If there's one thing Metal Gear Solid 4 isn't, it's compromising. Kojima has barred no holds in an extraordinary, eclectic finale to the Solid Snake story. Such intellectual depth is unusual for this medium, but to both its creator and its fans this is a deeply personal game. Plausibility is stretched to extremes as every character you can think of (and several you never would) makes a cameo appearance in this melancholy epic. This right here was a storytelling experience that was unlike one I had ever experienced in a game before. Few games manage to awaken such diverse stream of feelings in its length.
The return of a bevy of classic Metal Gear Solid characters.
Dabblers and newbies will find the convoluted, metaphor-driven storyline as baffling as ever struggling under the weight of the resolving the plots of four previous games and the personal destinies of characters as diverse as Raiden, Meryl, Naomi, Vamp and Eva, it is in all honesty a mess. The game itself is utterly shackled to its own legacy -- bogged down by its own past; series director Hideo Kojima's determination to answer every question is admirable, but this also makes for an incredibly uneven videogame experience.
The story conveyed by the game's locations, action and dramatic high-points - and in some cases, by moments between its handsome, expressive and earnestly-voiced cast of virtual actors is, by contrast, a richly satisfying success. Tune out the details, and Guns of the Patriots is a properly gripping yarn, full of thrills, spectacle, laughs, and even tenderness and pathos. You won't understand, but you will care.
"This is good... Isn't it?"
In Guns of the Patriots' incredible, cathartic, climactic scenes, the lines are blurred so much that you can barely tell whether you're playing a videogame or watching a film. Kojima's never been coy about his aspirations to direct films, and the cutscenes certainly come into their own here -- the sense that cut-scenes and gameplay are taking place in the same world, heightened by some gorgeous camera transitions, adds a whole lot more.
And therein lies the game's most infuriating shortcoming. It's frustrating that the game begins brilliantly, with combat sequences that propel Metal Gear boldly to the fore of gaming's current generation but ultimately fades -- because once the shock of the nonstop plot revelations wears off, the vanished gameplay leaves a nagging sense of disappointment. After the conclusion of Act 2 the game enters a downward spiral, becoming more of a non-interactive movie and using less of the great gameplay of which it is obviously capable. Surrendering so much control to make way for movie sequences is galling, especially when the dialogue makes such a big deal about freedom and free will.
"It's the toes that get us."
Yet, MGS4 works despite its worst habits. With a see-sawing episodic rhythm that visits some starkly different locations and play styles, a wealth of incidental and hidden detail, more gameplay mechanics than you can fully explore in a single playthrough Metal Gear Solid 4 is, in most senses, the biggest Metal Gear yet. The cutscenes are so great, and the pace so blistering, that by the time I'd reached Act Five in my first playthrough, I didn't lament -- or even realize -- the fact that I wouldn't experience the Act One gameplay again.
You expect the boss battles to take a starring role in Metal Gear Solid, and the encounters with the Beauty and the Beast team of psychotic femmes fatales in robot animal suits don't disappoint - how could they? All different, all very well-staged, all with a slightly disturbing and mournful edge. Towards the end you do begin to realize though that the battles essentially follow a template and as with anything formulaic, it just gets stale after a while and that's a major disappointment. The final boss fight is 20 years in the making and Liquid Ocelot takes the honor of being the final opponent for Old Snake. As expected the fight is a grueling but ultimately a satisfying experience.
Metal Gear Ain't Metal Gear Without Yoji Shinkawa's Iconic Art.
Going into Metal Gear Solid 4, I wanted more than anything for the game to be filled with enormous set pieces, beautifully over-the-top story twists, and memorable, unique gameplay sequences. For me, that is what the Metal Gear Solid series has become, and I was hoping MGS4 would not disappoint. Within each of the game's five completely varied acts, there are a handful of moments that will make you either gasp or put down your controller and run around the room screaming in happiness. You won't believe what you are seeing or playing. From a motorcycle chase that puts any action movie to shame, to single-handedly the greatest final boss fight in the history of videogames (how's that for praise), Metal Gear Solid 4 is full of amazing moments you will never forget for the rest of your life. The amount of classic homages paid to the previous games, with one in particular, will leave you breathless and, perhaps, emotional.
While I'm saddened to see one of gaming's greatest protagonists retire, I'm thrilled he got such an outstanding swan song.
A true masterpiece that will be revered for years to come like its predecessors, but one that will stand through the tests of time and will still be referred to as perhaps the pinnacle of storytelling in videogames. It sets a new benchmark in terms of production values, and will blow your tiny little mind to smithereens on more than one occasion.
- Presentation - 9
- Graphics - 8.5
- Sound - 8.5
- Gameplay - 8
- Lasting Appeal - 7.5
Overall - 9