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Review

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Review

  • First Released
    released
  • Reviewed
  • PS3

Metal Gear Solid 4 is an awe-inspiring synthesis of dramatic storytelling and entertaining gameplay.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the most technically stunning video game ever made. It's also a fine example of storytelling prowess within its medium, combining gameplay and narrative so slickly and beautifully that it's impossible to extricate one from the other. It's likely you will emerge awestruck from your first play-through, wishing the experience would continue yet nonetheless satisfied with its conclusion. It's difficult not to sound hyperbolic when discussing MGS4 because every part of its design seemingly fulfills its vision, without compromise. There is no halfway.

The story is both convoluted and compelling.

Fully realized, lengthy story sequences will come as no surprise to anyone who has played a Metal Gear game. You'll spend a good half of MGS4 watching cinematics, but it would be a grave misinterpretation to assume that great gameplay takes a backseat to the story. Rather, these two elements are tightly intertwined, and this tapestry is held together by an important technical thread: Cutscenes that are rendered fully in real time within the game engine. It's impressive enough that these scenes look as good as any prerendered cinematic you've ever watched. It's even more amazing when those same scenes transition without pause into gameplay, and the same hulking mech you watched lumber about in the cinematic is looming above you. The subtle animations, the lush environments, and the rich textures are the same in and out of story sequences, and the effect is so seamless it may take your breath away. You can skip past the scenes if you prefer, but doing so would soften the experience. The story sequences carry more weight because of the intense gameplay that precedes them--and the gameplay feels more compelling because the story gives you powerful reasons to care about your mission. The high point of this fusion occurs in an exciting and memorable split-screen sequence that simply must be experienced.

Talking about what, exactly, is going on in the plot in the midst of MGS4's grand sweeping gestures is to risk spoiling each little surprise as it emerges. Snake, suffering from the rapid onset of aging, now must cope with stiff joints in addition to the looming specter of Liquid Ocelot's newest plans. This is Snake's final hurrah; yet as the story reaches one height after another, the juxtaposition of huge set piece battles and formidable bosses with Snake's deteriorating body creates tension and gravity even beyond the series' usual pretensions. Some new plot strands emerge while others get tied up, and old friends (and enemies) refuse to be forgotten. You'll also bear witness to a few reunions--some bloody, some teary, and some legitimately shocking. Parts of it are overblown, to be sure. The musical score gets heavy-handed and the voice acting and writing are frequently dogmatic, so while there are plenty of subtle moments, subtlety isn't really MGS4's strong suit. But it doesn't need to be. After all, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and judging from a few silly attempts at humor that don't work, developer Kojima Productions was wise to err on the side of melodrama.

The gameplay proper is familiar to fans, but it's been cleaned up and expanded, holding as many twists and surprises as the story. For starters, both gunplay and close-quarters combat are more satisfying. Regarding melee, the controls have been streamlined, making it less cumbersome to grab an enemy soldier or perform a stealthy blade kill. Shooting mechanics are even more improved, so much so that shooting your way out of a pickle is just as enjoyable as sneaking around it. There are a huge number of weapons to play with; so many that you'll probably finish the campaign without using many of them. Yet, quality wasn't sacrificed for quantity: Every weapon feels just right, from your handy operator sidearm (best when upgraded with a silencer) and standard issue assault rifles to a powerful railgun. The standard over-the-shoulder view is fine for the most part, but you can gaze down the sights from a first-person perspective. Both views can be further improved with various enhancements, such as laser sights and scopes.

Not that you don't have all the tools for completely avoiding your enemies if you choose that route. Snake's got the basics covered: crawling, hugging walls, peeking around corners, and hanging from ledges, for example. Cover mechanics are tighter than ever, so you can crouch and take potshots from behind cover with ease. There are also a number of important gadgets that will make your life easier in this regard. The most obvious of these is your OctoCamo suit, which takes on the texture of your surroundings when you're prone or pressed against cover. Not only does this make it simpler to avoid watchful eyes, but it's also a cool visual effect. Eventually, you'll be able to camouflage Snake's head, and a few of the available camo options are bound to stir some fans' nostalgia. The Solid Eye is your other major tool, as it expands your compass into a sonic-sensitive radar and allows you to use night vision and a tactical first-person view. These are helpful gadgets indeed, even during boss fights, like a stirring encounter in a blinding blizzard.

Shooting is always a viable option if you don't want to sneak.

