Originally Posted by hiko13
^ Can you post a snippet for those of us trapped at work?
UK, May 30, 2008 - In return for letting us play Metal Gear Solid 4 before its release, Konami issued us with a list of things that we're not allowed to discuss. This list of prohibited topics is pretty long, and even extends as far as several facts that the company itself has already made public. Regardless of Konami's list of prohibited topics though, this review was always going to be a spoiler-free zone, because part of the pleasure of playing Guns of the Patriots lies in discovering everything it has to offer. MGS 4 is simply a game that you have to experience for yourself. Because the one thing that can certainly be said, prohibited topics or not, is that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is, without question, the ultimate Metal Gear game. It represents the pinnacle of Hideo Kojima's achievement, and it's undoubtedly one of the games of the year.
Metal Gear... It can't be.
Surprisingly, it gets off to a pretty slow start. Oh sure, there is something uniquely satisfying about the game's opening cinematic: the gruff, distinctive tones of David Hayter's Solid Snake, and the slow, measured edit. But there are various things that give the Metal Gear games a distinct, unique 'feel', and initially, it is the absence of those things that is most striking. The absence of fixed camera angles, for example, or of extended Codec conversations, or of the distinctive PlayStation 2 textures, making the game feel less like a Metal Gear game and more like a typical action title. As the game starts, with its fairly generic next-gen textures and desert battlefield setting, you can't help feeling that you could be playing the latest Call of Duty, or Assassin's Creed.
Play on, however, and you'll soon find yourself re-immersed in Hideo Kojima's distinctive vision of gaming in what is the definitive Metal Gear Solid - tying up every loose end, reprising every notable character and location, and recasting the entire series as nothing less than a re-telling of the Messiah story. If that sounds a little grandiose, well so be it. If you've been following all of the twists and turns across the series so far, you'll gain enormous satisfaction from the multitude of cut-scenes in MGS 4 because they wrap up everything you ever knew about the Philosophers, the Patriots, The Boss, Big Boss, Solid Snake and his brothers. And if you haven't been following? Well then it does a pretty good job of recapping the whole thing: if you've never played a Metal Gear game, you'll still enjoy all the overblown drama and intrigue. But the perfect preparation for the release of Metal Gear Solid 4 would be to sit down for a week and play through each game in turn, from beginning to end. It deserves nothing less.
An older Snake finds himself tested by the battlefield.
If cut-scenes aren't your thing you can, of course, just skip right through them all. You'll be missing out on a great deal, but you will be able to cut right to the chase - or in this case, cut right to the sneak. Metal Gear was the original stealth game, but here, the mechanics of sneaking around and snapping necks are the most polished they've ever been: a refined control scheme, new gadgets, and just the sheer muscle of the PlayStation 3 take the stealth in MGS 4 to another level. Blend into the background with the new OctoCamo - an extension of Snake-Eater's camouflage system that obviates the need to mess around with menus and consequently works much more effectively. Keep track of threats with the stealth ring system (pausing or crouching to get a bead on nearby enemies). Use your Solid Eye to switch to night vision, or thermal goggles, or binoculars to spot important items. Survey the battlefield with Otacon's new Metal Gear Mk. II. And use the new Dreben Points system to scour the battlefield for salvage - salvage that can be exchanged for ammo, items and new weapons.
Even if, after playing all of the other games in the series, you're bored of simply sneaking around, MGS 4 still has something to offer, because all of these refined stealth tactics are given a further new dimension thanks to the battlefield context. As you find yourself fighting through the abandoned streets, or the South American countryside, you'll be able to interrupt gun battles or trigger flashpoints to play off one side against the other, picking and choosing sides as it suits, or ignoring the combat and using it as a smokescreen. More than any other Metal Gear game, so much of the game is full of emergent possibilities that open up like a butterfly's wings: taking different routes or using different tactics and strategies sets off a cascade of events that unfold in very different directions.
It's got the best bosses so far - not bad considering the serie's heritage.
Unusually for the Metal Gear series, one of those directions is balls-out action. Unlike the previous games, Guns of the Patriot actually provides you with a fair amount of leeway if your chosen strategy is to shoot everything in sight. For a start, you can switch to a first-person view and almost play it like a conventional FPS if you so choose. More importantly, the Dreben Points system puts a much more powerful and diverse arsenal at your disposal, and every weapon can be upgraded in a variety of ways, from bolting on a grenade launcher to improving the laser targeting system or loading it with specialised ammo. Nevertheless, if you are going to treat MGS 4 like a conventional shooter, you'll need to keep an eye on Snake's stress gage. If it's not enough that extended gunfights with enemy snipers, tanks and helicopter gunships are sufficiently dramatic to get your own heart pumping, they're just as likely to send Snake's ticker into overdrive, making him heal more slowly and function less effectively. All that running round and shooting stuff really isn't good for his old heart, you know,
Still, it is fair to say that sneaking around is just the tip of Metal Gear Solid 4's Titanic-sized iceberg of action entertainment. Brace yourself for a lot of variety as the narrative twists and turns to catapult you across the globe in a flurry of game styles and approaches to design. You'll find yourself climbing on car roofs to eliminate shambling hordes, or donning a raincoat to evade security forces while tailing a mark. One section requires you to use all of your wilderness skills to track down a target, scrutinising the way ahead for signs of your quarry. And, of course, you'll find yourself encountering fiendishly devised bosses. Because where would Metal Gear Solid be without bosses? As if to remind you, several of the bosses in MGS 4 are brilliantly evocative of some of the more memorable boss encounters from the series so far. They also prove to be pretty memorable encounters in themselves, too; running for cover through a research lab, while trying to locate a stealthily camouflaged femme fatale, for example.
