Friday, September 5, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots--Review

"An epic conclusion to one of the best franchises of all time"

Metal Gear Solid 4 has finally arrived, and has brought an amazing conclusion to the Metal Gear series. We’ve been waiting for this epic climax for 20 years-so how does it hold up? Well, the answer is that it holds up well-really well.

Gameplay: MGS4 takes the standard Metal Gear gameplay and perfects it. Essentially, the gameplay revolves around the tried-and-true stealth mechanism-hide from enemies, and if they see you, do everything you can to kill them before they summon more goons. However, MGS4 brings a new flavor to the table-many times, you won’t have anywhere to hide. In the game’s massive war scenes, you don’t have any choice but to go in Rambo style. At this point, the game’s excellent third person shooting comes into play. There’s an enormous selection of weapons in the game, and you can use any of them, as well as a revamped close quarters combat system, against foes.

Control is streamlined, easy, and fluid. The camera system is unusually good for a third person game and never hinders gameplay. The new weapons system also works well. Every weapon you find on the battlefield has been ID tagged, making it useless. This is where newcomer Drebin comes in. For a fee, Drebin will untag these weapons to make them usable by you. When you find duplicate weapons, you can sell them to Drebin for currency. This system is very easy and helps to extend replayability for collectors trying to find every weapon.

Enemy AI is also superb. Enemies work together when alerted and prowl the area constantly. It takes all your skill to escape through enemy-infested areas. You’ll need to use other technology to your advantage as well. The new Solid Eye allows you to see enemies’ health and status, as well as in night vision and binoculars modes. Snake’s suit is fitted with Octocamo, allowing you to blend in automatically when pressed against walls or other surfaces. A new Psyche meter decreases when in combat or other stressful situations, causing Snake to move slower and fire less accurately. However, Psyche does not negatively effect gameplay and recharges at a reasonable rate.

Boss fights are fun and require thought to win. The new Beauty and the Beast Corps are terrifying exciting to fight. In addition, fights against classic MGS bosses bring layers of nostalgia to the duels. All-out firefights against hordes of enemies are just as fun as you try to find the best way to eliminate large groups of foes. Overall, MGS4 brings the perfect mix of stealth and action that the series has been trying to achieve for a decade.

Story: I normally include story as part of the gameplay review, but MGS4 has such a sheer amount of story and cutscenes that it deserves its own category. The story in MGS4 is, simply put, the best story of any video game ever created. The epic conclusion to the Metal Gear story even made me nearly tear up. The cutscenes in the game, especially the action sequences, are of such high quality that they could be trimmed down to 2 hours and put in a movie theater as a full length movie.

It’s difficult to jump straight into the story, so I’ll explain the current situation as best as possible. The great hero Solid Snake, clone of the legendary warrior Big Boss, has been rapidly aging as a result of the flawed cloning that created him. Meanwhile, his arch-enemy and twin brother Liquid Snake, who died in the first game, came back to somehow gain control over his surviving henchman, Revolver Ocelot, and is using him as a vessel to take over the world. This is achieved through destroying the Patriots, a series of supercomputers that control the entire world. Snake and his allies-the computer genius Hal “Otacon” Emmerich, retired colonel Roy Campbell, old ally Meryl Silverburgh, and the now-cyborg hero Raiden-take on Liquid/Ocelot and his villainous assistants, including the un-killable Vamp and the quartet of insane young women in armored animal suits, called the Beauty and the Beast Corps. Snake must travel the world in pursuit of Ocelot while racing against time, as the FOXDIE virus injected into his body in the first game could kill him at any moment. The stakes are high and the tension leaves you at the edge of your seat for the whole game.

The game’s cutscenes are phenomenal, especially the fight scenes. Raiden and Vamp’s sword/knife fight at the end of the second act puts the Matrix to shame, and several other fight scenes make you wonder just why this series hasn’t been sent to the big screen yet (although Hollywood is trying). The cutscenes do get a bit long, but despite popular belief, there is just as much gameplay in MGS4 as any other action game-there’s just a disproportionate amount of cutscenes. The story needs to be seen to be believed, and leaves you wanting more while simultaneously waiting throughout the game for the incredible conclusion.

Graphics: MGS4 easily brings the best graphics on the PS3, pushing the console to the limits. It’s also the first PS3 game that clearly cannot be done on the Xbox 360 (a few easter eggs joke about the rumored 360 port). Unlike many games with rendered cutscenes, the quality of the graphics stay just as high in the normal gameplay as they do in the cutscenes. Incredible attention to detail provides the best visual experience on any current console. There is a lot of brown and grey, but that’s to be expected in a game that spends a lot of time in war-torn battlegrounds. Every character, every vehicle, and every location is designed as realistically as possible. Smaller effects, like explosions and battle noises, help immerse you in the world and makes you feel like you’re really there.

Music: Many action games skimp out on the soundtrack in favor of graphics, but not MGS4, which features one of the best soundtracks of any game. The Metal Gear series is no stranger to good music, but MGS4’s nostalgia-filled tracks combine with exciting new music to create the perfect soundtrack. Even better is the ingame iPod (yes, Apple is still brainwashing millions even in an age of rampant warfare) which allows you to unlock music from past and present Metal Gear games to play at any point during the game.

Replayability: MGS4 has an enormous amount of things to see and do within the game. In addition to dozens of weapons, there are also many unlockable easter eggs and hidden jokes in the game to find. Some unlockable items include new facecamo, which changes Snake’s face, and new Octocamo patterns. There are also some hysterical easter eggs that range from the nostalgic (unplug the controller during the Screaming Mantis fight) to the overly masculine (try shaking the controller during conversations with Rosemary). The game is filled with references to past games that will keep veteran players laughing or taking a trip down memory lane. The ranking and difficulty system will keep hardcore veterans playing again and again to get the best awards.

TOTAL: Metal Gear Solid 4 is easily the best game on the PS3 and one of the best games of this generation, if not of all time. The perfect mix of action, stealth, story, graphics, music, and replayability brings in a game that deserves to be experienced.

Score: 10/10
Release date: June 12, 2008
Platforms: Playstation 3
Originally written for GameFAQs

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