Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the PatriotsESRB:
Developer: Kojima Productions
No. of Players: 1 (1-16 online)
Hard Disk Space Required: 4600 MB
Supported HD Video Output: 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Online Broadband Required
Playstation Network Compatible
Solid Snake is back in what is built to be the last instalment in the Metal Gear Solid series. To call Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots a much anticipated game would be understatement. Metal Gear maniacs, and even those unfamiliar with the franchise, have been looking forward to this latest instalment since E3 2005 when it was announced that the game was in the works. Metal Gear Solid games have had the reputation for raising the bar and pushing the limits of whatever console it is released on, and of course over the past 7 years or so it has been all about the Sony Playstation. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is no exception as it not only lived up to my expectations but shattered them. But even so it wasn’t all roses as I did have some issues with the game, and believe it or not I am still of the belief this franchise can get better. But that being said, while this chapter in Solid Snake’s career may have come to close, you are only kidding yourself if you think this will be the last Metal Gear game on the PS3 as it is just too damn good not to come back for another go-around.
Simply put, Metal Gear Solid 4’s visuals are the best I have seen on the PlayStation 3 to date. In fact, if your only reason for picking up the game was for the graphics alone you are definitely getting your money’s worth. Heck, some would say it is arguably the best selling feature in the game. I can’t argue the first have of that logic as the graphics are definitely stunning as they jump out from the screen and truly come to life. Everything from the games incredibly realistic environments, cinematic cut-scenes, life-like character models, explosion effects to the realistic lighting will leave you awe-struck at times. If you ever have some friends over and you want to show off your PS3, this is the game you need to show them. Those home theatre buffs would call Metal Gear Solid 4 a great demo disc and for good reason.
Solid Snake himself looks incredibly real due to the amount of detail. I can only imagine how many months, maybe even years, that was spent working on his every little feature Even his hair looks so smooth and realistic as it sways in outside environments. Every single one of his gritty facial features is rendered to perfection too and it raises the bar for character animations on the PS3. Even Snake’s OctoCamo suit is impressive. Lie on the ground or stand up against a wall and the suit will automatically mimic the surrounding environment. Not only does it look very cool, it’s actually quite fun to play with and becomes an integral part of the games stealth missions.
The environments in Metal Gear Solid 4 are also incredibly detailed and look very good. The detail that went into the game from the war-torn Middle Eastern villages, the blades of grass, cracks on the pavement, lush jungles, bullets holes in walls, blood splatter on walls, snow-bound landscapes, underground bunkers, and everything else that is packed onto the BD-50 is just downright impressive. I could go on and on for days with how good everything looks in Metal Gear Solid 4. On the flip side, many mature gamers may say, “been there, done that”. In other words, many of the games environments will remind you of games such as Call of Duty 4, HAZE and FarCry. Some of maps may even appear identical to those seen in some next-gen shooters. Nonetheless, it’s the presentation and the delivery which separates Metal Gear Solid 4’s environments from all those other great shooters.
The franchise is also known for its cinematic presentation, intriguing storylines and lengthy cut-scenes ,and Metal Gear Solid 4 does not disappoint in this area. Bar none, the game features some of the best cut-scenes I have ever seen. It’s simply fantastic. Granted it comes at a cost with several installs and many load times, but it is worth the wait. Once again, the detail is stunning and the character movements are incredibly life-like. Not much is lost from cut-scene to in-game play either. Additionally, the scenes are interactive as well. Whether pressing the ‘X’ button to view a quick flashback or ‘L1’ to view from a first person perspective; it is nice to see the games long scenes have become a little interactive.. My only concern with the ‘X’ button flashbacks is that the image displayed on the flashback is too quick. The image is displayed for what appears to be a 10th of a second. Often, you are left wondering, what the heck was that? It would have been nice if I could have had a couple more seconds to view the flashback.
