The lights are on
Hideo Kojima’s next Metal Gear reveal is almost upon us, and in honor of that occasion, there’s no time better to relive Solid Snake’s last, true tribute of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Even 5 years later, MGS 4 stands as one of the PS3‘s most remembered classics and forever remains one of my favorite PS3 games as well as Metal Gear Solid games of all time. Part review, part reminiscing, consider my take on Snake’s supposedly last farewell a personal testament to a great series as well as one heck of a game.
Five years after the events of Metal Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Solid Snake and his comrades are still on the run as fugitives from the U.S. government and Snake himself is slowly dying from the accelerated aging of his cloning process. As his nemesis of Liquid Oceleot puts in place his final plans for defeating the Patriots and dominating the world’s private military industries, Snake sets off on one last mission spanning the world in his final showdown with Liquid and find a peace inside himself in his final days.
Metal Gear Solid’s jump to the PS3 meant a lot of changes, and its strides with aesthetic touches were among them. Even looking at it today, MGS 4’s graphics still retain a remarkable amount of crisp, clear detail and realism that stands up with a good share of PS3 games 5 years later and easily had an edge over any game at the time. The grit and chaos of the battlefield is echoed in every bit of smoke and gunfire you see and hear as you crawl through the pure chaos around you from the game’s opening firefights to its final levels.
MGS 4 further adds to the quality of its presentation in creativity, namely its boss battles. With each boss you encounter, players are faced with increasingly intimidating and, at times, bizarre fights that suceed in surprising you and gluing you to your screen with excitement for what’s to come.
What’s just as impressive are the characters themselves. From their great motion-capture to their triple A voice-acting, MGS 4’s character animation is above and beyond even what the series had already achieved with Metal Gear Solid: SnakeEater’s ahead-of-its time technology. Right down to characters’ facial expressions to the smoke off of Snake’s cigarettes, Kojima Productions virtually captured the full essence of its game animation, and it shows in the emotion of the game’s cutscenes.
No matter how good the technology, the most precious thing at the heart of MGS 4 is the story. As creator Hideo Kojima’s intended farewell to his franchise and lead character, MGS 4 is a literal maze of conspiracy, plot twists, and series references that’s almost impossible to describe in its entirety. What can be said is that Guns of the Patriots hits all of the right notes in an incredible story that only testifies to Hideo Kojima’s brilliant and powerful storytelling. The war economy of 2014 paints a tragic and gripping portrait of the game’s universe and strikes a serious, somber chord with the plight of its characters, even ringing truer to reality in 2013 than many might prefer. The cast of characters that take you through the game’s journey are only more invoking. Whether seeing the now cyborg Raiden return as a matured, seasoned warrior or seeing Snake’s touching scene with the game’s surprise guest, MGS 4’s story seems brings the series full circle while answering some of the games’ greatest questions with terrific bravado. Though the game's sometimes unreasonably long cutscenes limited MGS4's gameplay more than I would've liked, the rest of the plot never ceases to keep you emotionally invested in the path it takes you on. Throughout his journey, the tale Solid Snake’s struggle to find solace in his looming death made this fourth MGS entry live and breath with emotion and purpose and the heart-ache of his trials serves as the soul of the game’s beautiful ending.
In accordance to its predecessors’ tradition, MGS 4 keeps in line with the series’s trademark stealth-action mechanics. Stealth is trickier than ever thanks to more expansive level designs and surprisingly tougher enemy AI, and they’re challenging and satisfying enough at the same time to reward your efforts for the perfect ambush.
Snake is further armed to the teeth this time around, having over several dozen firearms, tranquilizer guns, and even rocket-launchers at his disposal with the game’s store in which players can purchase new weapons with experience from missions in the field and the option to test out any of their newly acquired weapons in the game’s virtual range. MGS 4’s gunplay also marks the first time in which players can shoot from a 3rd person perspective, making gunfights feel all the more comfortable and fluid.
Decked out with the latest of 2014’s gadgets, Snake’s moves are greatly complemented with a ton of excellent equipment. Equipped state-of-the-art “OctoCamo” suit that can blend in with the environment around him nearly seamlessly and use the area to his advantage in enemy take-downs. Other du-dads like the “Solid-Eye” allow you to a variety of night vision and binocular modes to view and highlight enemies, and your “Face Camo” can be used to disguise yourself on the frontlines and for added comical effect. All of these changes in gear serve to enhance gameplay nicely and are both fun and highly useful to use with great frequency.
MGS 4 adds a further layer of complexity to its gameplay in its addition of the game’s “Psyche Meter.” Based upon battlefield psychology, the meter will go up whenever players encounter combat stressors (i.e. extreme temperature, being spotted by the enemy, etc.), which will, in turn, weaken Snake as he loses energy. Small touches like these lend a healthy dose of realism to the levels’ intensity and add a great new factor in how you play.
Note: The Multi-Player
While MGS 4 did, in fact, have a multi-player feature of Metal Gear On-line, a 4-player, squad based tactical shooter mode. By the time that I played MGS 4, the amount of on-line players had already dwindled to almost nothing and the on-line service to it was terminated shortly afterwards. Thus, I’m sorry to say that I can’t make much of an opinion on this aspect of MGS 4, but it looked good and I surely hope that Metal Gear Solid can make a great multi-player experience in the future.
As much as I can review a game like Metal Gear Solid 4, I can safely admit that it’s an amazing experience that even words cannot describe what can be recognized as one of Metal Gear Solid’s finest hours. A worthy tribute to the series then finale and a great game in itself, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots deserves some of the highest praise I can offer for a game of this console generation. If you’re someone who’s played the recent recent MGS HD collection or a seasoned Metal Gear fan who just wants to relive the joy all over again, I recommend Snake’s supposedly last journey in every way. War may have changed, but I dearly hope that Metal Gear Solid’s appeal never will.