final confrontation is pretty cool. Last but not least, there is one fight so awesome; you just have to see it to believe it.

Another problem is that the game doesn’t feel quite balanced. The best I can describe this is to say that there are some pacing issues. The first half of the game is by far some of the best action and game play the Metal Gear series has ever seen. But then it’s like there’s some switch some asshole turned on. The game goes from about 80% game play, 20% narrative, to 80% narrative, 20% game play. The second half of the game is pretty much the story line being wrapped up. And that’s about 21 years worth of story to wrap, so you do the math. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perhaps some of the best Metal Gear fiction yet, and everything is wrapped up nicely. Pretty much every Metal Gear Solid character you could think of gets his or her story ended in some way. I was never bored or wanted to skip past them like I did in Metal Gear Solid 2, but you put the controller down a lot in the second half of the game. It’s not like it doesn’t pay off, as you absolutely feel for Solid Snake at the end of this game. All Metal Gear games have had their ‘beat the hero up’ torture sequence. But in MGS4, they really work Snake over throughout the entire game. By the end, you completely feel Snake’s agony and pain, it’s a complete sense of catharsis. This is a rare fete to pull off in video games (movies even) and to see Hideo finally do it off after working so hard for it is quite rewarding. It’s just a shame you don’t have the controller in your hand for most of it…

Legends die hard and a legend like Solid Snake deserves a send off that will be remembered for all times. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots isn’t some fan fair send off. It’s a cinematic achievement and one of the best games of the year, of all time even. No man deserves such a farewell more than Solid Snake. Enjoy your rest Snake.

100 / 10

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