As with the environments, characters and cut-scenes, the lighting effects in the game are superb and deserve a mention of their own. There are occasions during the game where you are momentarily blinded by such things as a snowstorm, an explosion, a flashbang or from the sun as you walk outside from a dark building. The effect is very slick and incredibly realistic. I was also impressed with the night time missions use of night vision as well as the game’s smoke effects. All look very sharp and run very smoothly. The game does not skip a beat even when the action becomes hectic and chaotic with many things going on the screen at once.
The games audio is an excellent compliment to the fantastic visuals. From the moment you load up the game, and the Dolby Digital animation is displayed, you just know you are in for a treat sound wise. From the solid orchestral soundtrack to the game’s dialogue, Metal Gear Solid 4 features terrific audio which should only be experienced in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. The game features life-like weapons effects, explosions and other booming sound which will have your neighbor wondering what the heck is going on at your residence. The character voices are also clear, and the game features a musical score second to none.
I was most impressed with games voice acting, battle chatter, and the communication which takes place between you and other characters in the game. Voices are clear and believable, not to mention incredibly engaging to the point where you really begin to care for characters. David Hayter returns doing the voice work for Solid Snake and he is back raspier than ever. In fact, many of the voices from previous games in the franchise return in Metal Gear Solid 4. None are household names, however fans of the Metal Gear Solid series will all breathe a collective sigh of relief when they see and hear all their favourite characters return in this instalment.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots features very sharp sounding weapons and certainly gave my subwoofer a workout at times. I am not convinced the weapons sound as good as they do in games such as Rainbow Six Vegas and Call of Duty 4, nevertheless, they do the job and pack a punch. Even the sounds you hear when reloading your weapon and the recoil from unloading your machine gun on the enemy is equally effective. Many times I was simply startled by the some of the bullets whistling by and the grenades setting off near my vicinity. The explosions were thundering and often rattled my floor.
The music in Metal Gear Solid 4 is wonderful and truly a treat. Harry Gregson-Willams, who also does the musical scores for many Michael Bay movies, does the score in Metal Gear Solid 4. It is big, it is emotional, and it is moving. The music hypnotizes you in the sense that it creates such a great atmosphere and you become so immersed in the game. Even hours after playing the game I found myself humming some of the tunes.
Another great little aspect of the game is Snake’s own personal iPod. As you progress through the game Snake comes across items which unlock tracks from previous Metal Gear and Kojima Production games. It was nice added touch by the developers and allows you to go back down memory lane taking you back to some of the greatest moments in previous Metal Gear games of the past.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the game, let me first give you a ‘synopsis’ of the games storyline. Metal Gear Solid 4 takes place in the not-so distant future where the world is in a permanent state of war. Rebels, the government, and terrorist organizations are contracting out Private Military Corporations (PMC's) to engage in battles all over the world in order to sustain the war economy. Thrown into the mix are the fact that soldiers have nanomachines injected into their bodies. Nanomachines are tiny microscopic machines which are injected into people's blood to distinguish that person and help those in control of the soldiers monitor their emotions and battle skills.
So you are probably wondering where our hero Snake comes into the picture. Unfortunately Snake is not what he once was. He has become a victim to accelerated aging which is caused by a genetic flaw due to essentially being a clone of Big Boss. Old Snake only has about a year left before he is too kick the old bucket. But before we say farewell to Snake he himself has one last farewell mission to make. Hired by his friend Roy Campbell, Snake embarks on a journey to destroy Liquid Ocelot who just so happens to be Solid Snake's twin brother. Failure to eliminate Liquid Snake would likely result in him gaining control of the free world. Granted the whole story is a little more complex than that and I certainly struggle to simplify the plot, but you get the idea.
The story brings together many loose ends from the previous games in the franchise and it takes you on a great ride from beginning to end. The characters are interesting, and aside from some occasional ‘cheesy’ lines and poor attempts at humour the story is engaging. That being said, I did fine it convoluted at times. For those new the franchise there will be some times where you will be wondering what the heck is going on. There were certainly occasions during some of those extended cut-scenes where I drifted off in space and found myself lost as I was thinking about other stuff I had to do around the office and at home. Once I snapped out of it, I would wonder what such things as what was Dr Emmerich talking about. Nevertheless, it all eventually comes together and by the time you hit the game’s credits most of your questions will be answered. I have to say that there were sure some times when I wished some of those cut-scenes had a rewind button so I could go back and watch some specific parts of scenes I missed. With cut-scenes this long, a pause, rewind and fast forward option is badly needed.
