Jul 7, 2008

The name Hideo Kojima has long been associated with greatness, and any self respecting gamer could pick Solid Snake out of a lineup. So with great anticipation, the multitudes have received Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, the supposed final chapter in Solid Snake’s 10 year career.

However, as much as I would love to hand over a perfect score to Hideo’s epic masterpiece, there is quite a bit of nitpicking I had to do.

Now don’t get me wrong, I played the game from start to finish to give it a fair shot. I even took the time to set up Metal Gear Online for some additional feedback. And I feel that I am justified in my feelings concerning Metal Gear.
As a dedicated fan for most of my life, this finale was a critical point in my life as a gamer. It brought to a close a series of storyline arcs that had long been speculated and argued over. It put to rest all the theories and ideas that I had spent hours arguing with my peers about. And it put them all to rest in about 10 hours of cutscene.

10 hours. Of a 15 hour game. You do the math. Of course, this formula rings true in every Metal Gear Solid title, with the main emphasis being on the storyline instead of the gameplay. But I can’t help feeling that Hideo went a bit off track here even with the minimal amount of gameplay involved here. It’s no secret that I am a failure as a ninja, so the concept of myself playing a stealth title does seem far fetched. However, my love for Metal Gear’s artful storytelling combined with stealth aspects has helped me overcome the slower pace of things.

Metal Gear Solid 4 completely forgets what it means to be a stealth game. There are more explosions and blood splatters in this game to rival the highest end Hollywood summer spectacular. And did I mention 5 hours? That’s all you get. And almost 4 of that is comprised of boss battles. Oh, and while we’re on the number 5, that’s how many times you’re going to have to install the game while playing. Blu-Ray may be the future, but you still need to install this baby like some old school PC game every time you get to a new Act. For a title with this much hype, I’m a bit disappointed in having to watch Snake stop and smoke in the middle of my gripping narrative adventure, or deal with harrowing old school load screens that seem a tiny bit long for this generation.
Now that I’m done griping about the major flaws that upset me after spending $60…let’s cover what makes Metal Gear worth having.

First off, the story is second to none. Only Hideo could wrap things up as well as he did, connect the dots and leave minimal loose ends. However, there are a few elements that feel forced, which I will not spoil for you readers, but I’m sure any diehard MGS fan could spot the points where even a master seemed to be running out of ideas. In the older titles, I feel like the audience could associate with the characters more, even the villains. We came to appreciate them on a human level, almost relating to what led them to corruption. I feel that Metal Gear has stepped so far back in a cinematic scene that it forgets about one important aspect –the audience. However, despite some bizarre twists and long shots, the story is masterfully assembled.
Gameplay, albeit complex, as the instruction manual will prove, it follows the same old MGS formula that allows Snake a wide array of options to handle any situation. Sure, you could run like a maniac and hope for the best, but it’s probably better to use your Octo-camo and rely on your surroundings a tad. Your tools are nearly infinite, as your weapons arsenal is severely bloated compared to past installments. In my mind, anything that fires bullets is good enough for me, but I’m sure gun enthusiasts will be excited. While we’re talking about bullets, I do have another minor argument. The weapons system and the fact that I can buy whatever I want whenever I want. And I literally mean whenever. When faced by a foe bent on ripping me limb from limb and only one clip in my M4, it’s a bit frightening to think that I can open up my menu and buy another 24 clips if I want. Something about this concept seems to destroy the challenge. Maybe it’s just me.
Motions are fluid, animations realistic, and motion capture that truly destroys that sense of “it’s only a game”. I can safely say that the line between “game” and “film” shatters with MGS, as I repeatedly found myself marveling at skin textures and slight facial gestures. It truly is gorgeous, there’s no lying about that, and I am pleased to see Snake’s final chapter end in such style.

Metal Gear Online. Gripe number 1? The 2 usernames, 2 passwords, and all sorts of other security checks necessary to sign in. The necessary update as soon as I signed on that prompted me to manually quit and reboot game, and the lengthy time to get into a match. With all the steps involved, I felt like I was attempting to hijack a nuclear weapon. However, once online, fun ensued in true MSG style which any fan could appreciate. Is it the shooting game to end all others? Not entirely. Will it survive after Socom: Confrontation comes out? I doubt it. But for now, with a severe lack of quality online titles for the PS3, it seems like a solid bet for the moment, especially after finishing the MGS storyline and having nothing else to do with your $60 investment.

I hate to be a pessimist here, but now that Sony’s ace is finally on the table, I dare to wonder “Now what?”. Metal Gear Solid 4 was one of the most anticipated titles of all time, and one of the very few exclusive titles Sony had left; now that the final stone has fallen, I dare to wonder what’s next for Playstation 3 as well as Kojima. I suppose we’ll have MGO to tide us over while we wait, by the time a new announcement is made, I should have finally found a match. See you on MGO until a new threat and a new Metal Gear rises yet again.

Genre:Stealth Action

Developer: Konami

Publisher: Konami

Pros: Metal Gear at its finest, gorgeous graphics, intuitive gameplay with endless options as to how to handle each situation

Cons: Constant Install makes Blu-Ray technology look like a failure, 3/4 of the entire game is cutscene, learning curve is pretty sharp for a MGS rookie

PS3 Informer Rating: 4 stars out of 5


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