Other gadgets, such as portable hiding places (cardboard boxes and rusty barrels) and the Metal Gear Mk. II (a stealthed robot that you can command as a scouting device), are useful to anyone who prefers the sneaky approach. Not every gadget is a welcome addition, though. For example, the much-ballyhooed iPod is a neat touch, but to use it, you cannot have another gadget equipped, so you'll quickly forget the option even exists. But aside from these nitpicks, one of the things that makes the core gameplay so enjoyable is that you're rarely strapped into a single style of play. Shooting your way through requires more thought and care than you'd put into a standard action game, but you never feel as though the gun mechanics are stuffed uncomfortably into a stealth game. If you'd rather sneak, you never have the impression that stealth was shoehorned into a game that's meant to be played as a shooter. Sure, you're Solid Snake--you're not supposed to get caught. But if you're stuck in a jam, breaking stealth isn't a death sentence, and in fact, facing certain enemies head-on is often a heart-pounding, challenging experience. The few levels that do force you into one style, such as one in which you shadow your target through an Eastern European city, are still great, if not quite as impactful.

You'll need to keep an eye on Snake's stress levels and psyche. Though these aspects are more peripheral than health levels, they fit nicely within the plot. When Snake gets stressed (if he gets cold or encumbered, for example), his psyche gauge starts to deplete. The lower the gauge, the slower you will move and the less quickly you replenish health. Generally speaking, the psyche meter is rarely a factor, and should you notice Snake groaning a bit more, there are items like compresses you can use for a pick-me-up. Should the meter get too low, you won't be able to hold up your weapon or rush for cover. This doesn't happen often though, and while you'll need to keep a close eye on your health for obvious reasons, you won't need to pay too much heed to psyche.

Regardless of the tactics you use, the level design and enemy artificial intelligence work in tandem to create unparalleled gameplay. If you go stealth, hiding in that rusty barrel isn't a perfect solution. Your foe may look at it suspiciously, kick it a few times, and eventually blow your cover, so don't expect to be able to trick your way through as you might in other stealth games. In full-on firefights, enemy teams will flank you, use cover to their advantage, and throw grenades with precision to force you out of hiding. Most of your surroundings, inside and out, are littered with objects and cover opportunities, from a trek through a South American jungle to a nostalgic journey through a snowy island base. Each level is more-or-less linear, but within the confines of these areas, you still have remarkable room to explore the various gameplay options and test the limits of your foes. Some enemies are standard soldiers, though many others are wonderfully imaginative. The colossal mechanical Gekkos, for example, are unpredictable and keep you on your toes, while female operatives that pounce from wall to wall intensify an early escape scene.

There are ample cover opportunities.

Later in the game, a few set piece battles deepen the core gameplay even further, including a few peerless on-rails sequences. One of these, a motorcycle chase, is as close as any game has gotten to translating the excitement of similar moments in films to a game format. Another level, which features a gigantic automaton, showcases destructible environments where walkways collapse on top of each other and the screen fills with smoke. In all of these cases, the controls are excellent, with the exception of that same mech's third-person view a bit later on (the first-person view works infinitely better). The interpretation of Metal Gear Solid as an interactive film still applies, but in a way you may not have expected: These levels make you feel like the star of your own action movie.

Boss battles are stimulating, though they aren't all that difficult. Nevertheless, a few of them are tricky and require you to put some thought into your tactics because just riddling the boss with bullets isn't going to ensure victory. Early on, it's clear that you'll be encountering the four members of the Beauty and the Beast unit--female supersoldiers that are as psychologically complex as they are fun to battle. These battles are long and normally require you to fight other enemies in addition to your primary target. In one of them, you can use your night vision to track your target's footprints and use the wind direction to your advantage. In another, you'll dodge missiles from flying creatures while taking on the main boss.

The gameplay and story would, perhaps, not be as effective if Metal Gear Solid 4 did not look and sound so impressive, but truth be told, it's an amazing piece of technology. From the gritty textures of concrete walls to the effective lighting and shadowing, there are few aspects you could reasonably fault. In the biggest battles, billows of smoke fill the screen and blood splatters against the camera--all while meticulously designed helicopters fly overhead and ad-hoc team members take potshots from behind grungy dilapidated vehicles. Yet in the midst of the visual drama, it's the little things that are likely to provoke awe. Small details, such as how Snake rubs his sore back when his stress levels get high or the authentic manner in which he ascends staircases, create as much atmosphere as cluttered underground tunnels and war-torn Middle Eastern cities. You will have to wait through some scattered install periods (just under 20 minutes worth, in total) and the occasional loading screen, and you may find some frame rate drops and low-res textures here and there, but these aren't issues in light of MGS4's impressive graphical accomplishments.

