Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots PlayStation 3
Published by: Konami
Developed by: Kojima Productions
Release Date: Out Now
One of the most eagerly awaited PlayStation 3 games is finally with us and it's a fitting conclusion to what has been a phenomenal series. It's a monumental game for a variety of reasons such as it's the last Metal Gear game to feature Solid Snake and perhaps, more importantly, it's the last game in the series that Hideo Kojima is responsible for. If that wasn't enough it's also the first game in the series to appear on the PlayStation 3 and expectations have been incredibly high for this game ever since it was first announced. There are also a whole load of loose threads to tie up from the previous games in the series. In short, much is expected from Metal Gear Solid 4 and for the most part it delivers in style.
I'm sure we've all read reviews where the reviewer has revealed too much of the storyline. Usually you can get away with mentioning just enough to set the scene in order to give the reader a hint of what's going on. MGS 4 is one of those games where it's practically impossible not to spoil anything by mentioning any aspect of the storyline. From the screenshots and movies that have been available for a while we all know that Snake looks considerably older and that some of his contemporaries do not. You probably also know that the game contains many characters from previous games in the series. What I will say is that Kojima has seemingly left no stone unturned tying up all of the loose ends from the previous games in the series. By the game's end you probably won't have any unanswered questions. This is both remarkable and immensely satisfying to those who have followed the fortunes of Solid Snake over the years.
Some aspects of MGS 4 are quite surprising. In past games you simply had to play the game in a certain way. Taking an all guns blazing approach simply wasn't an option thanks to the awkward camera angle and less than intuitive control scheme. Essentially you were forced into taking the stealthy approach even when at times it made things difficult. In MGS 4 it's still advisable to play stealthily but you don't always have to and as a result it's possible to play through the game in quite different ways. There are some terrific action sequences in the game; you've probably all seen the movie clips of Snake on the motorcycle for instance, and these really help to spice up the whole thing. At times the previous games could go a little flat but it's difficult to level such criticism at MGS 4. The quality of the boss fights is also superb, although in fairness this has always been a trademark of the series. Not all of the surprises are favourable however. An eight minute install time when you first play the game and other install times before each act are minor annoyances. The game also includes a Metal Gear Online mode which is both mediocre (essentially it feels like a tacked on needless extra that is well below the standard of the single-player game) and irritating in that you have to do two logins to play the game.
Snake's gadgetry has been much improved in MGS 4. He wears an OctoCamo bodysuit that not only acts as his armour but also has the chameleon like ability to replicate the colour and texture of the objects that Snake is next to. It can take on the texture of a wooden box, latticed fence or brick building for instance and this helps to make Snake a little less visible. Snake will get his hands on a variety of weapons and devices throughout the course of the game and thanks to a rather shady weapons dealer called Drebin; he can purchase a wide assortment of attachments and weapon customisations. Snake can even take advantage of a little robotic device known as the Metal Gear Mk. II which can act as a kind of scout.
The Metal Gear Solid series has always been an acquired taste because of the series peculiarities. The two main peculiarities were the controls, the camera and the length of the cutscenes. When Splinter Cell was released on the Xbox its smooth and easy to learn control system highlighted how cumbersome the controls were in the Metal Gear Solid series. With some considerable effort the controls could be mastered but they were an obstacle to newcomers to the series. Metal Gear Solid 4 finally sees the series getting an up to date control scheme and there's definitely a pick up and play quality to the game that previous titles just didn't have. The rather awkward camera angle you had to put up with in previous games has also been corrected. MGS 4 uses a standard third-person view and it makes for a much more immersive and less frustrating experience.
Of course there are the lengthy cutscenes that the series is known for. Some have argued that you don't get to play as much of the game as you should do. Those who hate lengthy cutscenes with a passion will certainly find a lot to grumble about. Initially the length of the cutscenes isn't too bad but as the game progresses they get longer and longer. In fact there are some of the longest cutscenes we've ever seen in a game. In the game's defence you could argue that the lengthy cutscenes are necessary to let the storyline unfold and they carry the MGS series to a very satisfying conclusion leaving practically no stone unturned, which in itself is a very impressive achievement. As satisfying as these cutscenes are however, there's no denying that for some, particularly those who aren't used to the flow of the earlier games, it will all be a bit much.
There can be no doubt that MGS 4 is very impressive from a presentation point of view. Graphically the game looks great and the seamless transition from the excellent cutscenes to the in-game action is superb. The game is by far the best looking game on the console. I don't know if I would go as far as to claim that it's the best looking game on any platform, but it's certainly very impressive. There are times when the frame rate dips but it's never to an unplayable level and considering the amount of action that takes place at times I think the frame rate is very impressive. The game is also subtitled although the subtitles are disabled by default. The cutscene dialogue doesn't feature any character names or portraits next to the dialogue but this rarely seems to cause any problems and it's usually easy to know who is saying what. Mission Briefings can be watched again if you feel the need (and these are subtitled). Tutorial messages are also shown in text and can be recalled at any time.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is both a remarkable and deserving finale to what has been a superb series. The game does a superb job of tying up the loose ends and there's so much going here it could have easily been spread over two games instead of being squashed into one. Most of the criticisms levelled at the series over the years such as the camera angles and the controls have been sorted out and the game is the most playable and user friendly in the whole series. The lengthy cutscenes that the series has been famous for are a whole lot lengthier which will irk some but you have to take into account just how much storyline has to be resolved and whilst I wouldn't like to see cutscenes of this length become the norm, it's fully understandable in this case. Those hoping for a great multiplayer experience will be disappointed but the excellent single-player game more than makes up for that. Metal Gear Solid 4 is easily the best game on the PlayStation 3 to date and probably will be for quite some time.