crazyscreenwriter's Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (Limited Edition) (PlayStation 3) review

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Something of a Beautiful Failure

Metal Gear Solid 4 is a beautiful failure for a game and an extremely average CGI Anime extravaganza. If it wasn't called Metal Gear Solid 4 or made by Hideo Kojima MGS 4 would be getting roundly booed. Where Metal Gear Solid 4 has a game (and not a student film animation project) there is a lot of potential that sometimes gets realize, but most of the time does not come to fruition. Where MGS 4 fails it fails because the game hangs on design choices ten years out of date -- monster closets, infinite respawns, the illusion of emergent gameplay where your choices as a player are reduced to one correct method of doing something, stupid enemy A.I., right down to an antiquated save system that appears to save anywhere you want but amounts to a checkpoint system you have to save yourself. Where MGS 4 succeeds it succeeds just because there are some hellishly fun moments that remain hellishly fun in spite of those poor design choices. As for the story ... it is complete comic book bullplop and not even very well told comic bullplop masquerading as a 'Very Important Story'. The plot is riddled with massive holes in logic, the characters are paper thin, and the narrative structure is bogged down in the minutia of explanation for items (guns, robots, the godlike nanomachines) that never called for any explanation at all. If you can find profundity in Metal Gear Solid 4's babble about nanomachines or the Deus Ex Machina of the conspiratorial Patriots, well, you can probably find profundity in G.I. Joe and Robotech Cartoons. Hell, I bet you could take a dump in a dry bush, rub to leaves in the dump, then rub the leaves together, stare at the smeared dump on the leaves and tell me how profound those smear markings on those leaves are. But then again MGS 4 is not the first game to fail completely at weaving a logical, entertaining tale. Games are meant to be played (well, ideally; this game often has a nasty habit of deciding to play itself) as games. Right? I mean, no one really cared about the narrative structure of “Doom”? Well, yes and no, because in Metal Gear Solid 4 the story consistently swamps the game like a needy girlfriend demanding that you watch “Desperate Housewives” with her. Or Else. I was about forty minutes in when I realized I had yet to actually do anything in the game. You know, like play it. Instead I had watched a lot of cutscenes featuring soon to be repeated buzzwords like “PMCs” and “war economy” and I presume much anticipated story points delivered with all the subtlety of pork roasts raining from the sky. After a while I was beginning to silently plead with David Hayter's “Old Snake” to not mumble another “HUH?” or ask another leading rhetorical question because every time Old Snake mumbled huh or posed that leading rhetorical question it would provide an opportunity for Otacon or Colonel Campbell to start talking again, and at this rate I'd never actually get to play the game I bought. Then I stopped caring, set down my controller, and flipped over to Sports Center until the cutscene was through with. This is a ritual I found myself repeating throughout the game when the game stopped being a game and reverted to “Final Fantasy: Spirits Within”. Metal Gear Solid 4 finally dropped me, the player, into a war torn Middle Eastern Country. Which country? They didn't have the balls to say. Why was this country at war? They didn't have the balls to say. Why are the “PMCs” fighting the Rebels? What are the rebels rebelling about? Metal Gear Solid 4 doesn't have the balls to say. The entire hook for Metal Gear Solid 4 desperately wants to be “High Concept, Big Idea” by alluding to real life issues like Blackwater (in the form of Private Military Contractors), but the story of Metal Gear Solid 4 refuses to claim any deeper reasoning or press the issue further to back up the thesis that War is Bad, MmmmmKay. War is simply trotted out as something that is sort of bad, and then put back into the cupboard again until it is time to trot it out again. As I crawled and snuck around Act 1 I realized that while war has changed Metal Gear Solid hasn't really changed all that much. You sneak around, get spotted, run, hide in a barrel or a bush, wait for your spiffy Octo-Camo to kick in, wait three minutes, rinse and repeat. As with every stealth game I play I eventually got bored and wanted to try my luck like a punk so I snuck up behind one PMC soldier and shot him point blank in the head. Alarms sounded, hell broke loose, and this time I actually got a way by running into an