Metal Gear Solid 4 features five long acts and will take you anywhere from 12 to 18 hours to complete. How fast you finish the game does not so much depend on your skill but rather where you are willing to skip a few scenes and do more ‘run and gunning’ as opposed to a stealth style of gameplay. About half of the game is spent watching cut-scenes and the other half is actually playing the game. The cut-scenes can drag on as I suggest above, but for the most part the story grabs you. I rarely found myself once looking for the ‘skip scene’ button. In fact, skip a cut-scene and you run the risk of missing out on some valuable piece of information or an integral piece of the games plot.
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, stealth based gameplay is truly at the heart of Metal Gear Solid. Yes, you can plow through Metal Gear Solid 4 with ‘guns-a-blazin’ but this is completely unnecessary as the game actually discourages you from engaging the enemy. The missions themselves are linear and you don’t get that open environment feel like we have in previous versions of the franchise. That being said, I actually enjoyed the ‘linear’ feel to the game and was grateful I didn’t have to spend hours upon hours looking for secret doorways or passages. Overall, the game features a good mix of stealth gameplay, battle scenes and boss battles.
Once of the great aspects of the game is that there is a variety of ways to get through the missions. Often I found myself questioning where I should try and sneak my way past the enemy, plant a playboy magazine to distract them, or just blow them away. The variety is fantastic and only leads to some terrific replayability. As for the boss battles, they are some of the best boss battle sequences I have experienced in quite sometime. I am not going to give much else away as it is truly something you need to experience.
The controls in the game are straight forward, but they are not without their share of issues. For starters a brief tutorial mission to help one become familiar with the controls would have been useful. Yes, the menus are very slick and have detailed diagrams how to accomplish various kills and moves, however I don’t enjoy flipping through menus and I am sure many of you don’t either. The instruction booklet is also very helpful and detailed. Nevertheless, I have been spoiled lately with great in-game tutorials and to that end I would have appreciated a simple tutorial in Metal Gear Solid 4. Another concern is the reloading times. My goodness; is it me or does Snake take forever to reload his weapon? I found it way too long and something which aggravated me through out the entire game. Finally, compared to other big shooters such as Call of Duty 4 and Rainbow Six Vegas, controlling Snake just does seem as smooth as it could be. He almost seems a little too jerky. Granted this is the best I have seen to date for a Metal Gear Solid game but I still believe there is some room for improvement.
There is a multiplayer component to the game, however this aspect is weak and just does not measure up to some of those Triple A shooters already on the market. For starters, you need to log on not once but twice. Simply put it is pain in the butt. Second, while all the controls are the same, they don’t work in the same manner as the single player. You really have to alter your playing style online which is more of annoyance than anything given how in-depth the single player is.. Third, the emphasis is on team based strategy. So if you like to run and gun, you won’t enjoy the online aspects whatsoever.
There are five nicely designed and quite different maps currently available online. All look great too; however five maps are simply not enough. I would hope some downloadable content is coming down the pipe sooner than later. Game modes include your typical deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture missions, and a few others that should be familiar to online gamers. Matches are fully customizable as the host can change various in-game options such as respawns, play time, etc. Metal Gear Solid 4’s online also supports clans, voice chat, friend lists, messaging, and leaderboards. But when looking at all one can do and play when online it becomes somewhat evident that there is nothing incredibly innovative here.
While the online aspect does suffer somewhat this is not say Metal Gear Solid 4 has no replay value. In fact, it has plenty. I haven’t even touched on all the unlockables and collectables (iPod songs, weapons, upgrades, etc) located in the game. Also the plethora of weapons and customizable options is endless. You could spend an afternoon just buying weapons and turning them in lethal customized killing machines. Also, there are several difficulty levels in the single player mode. Simply put, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is truly a game that you will want to play through more than once.
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