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Thread: Game Review: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

                  
   
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    Default Game Review: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

    *Wrote this for DarkSaviour a week ago to see if I was suitable; no pics or anything, just the review. Feedback from everyone else is welcome*



    Few series titles inspire such fond memories and high expectations as Metal Gear Solid. Released in 1998 only to completely surprise everyone who really couldn’t at the time have understood the fuss Sony was making at an E3 where people could talk of little else than Final Fantasy VIII, Metal Gear Solid now sits close to the top on the list of best videogames of all time. The screens of guards decked out in white ski masks with baffling giant red exclamation marks suspended over their heads that were published in the games press following the expo did little to express just what Metal Gear Solid was all about. It was only by actually experiencing it first-hand that Metal Gear Solid’s importance in the development of the medium became clear: videogames had leapt forward in complexity and evolved, yet again. Metal Gear would not do this by some revolutionary new rendering process (although it was the third instalment in a series, and the first to be rendered in 3D); but by casting the player in the role of a more believable, developed and rounded character, thrown into an conflict against impossible odds; one that would plunge the world into peril should he fail to stop the plot of a group of terrorists planning on unleashing a new stealth nuclear weapon.

    Ten years on, and we have seen two subsequent releases in the series; a sequel and a prequel. Both have their fans and critics; mostly due to Kojima’s unapologetically eclectic game design and storytelling style. This summer saw the release of the supposed last instalment in the Metal Gear Solid saga, ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’. It is Solid Snake’s first foray on the Playstation 3, and just how much of a leap in design and technology the stealth-em-up has taken on the new platform is what gamers will be most interested in finding out.

    It’s always best to start a review with the positive aspects of a title (and there are plenty to be had in this game) so we will start with the actual gameplay.

    Gameplay:
    The gameplay is instantly familiar, not only for veterans of Solid Snake’s other sneaking missions, but for anyone who has played any FPS shooter of this generation (expect to depend on iron-sight aiming for most of the combat); or indeed Resident Evil 4, which has admittedly had its polished gameplay and ‘over the shoulder’ viewpoint pilfered by plenty of other games lately (this month’s ‘Dead Space’ for example). It is a pleasant surprise to find how solid and well implemented the controls and game mechanics are, especially considered the mess CQC brought to the table in ‘Snake Eater’. Old Snake has now had his move list increased to allow for greater control of the battlefield; Snake can now roll on his back to fire, conduct body searches on captured guards for ammunition and health items and even use the trusty MK.II robot (powered by Cell, kids) to shock snooping troopers up ahead or steal an extra clip or two for your cache.

    For someone who misses the far simpler times (and inventory system) of ‘Metal Gear Solid’, the level of weapons customisation provides a good justification for the jolting interruption of the menu screen first implemented in ‘Snake Eater’, which is brought up with the ‘start’ button. Many of the dozens of weapons available can all receive between three and five additional parts, which ranges from scopes and laser dot sights, to shotgun attachments, flashlights and the perennial favourite, silencers (This is a stealth game, after all). This is great fun, and can drastically change how you play and what guns become your trusty favourites. It feels like you’re being granted real choice as to how to approach the way you play, which many games profess to but few actually deliver. The level of weapons customisation is so accomplished that you are left wondering why MGS4 is relatively alone in the endless number of shooters to offer this as an injection of diversity in gameplay.

    Speaking of diversity, ‘Metal Gear Solid 4’ may at first glance (and possibly during your entire first play through) seem like a shooter, devoid of any of the innovation that made the original a classic. You’ll be so busy with all your new weaponry that it possibly won’t be until your second play-through that you begin to experiment with stealthier tactics involving both inventory items and the often numerous paths available to negotiate the environment. The good news is that these are as well implemented as the more direct approach, and add real variety to the second play-through.