invisible trip wire that triggered a cutscene. The ability to run and gun through levels without a lot of risk is the largest change to the stealth based Metal Gear Solid franchise this time out. However while the ability to run and gun carries little risk it also carries no reward either. After my first few tenuous kills I decided to kick the action up a notch and I spied a perfect place for it. Up ahead in an alleyway was a cluster of three PMC soldiers the game design seemed to beg me to sneak past, I instead whipped out my M4 and sawed the three in half. The alert alarm sounded and three more PMC soldiers rounded the corner looking for a fight I gave to them, then three more ran around the corner from nowhere and promptly were sent back to nowhere. Then three more, and three more, and three more. The pile of digital bodies and stack of weapons to be scrounged eventually clued me in, and I once more resigned myself to go and hide in my oil barrel in disgrace until the alarm passed. I tried a similar strategy in the Second Act of MGS 4 where the time came for me and my Rebel Buddies to raid a villa in the middle of a nameless South American jungle. I decided to play sniper with an eye towards the stratagem of knocking off enough of the PMC soldiers so that the Rebels could make a push on the villa and clean up the resistance for me. Ha! Would've been a brilliant video game moment ... except for every soldier I shot, two more would respawn out of thin air and the Rebels wouldn't move from cover to take advantage of the opportunities I was opening up for them. I got the message when I died the third time. The correct way to play the level was let the Rebels have their big Movie Moment stand-off at the Villa as I snuck around back. Metal Gear Solid 4's Eyes said Yes, but her Lips Said, No. No matter what clever ways I thought of to approach a tactical situation I was eventually given the Cock Block by a game's design that seemed to be saying, 'We wanted you to think, but not think that much! Really the choices and mechanics we are giving you are largely for show but this is how it should work.' And when those mechanics work – as they worked in in the first three games – Metal Gear Solid 4 can be a lot of fun punctuated by a massive amount of nonsensical cut scenes. When those mechanics fail, or when I could think of a better mechanics that the game simply refused to let me execute, I was left thinking This could've been so much better IF. When I reached the dreadful Act Three, which features an overly long sequence where you have to follow another anonymous Rebel Leader through a completely lifeless mock-up of Prague and then a equally lifeless rail shooter, the story and game runs itself out of gas. The plot shifts from a story about Private Military fighting a War about Something and that's Bad to looney conspiracy theories about Artificial Intelligences that control the world clumsily lifted from the pages of "Neuromancer". The game shifts to a greatest hits collection as Solid Snake revisits Shadow Moses Island (the setting for the first Metal Gear Solid) in Act 4 and a "battleship submarine" in Act 5 which is reprise of the tanker level in Metal Gear Solid 2. Luckily by the end of the game Hideo Kojima the Wannabe Filmmaker has overtaken Hideo Kojima the Game Designer so you can almost put down the controller and just watch for most of the last half of the game. Or watch Sports Center, like I did, waiting for your video game to finish playing itself. Metal Gear Solid's war might have changed, but the way it approaches the game of war hasn't changed. An approach that worked astoundingly well for the series debut, Metal Gear Solid, in 1998, but ultimately fails in the face of open world games like “Crysis” and “Grand Theft Auto IV”. Whether by intent or coincidence Metal Gear Solid 4 suffers from the same malady as its main protagonist, old age, and in the wake of newer, younger competition faces the same fate, obsolescence.


Other reviews for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (Limited Edition) (PlayStation 3)

    Jaw Dropping 0

    Metal Gear solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is without a doubt the ultimate Metal Gear experience for any fan of the series and an absolute must have for any PS3 owners looking for a good game and a reason to justify their purchase of a PS3. It pretty much answers every question you had on its previous entries. Metal Gear solid 4 has been completely re hauled in the gameplay department. It plays very different from it's predecessors. Although at the same time it's more accessible to western audie...

    12 out of 14 found this review helpful.

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