The sound design comes together nearly as well. The soundtrack on its own is rather pompous, but in context, it works just fine to create the appropriate mood for any given cutscene or battle. The voice acting follows suit but succeeds far better. Because the growling voice of David Hayter's Solid Snake is so good, the rare hamming from the mostly excellent supporting cast is easily forgotten. But the sound effects are unforgettable and excellent across the board. The Gekkos emit blood-curdling moos like gargantuan cows, explosions are outstandingly obnoxious, and everything from the clicks of the Solid Eye to the laughter and screams of the beastly bosses are top-notch.

Snake's final hurrah is a remarkable technical achievement.

On top of it all, Metal Gear Solid 4 offers some enjoyable online 16-player action to complement its superb single-player experience. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are represented, of course, and they play just fine, assuming you don't approach the online component as a standard shooter. The maps are beautifully rendered and packed with detail, and while not every mechanic is as wonderful in multiplayer as it is in single-player (hiding in your cardboard box won't usually get you far, for example), it's all good fun once you adjust to the pace. The multiplayer star, however, is sneaking mode, a Team Deathmatch variant in which one player plays as Snake and another supports him as the Metal Gear Mk II. Shooting others is amusing--but sneaking enthusiasts will enjoy the violent, stealthy game of hide and seek you play as Snake. Playing support is equally entertaining because as Mk. II, you can go invisible, creep up on other players, and zap them with your electronic tentacle. It's a blast. Other modes include base mission, in which teams compete to conquer bases; a capture and defend mode; and rescue mission, which is similar to the same mode in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. Unfortunately, the process of creating an online account is laborious, so expect to take a few minutes to enter a litany of information (a pain if you aren't using a keyboard). Thankfully, the variety of customization options and sheer numbers of players online mean that this process is quickly forgotten.

If the story-heavy presentation of previous Metal Gear games taxed your patience, Metal Gear Solid 4 won't change your mind. For anyone who appreciates games that rise above the simple act of pushing a few buttons and pulling a few triggers, Metal Gear Solid 4 is a stimulating ride that you won't soon forget. You'll want to see what happens next, yet when its long campaign draws to a close, you'll wish it would continue. That's not just because it's a well-told tale, but because that tale is woven through a thoroughly impressive game that tops its predecessors.

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The Good
A brilliant mixture of storytelling and gameplay
Mind-blowing audiovisual presentation
Tight and compelling shooting mechanics
Gratifying stealth mechanics
Lots of cool gadgets and weapons that you can tailor to your own style of play
The Bad
Storytelling is heavy-handed
The single-player experience ends
10
Essential
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.
181 comments
B-boy
B-boy

the worst metal gear game ever

Hoffymann07
Hoffymann07

I remember playing MGS4 for the first time. It was my first experience with a PS3 as well. I was immediately blown away by the beginning presentation as I was drawn into switching channels because the game transformed my TV into what Kojima wanted it to be at that moment. I know it sounds silly, but that is what sold me on the game. As great as that moment was, the same feeling stayed with me the entire time I played. Few titles I have played were capable of doing that for me previously, and few have been able to since. 

metalblinga
metalblinga

@xGarrettThiefX you're obviously a casual gamer, i dont think this game was directed at casuals. pw was mind numbingly easy and had a simple story.

shawise
shawise

Blew the dust off my PS3 purchased MGS4....in short i can't wait to play it again. can't believe how far this game has come i remember attacking that base in the artic.  

wardemon321
wardemon321

my only dissapointment of the game is that mgs 4 actually ended it previous mgs at least has a teaser but this no it actually ends 

HowlPendragon
HowlPendragon

Just started playing this. Its my first MGS game ever.

I love it already

delakpanlaa
delakpanlaa

@HowlPendragon Great, but you won't understand anything from the story... You should have started with the first one.

kingcrimson24
kingcrimson24

MASTERPIECE 

i never owned a PS3 but played this 4 times on my friend's PS3 . this game is just perfect . just like MGS3 . 


Nintyfan95
Nintyfan95

Only reason I bought a Sony PlayStation 3, if I only had more to play than this masterpiece though :/

sofijadante
sofijadante

I loveee the game ! Ending is perfect ! But it doesn't deserve 10

FkzAz
FkzAz

Finaly Finished it !!! Had the game for 2 years..i was on the last scene, and couldn't bare to watch Snake die (i am a die hard fan, i played it since Ps1, i still remeber watching the trailer of MGS1 for the first time, and how Oo i was 15 years ago) 

Started a new play this weekend again, so i could play MGS Rising.

