Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Review (PS3)

When I bought a PlayStation back in 1999, the first title I purchased was Metal Gear Solid. It was the only reason why I decided for a PlayStation instead of buying a Nintendo64. I remember sitting down that weekend and showing off to my younger sister and friends just how incredible the game was. Every moment was memorable: the opening, Mantis, the wolves in the caves, the torture chamber that the climax. Still to this day, I remember the first time I beat the game, followed by the three additional times I played through it to see every cut-scene and to find every single item.
Since then, I have played every single Metal Gear title released in North America, that includes the incredible Game Boy Color edition and the Acid series on the PSP. I haven’t had a problem with the series and when I finally completed Metal Gear Solid 4, I felt like I’ve really accomplished something and now I am sad to see it go. Thankfully, there is so much depth in MGS4, I still have chances to experience the game over and over again.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is Kojima’s way of thanking everyone for 20 years of loyalty to the series. From start to finish the game is exactly what you’d expect with his previous games and once you’ve completed the seen the credits roll, you’ll feel like you’ve grown with the characters in the game. I have no intention to spoil anything in regards to the storyline. There is just so much that occurs in the game that knowing anything would be unfair to those willing to take the 15-18 hours to complete the game.

MGS4 is incredible. It is everything you could wish for in a 21st century title. Incredible graphics and jaw-dropping sounds with an effective score and immerse effects. Every character looks stunning from the PMCs, the Beauty and the Beast Bosses and everything in between. Also, everything is running with the in-game engine so there is no CG used in the game, which really shows off the strength of the PlayStation 3. The voice-acting is what you’d expect and doesn’t fail in any regard except for the fact that it would have been nice in certain levels to have Non-playable characters to sound like the region they are from (eg. Characters in S. America and the Middle-East with US accents).

The game follows the same mechanics of previous Solid games. The game relies heavily on stealth but thanks to the new scenario of PMCs (Private Military Corporations) and you’re interaction with Rebel fighters, you can at times enter areas and be spotted without repercussion. If the Rebels see you and if you aid them, then they will talk to you, and at times help you sneak past certain areas. Also, like previous titles, you can if you’d like, go at full force and shoot your way through. Thanks to the a new ‘point’ system, every time you take out an opposing force, either by lethal or non-lethal ways, when you collect their weapon(s), you get points. You can take these points and use them to ‘buy’ weapons, accessories, bullets and other stuff to help you through the game. While this does make the game a bit easier since you can essentially buy the most expensive and effect weapons early on, the game’s AI can counter this by swarming you with enemies that will still eventually get you.
Enemies are much more intelligent than in past versions. Make too much sound, they’ll hear you or if you fail to properly use your OctoCamo (camouflage that adapts to the environment), they’ll see you. Even with the classic Cardboard Box and Tin Drum, if you place it on awkward spots, they will question it and reveal your ‘poor’ hiding decisions. (In one situation on a street location, I tried to hide in a Tin Drum, the solider questioned allowed ‘Tin Drum?’ and he knew something wasn’t right).

The game also implemented a great psyche meter for Snake. If you run too much or are being attacked/shoot at, Snake’s psyche will drop making him less accurate. Also, if you use certain weapons for an extended period of time (like a machine gun), he’ll enter a Combat High. His attacks are greater, but once you stop, he hits a low and doesn’t attack very well. It’s very realistic and at times; they even poke fun of it in certain cut-scenes.
Continuing with the gameplay, it still follows the previous titles. There will be times when you’ll have to use your smarts to complete a task (boss battles). You will be required to strategize your attacks and at times, just like in the past, sometimes you’ll need to do something else, instead of a direct attack, to defeat your enemy.

The game isn’t without it’s flaws. While it’s a picture-perfect conclusion to the series, unless you’ve played the previous three titles you may be a bit confused at times. I strongly suggest that if you haven’t played the previous Solid games, you should go out and spend the 30 dollars to buy the MGS Essential Collection or download the Metal Gear Solid Database available free on the PSN. If you don’t have the background of the characters, you may wonder at times just what they are talking about. Kojima did offer flashbacks, but they are single shots and do not really divulge too much information of the previous games.
While not a complaint per-se, there are times in the game where you will get absolutely frustrated. These occur near the end of the game, but it is expected that the difficulty will ramp up near the end.
Some people have shown some dislike towards the ‘point’ system mentioned earlier. I did not since the game still allows you to play the game the way you want to. You are not forced to kill enemies so you can still enjoy the game as a stealth title. There will be times where you have no choice but to run and gun, but for the most part, you can go through most environments without taking a single life.
A problem with previous titles was the long-winded Codec conversations that forced you to listen to the characters talk to one another for a long period of time. While not removed, they occur much less and look a lot better than before. Also, between the game’s acts, there are some really impressive Mission Briefings that cut the game into three screens. During these cut-scenes, you have the option of controlling the MK-II (portable unit that aids you in the game). If you choose this as your focus, you can essential create your own video, deciding which angle to look at the characters. If the conversation is boring, just take the Mk-II and drive it around the area and you may find some bonus items.

If you haven’t figured it out, this game is absolutely Incredible. I loved it from start to finish and it’s a game I plan on playing again and again. While there are flaws, they are so minor that you can looks past them. 2008 has already been a great year for games on the PS3 with solid titles such as Burnout Paradise, Grand Theft Auto IV but it will be Metal Gear Solid that takes the cake (so far). This will sell systems and at this moment, there is no game that comes close to the experience you will get playing this. Enjoy every moment of this game.

Please note, there is an Online portion to the game. While I did participate in the Online Beta of the game, I have not had a chance to play it too much in depth. Once I’ve gone through the online mode enough, I will write a separate mode for it.

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