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Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PlayStation 3) artwork

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PlayStation 3) review

"Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots can best be described as an average game that has been carried by the legacy of its predecessors. While it utilizes many of the old-school storytelling and gameplay elements that made other games in the series fun, it completely misses the mark in other areas. Does that mean Metal Gear Solid 4 is overrated? You bet. "

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots asset

Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear Solid series is critically acclaimed as being an intricately woven combination of cinema and gameplay. It has developed such a large following that anyone bold enough to criticize elements of its convoluted story or stealth inspired gameplay is often met with backlash by Kojima's devoted fans. I know this firsthand, as I was confronted with a swarm of angry gamers after voicing my displeasure at the second game of the series, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. But despite my complaints about that game, both Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater proved to be as excellent as most critics claimed, and so I could not help but have high expectations for the first Metal Gear Solid to arrive on a current generation console - Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Unfortunately, this game reinforced the validity of the saying "great expectations lead to great disappointment."

After entering the game disc you will first notice that you have to sit through an eight minute installation process while watching Old Snake enjoy a cigarette. This will not be the last time you see this screen, as further installations (albeit more brief) will be needed to load subsequent chapters. This grows to be a real pain, as even after completing the game you will be forced to sit through the installation process again in future gaming sessions. This will not be the only waiting this game will force you to do, and the story makes sure of that.

The story acts as a direct sequel to Metal Gear Solid 2 and it strives to wrap up all the loose ends from previous installments. What is the deal with Revolver Ocelot and Liquid Snake's arm? Where is Olga's child? What happened to Meryl and the others involved in the original Metal Gear Solid? What about Big Boss and Eva? These are all questions that will be answered in typical Metal Gear Solid fashion, meaning they will be answered through hours of cinematic cutscenes. If you thought the previous installments went overboard with the cutscenes, you have not seen anything until you have played through this game. Not only will you be sitting through scenes that are activated at specific checkpoints within the game, but you will also be forced to sit through minutes of back-and-forth dialogue between Snake and others at the beginning of each of the game's chapters. The dialogue sessions at the beginning of each chapter unfortunately seem like pointless banter and exposition more than anything else, and they break one of the cardinal rules of cinema in this regard, which is "show, don't tell". Though you can interact with the chapter cutscenes by changing camera angles, switching cameras entirely, or controlling the MKII and bumping into people, it does not prevent them from being boring. Cutscenes interspersed throughout the game's levels manage to do better, however, as many of them are filled with action and over the top stunts that are iconic of the series. It is interesting to see old faces return and their reactions to the rapidly aging Snake - a major plot point of the story - as well as the random gags and Easter eggs thrown in.

The big problem with Metal Gear Solid 4 is surprisingly its gameplay. The Metal Gear (Solid) series has always stressed the aspect of stealth in determining whether or not the player is met with success. Run and gun shooting tactics were met with continuously respawning enemies and little results, and much like many survival-horror games, sneaking past enemies was critical to achieving objectives. Metal Gear Solid 4 throws this out entirely and becomes Rambo's day out due to the misguided addition of "Drebin Points". Drebin Points are named after a rather irritating new character to the series and are used as money in order to purchase various types of weapons and ammunition. As enemies are taken out they drop weapons and points are added to your total. The only way to use these dropped weapons are by using Drebin points to unlock them. At any point the game can be paused and Drebin's store can be activated through the menu. Soon you can become a walking tank with an assortment of rifles, rocket launchers, pistols, grenades, and what not that can take down anything the enemies throw at you.

The whole Drebin system makes the series tagline "Tactical Espionage Action" pointless in this installment since you are rewarded for killing people and by extension penalized for avoiding them. Sure you get more points by getting rid of people through stealth or knocking them out rather than killing them, but you are still encouraged to tangle with enemies, otherwise you miss out on all the good stuff.

As in MGS3, there is a stamina meter that accompanies the health bar, and depending on how filled it is Snake will perform better or worse in shooting and CQC. The camouflage system has also been innovated, as rather than having to go through a whole menu to change camouflage; Snake's suit, and eventually a facemask, will automatically change its pattern to mimic its surroundings if he stays still for a few seconds. He also has a controllable robot gadget called the MKII that can use stealth camouflage and travel a limited area of the map while stunning enemies and stealing their loot.