    The customisation and diversity doesn’t end there either, with plenty of ‘Octo-Camo’ customisation available to increase your ‘cover’ gauge from ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’, which has survived the change of platform and has not moved from the top right corner of the screen, now sitting snugly with the radar. The ‘Octo-Camo’, which featured prominently in all preview footage of the game, doesn’t disappoint. For the first 20 minutes of gameplay there is plenty of amusement to be had by hugging any surface with an interesting pattern to see how well it is reflected by your adaptive camouflage, especially if this is your first Playstation 3 title and are keen to see what the console is capable of. Mostly the tiled walls work best here, reproduced faithfully as the texture gets audibly pulled off the hard drive and mapped onto Snake’s suit (this only sort of justifies the 20 minute wait for the first act alone to install). There will be situations where a little suspension of disbelief is required when a guard walks right past you in broad daylight simply because your camo matches the wall you are crouched beside, but Metal Gear games have always had a silly bug or two. After the first completion of the game you are awarded with new bits and pieces for your sneaking suit, but you will have to work a lot harder for the bandanna and stealth camouflage than in other Metal Gear instalments.

    Enemy A.I. can make or break a game of any genre, but it is particularly important in stealth games. In ‘Metal Gear Solid 4’, enemy A.I. proves to be a bit of a mixed bag. Thankfully, this doesn’t completely pull the gamer out of the world they are supposed to be destabilising, but rather has a knock-on effect of lowering the difficulty. This is primarily an assumedly unexpected effect of the introduction of guerrilla groups that dot many of the games environments. Their fight is not with you however, and allying yourself with them is done simply by taking out rival P.M.C squads in their line of sight. The potential of these new found allies is not particularly well implemented however, and they won’t throw you health replenishing rations (of which there are now three types, but far fewer to be found dotted around the maps) or open new routes and other things you will have come to expect from friendly N.P.C’s.

    The confusion brought on by the A.I. only really arises when you look at the enemy behaviour. If you are familiar with the previous Metal Gear instalments, you will know that firing off a loud weapon in an occupied room or even silently killing a guard in the presence of another will launch the game into alert mode, sending squads at you from all directions like a sponge sucking up water. In ‘Guns of the Patriots’, the dynamic has changed, what with the P.M.C. groups already being aware of the guerillas, so if you can keep your distance from the P.M.C.’s and blend in well enough with the guerillas, you can happily blast away all day without an Alert Phase. You will either find this jarring or more refined and realistic.

    Graphics:
    The visuals of Metal Gear Solid 4 are naturally of a very high quality. With the advent of Playstation 3 Konami’s Team Metal Gear have at last been able to craft a war-zone with meticulous detail and faithful reproduction. Characters, weapons, vehicles and environments are all modelled and shaded to perfection, and there isn’t a blurry texture in sight. In particular the shader work on Raiden’s ‘please please love me’ ninja exoskeleton and Naomi Hunter’s wardrobe really give a taste of what the Playstation 3 is going to be capable of in its lifetime. The diffuse, specular and normal map textures really carry the characters past Metal Gear Solid 2’s plastic doll look.

    You will either love or not particularly care for the art direction of Metal Gear Solid 4. Echoes of ‘Black Hawk Down’ abound with a slightly bleached out look to the environments due to the harshness of the glaring sun, which heavily constrasts with shadows. It renders the world in a more realistic light but in the rush to create a photorealistic world it seems the art team forgot to stylise much of anything. The current-gen staple motion blur is present here too and is well executed and further grounds the game in its realistic world. Particle effects like dust storms, snow, grenade explosions that blow the scorched soil (and bodies) into the air are expertly crafted and really add atmosphere.

    Sound:
    The sounds of ‘Guns of the Patriots’ are produced to a similar high quality, and people who have already bought into the HD Home Cinema revolution will benefit most. There’s very little to be said about the sound; the foley does its job well, the weapons, explosions and dialogue all sound as they should (if only there wasn’t so much of the latter). The score is underwhelming, especially if compared to Takanari Ishiyama’s superb original Metal Gear Solid’s soundtrack, and even Gregson-William’s previous scores for ‘Sons of Liberty’ and ‘Snake Eater’, and is only slightly better than the weakest Metal Gear offering, the blasphemous techno remixes of the Metal Gear Solid soundtrack for ‘Twin Snakes’.

    Story:
    The general enjoyment of this game only falls to pieces because of Kojima’s insistence on disregarding any criticism he has ever received regarding the stupefying length (and in recent games, blatant silliness) of dialogue heavy scenes. ‘Metal Gear Solid 3:Snake Eater’ felt like a tongue-in-cheek parody of a Metal Gear game, and while some of the deliberate ‘comedy’ is thankfully absent from ‘Guns of the Patriots’, it has been replaced by unintended idiocy. Prepare yourself for a convoluted and mostly unsatisfying end to the Metal Gear Solid saga. Whatever mysterious corners the writers of wrote themselves into in the last two games are instantly written-off as being caused by nanomachines, and instead of revelations regarding the Patriots there is only further confusion shovelled on to the towering pile of plot holes and abandoned twists. The individual backstories of the members of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ unit that you will sporadically face throughout the game inspire some of the worst writing you will ever have ever been unfortunate enough to be subjected to in a videogame. The ‘Snake Eater’ plotline also has a detrimental effect on the story of ‘Guns of the Patriots’, and none of it is particularly worth knowing or watching twice. For all the dialogue in ‘Guns of the Patriots’ (and there are hours of it), there is very little actual information divulged or developments uncovered. The popularisation of motion capture in videogame cut-scenes has allowed Kojima to produce scenes three times the length for relatively little extra cost, but there is only about half as much information actually communicated in these scenes as there used to be, and much of it is ultimately forgettable rambling. You will find yourself resenting the characters you found so interesting and well developed in Metal Gear Solid, and there is one too many re-appearances of characters no one wanted to see return from ‘Sons of Liberty’ (with their own pointless and convoluted ‘secrets’ in tow).

    And this is all before you take into account a scenario three quarters into the game which will leave most gamers chomping at the bit and almost guarantee the average gamer will never bother to finish the game twice. Taking over an hour on my second play-through, this tedious hide-and-seek mini-game through the drabbest location in the entire game not only shows the cracks in the A.I. programming but will bore the average gamer to tears. Worse still, even if you know where you will eventually end up during your second play-through, you will have to go through it all again anyway even if you steam on ahead. I won’t be doing it a third time.

    Having said all this, there are scenarios towards the end that go some way redeem all of these shortcomings, and for any Metal Gear fan this is a game that must be played, and will be played, irrespective of what any reviewer on the planet says. It is not a bad game, but it could have been so much greater had Kojima actually looked back, played ‘Metal Gear Solid’, re-discovered what made it so great and transferred it to a console with as much potential as the Playstation 3.

    Major Selling Points:

    - Metal Gear Solid meets next-gen gameplay.
    - More weapons than you would find in five shooters put together.
    - The end to the Metal Gear Solid saga!

    Major Breaking Points:

    - Even more story to wade through.
    - The story,scenes and dialogue are generally poor.

    In Summary:

    Story: 2/5

    Sound: 3/5

    Graphics: 4/5

    Gameplay: 5/5

    Replayability: 3/5

    Overall:
    Last edited by Noodle; November 21st, 2008 at 15:55.

  2. #2
    Master Malk1th Malksta's Avatar
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    cutscenes and dialogue are major breaking points? this is one sucky review
    secret message!
    I used to have a signature here.

  3. #3
    DCEmu Reviewer fg-54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malksta View Post
    cutscenes and dialogue are major breaking points? this is one sucky review
    it was nice of you to read the whole thing, not nice the way you express your self :P

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    DCEmu Reviewer Shadowblind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malksta View Post
    cutscenes and dialogue are major breaking points? this is one sucky review
    MGS has always had confusing stories. To most, it doesn't matter jack whether its intelligent or not if they can't understand it, and I guess thats what he means. I can't comment on dialogue though.

    Very well made review.

  5. #5
    DCEmu Reviewer fg-54's Avatar
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    I like your layout btw :P

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malksta View Post
    cutscenes and dialogue are major breaking points? this is one sucky review
    Haha guess you can't please everyone! I clearly outlined in the review why those aspects of the games were lacking. If you have counter-arguments, feel free to share them.

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