By dankempster 5 Comments
Why am I getting all philosophical in my blog preamble? Because I just finished Metal Gear Solid 4. If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll probably be aware that my friend and I swapped consoles so I could experience Guns of the Patriots while she played Dead Space. After a week of sneaking, I've finally brought myself to the dramatic climax of Solid Snake's epic story. The closure that I've been waiting for since first playing Metal Gear Solid 2 seven years ago, the closure that was teased in 2004 by Metal Gear Solid 3 only to pose yet more questions, has finally found its way into my life. And yet, despite all the self-hype I built up waiting to play the game, I didn't leave the experience feeling underwhelmed or cheated in any way. Quite the opposite, actually. When you strip away all the next-gen enhancements, Metal Gear Solid 4 is truly a Metal Gear game at its core. In my eyes, it's an extremely fitting end to the story arc, and well worth waiting for.
Before I get too involved in the main point of this blog, I should probably make my opinion of the game itself a little clearer. After the initial cutscenes, when I took control of Old Snake for the first time, I didn't feel like I was playing a Metal Gear game. My first thought was to send a letter to Hideo Kojima, politely asking him why he got Gears of War in my Metal Gear Solid. Ten minutes of perseverance later, I came to realise that the gameplay changes amounted to little more than improved shooting mechanics. Crawling? Check. CQC? Check. Camouflage? Check. Cyborg Ninja? Check. Huge nuclear-capable robots? Check. Once I rediscovered the tried-and-tested MGS staples of gameplay, I felt much more comfortable. The game plays really well, offering a healthy balance of stealth, action, several memorable boss battles, and some of the most awe-inspiring set pieces this side of the Half-Life games. Graphically, the game blows everything else I've ever played out of the water, and the audio score by Harry Gregson-Williams is certainly on par with his previous work. But above all else, what stood out for me was the game's epic, sweeping storyline.
The plot was probably my favourite thing about Metal Gear Solid 4. Maybe that's because it was my motivation for playing the game, or maybe it's just because I'm a bit of a Metal Gear nut. Whatever the reason, I'm not going to deny that I loved every facet of the game's story. I loved the way it was told, through the cinematically directed cut scenes and mission briefings. More than anything, I loved the closure that it brought. I loved the way every strand of the plot that's been hanging loose since the clusterfucked ending of MGS2 was combined with the new questions from MGS3 and existing information from the earlier games to resolve absolutely every doubt in my mind regarding the story arc. I particularly enjoyed the reveal of the Patriots' identities at around the mid-point in the game. In fact, I think that may have been my favourite part of the game. It marked the point for me when all the long-standing questions I had finally started to be answered. That was, after all, the impetus that drove me into the game in the first place.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is an almost unhealthy helping of fan service. Like I said earlier, beneath the HD graphics and action-oriented gunplay, it is a true Metal Gear game at its core. In fact, it's arguably the most Metal Gear-ish instalment in the franchise since the original. As I mentioned, it checks all the boxes you'd expect a Metal Gear game to do. It also features some of the most impressive breaking of the fourth wall since MGS1. There are moments that feel a bit like cop-outs, but those moments also tend to be the moments that best capture the essence of the Metal Gear franchise. I'm not in the habit of leaking spoilers, so I won't go into any great detail on that matter, but I do think that the game's most Metal Gear-ish moments are the ones that have come under heavy fire from gamers for being too outlandish. After all, is it possible for anything to be too outlandish in the Metal Gear universe? Metal Gear Solid 4 may be fan service, but I am a fan. That's probably the reason why the game's plot left me feeling so satisfied.
As I said in the beginning, I think it's part of human nature to expect closure on a series of events. Our minds can't handle the indefinite. I spent seven years waiting for this closure, and now that I've experienced Metal Gear Solid 4 for myself I feel like it was worth it. Now that it is over, though, I just have one request for Konami: please leave Snake be. I don't want to see the franchise end, and I'd be more than happy to see more Metal Gear games made. All I ask is that any new material is exempt from the canon of Snake's story. Whether that means non-canonical games, or the creation of a whole new canon altogether, I really don't mind. You did a great job of providing closure for fans of the series. Don't mess it up.
Let sleeping Snakes lie.
Thanks very much for reading, guys. See you around.
Currently playing - Metal Gear Solid 4 (PS3)