These additions and changes are very convenient, but therein lay the problem. With the more convenient camouflage and the new MK II along with the Drebin Point system, the game becomes needlessly simple even on the hardest settings. This is because the enemy A.I. is just as dumb as before. For example, you can shoot someone with a silencer in multiple limbs from afar and he'll more often than not say "What the...?" and perhaps run in a corner and radio security before searching in a predictable A.I. pattern until the timer runs out and he returns to his position. The enemies are almost mind numbingly easy to exploit and provide no sense of danger.

There are multiple environments in MGS4, with some emphasizing more story than gameplay and vice versa. Some are really fun, particularly a section where you visit a nostalgic area and even get to pilot the infamous Metal Gear, and others are rather dull scenarios that generally involve following someone or getting from point A to point B with not much in between. Boss fights require a fair bit of strategy and the different members of the Beauty and the Beast Unit have varied and interesting ways of confronting you. Unfortunately the only background information you get on the bosses comes from small codec conversations from Drebin which are boring to listen to. Actually, all the codec conversations in this game are a big step down from the ones in the previous installments due to how sparse and unimaginative they are. All in all, the gameplay has some good bits but is ultimately a very mixed bag.

As is standard of the Metal Gear Solid series, graphics are above average. Whether it’s sand blowing in the wind, water rippling, or mist flowing through the air, environmental effects are shown in great detail. Character models are rather impressive as you can even see little things like blood and sweat on their skin. Not everything is perfect, however. There are noticeable frame rate drops during gameplay from 60fps to 30fps when the action starts to pick up. Shadow effects also look somewhat jagged at times. The biggest problem with the graphics has to do with Snake's new camouflage, however. Within cutscenes, Snake's Octocamo can perfectly blend in with his environment, yet during gameplay the changed camouflage often looks so different from its surroundings that it sticks out like a sore thumb. In this sense, the camouflage is a step down from that in Metal Gear Solid 3. The sound has no problems, however, and with Dolby Digital 5.1 everything sounds perfect. Sound effects are very realistic and the music is an improvement over past games due to its variety. The sound is really the only area that arises no complaints.

One of the saving graces of Metal Gear Solid 4 is the sheer amount of extras and hidden gags to be found. In-game advertisements for real life companies like Apple can be found all over the place. Snake can also use an iPod and play various songs, which include those from other games in the series, as well as in-game podcasts. Neat items such as dolls that let you control the bodies of enemies as well as take pictures of hidden "ghosts" add a fair bit of replay value, and classic extras like infinite ammo and stealth camouflage are included. But perhaps the biggest extra is Metal Gear Online, which utilizes the same CQC and weapon system from the game as well as provides maps from the main game and new maps strictly for the online experience. Various modes like team sneak, rescue missions, etc., are included and avatars have enormous room for customization. Characters with special abilities like Raiden, Vamp, and Mei Ling can also be used. Metal Gear Online is certainly one of the better online multiplayer experiences, and it provides more entertainment value than the main game.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots can best be described as an average game that has been carried by the legacy of its predecessors. While it utilizes many of the old-school storytelling and gameplay elements that made the odd-numbered games in the series fun, it completely misses the mark in other areas. Does this mean Metal Gear Solid 4 is overrated? You bet.


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Community review by Sise-Neg (April 25, 2012)

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zippdementia posted April 26, 2012:

Spot on review, hold. You describe exactly my thoughts on the matter and you manage to keep your cool while doing it (I didn't). Especially about Drebin. Drebin is a terrible character that does terrible things to the game, first by talking way too much about nonsense and then by providing Snake with near-infinite amounts of ammo with which to completely exploit enemies.

Hey, didn't Metal Gear Online become defunct recently?
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Sise-Neg posted April 26, 2012:

I couldn't stand Drebin or his pet soda junkie primate. I played through the main campaign twice just to get the extras and after that strictly played MGO. It's still up but it's getting shut down on June 12 of this year, unfortunately. Once that's taken out I'll just stick to the first and third MGS games. Actually, the best part of MGS4 was revisiting Shadow Moses just for all the nostalgia.

It's too bad I can't look forward to any future MGS titles. As of now, MGS: Rising doesn't look like anything other than a generic hack n' slash based on the previews.
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zippdementia posted May 03, 2012:

Hey, I just realized I called you hold in this feedback. My bad. If you dig around the forums, you'll see I do that about once every two weeks. And I notice about once every two months. Anyway, wanted to let you know I have checked out this review a few times since first read. Still enjoy it.

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