Ocelot returns - but how will his story end?
And then there are the Kojima moments: those moments of silliness, or humour, or attention to detail, that just wouldn't make it into any other game. Remember the codec on the back of the CD in the original MGS? Or slipping over on seagull droppings in MGS 2? Or ogling women's breasts during the cut-scenes in MGS 3? MGS 4 is just as full to the brim with similar moments of seemingly inconsequential but still sublime brilliance, and it's just as densely packed with secrets as any one of the previous games. Look closely enough during some of the cut-scenes, for example, and you'll notice the mild bruising around one character's neck from where she's been spiking herself with nanomachines, or you might notice Snake ageing subtly over the course of the game. Away from the cut-scenes, listen out for birdsong and use it to work out if there are any enemies around. Or listen out for the various musical themes or melodies that evoke memories of previous games - memories of places and people and events. Even the thumbnails for your save games are first class.
Split-screen techniques add a new cinematic dimension - and the literally strength-sapping climax in particular takes interactive storytelling to new heights. Flashbacks tie into themes of post-traumatic stress, as well as reiterating themes from previous games, connecting Guns of the Patriots to the whole of Kojima's vision for the Metal Gear series. And that, really, is what it boils down to: Hideo Kojima's singular vision of gaming. One of those things that Konami doesn't want us to talk about is the 'total length of cut-scenes'. Hopefully it won't be bending the rules to far to reveal that they represent about half of the content of the game. That, for some people, will be too much to bear. But in many ways it's a vindication of Kojima's unique interpretation of the videogame medium.
Guns of the Patriots' battlefield is more malleable than its forebears.
Because in videogames, Kojima has found the perfect medium for his overblown vision. A narrative that encompasses nanomachines, premature ageing, Liquid Snake's nefarious plans, and a whole host of familiar faces and memorable places is every bit as silly and overblown and hammy as any of the previous games. It's also every bit as compelling, and stylish, and funny, and it encompasses large and relevant themes, from post-traumatic stress to global warming. It's got corny love interests, and Hollywood pastiche. It's a metaphor for the Military-Industrial Complex, and a parable for peaceful action.
It's campy and sexy, with the lingering cleavage shots that you'll remember from Snake-Eater (and the original MGS, if you insisted on following Meryl round till she ended up in her underwear). But it also recasts the whole story as nothing less than a retelling of the Messiah story, with resurrection, sins of the father and all that (and surely there's something admirable about the bravado - the sheer chutzpah - of recasting something as trifling as an action game as the story of Man). And it's a further restatement of the anti-violent themes that have percolated throughout the series.
Farewell old friend.
It probably wouldn't work as a film because it would seem both overblown and trivial. But you could say the same about certain operas, or novels. Fortunately for us, Hideo Kojima happens to be someone who has found the confidence to express an artistic vision that is wholly suited to his chosen medium - and a medium that is uniquely young enough to bend to his will. It's not fair to call him a frustrated film-maker. If he had been a film maker he might have been frustrated. Instead he has found a medium large enough to contain his unique artistic vision.
Which is a long-winded way of saying that this game rocks.
It is the ultimate in fan service, but it is also hard to see how this could be anything other than one man's uncompromised vision of what a videogame should be. The action sequences are faultless. The cut-scenes - well, yes, you could argue that there are too many of them, that they're too long, and that the dialogue is occasionally leaden. Indeed many of the most dramatic cut-scenes might make you crave action, or wonder why they couldn't have been turned into interactive sequences. But that's because they're the work of an auteur, and if you're going to enjoy the high points of Hideo Kojima's vision, there has to be an acceptance of his excesses, too.
Because this is a return to and a best of and an everything you ever loved about a Metal Gear game, all wrapped up and distilled into one, undiluted vision of gaming.
If you've ever loved any one of the Metal Gear games, or any moments from the series, there will come a moment when MGS 4 will send your spirits soaring. If you've loved them all, well then there'll be many, many more. It's a masterpiece. But forget you read that. Go play it and find out for yourself. Because it's the kind of game that, if you play it after being told it's a masterpiece, might end up disappointing you because of the hype. So forget the hype. Forget that it's a magnificent, ground-breaking, masterpiece. Just play it, and enjoy a dazzling, heart-lifting, voyage of discovery.
From the opening videos to the end credits, the attention to detail throughout Guns of the Patriots is astonishing, setting new standards for production values in games.
The visuals in MGS 4 are as cutting-edge as you can rightfully expect from the latest videogame blockbuster, boasting as much style as technical expertise.
The surround sound effects are stunning, having actual in-game effects, from using birdsong to detect enemies to choosing your own tunes.
Guns of the Patriots is the definitive MGS, taking stealth mechanics to new heights and throwing in so much more that you just have to discover it for yourself.
9.5 Lasting Appeal
Aside from the fact that the cut-scenes bear repeated viewing, you'll want to play through MGS 4 again and again, simply to unlock ever more exotic weapons, items and player rankings.
(out of 10 / not an average)