"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.
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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