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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


"When I was first writing this review and looking for the proper score to this game, Gamefaqs was really helpful. Right there, under 5, it said "playable, nothing special about it." And that's exactly the feeling I was left with after playing MGS4. Now, first of all, you should know where I'm coming from as a reviewer and gamer. I love the MGS series. Or rather, I love the oddly numbered games in the series. I personally think that MGS1 and MGS3 stand among the few perfect games out there. An exc..."



When I was first writing this review and looking for the proper score to this game, Gamefaqs was really helpful. Right there, under 5, it said "playable, nothing special about it." And that's exactly the feeling I was left with after playing MGS4. Now, first of all, you should know where I'm coming from as a reviewer and gamer. I love the MGS series. Or rather, I love the oddly numbered games in the series. I personally think that MGS1 and MGS3 stand among the few perfect games out there. An excellent blend of story, gameplay, and graphics. I had high hopes for MGS4 as the grand conclusion to what has turned into a deep and involving plot filled with interesting characters. Did I get my desires, or were they dashed against the rocks like an overipe cantaloupe?

Well, the cantaloupe survived, but it's got some major bruising.

From reading other reviews, you get the sense that Kojima shits solid gold and pisses vitamin water. Everyone defends his latest game with a tenacity that borders on fanaticism. I'm the only one who had the balls to call it for what it was. A self inflated needless waste of beautiful graphical rendering.

And believe me. It hurts me very much to admit that. It's like calling my love child ugly.

Speaking of ugly, there's no arguing that the graphics are anything but. They rank among the best I've ever seen, and I really appreciate Kojima's insistence on making the in-game graphics the same as a the cinematic graphics. The flow between the two is more seamless than ever. So I have to ask... why isn't it put to better cinematic use?

Okay, this needs some clarification. It is true, you will find scenes of intense battles and what can only be called "gun-fu" fighting, and these are done well. But there are seven times as many scenes that involve characters literally sitting around and talking about stuff. Stuff like genetics and what they want for breakfast. What's worse, they discuss it without any emotion (except for inappropriately inserted over the top sorrow, which happens a lot at random times).

And that's the thing. There really is just a lot of monotone exposition about the plot. Snake has always been a somewhat emotionless character, but that's taken to the extreme here, and it hurts me deep inside.

As far as plot goes, I'm not going to cast my opinion one way or the other on whether it's an appropriate ending for the characters and the situation. For me, what was more important is that it was presented so monotone and grey scale that I didn't care. MGS4 did the impossible. It made me not care about characters who I'd grown to love over the course of nearly 20 years of gameplay.

Speaking of gameplay, at least it's a fun game, right? Well, maybe. MGS4 plays like an action game, not a sneaking game, and while you can sneak, there is little point in doing so. In fact, you are rewarded for killing enemies with the new Drebin point system, that unlocks more weapons and gives you access to basically unlimited ammo. I'm not exagerating this. You can open your menu at any time and buy ammo for your gun which you get instantly. Of course, you need Drebin points, but those are aquired by killing enemies.

Defenders of the game say that it is still a sneaking game "if players want it to be." Um, Super Mario 64 could be a sneaking game if I wanted it to be. I could wait for every goomba and koopa to turn around before running past them and getting behind cover.

But let's look at what MGS4 gives us, shall we? We have access to cheap ammo whenever we want it. We have acces to over thirty weapons, some of them high explosives. We get more Drebin points for killing enemies. Killing enemies is safer, especially on the higher difficulties, than trying to sneak past them and getting caught in the middle of a large group of them.

The game doesn't really give you a lot of reason to sneak around. I could choose to get scared every time I play RE4, but it would take a lot more work. In MGS4, I could choose to sneak around, but the game developers have given me no reason to.

The problem is, it's still designed as a sneaking game.

The MGS series has had this problem ever since MGS2, when they introduced the first person view for easy access to a whole lot of slaughter. MGS1 was great in its simplicity. Sure, you couldn't do more than crouch behind a box or get underneath a car, but the whole point was to learn how to plan a path through a room that relied on good strategy and timing to not get spotted and inevitably shot to hell. Twin Snakes best illustrates what happens when you take that system and, without changing any of the level design, allow you access to first person aiming and lots of ammo.

MGS4 takes the action gameplay to new heights of strategical lacking consisting of a cast of awkward controls, enemies dumber than bricks, and an automatically refilling life bar. Even some of the boss fights basically involve standing in one spot and shooting a lot with your best gun. Okay, maybe with the occasional dodge thrown in.

So what's the answer? Should Kojima have limited player options to salvage the espionage nature of the game? I think yes. He provides a perfectly good reason for Snake to not be able to use guns (they are keyed to nanomachines). Then he removes this reason with a dismissive wave of his hand and with it goes all semblance of a sneaking game. Letting Snake have the occasional weapon isn't a problem. Allowing him to become a walking one man tank is. And honestly, I wouldn't even mind this so much, if only it controlled well. As it is, moving Snake around the screen and getting him to attack is like riding a unicycle on the roof of Notre Dame. There are button combinations that allow you to do everything from humping the ground to picking your nose with a survival knife. Right. Because both of those tactics are so helpful in a shooter. If this IS a shooter, then why can't I fire accurately? Why do I keep picking my nose when I'm trying to reload? Where's the good old days of "line up target in reticule and pull the trigger?"

Defenders of the game will be the first to shake their heads at me and proclaim my points to be ridiculous (well, of course... that's what they do). I'm getting too attached to the old days, they say. MGS has changed. Like the RE series, it's now an action series. Well, first of all, it's still advertised as "Tactical Espionage." Of course, RE is still advertised as "Survival Horror." But at least Resident Evil has made the transition to action game. MGS is stuck somewhere in between.

But more to the point, these defenders are the same people who proclaim the game to be a celebration of the MGS series, bringing back its characters and tieing up its plot. If the game is a celebration of MGS, than why isn't it more MGS and less third person shooter? Why does the plot involve fart humour and more misogynistic machismo than a Teddy Roosevelt exhibit? And they speak of nostlagia? Well, it's true, you can get lost in the nostalgia. At times. At other times the characters spend so long talking about pointless matters that you begin to loathe them. And there's still the problem that it's not a good game. Is it better than Aquaman? Of course. Is it better than Sacred 2? Hell yeah. But those aren't good games and not the games I'm measuring MGS4 by.

I measure MGS4 by the standard set by Kojima himself in prior MGS games, especially MGS3. And MGS4 just doesn't live up. I agree with people that MGS4 is meant to be a celebration of the series. But it's like a blow out party without women or booze, it just doesn't get the job done.

So, what's the point of my review? What am I trying to say? I'm trying to say exactly what Gamefaqs says that 5 star rating means. You practically have to buy MGS4 if you're a fan of the series, because you'll need to have the whole mess tied up. But don't expect a glorious celebration of MGS. Expect instead a game that is very playable but ultimately is nothing special.

Rating: 5/10

zippdementia's avatar
Community review by zippdementia (July 08, 2008)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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bluberry posted July 18, 2008:

in general, my biggest problem with MGS4 as a shootan gaem was how the AI was still geared toward you sneaking around like in the other ones. you could tear into a pack of guards but so long as you had a suppressor they just wouldn't give a shit, but I had a lot more fun once I stopped buying them.

good read, anyway, though I can't say I agree with everything. I thought the ability to choose between sneaking and fighting was cool just like in MGS3. at least it's more involved than "shoot everybody in the head with your tranq for five hours" like MGS2, haha.
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zippdementia posted December 26, 2008:

Searching around the internet led me to discover this review taking some knocks over at gamespot ^_^

I'm apparantly evil for not liking MGS4

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Lewis posted December 26, 2008:

Heh. Almost as funny as the N4G thread about Gary's Doom 3 review, though I imagine this one was less intentionally antagonistic.

I particularly chuckled at: "unbiased major reviewers (Gamespot, IGN...)" - the notion that a staff review on a large site funded entirely by publishers' adverts will be less biased than a user review on a medium-sized website is quite naive.