Even today this game wold take a round 10. 

A truly masterpiece, the Ending is Perfect.

Thank you Hideo Kojima. Time for some Risiiinggg before MGS V xD

disneyskate
disneyskate

Thanks for the spoiler alert. Oh wait...

soethuaung
soethuaung

10/10 is truly deserve for MGS, MGS masterpiece

TEFUKAM
TEFUKAM

I just end this game and this is not a game this is movie. This game do not deserve score 10.

victormgs777
victormgs777

While everyone is going crazy for GTA V let's not forget the MGS games are 11s on a 1-10 scale 

faizanhd
faizanhd

@victormgs777 

You mean those pieces of cr*p people think are games because they think it makes them special when they play them ? Sure.

bugtot
bugtot

Why 10? Because Metal Gear Solid... That is why.

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

@bugtot That's like saying 

"Why 10? Because GTA... That is why." 

Keep believing that.

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

So it's a 10, but there are still negative points to it...so it's not perfect. 

Sorry, never liked this series.

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

@sam-jay @Bayonetta2013 Well no shiz. But there is no perfect game. And the review did touch on a few negative things, so is it a perfect game, GS? No, didn't think so.

squedington
squedington

@jourideblaere @MrAVKV @Bayonetta2013 @sam-jay PLEASE read Gamestm; at the beginning of every review section they state that "The elusive ten is reserved for games of incredible, irrefutable quality, but please be aware that a score of ten in no way professes to mean perfection". 

This should be written on every gaming medium which claims to review games because no game will ever be utterly perfect. It is, however, safe to say that MGS4 deserves a 10/10 regardless of whether you enjoy the type of game which it is purely because:

1. The sheer technical prowess; it's graphics and audio were only recently matched by games such as the Last of Us. 

2. It's story telling capabilites. To add to this is the fact that you are given the option to skip the cut scenes if you just want to jump back into the fray.

3. The excellent combat, giving you the opportunity to never kill a sole or rampage through the game - purchasing all manner of weapons and utilising them to devastating effect. 

4. Finally, the fact that it implements 3rd person shooting, vehicular combat, mech combat, stealth, action and even fist fighting into a game flawlessly. This also makes for a very dynamic system, with excellent pacing and hours of replay value.

This is a difficult game but one of the most rewarding experiences out there (behind Dark/Demon's Souls for me) and one which should at least be attempted by every Playstation owner.

Also to all those of you picking up on the two 'bad points' mentioned: the first refers to the story being heavy handed which isn't necessarily 'bad' it may simply throw off new comers a little and is merely Kojima's style. Secondly the reviewer states 'the single-player experience ends' which is clearly a light hearted quip representing the need for more once it's over.

darrenfps
darrenfps

@Emerald_Scott Masterpiece sums MGS4 up very well. As a matter of fact, to this very day, I'm convinced that its the best game EVER made. I'm about to start my 5th play-through because I've yet to take advantage of the addition of Trophies. Never gets boring to play over & over again ...NEVER.

DarKH-B
DarKH-B

Amazing game. Will be playing again for trophies.

bruno_fmenedes
bruno_fmenedes

Awesome review Kevin!
My shortened review, focused on the main aspects I agree/disagree with Kevin:

The gameplay is vastly improved from previous games in the series, particularly the camera positioning, the control of Snake's movement and actions, which are more intuitive and tight, and the camouflage. This allows the player to spend less time and attention on figuring out which button to press or where are the enemies and more on figuring out the best strategy and approach to overcome each situation. But there are still a few things that were left untouched from previous games in the series, like the awkward jump forward.

On the whole, the campaign strikes a perfect balance between stealth and action gameplay, because some levels are big and intricate enough to make either approach possible, giving you the freedom to choose how to overcome each situation, while others are focused on stealth and finding the right path, which are compensated by the action focused sequences.

Boss battles are inventive, exciting and memorable, but less threatening than what they could've been, because of how easy it is to accumulate a big number of Drebin points.

The cut scenes are skillfully realized and rarely fail to be engaging to watch. On the other hand, they are as frequent and indulgent as before and most of them are longer than necessary, which hurts the pace of the game. Great writing, although often dogmatic, excellent voice acting, first-class camera work and intense action sequences, all fit together very well.

The narrative is more captivating and interconnected with playable sequences than in previous games in the series. Unfortunately, if you're not familiar with the previous games' storyline, unless you spend a few hours of your time doing a boring research on them (or, if you have a tremendous amount of time to kill, watching all the cut scenes of those games on YouTube), you'll most likely find MGS4's story to be confusing and forgettable, because the entire plot is too complex and bizarre for its own good, with many implausible twists and loads of important characters and sub-plots, in my humble opinion.

