This is rather a difficult entry to write, so first, a little on my history with the Metal Gear Solid series. First confession; the first MGS game I played was Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance on the Xbox in 2007. I rather enjoyed it, but didn't see what all the fuss was about, and was certainly confused by the plot a bit later on. This spurred me on to track down Metal Gear Solid for PS1, which I promptly thrashed through, and then Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater on the PS2, which I rather enjoyed also. Of all the games, I'd say Metal Gear Solid 1 has the most balanced and interesting gameplay, simplified though it may be. Snake Eater had the best presented plot, with cool characters and an interesting environment that is rarely properly explored in games even today. Metal Gear Solid 2 was an okay inbetweener; not quite the instant classic that its prequel served as, but not quite developing the series into the deep engaging plot that MGS 3 served up. Additionally, I also rather enjoyed Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, with its usual Metal Gear gameplay crossed with collect 'em all kidnapping.
And so finally, spurred on by my latest purchase around the beginning of February of the HD Collection, through which I plan to complete Peace Walker (as my PSP has promptly died), I reached for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
, aiming to complete what chronologically is the final game in the MGS series. I anticipated a deep gameplay experience, with the tricks and charms of Snake Eater, the solid reliable gameplay of the PS1 game that started it all, and maybe a little craziness courtesy of the Son's of Liberty legacy. Did I get it? Sort of...
See, MGS 4 delivers what you'd expect in a way I didn't expect it to. With the likes of Gears of War releasing on Sony's nemesis, and games like the Splinter Cell series to inspire, I had hoped perhaps stealth would be refined into a much more deep, complicated, and yet fluid system, as you sneak around legions of soldiers on either side of a bitter war between PMC's essentially owned by the same company, keeping your hands clean as you slip through the shadows. Instead, I got a fucking barrel and a cardboard box again. You know what, it'll be easier to address my criticism point-by-point in order to lay out what the fuck went wrong for me.
The game is deliberatly living in the shadow of its former incarnations:
I get that Kojima is proud of this series, but constantly calling out references to the older games in the name of cheap fan-service was just annoying. The only place this kind of worked was Shadow Moses Island, a nice idea that allowed you to go back to where it all began. But really? Bringing back Johnnie the guard from MGS 1 as Meryl's love interest and eventual husband? That unfunny reference to Psycho Mantis reading your save files and moving your controller, a reference which totally broke the fourth wall in a bad way? The other reference by Otacon to the Disc swap in MGS 1? Okay, I get it, it's a bit cookey and whacky, and, let's not forget, from Japan; a land where lavatories ask how your day has been. Maybe I'm too harsh on this point, but it would have been forgiveable and even a bit of fun if it wasn't for the other flaws.
Yes, there is a corny flashback where it's gone all PS1 again. So clever... Bosses were ill thought out and repetitive:
A wasted opportunity. Every boss could be defeated by shooting at them bar one, where you shoot at them, pick something up, and use it against them. Nothing truly unique like past games to which you might actually turn around and say "Ha, clever". Nope, shoot, wait for them to get out of their mad armour, then tranq the bitch. Job done. Then you get to Drebin's long drawn out description of that bosses previous life before being Dancing Jellyfish or Singing Squid or whoever the fuck they were. And the ending fist fight? Not all that enspiring; nice idea, poorly executed.
You're all the same. You think you can just take your clothes off and waltz right up to me! Short in terms of gameplay:
The game claims I spent 10 hours with it. I just looked up how long in total you can expect to be watching cutscenes and listening to codec conversations. That total is said to be around seven hours. Yes, for me, this game was more movie than gameplay. Ok, fine, I appreciate Kojima Productions was wanting to make something unique in MGS 4, and I could get on board with a large amount of cutscenes (though over 50% of game play time is taking the flying battery-acid flavoured piss). I really could be on board... really... if it wasn't for the following problem.
No new gameplay ideas:
And not much gameplay. One level is essentially Metal Gear Solid as it always was, except without an overhead view. The second act has you stalking your way through another warzone, whilst some friendly rebel forces do all the work for you, distracting enemies and allowing you to sneak through without issue. Then a boss fight with Squid girl, then a turret section, then a ten second walk through a panicked market square. Act 2 completed. Time taken in gameplay? Around half hour if you're lucky, and this was one of the longer acts. The next Act was even worse, and Act 4, the Shadow Moses level, was a massive disappointment. As for Act 5, I gave up sneaking, shot every bastard in sight, with Act 5's gameplay measuring at 26 mins and 12 secs (yes I times, I was pissed off by now). So, not enough gameplay, and nothing inspiring or new to add to the series within.
If the voice actor for Otacon is reading this, I fucking hate you.
Shut the hell up! The Plot, The Cutscenes, etc:
I'll sum this up with two to threee word sentences, in order to portray my utter disappointment in this game more effectively. Everything listed here is something that irked me. Here goes: Naomi's unneccessary cleavege, Ocelot faking being posessed by Liquid, too many shoehorned characters and references, SEVEN FUCKING HOURS, creepy relationship with white haired school girl, Naomi Hunter in general, Vamp being crap, prolonged Codec conversations, stating the fucking obvious, stating the unneccessary, stating fucking EVERYTHING YOU CAN SO IT LASTS SEVEN HOURS LONGER THAN IT NEEDED TO!
I'm Ocelot, but I'm actually Liquid. Or am I...?
Now I appreciate Kojima is a big fan of movies, and wants to make games which are like movies or complex novels, with deep interweaving plots with hundreds of players. But it just doesn't work. It's too much butter on a slice of bread, it's an Olympic swimming pool amount of water in a saucepan, it's unneeded for this game. This game could have had a lot of the fat trimmed, or at least have made you work for more answers. If you want to make a game series with a deep interweaving plot that traverses its way through mutliple games, with everything finally making sense by the fourth installment, then go back to the drawing table, and come up with a better way of doing it, because whilst this game hasn't sullied my opinion of Kojima, Kojima productions or Metal Gear games of yesteryear, it has disappointed me that it couldn't reach a satisfactory conclusion as a proper game, instead of a badly translated to English movie with interactive bits, and with a 70% share of time spent on cutscenes for my playthrough, I don't think that's an unfair summary.
Other than that graphics are fine, sound and music are pretty good, etc. I give MGS 4 a 4
, my lowest score yet, due to thorough disappointment at what could have had so much potential even four years ago.
LOOK WHO CAME: