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Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Review

5
  • PS3

Metal Gear Solid 4 is a fitting coda to the series and the single best reason to own a PS3 so far.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is an incredible experience, the best game yet for the PlayStation 3 and a must-see finale to Hideo Kojima’s seminal, often celebrated (and occasionally reviled) stealth action series. But there’s a surprising degree of irony in the success of this last game, which is at its best in ways its predecessors conspicuously fell flat. If you haven’t played a lot of Metal Gear Solid before now, I’m talking about the gameplay here–the part where you grasp a controller and actively make Solid Snake creep around the shadows, stealthily snapping necks and infiltrating enemy bases to stop some nefarious plot or other.

Solid Snake returns for one last mission.
That part has always been a little lacking. Truthfully, this is a series that you sit back and watch as much as you interact with it. Over the years, MGS has been buoyed by its high production values, well-crafted cinematics, and increasingly twisty, outlandish plots–even as its gameplay has typically lagged behind that of its contemporaries, with nonsensical mechanics and an awkward adherence to tradition making the games less fun to play than they ought to be. Before now, you would have recommended a Metal Gear Solid game to someone looking for a technically impressive and complexly plotted story of intrigue, but not a deeply satisfying action game.

Given that legacy, what a surprise it was to discover that Guns of the Patriots is not just the most playable game in this franchise but possibly the most graphically intensive and downright thrilling action game ever made. It’s the first game in the series to periodically remove your stealth shackles and actually suggest you plow through your obstacles with guns ablaze, and it does this with seriously explosive aplomb. There are sequences here that come close to fulfilling the promises of Sony’s famously overblown Killzone 2 trailer, in terms of their visual fidelity and the intensity of the action. I honestly had to remind myself more than once I was playing a video game and not a CG movie. If you’re playing this on an HDTV and home theater system, they’ll get a major workout.

Metal...Gear?
It’s not all explosive shootouts and daring escapes, though. Stealth still rules here, and MGS4 is so much fun to play primarily because it’s finally caught up to modern gameplay conventions, with a controllable camera and over-the-shoulder and first-person aiming modes comparable to those of other great third-person action games. Sure, a few irksome vestiges of the old MGS remain–the rolling and crawling controls are clumsily similar to their forebears, for instance–but finally, it just doesn’t feel like a chore to control Snake.

Some of the new stealth toys–like the background-mimicking OctoCamo or your little robotic operating buddy the Metal Gear Mk. II–make the sneaking that much more fun to tackle. Then there’s the arsenal of weapons, which has to be the biggest, or at least the most extensible, yet in the series. It’s not enough that you can collect a mountain of assault rifles, submachine guns, pistols, and explosives–you can also slap on laser sights, flashlights, scopes, fore grips, and under-mounted grenade launchers and shotguns. It’s easy to get sucked into the weapons customization, which comes courtesy of a smooth-talking gun dealer named Drebin (who figures into the storyline too).

As nice as this mammoth arsenal is, it’s even nicer that the game actually encourages you to use all those guns. You can meticulously sneak your way through every scenario if you want, and in fact, there are specific rewards for killing few or no enemies. But in many areas a run-and-gun approach is equally viable and will often let you ally yourself with local militia fighting against Liquid Ocelot’s ubiquitous, nanomachine forces.

Naomi's motives are questionable.
If you’ve been keeping up with the series, it won’t surprise you that stopping Ocelot and his plot for world domination after the events of MGS2 is your mission here. It’s not strictly necessary to have played every MGS game before now, but you should at least do some solid research on the previous games’ storylines before playing Guns of the Patriots if you want to pick up on most of the subtle details.

Plot-wise, the game breaks from tradition in a couple of important ways. For one, it’s not afraid to move the story ahead in time and geography, so you get multiple discrete acts that take place in far-flung locations around the globe. One of these acts offers a great dose of nostalgia for longtime series vets, though discovering what that act is all about is one of the greatest joys in playing the game. The other is the sweeping closure that results from the full disclosure of the series’ many secrets that occurs by the end of the game. If you’ve been wondering about the eventual fates of characters like Raiden, Eva, Vamp, Naomi Hunter, Meryl Silverburgh, and the rapidly aging Snake himself–not to mention the truth about the FoxDie virus, the shadowy Patriots, and the legacy of Big Boss–you’ll get them all gift-wrapped on a platter by the close of the game.

Anyone who’s played the previous Metal Gear Solid games will already know that to fully appreciate Guns of the Patriots, you must come to grips with Kojima’s unique brand of narrative outlandishness. The cutscenes here are no less frequent, lengthy, or indulgent than before; they’re rife with over-the-top, implausible plot twists, drawn-out exchanges of occasionally stilted dialogue, and character models who, for all their extreme realism, descend into that uncanny valley from time to time. But these scenes excite far more often than they drag. The game is also peppered liberally with Kojima’s trademark little post-modern touches, like references to you the player and the PlayStation 3 hardware, and a smart, quick flashback sequence toward the end that will be especially satisfying for series vets.

Can Liquid be stopped?
Kojima Productions saw fit to include an online competitive game aptly called Metal Gear Online. It’s not aggressively bad, but it’s hamstrung by MGS4’s mechanics, which work great when you’re competing against the single-player game’s AI but aren’t really tailored to combat against thinking opponents. MGO’s signup process is also needlessly byzantine, requiring you to create not one but two login IDs just to connect. There’s a good amount of game modes and maps in here, but Konami seems intent on nickel-and-diming MGO players in the future, since you already have to pay extra just for the privilege of creating more than one character profile at a time.

You could level some other minor complaints at Guns of the Patriots. The game stops to load a little too frequently, and it features not only an initial eight-minute install process but also several subsequent, shorter ones before each act. But none of the game’s minor blemishes are enough to detract from its massive overall impact. It’s the surprising entertainment value of the action, the mind-blowing visuals, and the completeness of the story’s conclusion that make this last installment so satisfying. Metal Gear Solid 4’s positive qualities make it one of the most significant game releases of this generation, and anyone with an appreciation for the evolving form of the medium would do well to play it from start to finish.
Brad Shoemaker on Google+
105 Comments
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Posted by Fred

I agree, the pros of the game outweighs any cons that the game may have. One impact full moment especially occurs later in the game where the player is hit with some serious de javu. Have not touched the multi-player though.

Posted by Demilich

Love this game. I should go check for some more DLC.

Posted by dresum

By far the best storytelling I have ever experienced in a game before. Recommended for any PS3 owner!

Posted by LouChou

This easily breaks into my top 5 games ever.

The experience of the game, as a whole, parallels nothing I've experienced in recent memory. I thought Bioshock blew me away, but this went above and beyond in terms of narrative.

Posted by nailerr

On my second play through, to do The Boss Extreme difficulty it becomes apparent that this game is designed to let you play how you want to, when you choose to.

Want to go at it with a crazy assortment of well customizable guns? Go for it. Suddenly decided that all those soldiers should be dealt with in a more kind manner? Play that way.

This game accommodates you, you just have to decide how and when you do things.


Posted by isawachuck

This is by far one of the best games ever.  It's certainly hall of fame material.

Posted by Gameflogger

Best PS3 game ever!

Posted by mjcowley

Awesome game. Great review Brad.

Posted by get2sammyb

I absolutely adored this game.

Posted by Mox007

Game of the Year...so far. From beginning to end I really enjoyed this game.

Posted by corebiopsy

I think I'll buy a PS3 just to play this game. Looks amazing!

Posted by Shortyz

This game is freaking awesome. Great Review

Posted by korwl

dont you want to add the video rewiew to the article, gb?

Posted by mordamir

One of the best games I've ever played

Posted by michaelB

best game ever

Posted by michaelB

best game ever

Posted by RVonE

This is one of the primary reasons for me to consider buying a PS3. This and Drake's.

Posted by Fontan

Going to buy a PS3 just to play this.

Posted by Dion720

I love this site :)

Posted by ShadowDoGG

Good game but not worth 5 / 5. 4/5 yes

Posted by Hellion

This game was everything I wanted it to be and more.
The cutscenes were long but so well done it can easily be forgiven.

This was Kojima's finest moment.
Putting an end to a legend is never an easy thing to do.
He did it with style and his own brand of humor. While maintaining an extremely poignant, somewhat relevant overview of what the future of war may soon become if some action is not taken.

Along the way we feel sorrow for Snake, but the overtone of the story is a positive one. The ending is epic and really rewards the player with a fantastic climax to a series that almost seemed impossible to wrap up.

As good as the game looks... the sound design is better and is truly the first game in this generation to blow me away with the level of detail they took in getting the sound design correct.

Combine that with the fact that this game uses some of the best "rumble" that I've ever experienced in a game (which is bad news if you are not an owner of the $55 Dual Shock 3) and this game is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

While I will contest that a perfect score for a game is difficult you can't take away from the fact that this game is the perfection of one man's vision. Kojima saved the best for last.

5/5 is VERY warranted

Posted by efrucht

I found this game boring at first, but after sticking with it I found it to be very engaging. I am replaying the game on Hard difficulty, and it is extremely fun. If you are going to play this game, start with normal/hard, for the best experience. Do not play easy, it isn't worth it.

Posted by Met2609

Probably one of my favorite games of all time. I was expecting something good, but I wasn't expecting how good it would be. Brad you're right on with this review.

Posted by Mexicutioner

hope to see a 5th one, love the series.

Posted by ArcticTerrorist

Ones of the best gaming experiences I have had for years this game definitely deserves 5 out of 5.

Posted by kingjon

I'm a 360 owner but I'm seriously thinking of getting a ps3 to play mgs4.

Posted by Wario54

Where is the video review

Posted by MOLE

I really want to play MGS4 really really bad .  But I don't own a PS3 yet, (shame on me)

Posted by SolidSeth

Excellent excellent game.

Posted by darthincredible25

This game is so great, I played it three times in a row and every time I found something new. I am just amazed at the graphics, deep storyline and  magnificent cut scenes, better than many movies I've seen.

Posted by Dynamitekyle

Best game ever.

Posted by Light_Geiger

bought a PS3 for this was not disapointed!

Posted by Wade_Wilson

This game is just epic

Posted by Fighter21

Buy Metal Gear Solid 4 for its Single Player. The story, gameplay and graphics are superior to all games available to the PS3 right now. I wouldnt consider the online multiplayer game to be anything special. Especially because it is just not the Metal Gear that everyone loves.

Posted by Smallville123

Yay on commenting on this review twice.  GO GIANTBOMB!

Posted by ShadowLaguna

I will probably buy this sometime soon. It looks bloody brilliant!!

Posted by ReTarDedFisHy

ReTarDedFisHy is playing as we speak (type). He says it's the best damn game this generation, especially for fans of previous installments. Story, narrative, gameplay, graphics, cinematics and musical score. The balance between them is perfect. Playing on Extreme really keeps you immersed into the game and on the edge of your seat. This game is made of pure win. If there is a game out there that deserves the title 'epic' it would be this.

Posted by BurningChimaera

I enjoyed the single player, but felt that MGO was dreadful. With the long, tedious sign-up process, coupled with the long time it takes to set up a single match, it is my most frustrating online games. And I own GT5:Prologue.

Posted by Egge

For once in my life I'm actually happy that i haven't played MGS1, MGS2 and MGS3 because if I had played those games, I would be forced to steal a PS3 from someone so I could play through MGS4 too. As it stands, I can just sit back and relax and put MGS4 on the "To Do" list and not worry about it for, you know, 3 or 4 years or so...

Posted by Scarabus

Before MGS4 came out I bought the essential collection and played through MGS 1,2 and 3 back to back to get all the story references. I'm really glad I did.

Posted by SlimDogg

This was a great experience . But i cant consider it a game. Just because you spend more time watching then actually playing. Not that it is bad.The quality and polish that they put in this game is second to none.It is def worthy of 5 stars.

 MGO i don't like. I really don't know why. Just not my type of online game.

Posted by Knivez0r

Metal Gear Solid 4 is one of the best put together games in a long long time.

Posted by Jordan23

This definitely one of my all-time favorite videogames and perhaps 2008 "Game of the Year" winner.

Posted by Cloneslayer

This game is all about the cinematics and the story line but that didn't stop the game play from rocking.

Posted by RedSox8933

where is the video review brad? it was posted on the blog when the site wasn't up yet.

Posted by Nit3mare

This game is absolutely amazing, my favourite game this gen (tied with Gears). If MGO was any good (which it isn't), then it would be the top game, even ahead of my beloved Gears.

Posted by skywing

i loved this game

Posted by sirvampalot

I think i've found a reason to bye a Ps3.

Posted by cepwin

I loved it...I am very happy with having purchased the MSG4 PS3 bundle...great game, great deal.

Posted by UncleGuito

My game of the year (highly probable). Amazing cinematography and gameplay, and the pros infinitely out way and gripes an individual may have.

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