Anyway, I think it was more the score than the text that irked people, and there are a few comments that people need to RTFR before shouting in your face. I think whenever you write a controversial review you need to be prepared to back it up, though - just perhaps not when it's a user review.

That other piece people linked to was funny though, but it strikes me as a bit harsh that there's some user-review-baiting brigade going round taking the piss out of people who clearly aren't professional writers. You have the advantage, of course, of doing 'proper journalism' from time to time 'n' all.
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sashanan posted December 26, 2008:

at least it's more involved than "shoot everybody in the head with your tranq for five hours" like MGS2, haha.

I need to replay MGS 2 on a proper level. Lacking confidence, I chose "very easy". At that level you get all your maps without having to do anything, enemies are even more blind than ever, and it doesn't matter if your tranq dart hits them in the head, torso, arm or left foot. They go zzz.
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bluberry posted December 27, 2008:

trust me, the only difference between easy and extreme is the boss fights.

which are ridiculous on extreme, for what it's worth. beating 20 metal gear rays that can off you in two hits took me some time.
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mugatu101286 posted October 20, 2009:

zippdementia is the biggest idiot in the history of man kind for that retarded mgs4 review. dont ever review another game in life again cause u clearly suck!
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EmP posted October 20, 2009:

You know it's time to throw in the towel once you're attacked by an unintelligible poster who can't spell the most basic of words.

Sorry, Zipp, I'm kicking you out.
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Lewis posted October 20, 2009:

Man, I've never seen someone get so worked up about a user review before.
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zippdementia posted October 20, 2009:

zippdementia is the biggest idiot in the history of man

Ah well, it was bound to come out sooner or later. What can I say? I'm obviously retarded. I can't counter your grand words of wisdom. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the enlightenment you have given me. I'm gonna go swallow a live chipmunk now and hope it rips my retarded insides out.
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Masters posted October 21, 2009:

True story:

When I got my PS3, I picked up MGS4 cuz everyone said it was the greatest PS3 game ever (thankfully, I found out for myself that Killzone 2 is).

So anyway, I tried MGS4 and didn't like it and took it back to the game store to trade it in. Amazingly, the clerk heckled me for my decision!

"Wow, you're trading this in?" he says, shaking his head.

"What's that?" I didn't get it.

"Nothing, it's just that... I mean, this is one of the greatest games ever made. It's crazy to trade it in."

Did this fucker just call me crazy? "Heh, alright, well what do you owe me?"

"Let's see here, that should add up to -- I mean, it's almost blasphemy for me to take this off your hands," he says. I'm making a fist behind the counter. Luckily, he left it at that, as far as keeping this shit going to my face went.

Cuz as I browsed the aisles for better games to complete the trade, I actually heard the fucker laughing with some other nerd sales associate about what a dumb decision I made. Two homicides were imminent, but my cell rang and saved me.

What's with people... A protest? Over a trade-in decision? Really?
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overdrive posted October 21, 2009:

It's good you restrained yourself from provoking him too much, Marc, and kept the trade-in as professional as possible under the circumstances. Obviously, if he's that emphatic that MGS4 is one of the greatest games of all time, he's mentally ill and perhaps dangerous.

I honestly think sometimes that people essentially think that because a game looks great and has pretty cinematic presentation, it automatically is a great game.
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Masters posted October 21, 2009:

I think so too. There was far too much of me just holding the controller watching. Also, I like my over-the-top with a side of self-parody. Hard-boiled self-importance doesn't mesh with my diet.
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zippdementia posted October 21, 2009:

People were TOLD that MGS4 was gonna be genius. There was more hype around that game than around the Kennedy election.
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radicaldreamer posted October 22, 2009:

The only thing that would have made your story even better would be if you said you used the trade-in credit to buy Godhand, Otogi, or Freedom Fighters, or some combination of the three.

That said, what did you get with the trade-in credit?
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Lewis posted October 22, 2009:

Zipp: I know I'm dragging this up from the dead, but man, they actually tried to have a negative review pulled from a different site just because they disagreed with it? What the silly fuck?
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Masters posted October 22, 2009:

Actually, radical, I think it did end up being Killzone 2, which rocks so hard it's not even funny.

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