The gameplay and the cut scenes wouldn't work so well if it wasn't for the extraordinary sound design and the technical masterpiece that is the game engine.

Guns of the Patriots is not only the best, most accessible and captivating game in the series but also probably the best and most memorable Modern Action Adventure game ever made. It literally leaves you anxious to know what the game will ask you to do next, or who will be the following boss, or what will be the fate of Snake and his companions, until it finally ends... and then you'll probably want to beat it again... and again.

SCORE: 9.5/10

Dredcrumb9
Dredcrumb9

MGS2 and Snake Eater were better than this game. this game has more guns, and smoother gameplay than MGS2 and 3, but the last 2 levels of MGS4 are a disappointment, especially the level from MGS1 with the robot enemies instead of humans. Play this only if you have finished MGS3 and MGS2.

ernest1999
ernest1999

Metal Gear Solid 4 is a pure masterpiece. Great review, by the way.

coldlmx
coldlmx

its all about the snake dude

daviz88
daviz88

10/10 impossible they many flaws in this game.

Atermi
Atermi

This game can't have 10/10 because the main character has moustache. 
I hate the very idea of playing as someone who has moustache.

almeida24
almeida24

MGS4 is the best video game ever made, if you even want to call it that. I tell you all now, no video game will ever match this masterpiece, let alone surpass it. The graphics are superb. The game play is phenomenal. A perfect mix of stealth/action, and dare I say, some of the best action in a game ever. From fighting robotic nanomachines with Rat Patrol to very enjoyable boss battles; from manning a heavy machine gun on a tank driving through enemy forces to riding on the back of a motorbike with a sub machine gun; from some of the greatest stealth action ever to having a mech on mech in game battle with gatling guns, missles and all; from in game hand to hand combat to an epic finale kickboxing style battle with your twin brother. In summary of MSG4 Gameplay, it has managed to take the best features of the best games and combine them all into one. 

Now for the story. Why I said above if you even want to call MGS4 a video game is because the story evolves so compellingly and is so innovating that it makes you feel like you are IN a movie. Making a game feel like a movie is one thing, but MGS4 not only feels like a mere movie, but also like one of the finest top end films ever created. It's the finest accomplishment any video game could ever have. Not to mention it feels even more epic that it should due to the immense tie-in with previous MGS games. 

I said no video game will ever top, or even match, MGS4 and it never will. Even the developers/creators themselves will fail. MGS4 is a miracle of God and feels like something unseen touched it, for such perfection is impossible. Graphically, future games will obviously better MGS4 due to advances in technology, etc. But in terms of gameplay, story, the way everything comes together nothing can ever beat it. 

I don't know if this is the best example, but imagine the Star Wars movie. The original 3 were amazing in their own right. The more recent Star Wars were better technologically, but in other aspects and overall, the original Star Wars movies were much better. MGS4 will be exactly the same. Nothing, past, present or future will better this game overall. Graphically is the only improvement that can be made by man or machine. 

I consider myself extremely lucky to have experienced the sheer brilliance of MGS4. You cannot consider to have ever played video games properly if you have never fully lived through MGS4. For those who found something wrong with it, I urge you to go back and give it another shot. An experience like this will never be experience-able again in anyone's lifetime.

WillyWynn
WillyWynn

one of the best games ever made, completely deserves 10/10, this game is master piece and hideo kojima is a God! Hideo kojima is a God making games... Every time he makes a game the game come out almost a masterpiece or a masterpiece, Hideo kojima team is one of the best desenveloper teams out there in videogames... This game is great who says otherwise is just a hater... 

RustedTruck650
RustedTruck650

A 10/10? No way, there are other games that have received a 9/10 and 9.5/10 yet they dont come close the absolute quality of this masterpiece. If anything this game deserves a 12/10, just pure bliss.

Ceocold
Ceocold

 @RustedTruck650 Agreed, there is no other game that even comes close to this one. In fact I'm on my way to buy it again and I already have a copy.

Derugs
Derugs

Why has this game resurrected lately???

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots More Info

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  • First Released
    released
    • PS3
    Metal Gear Solid 4 offers even more of the stealth-based action gameplay and grand stories that the series has become known for.
    9.4
    Average Rating32451 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
    Developed by:
    Kojima Productions
    Published by:
    Konami
    Genre(s):
    Action, 2D, Adventure
    Theme(s):
    Modern
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
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    All Platforms
    Blood, Crude Humor, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence